Picture if you will a real-time strategy game set in deep space, featuring three different races: humans, a monstrous set of creatures that craft weapons and structures from their own biological material, and an advanced group of aliens with high-tech, all-powerful gadgets. If you conjured up Blizzard's excellent StarCraft, you'd be right. But the description also favors Far Gate, though a few notable differences exist: Far Gate is 3D and is far less structured, manageable, and fun than StarCraft.
Far Gate tries to make up for its lack of originality by giving you an opportunity to conduct battles within the depths of space. Few people would argue that StarCraft was simply WarCraft with aliens, but Far Gate is definitely a true real-time strategy space combat game, albeit not a particularly good one.
Above all else, RTS games desperately need an understandable, easy-to-use interface, and if management is a chore, all other aspects suffer. Given that designing a smoothly running interface in 3D is difficult when dealing with multiple planes and axes, confusion on a grand scale is possible. The developers of Far Gate tried to create a functional and easy to manage interface, but the finished product is nearly impossible to master in execution.
The obnoxious elements of the interface make it difficult to get a good perspective on specific situations. The system of windows used to keep track of various activities is touchy, and it's easy to click a window and change location at a critical moment. Attempt to zero in on a situation involving specific units, and you can't get a grasp of the overall picture, which often leads to deadly consequences in combat. Zooming out leaves you too far away to get a good view. There's simply no middle ground for achieving the needed visual range, and, if you do manage it, it's usually too late to do anything useful.
The weak interface is unfortunate since Far Gate has some intriguing concepts. The races seem to be diverse, decently balanced, and infused with distinct personality, even though reminiscent of those in similar games. Resource management is necessary, but isn't a horrible chore and rarely requires micro-management. The concept of hub stations and related aspects is interesting and works with the deep-space theme.
Sharing equal culpability with the clunky interface is the serious deficiency of a seemingly missing AI. The missions are heavily scripted, and enemies always act the same way. To survive, you need to know what their plans are to keep them from easily overrunning you and ending the mission, an aspect more associated with puzzle games. Instead of worrying about tactics and strategy, you simply need to play the level enough times to understand enemy tactics and then counteract them next time, which makes single-player missions boring, repetitive, and most importantly, lacking of real-time strategy.
Multiplayer is very limited, and due to lack of AI, there's no skirmish mode. Single-player missions can only be played as humans, thus you never get a chance to play the other races unless you go online. Without a skirmish mode for practice, there's little incentive to engage in space battles against gamers with a head start. It's a catch-22 that, in this case, basically renders the concept of multiplayer moot.
As if the aforementioned problems weren't enough, the last nail in Far Gate's considerably large coffin is the complete lack of stability. Games often crash for no reason at all and deposit you on your desktop with no idea of what went wrong. It can happen when saving, loading, or at any time during gameplay.
Far Gate fails to live up to the potential of its interesting concepts, and with improved programming, complete testing and more attention to details could have been a very respectable title. Due to numerous problems within gameplay and stability issues, though, the title should be relegated to the vacuum of space.
Graphics: Ships are nicely rendered and reflect the styles of the three races. When you do manage to actually see something you're specifically looking for, it seems well modeled enough and is certainly more functional than the interface. The emptiness of space and the fury of combat are nicely represented.
Sound: The sound effects are suitable to the environment and can be eerie at times. The bizarre soundtrack is a puzzling experimental mix of progressive-rock and random sounds, and doesn't fit the game's atmosphere whatsoever.
Enjoyment: Too many problems, ranging from the interface to the lack of AI, prevent any enjoyment. The design idea is good, but execution fails miserably.
Replay Value: Multiplayer mode is difficult for new players, since no skirmish mode is available for practice. Single-player missions are limited to playing only the human race; thus missions get stale quickly.
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Emperor: Battle for Dune, Far West, Enemy Nations, Empire Earth, Fallen Haven, Empire Earth II, Enemy Infestation, Empires: Dawn of the Modern World
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