In the last decade, the gaming industry has been dominated by 3D graphics, no matter the genre. From first-person shooters to adventures and strategies, nothing has escaped the evolution towards 3D graphics. Unfortunately for us, this momentum and the desire to have the best graphics on the block didn’t do us much good. Sure, games look nicer now, but the designers also preferred to concentrate on the visual aspect, forgetting the fact that a game should be, first of all, fun, not some postal card slide show. And if we look at the sales of some titles, considered to be certain successes before the launch, like Crysis or Unreal Tournament 3, we can see that players have taken the first steps against this trend.
Swimming against the current, SunAge is an old-school real-time strategy game, with a futuristic theme and a couple of more or less useful innovations. The story, pretty similar to Mad Max, tackles the age old “Where is the human civilization headed?” question. The story is (again) placed in a distant and grim future, in which our Sun is dieing and the natural resources of our world have been exhausted. Thus Earth becomes a huge desert and the few privileged (read “wealthy”) humans retreat in Domes – bunkers built for the sole purpose of keeping the human race alive. Even so, the Domes collapse until only one is left, with the survivors forming the Federation. The rest of the population however didn’t have the privilege of living in a dome, and many fell victim to the desert. Under the influence of radiations and the harsh conditions, they turned into the Raak-Zun, a mutant subspecies of the human race, who unsurprisingly hates the Federation. Just as predictable, the Sentinels also make an entry – an extraterrestrial race which has the key to a wormhole that leads to a paradise planet called Elysium. And even if the story doesn’t lack its share of clichés, the producers did their best to familiarize us with the main characters and lend credence to this post-apocalyptic future of humanity.
Following in StarCraft’s footsteps, the single-player mode is made up of 3 campaigns, unlocked in succesion. The first available is that of the Federals’, followed by the Raak-Zun’s and last, but not least, the Sentinel’s. You will have to complete 24 missions (plus the tutorial), with each requiring a pretty substantial amount of time. Once you finish the campaigns, you can turn your attention to the multiplayer, but here you will only find 8 maps (some of which are actually huge) with 2 modes of play for a total of 4 players.
One of the main problems of SunAge is its functionality. To say that the game was released unpolished would be a gross understatement. The number of bugs was huge, which challenged the patience of those who tried the game immediately after the release. From odd crashes to features that didn’t work properly, even though they were mentioned in the manual (such as unit grouping – CTRL + group #), SunAge had it all. It’s true that Vertex Studios can be considered an indie developer, but Lighthouse Interactive should not have launched the game in the form that it initially came to the market in the first place.