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WARZONE 2100 Review by Strategy Planet 1999

Publisher: Eidos
Developer: Pumpkin
Date Posted: January 25, 1999

Warzone 2100's big selling points are it's 3D engine and the ability to create your own units by mixing different parts that you research. While these features are nice, I've found a number of other little details most enjoyable. This demo will give you a taste of the action with a tutorial and two single player missions.

Look Ma, 3D!
The graphics engine is very much like the one seen in Myth with the exception that units are 3D also. Things look pretty nice all around, especially in higher resolutions than 640x480. The hills roll nicely and there are some cool explosions. However, whenever I look at what is available here, I can't help but think that it was designed with the Playstation in mind. The textures covering the ground are quite brown everywhere, with just different shades offering any real variation. There isn't much in the way of details like trees, just the odd small building. The units also seem to not be very complex, with boxes for treads. Warzone tends to suffer from one of the same problems that plagued Total Annihilation. Most of the units here look very very similar, and it can be very hard to tell the difference in the heat of battle.

When I first started playing this demo, I was seriously questioning the actual point of a 3D engine with a customizable camera. Yes it's cool on paper, and has a certain flash to it. But in terms of adding to the game, it doesn't really. Most of the time I found the roaming camera to be more of a nuisance then a help, and I was wishing the whole time that I could zoom out just a little bit further. I really wanted see more of the battlefield without having to scroll around all the time. When I finally got to the end of the second mission though, I found myself moving the camera around to get the best view into a canyon, or moving it around so that I could see a gun tower hidden behind a cliff. With more elements like this I can see the engine being much more cool.

Those are some nice explosions.
The other main feature of Warzone is the ability to design your own units, but using technology that you research throughout the game. For example, when you start the demo, you can only build one tank with a basic machine gun weapon, the standard body for this demo and wheels for the bottom. You get new technologies by finding artifacts on the map. Once you find your first artifact, you can research a flame weapon. It will be interesting to see how a multiplayer game of Warzone will work. If you are racing against your opponent(s) to collect artifacts across the map, so that you can advance your technology, while hindering everyone else's, things could get pretty intense. The interface in which you design these units is fairly well done. You can quickly piece together a new unit, see how much damage it will cost, how fast it will move, how much armor it has, and how much it will cost. It will be hard to tell how useful this information will be in the full game though. In a demo with a limited number of units, you tend to want to have most units ready to be built.

Warzone has all the usual Real Time Strategy controls. You can assign units to groups, assign waypoints (which do appear on screen), set construction queues, assign a point for units to gather after being built, and other such things. Warzone also has the added bonus of assigning commands and behaviour attributes to your units, and this is were it sets itself apart from most other RTS games. You can tell your units to retreat to your base, or to get repaired. You can tell them what to do when facing the enemy; hold their ground, wait to be fired at, attack and then return to their original position. My favorite though, is setting your units to retreat when they are damaged. This works in Warzone because the AI will take over that unit once it reaches the proper damage level, deselect it, remove it from any groups and take it back to your base. Unlike Dark Reign, you can't recall an almost dead unit back into battle by accident unless you try hard. The only problem with this is that they seem to always retreat to your base instead of to say, the nearest repair unit.

The thing that surprised me most about this game though, is how well it ran on my computer. The minimum requirements call for a Pentium 166, which is usually the kiss of death for me and my Pentium 100, even with a Voodoo 2 helping it out. But Warzone 2100 ran surprisingly smooth. The units zipped around the map, and there wasn't any real evident slowdown, even during large battles. I can't expect this to last while playing multiplayer, or in larger battles with more units in the full game, but it is encouraging nonetheless.

There are tons of little things that I would change, such as being able to click on the minimap to move units, have the minimap updated in real-time, make it so when you click on the minimap it doesn't scroll over to the position (or make it scroll faster), have it so you can choose units to retreat and get repaired when damaged, make it easier to target buildings, and allow the user to zoom the camera out a bit farther. In the end though, I found Warzone 2100 quite enjoyable. I had written it off as a game with a few gimmicks and no real substance when I first played it, but find myself liking it the more I played it and learned about the commands that I could give to my units. Looking that the screenshots after you quit the game with heavy duty walls, large gun towers, flying units and much larger tanks, I think it's safe to say that Warzone 2100 could prove to be a very interesting RTS game.

A solid RTS game thus far, definitely worth downloading if you want to try something a little bit different.