since 3095 AD, the Earth Empire has spread throughout the universe like a sickness. No planet or lifeform is immune to this disease; indeed, vast tracts of the universe have already been rendered sterile by it’s progress.
The Empires power is formidable. Dedicated to sustaining life on Earth, it has colonised planet after planet with scant regard to the freedom of the local population or the well-being of the environment. Vicious methods are employed in the pursuit of this relentless expansion; this has resulted in widespread famine, drought and death.
The League of Free Worlds exists to offer resistance and hope.
Colony Wars is a space combat simulator, though I would have probably classed it more of an arcade space shooter, for the PlayStation 1. It was released in 1997 by Psygnosis in the EU ans US. It would then be released in Japan in 1998 but by Artdink, who did the localization.
In Colony Wars you play the part of an unnamed pilot in the League of Free Worlds who fights against the Earth Empire and it’s Colonial Navy.
Because of the non-linear story of Colony Wars, the game features a massive array of missions to play which are split into acts. There are multiple ways you can win or lose an act. So even if you do badly in an act you are not guaranteed to lose. The same goes for if you perform admirably in an act you are not guaranteed to win the act. This is because in each act there are key battles that affect the story arc depending if they are won or lost.
For example if you are successful at the key battles in the Gallonigher System you will move onto the Draco System. Fail the key battles in Gallonigher you will move onto Diomedes System. This is not a game over scenario, unless you are defeated in any act of Diomedes, but another branch of the story. This, in turn, will alter which of the possible five (six if you count the secret) endings you will get.
In simple terms, because it gave me a migraine trying to type that lot, it gives the game a great degree of replay value.
Difficulty in the game could be described as variable. This is due to how the mission structure has been laid out. With some missions been a walk in the park, while others are ‘kick you in the back-side till you cry’ hard. Thus requiring you to get familiar with the various crafts and weapons available in the game. And, again, brings a great deal of replay value into the title.
Colony Wars offers one of the biggest selection of controller options available on any PlayStation 1 game. You had the choice of the original PlayStation controller (SCPH-1010), Analog Joysticks (SCPH-1110) and Dual Analog controller (SCPH-1180). You can even use the analog sticks on the DualShock (SCPH-1200) with this game. Though force feedback is obviously missing due to the game been released before the DualShock.
If I am honest I would say it’s best to go with analog controls. Digital controls don’t give the precise movements you need to properly gun down the enemy fighters. There also seems to be some noticeable input lag when using the d-pad compared to the analog controls, this was tested with the numerous controllers I own.
On the flipside primary and secondary weapons selections seems fluid and responsive. As does firing your weapons at the enemy. Throttle control is immediate and really responsive. Which is handy because there has been more than one occasion where I have had to slam into reverse thrust because I was about to hit another ship, carrier or station.
I feel the graphics are the only real let down of this title. It’s not because they are bad but simply because they have not aged very well. Even after a year from its initial release they seemed tired and shabby compared to other titles.
While the particle and lighting effects look nice on the PS1 hardware the textures are a different matter. They look dull, grainy and boring. There are also times where textures seem to flicker. Though this issue could be more to do with the engine rendering the scene, rather than the textures themselves.
Still I can’t help but feel disappointed with the overall graphical appearance of Colony Wars.
Sound is thankfully an area that is not lacking in this game. With a musical score that wouldn’t go amiss in Hollywood films. The music is grand an epic in places and subtle in others. It helps to set the mood of the story. While the sound effects are will defined and each volley of fire sounds like it’s been fired from a real weapon. Rather than the generic pew pew sounds that you find in some.
The only real problem I have with the sounds comes from the narrators voice. It seems like they have tried to go for someone that sounds like James Earl Jones. But he sounds very distorted and loud. As if the actor they found could only do the voice if he did it quietly. So they have had to amplify it in order to make it audible. It kind of spoils the cut scenes slightly for me. Not enough to ruin them but just enough to spoil them slightly.
Its easy to dismiss Colony Wars as a Star Wars wannabe game, which most of my friends at school did. The story features a similar struggle between a ragtag, yet organised, band of freedom fighters against an evil empire. However as the Colony Wars progresses you soon realise the games story is epic in it’s own rights. With some nice twists and turns, especially in one mission where you fly an enemy fighter in a convoy which you find out is actually a funeral precession.
The five endings mean that game game has a nice amount of replay value. As trying to get the “good” ending is a real challenge because every mission in the last act is pretty much a key mission. Which means failure in any of the final act missions will results in the not so good ending. Which, oddly enough, is actually the cannon ending as Colony Wars: Vengeance carries on from this ending.
It’s just a shame that the graphics have not aged as well as the rest of the game. Because they really do let down an otherwise solid game. The gameplay has enough variety in difficulty, situations and ships as not to become stale and boring. The music and sounds are top notch stuff. And the controls, when used with analog sticks, are incredibly responsive and fluid.
So I give this game a 4 out 5 rating. Grab yourself a copy and try out the epic space opera.
As a collector you can expect to find this game very easily and relatively cheap. I found my copy on eBay for only a couple of UK Pound, including delivery in an almost mint condition. Just be careful to make sure that the hinges on the PAL case aren’t cracked. As our cases are terrible and the hinges tend to shatter easily.
Also this is one of the first games reviews I have done to include video of gameplay and movies captured directly from my hardware. Something that I plan to do with future reviews. That way you get a true representation of how they actually play on their intended hardware.
Let me know what you think.
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