In this game, as the new employee of TetraCorp, it is your job to colonize asteroids and make them successful mining colonies. You start with one asteroid to mold into the shape you see fit. Then you must break out into the great unknown, colonizing nearby asteroids. Soon, you must sell your precious ore to the Federal Ore Transporter. Once you get enough ore, money, and time, you must create massive fleets of warships, for you are not alone. The Mauna will try to destroy you. However, the other races despise them as much as you. Negotiate peace treaties, Joint Combat treaties, and hire agents to sabotage the enemy. May the best man win.
I was overjoyed when I first got my hands on a demo of Fragile Allegiance back in 1996. I'd seen several ads in my favorite games magazine and it all looked so exciting - so I couldn't wait to try it out! I must have replayed that demo dozens of times over the course of two weeks before I finally managed to persuade my father to order it for me (bless mail order) and since I first got my hands on it I've put at least 200 hours into this game, which goes to show just how addictive it is.
It's the year 2496 and you're sitting in space on an asteroid with a mega corporation called Tetracorp breathing down your neck. Your goal? To collect as much ore for this corporation as you can, which in turn gives you credits to invest in exploration, development or outright warfare. You're not alone, however: there are 6 alien species ready to make your life a living hell. You have to mine your asteroid and use the funds from ore sales to scout for more asteroids, while preventing competitors from snapping up the best ones before you do. A great start for a strategy game!
At first the game can be a bit overwhelming: the screens are lined with dozens of buttons just asking to be pressed, which in turn take you to even more buttons. Don't worry, though: it only takes a short while to really get the hang of things, and soon enough you'll be flying from screen to screen like a pro! The game still looks very attractive despite its age; the graphics are detailed and every screen is pleasing to the eye. The sounds are spot on as well, with the music creating the right mood. When it comes to presentation, there's not a single aspect to criticise.
At first, you start developing your asteroid by building housing, power generators, mining stations, ore silos, and so forth. When all this has been done, ore will start to pile up in storage. In the meantime you can start building scout ships to search for more asteroids in your vicinity, and even start to colonise them. As you develop new asteroids and mine more ore, you can use the profits in turn to explore and expand even further. In no time you'll be juggling half a dozen asteroids, transferring ore to your headquarters, buying blueprints, encountering alien competitors and basically having a blast.
There's a LOT of things to do in this game and you'll never be standing around waiting for something to happen. You can always scout for more asteroids, send spies on sabotage missions, develop a new asteroid or improve relations with your competitors. Now and then a virus will break out and you'll need to find the antidote, which can sometimes be bought from traders or competitors, so you have to keep an eye on trade relations and stock as well. Some may even find that there's too much to do; you can hire managers to maintain and develop your asteroids without your intervention, but I personally don't trust them to do good enough a job so I always take on everything I can and manage it myself.
And of course, there's combat for when diplomacy fails, or when you really have to get your hands on a particularly interesting asteroid. For this you can build massive fleets of ships and missiles to attack your neighbours and decimate your opponents. It's a bit disappointing then that you can't control any of the ships once they leave your asteroid but with everything that's going on, I doubt that would have been a good thing anyway. If you got a spy satellite in orbit of the targeted asteroid you can even witness the destruction first hand. If you have afflicted enough damage, the asteroid will be yours when the dust has settled. And then the whole process of colonising and transferring ore begins again.
But let's take a moment to look at the negatives. One of my disappointments was a lack of a story, which is not uncommon for strategy games but less forgiving is the lack of a global goal. You can wipe out every competitor and the game will still continue. Unless you end the game yourself, it will continue forever. You do get a screen showing you a final score, telling you how successful you've been when you do quit the game, but it's not quite as satisfying as having something to work towards. There are several scenarios as well that put you in specific circumstances, but a story and a set goal would have been a great deal more interesting.
I already casually mentioned another negative: the game can be very overwhelming. Once you have over a dozen asteroids, keeping track of them can be a nightmare. Managers don't always do a proper job so you wind up double checking their work anyway. You may want to consider blowing up asteroids that are sucked dry to keep things nice and clean too. A waste, you say? Not when you consider you can build an asteroid engine and make it crash into one of your competitors, destroying his in the process as well! This way, you have one less asteroid to take care of and dealt a blow to your opponent as well!
In the end this is a highly addictive, beautiful and engaging game and you should definitely give it a go. This remains one of my favorite strategy games and although it lacks a lot in the way of statistics and tactical warfare, it still offers more than enough of a challenge. Highly recommended!
People who downloaded Fragile Allegiance (a.k.a. K240) have also downloaded:
Enemy Nations, Exploration (a.k.a. Voyages of Discovery), Fantasy General, Fields of Battle, Gary Grigsby's Pacific War (2000), Flashpoint Germany, Force 21, Front Lines
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