Unlike the Treasure Planet action adventures for the PlayStation and PlayStation 2 that are loosely based on Robert Louis Stevenson's classic tale, Disney's Treasure Planet: Battle at Procyon is a 3D RTS game focusing on space combat. In the main campaign's story-driven missions, you begin play as Jim Hawkins, a cadet in the Royal Navy's fight against pirates and the deadly Procyon Fleet, with an eye toward eventual promotion to fleet commander. Skirmish and multiplayer modes allow the choice of playing as all three factions.
Successfully completed missions result in ship and fleet enhancements, more experienced crews, and upgraded weapons. Royal Navy Fleet weapons are only slightly inferior to the reworked weapons of the Procyon Fleet but are sturdier and less vulnerable. Ships for the Royal Navy range from torpedo boats and war sloops to escorts, frigates, and the impressive StarHammer, while pirates man sloops, gunboats, schooners, assault cutters, and more, including several unique designs like the carrack and barque. The Procyon Fleet is built for speed and maneuverability, geared for fast hit-and-run attacks, and as the game progresses, news of a mysterious Ironclad Fleet surfaces as well.
Ship designs in Battle at Procyon are fashioned after the seafaring ships from the golden age of sail, with solar winds filling the sails and rigging. Arsenals reflect futuristic models of light, medium, and heavy weapons such as laserball and plasma cannons, beam weapons, Gatling guns, harpoons, fire and net launchers, gravity waves, torpedoes, mortars, and more. Other features include multiple waypoint settings, star maps, panic fire, secondary ship control, docking, repairing, towing, grappling, and boarding actions.
Disney's Treasure Planet: Battle at Procyon supports several types of multiplayer maps for Internet play, each with unique objectives. Players can command fleets of up to ten ships that can be improved with crew experience and special weapons.
Disney's Treasure Planet -- the movie, that is -- is a science-fiction twist on Robert Louis Stevenson's novel, Treasure Island. The flick is due out at the end of November, and to coincide with its release, Disney Interactive chose Barking Dog Studios to create a game that captures the feel of the universe. The result, Treasure Planet: Battle for Procyon, is a decent entry-level real-time strategy game, but will probably prove too easy for anyone who's ever played Warcraft or Command & Conquer.
Treasure Planet: Battle for Procyon takes place about five years after the events in the movie. The protagonist, Jim Hawkins, has just graduated from the Royal Navy Academy and has been assigned his first ship, when trouble arises in the form of the presence of strange new ships, called Ironclads. Jim and his crew subsequently patrol space as they work to uncover a deadly conspiracy. In keeping with the theme of the new movie, it's not long before the true plot emerges, involving John Silver's pirates and the nigh indestructible Ironclad ships.
One of the first things you'll notice while playing through the single-player game is that although Treasure Planet is a 3D space game, the world only exists on one plane. You can't guide your ship above or below other ships for more tactical maneuvers. To attack an enemy ship, you'll guide your ship alongside theirs and attack with your deck cannons, which are usually located port and starboard, with perhaps a couple of machine guns stern and bow. In other words, if the designers had drawn water beneath the ships instead of outer space, you wouldn't know the difference.
The ships maneuver realistically, but even the fastest ships move at an excruciatingly slow speed, and the bigger the ship and the better it's manned, the slower it moves and turns. One of the biggest -- the Royal Navy Man-O-War -- turns about as easily as a house. Combat tends to become a cumbersome process of creeping up alongside an enemy ship, firing your weapons, waiting on them to reload and turning about to make another pass.
Treasure Planet also has a complete lack of living people. If you zoom in on a ship or island, everything is devoid of life. The only things that even hint at the existence of life are the cutscenes, static icons that pop up next to subtitles, or when one of your own people passes on a bit of information. Most ships, when destroyed, deploy lifeboats that you can pass over to pick up the stranded passengers, but again you only see the boat itself. This may make the game a bit more family-friendly, but it also feels rather lonely.
It's interesting to note that, unlike most real-time strategy games, there's no construction or tech tree in Treasure Planet. You're given a set number of ships for each mission, and you can occasionally assign people to the various positions, such as gunners, engineers and helmsmen. Victory points are achieved after certain missions, and this determines how many people you can hire. (Each person costs a different number of points depending on their skills.) You can switch out weapons, but there's little reason to do so; the default weapons work just fine. The strategy of trying to determine who fits best where is made even easier by letting you sort characters by their attributes -- it's just a matter of selecting the ones with the highest attributes for the various positions.
Treasure Planet's single-player game is twelve missions long, but you should only need between six and ten hours to finish the campaign. The game leads you by the hand through each mission, and as long as you follow the direction of the arrow that rests directly beneath your primary ship and listen to the instructions of whoever assigned you the goal, you'll have little trouble.
Not all missions are straight combat-oriented. Some have you rescuing ships stuck near black holes or in nebulas, while others are escorts for merchant vessels. The missions are quite varied, but none are a true challenge. Children and less experienced gamers might find that the hand-holding more their speed, but for strategy gamers looking for an in-depth title ... this isn't it.
On a technical level, Treasure Planet has nice 3D graphics, but they tend toward blandness in most respects. The lighting and particle effects are especially nice, but the ships and islands all have a blocky, plain look. Even with the simpler graphics, expect the game to chug with a lot of ships on-screen on all but the most powerful machines. The voice acting is very well done, especially the principal characters. The music is lovely and fits the theme of the game, but the sound effects will shock you awake with overly loud explosions sometimes.
Multiplayer, via LAN or Internet, provides a bit more challenge for experienced players with more choices to make, but it's still a bit simpler than most strategy games. Up to eight players can go head-to-head as the Royal Navy, Pirates or Procyons in large ship-to-ship battles. The game's creator decides how many victory points to start with to purchase your fleet, and how many ships you can have. Unlike the single-player game, players use their points to not only purchase crewmembers and upgrade gunnery, but also to purchase the ships. Do you choose faster ships with fewer guns ... or slow ships armed to the teeth that can withstand someone trying to ram you? Having more combat personnel on board increases your chances of winning if someone tries to board you (or vice versa) but makes the ship heavier and harder to maneuver. While the choices aren't incredibly deep, anyone looking for a challenge in Treasure Planet will most likely find it here.
Although Treasure Planet is a game based on an upcoming movie, it's not a last-minute, thrown-together project, as tie-ins like this often tend to be. But if you're looking for a challenging, grown-up RTS, then Treasure Planet probably isn't for you. There's no tech tree, it's really short and pretty easy. It does fill an interesting niche, however -- a kid-friendly "RTS-lite". If you've been waiting for a "family" RTS that you can share with your kids, this might be it.
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