Character actor Michael Shannon has been nominated for his second Oscar for his role in the 2016 thriller Nocturnal Animals. "No Small Parts" takes a look at some of the other characters he's played in the past.
Borrows some from respected RTS titles, but also adds a lot
I'm sure I'm not the first to notice the many similarities between this game and the famous and well-doing Real Time Strategy games that precede it; most noticeably, StarCraft and the Age of Empires series. Last-mentioned in the way of control and construction of buildings, and aforementioned in the way of the races and special abilities. But while it is immensely easy to simply hold this fact against the game, do note the following; at least they borrowed from one of the best games(Blizzard's StarCraft is a classic, and one of the RTS games that has the most and best longevity), Age of Empires has been copied a number of times(there was a RTS title of the Star Wars franchise that was basically Age of Empires in the world of Star Wars), and while they didn't start from nothing in creating this game, they added a lot never before seen in the world of RTS gaming. Where all previous games in the genre have stayed in one map per level, this has up to 16... and the travel between these is done through wormholes. Any spacecraft will go through such a wormhole, and you can even construct something called jump-gates on them, which will allow one your units and those of your allies. The graphics are very nice(and hold up very well)... this is one of the first RTS games to employ 3D visuals. The explosions, lasers, buildings and ships all look excellent. The sound is likewise... crisp and clear, with detailed, realistic-sounding sounds for any action in the game. The interface is fairly good, though it could be simpler and it felt somewhat lacking to me... I found myself missing command lines, confusing radar commands with each other and finding it much too difficult to tell if units were in needs in repair and/or resupply than it should be. The supply part of the game is another thing... it feels realistic enough, but some ships simply run out too fast to be useful unless accompanied by supply ships. Each ship(and the few buildings) that attack, have a set number of supplies for their weapons(and where applicable, their special abilities), and rather than regenerate this energy(as was the case in StarCraft), they need to be resupplied, at a base, supply/repair building or by a supply ship(which, obviously, also has a fixed amount of supplies). The three races are reasonably diverse(though countless of their units are alike, across the three), with the human Terran race, the vicious alien race of Mantis(who have a weakness for annihilating enemy races and speaking like Yoda) and finally, the hyper-intelligent alien race of Celareon, who master space-travel and wield extremely futuristic weaponry. They are quite equal in terms of strength(and coolness factor). With how similar to the three of StarCraft(who, in turn, were inspired by famous sci-fi, including the Alien and Predator creatures) as this sounds, you may be surprised to learn that there's only one campaign. Yes. The Terran one. You do get to play around some with the other races in the course of it, but that's it. The other two have a training mission for each, though. But sixteen missions of Terran fighting is how far the single player experience goes. That pales quite a bit in comparison to StarCraft, with 30 missions in total, divided evenly among the three races. The multi-player allows you to play all three, and allows for AI opponents, with a few different difficulty rankings, ranging from "easy"(you'll beat them back to the stone age before they've built even a little) to "impossible"(which I haven't attempted, but with the difficulty of several of the campaign missions, I take their word for that). The game allows for "random map" generating, much like Command & Conquer: Tiberian Sun did. No map editor, and only a handful finished maps(those of them that I tried were interesting and well-done, though). The space you fly through is extensively detailed... a large number of different fields(including, obviously, asteroid fields) that affect your ships in different ways if you leave them there or fly through them, including slowing them down, damaging them, yes, even blocking their weapons, while you are in the field. The fields will typically allow you to gather resources from them(the asteroids for ore, any other field for gas). Apart from defensive buildings(and obviously jump gates), any building must be made on a planet. There are a number of these planets throughout, so that's really not an issue(actually, it's a pretty good and interesting, not to mention original, idea). Planets also hold different amounts of either resource, and sometimes crew(on the inhabitable ones). The four main things that buildings and units in the game require are the two types of resource, crew(to run and maintain either ship or building) and something called Command Points. In StarCraft, the Points were the unit requirements(similar to what crew is supposed to be, here), and only units(not defensive buildings as well, as it is here; presumably due to a fear of overuse of such) required them. Personally, I didn't care much for that addition. The amount that the various units required didn't seem particularly carefully thought out, and by limiting how many defensive units one force can have(whilst maintaining an army), holding several systems(the jump-gates are quite easily destroyed, leaving the wormhole to your home system wide open) is a real trial. There are some bugs... not big, but still. Nevertheless, the game offers entertaining RTS gaming, with game-play that echoes a bit of previous titles but brings more than enough new things to the table and creates a unique gaming experience. Any fan of RTS games should give it a chance, especially those who enjoy the Age of Empires series. Pretty good storyline, as well, and very nicely done cinematics between some of the levels. I recommend this to any fan of RTS gaming and science fiction. Unique, entertaining and engaging strategy game set in outer space, that could have been just slightly better. 7/10
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