Dominion: Storm Over Gift 3 is a real-time strategy game - a genuine real-time experience, unlike so many others that claim to be yet make your soldiers hang around twiddling their thumbs while the computer is making its moves. There's no danger of this in Dominion, where the action truly speeds along and the clock is always running.
The story involves the discovery on a distant planet of a mysterious device that is capable of generating unlimited power. This is obviously something that the people of Earth, along with four other space-faring races, desperately want. After a truly impressive opening sequence of top-quality cinema, you find yourself deposited in the middle of nowhere on the planet Gift 3, with only a small band of troops to swap witty one-liners with.
After establishing a base camp, building a standalone power station, and training your troops, you'll then have to send a small group of special forces behind enemy lines to gather information. As the game progresses, you are able to regenerate troops and build up more elaborate vehicles and buildings. Eventually, as you get nearer to the mysterious power device, you will be commanding several small bands of troops as some scout for details and objects on one part of the planet whilst others battle the forces of enemy races in another area.
Although this sounds familiar and possibly tedious, rest assured that it isn't. Although the icon-driven interface will be familiar to anyone who enjoys this sort of strategy simulation and the "fog of war" type feature, in which the landscape is blacked out until you've explored it, is de rigueur for this genre, this game stands head-and-shoulders above the rest. The atmospheric music and effects add to (rather than detract from) the game play. The beautiful animation and intuitive artificial intelligence built into this game will convince you that Dominion: Storm Over Gift 3 is one of the very best strategy titles of the 1990s.
Graphics: Smooth, not dark, and fully 3-D realized.
Sound: Atmospheric and broody.
Enjoyment: True real-time simulation really keeps you on your toes.
Replay Value: Lots of lessons to learn for next time around.
We've got Command & Conquer, WarCraft, StarCraft, and zillions of other real-time strategy titles lining the shelves. Do we need another? Ion Storm thinks we do and has delivered its own take on the genre with the frighteningly-titled Dominion: Storm Over Gift 3.
So what does Dominion add to the genre? Not much. In fact, this game is probably the most generic real-time strategy title to hit the PC yet. It's almost identical in play to Command & Conquer, except this time, it's aliens at war instead of humans. In fact, there are four different races of aliens, but unfortunately, the only real differences between them seem to be their video cut sequences. Sure, each race has its own set of vehicles and soldiers, but they're so similar, it's almost a game in itself to spot the differences.
Like most of the real-time strategy games of late, you to harvest resources for funds. In this case, you just need to plop a refinery on top of a small well and it does the work for you. Sadly, the refinery has an odd shape, and if you accidentally place other structures too close to the well, you're screwed. Even if it looks like it fits, in some cases, the interface just won't let you place it. In this case, you just have to start the mission over. Sure you can sell the structures to make room, but that puts you at a disadvantage for the rest of the game.
The dated graphics improve slightly with an increase in resolution (up to 1280x1024 if your system can handle it), but the tile set used for the landscape is not only bland but also downright boring. Bumping the resolution up doesn't necessarily make it easy to see the tiny icons of the troops, either. Worse still, the game's admittedly well-produced, full-motion video sequences are used over and over again until you want to scream as soon as they show up.
Where these games usually shine is in their multiplayer aspects, and even here Dominion disappoints. The game boils down to who can find a well first and get their large group of troops to their opponent's base. The challenge of creating a powerful fortress of the other games in the genre just isn't here -- it's simply a race to become a mob in Dominion.
This game doesn't bode well for the overhyped Ion Storm -- an extremely generic game such as Dominion has no place on the roster of a company that claims it will revolutionize the PC market with its original product. This game is the first strike against the fledgling development house.
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