You, the Mercenary, have just managed to get it together to blast away from the hostile world of Targ when a message flashes up on your computer terminal. "Distress call from Eris State President, Dialis Planet 5, Gamma system - the comet Damocles is on a collision course with Eris. Assistance required urgently. Large reward."
Those last two words are particularly interesting... they involve money! After toying with the idea for a while, you think "Sod it. I want a holiday!" You send a brief reply to the President, then decide to cruise around taking it easy for a while. After a few months, the cash supply is finally beginning to dwindle... looks like it's time to check out the missions available. What about that Eris problem? Could be mucho moolah for that one, you think, so it's off to the Gamma system.
Benson, your computer, takes you in to land at Eris Spaceport, where a VIP limo has been thoughtfully left so that you can make your way to the President's office. The premier is a little miffed that you've taken this long to arrive and has, in fact, decided it's a good idea to leave the planet along with the other evacuees. Oh well, I suppose you'll have to look for the clues yourself...
In Damocles - Novagen's long-awaited follow-up to the highly-successful Mercenary - you play the hardy soldier of fortune that rose to fame after his antics on the planet Targ. This time, as well as struggling for personal financial gain, the future of a planet is at stake. The comet Damocles is on a collision course with the planet Eris. You must follow the trail of clues in an attempt to find the mega-destructive Novabomb and the necessary triggers in order to destroy the comet.
Unfortunately, since the entire population of Eris has fled to safety, the only clues available are by way of documents left lying around various locations on Eris. It's surprising exactly how much information can be gleaned from a discarded fax message. The trail of clues leads you to the whereabouts of the bomb and the triggers, but the post-office being as it is, they seem to have been... er... 'misplaced' somewhere along the line. You must use the clues and some pretty hefty lateral thinking to find your way around the Gamma system, picking up and making use of a variety of items along the way. But don't worry too much about the outcome. After all, it's all for one - and every man for himself!
GRAPHICS AND SOUND
Damocles' 3D world has been superbly designed, using solid and smoothly animated polygons to build a believable world to explore. One point where solid 3D games often fall down is by the incompetent use of clipping -when sections of buildings and objects often appear and disappear at odd moments to save memory. Damocles manages quite happily to conquer this obstacle, so that everything you see approaches from a speck in the distance to full size in a very realistic way. Unfortunately the sound doesn't match up to the quality of the graphics. All the effects are far too thin and synthetic to create any atmosphere, so the volume will usually end up in the 'off' position during play.
The sheer size of Damocles is quite remarkable (to use a famous sports idiom). The big cities lie on huge continents, which sit on massive planets surrounded by a vast solar system. Simply flying from place to place eats up an incredible amount of gametime. All the locations have their own specific atmosphere, depending on the planet and the purpose of the building, and even the trivial locations have objects lying around the rooms.
Leaping straight into the game and zooming from place to place won't get you very far, though. You really need to have your thinking hat firmly attached to your noggin to link all the clues, and it will still be a rather long time before you manage to get the Novabomb and triggers together, never mind stopping the comet. If you have a lot of things to contend with in life -like work, eating and sleeping -then think twice before you play Damocles, as these things will almost certainly be ignored!
After the incredibly long wait, the inevitable doubts about how good the game would actually be began to creep in. The original Mercenary and the Escape from Targ extension were hailed as ground-breaking games and managed to secure their place in the software hall of fame. So how does Damocles compare (doubts not withstanding)? You can all breathe a sigh of relief, since the answer is most definitely 'very well indeed'. Paul Woakes has included all the aspects that made Mercenary such a hit along with more additions than anyone could have hoped tor. The solid 3D works brilliantly, the vast playfield is just begging to be explored and the puzzle element is conducive to long hours sat in front of the monitor. Even in this day and age, with a myriad of 3D adventure games vying for the public's attention. Damocles is a shining island gem in the software sea. If you're not convinced, then try it as soon as possible - here our case rests.
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