Star Crusader is similar in vein to Wing Commander or X-Wing. It's a space combat simulation that takes place in the far future and the story revolves around a futuristic world, the Gorene Empire, which is reminiscent of the old Roman Empire. This is a very expansionist empire that spreads their "enlightenment" to species that haven't been touched by their divine wisdom. The game begins with the Gorenes beginning to take over a new sector, something the indigenous inhabitants aren't very happy about. Fortunately, they have enough technology and force to put up a significant fight. The Gorene Empire has its work cut out.
In the game proper, you take the role of Roman Alexandria, a Gorene wing commander (I wonder if the pun/reference is intentional) in the Gorene navy. The game, at the beginning, allows you to fly a simulator to practice flying the three different ships you'll begin with or to jump into the campaign itself. The campaign is the real star of the show here, as it bucks the trend of most games of this type. The campaign is huge with over 100 branching missions and can go in several different directions, giving the game much more in replay value than most comparable games.
The variety of missions and the way the story ties into many of the missions is really well done and gives you that "one more mission" feeling. Missions include action such as search and destroy, stealthy reconnaissance, guerilla warfare and so on. Throughout the course of the game, you may change sides and alliances, another factor that adds to the replay value. The story and campaign in this game are both outstanding and really make the game stand out.
The other large element of gameplay is the actual space combat, although it's not as deep as X-Wing or Wing Commander. The cockpits aren't as detailed and the screens in the cockpits themselves don't give as much information as in comparable games but the combat itself is fun. Like many games of this type, one must carefully balance power, shield and weapon management -- aspects made easy by the designers. The combat is fast and furious and I only have one complaint about the whole combat experience. The radar display that is supposed to show you the location of your current target is strictly 2D, so you never know if your enemy is above, below or behind you. One can simply follow the bouncing oval in the display but this could have been improved.
Star Crusader is presented rather well. The game's cinematic sequences are smooth and flowing and look great, even if the angles are a bit jarring. The game's engine does space combat well with great looking texture-mapped ships and objects and the speed never slows down for a moment. The real treat here, though, is the voice acting. The CD-ROM version (on which this review is based) has hundreds of megabytes of professional voice acting for every character in the game. The voice acting is convincing, well done and really helps draw the player into the story.
Overall, it's a shame this game hasn't gotten more attention than it has. It's a worthy game to sit along side Wing Commander or a Star Wars combat game on your hard drive and it'll give you more playtime than most of its contemporaries. It's got a fresh story, great non-linearity and a great deal of variety. What more could you want from a space simulation?
Graphics: Nice texture mapped graphics in the game and lovely cinematic sequences.
Sound: Good sound effects and fantastic voice acting.
Enjoyment: This game is a blast, and it sucks you in from start to finish.
Replay Value: With over 100 branching missions within a campaign that can go in several different directions, this one can last a while.
3D Space combat simulator with MANY missions and sleek, polygon-fill graphics that handle very smoothly.
A solid 3D space combat underdog, Star Crusader has it all except the hype: great graphics (if not as sharp as Wing Commander), lots of cool and colorful ships, over 100 missions, and a great "space opera" plot about intergalactic family feuds that unfold as you progress. Best of all is the surprising strategic element late in the game that allows you to plan missions and allocate strike forces. Great fun despite awkward controls and questionable AI of enemy ships.
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