Hegemonia: Legions of Iron


Review by Greg Wilcox

Digital Reality


Graphics: 9

Sound: 8

Gameplay: 8

Overall: 8

A massive thing of beauty with deep, challenging gameplay, Hegemonia: Legions of Iron comes to you courtesy of Dreamcatcher, and developer Digital Reality. If you were a fan of DR's Imperium Galactica and/or Imperium Galactica II, you'll feel more than a little at home in this huge universe of RTS goodness. Or greatness, I should say. This is one of those games that will scare off those unaccustomed to the burdens of heavy duty planetary conquest. If sweeping real-time battles, colonization, mining ore, research and development funding, and a bit of espionage are all your bag, you can either get a job working for the US Government, or pick up this game instead (if you'd prefer the FBI not poking around in your closets).

When you fire up the game, you find out humans have stretched out from Earth to Mars and beyond, and a battle begins with both planets fighting for control of the solar system. Of course, while this is taking place (and after some fierce fighting), an alien race decides to make things tough by invading our solar system (don't you hate when that happens?). You can choose either of the two planets to begin your campaign, with the Mars based missions being a bit trickier. One thing you'll definitely want to do while you're installing the game (or on the bus or subway ride home from your favorite game shoppe) is READ THE MANUAL. If one game screams out RTFM, it's Hegemonia. Unless you're a PC diehard with skills that can channel both Donald Trump and Buck Rogers, you'll only end up annoyed, confused, and eventually vanquished (sort of like a cross between Howard Hughes and Marvin the Martian). This game is tough business from the get-go, and it rarely lets up once you get into it.

The first few missions softball you into the complex controls and a bit of basics, but you'll be consulting at least 65 pages of the manual for stuff time and again. just buy a pack of those colored Post-It tabs and you're good to go. Funny thing about the manual, though- there's a 3-page section in the back for notes...white lines on shiny black stock. Which means that one of the alien races must have won during the development stages of the game, as who else would have the proper pens for writing on that type of paper? But I digress; refer to the manual often, it will save your life. Given that there are so many activities to do in Hegemonia, the different interfaces are very well thought out and smart, although tracking moving ships is a bit of a task. You'll have to constantly pay attention to your ships when you have them in multiple systems, as they'll fall prey to all sorts of calamities if left to their own devices for too long.

There are a number of strategic (with a dash of minor RPG) elements here in the guise of micromanagement. You can hire heroes and assign them to travel with you, and as they'll have specialized skills you can use on a particular mission, choosing who to bring along is part of a good game plan. Of course, it's not a good idea to become too attached to anyone in particular, as like in a real war, you never know who's going to not be coming back from a combat run. As you make it to other planets, you'll often find some willing replacements (once you do a little terrain renovation in the form of extended bombardment).

The spaceship combat system is pretty simple and straightforward, and here, the game shows off Digital Reality's awesome Walker Engine, capable of pushing 100,000 polygons per second. Control is a snap here, and the battles are fast paced, brutal, and beautiful to look at. You'll see ships break apart in what seems like millions of pieces, some stunning lighting, color, and particle effects, and explosions and stuff that will make you think you're watching a good episode of Babylon 5. The assorted planets and suns are gasp-worthy, and anyone who happens to be in the immediate vicinity will definitely be impressed by all the visual flair flashing and blinking on your monitor. Don't forget to pause and zoom all over the place to check out the textures and details (if you're really terrible at the game, it's a good way to delay the inevitable). Sound effects and music are appropriately super, lending a nice dramatic accompaniment to the gameplay.

One of the game's problems however, is the way you capture new planets. It's a long, long process, and as this isn't Star Trek, some pacifists will be put off by what needs to be done. Basically, you have to blast the hell out of a world, killing off a massive percentage of the citizens before the rest surrender. "Screw the Prime Directive" is right- don't expect any space protesters to zip around your fleets as human shields either. You'd probably just blow them into pretty-looking space dust anyway. This sort of moral vacuum is part and parcel of the nature of the game, so as long as you go into Hegemonia knowing what you're in for, you should have no problem at all.

Co-op and on-line/LAN play are also included here, which of course is as it should be for a game of this type. The odd thing is that for all its bombast, thick manual, and foldout boxage, Hegemonia doesn't quite feel like a huge epic. Some of the plot feels too familiar, and the simplicity and speed of the ship battles leaves you wanting just a tiny bit more. Still, it's an amazing experience no RTS fan will want to pass up, and one of the best games of its type, period. Now if the experience can be successfully translated to a console (enhanced Xbox port, anyone?), maybe the genre would grow just a tiny bit more. How about it, Digital Reality- are you guys up to the challenge?


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Last updated: Wednesday, December 10, 2003 02:25 PM