Players shape the world to their wishes in Perimeter, a real-time strategy game that revolves around competitive terraforming. Traditionally, RTS games involve two basic activities: fighting battles and managing resources. While many have focused on the warfare side of play, Perimeter emphasizes more defensive, developmental strategies. It does so by allowing players to alter the landscape itself, to benefit themselves or limit their competitors. Provided they have enough energy and the required technologies, players can transform terrain to provide more resources for their faction, create tactical advantages for themselves at key locations, and minimize an enemy's capacity for production or defense.
Energy extracted from terraformed land is a primary power source for most buildings and units, so carefully managing this energy is crucial to the player's survival. When enough is available, nearly impenetrable force fields can be raised over important structures, protecting them well and allowing the player to focus attention on more ambitious conquests. If energy flow is mismanaged, however, and the force fields falter, buildings become highly vulnerable to capture or destruction. The ability to raise, lower, and otherwise sculpt the landscape relies on special units. Adding to the challenge, many units in the game can themselves be altered to perform different tasks, even in the heat of battle. Strategically developing the best units, for the most important tasks, at the right time, can be the difference between victory and defeat.
Russian Developer KD Labs knows how to make a unique (some would say weird) computer game. The same company that brought you the 1999 game Vangers: One for the Road, which is easily one of the strangest games of all time, continues its diverse design philosophy with a 3D real-time strategy game dubbed Perimeter. The difference here is that while Vangers was just weird, Perimeter is also a lot of fun.
Since the real-time strategy genre is one of the most saturated in the PC gaming market, it takes real chutzpah to try to create something completely different. Perimeter is definitely that. To start, the storyline and setting is extremely difficult to wrap your head around. There's something about humanity, different dimensions, frames, root worlds, Zodiacs, breaking off from worlds, and evil bug things called The Scourge. Truth be told, the story makes about as much sense as reading as Asimov novel after an all-night bender. That being said, it's still fun, even if you really have no idea why you're fighting (other than to survive) and who you actually represent or why it's important that you win.
Perimeter is best defined as a sci-fi real-time terraforming strategy game. You start a scenario with a unit called a "frame," which is really just a big floating city. From the frame, you build energy cores that create energy, which is needed to run your base. All of the energy cores that you build chain together and all of the juice is sent back to the frame. From that energy, you build buildings, defense systems, and so on. You also need land to build these energy cores, and that's where the terraforming comes into play. You can send out robots to terraform the land in order to smooth it out so that an energy core can be built on it. You can level mountains, hills, whatever. This is actually a very important part of the game because energy is your base's lifeblood and the bad guys know this and will try to stop you from adding to your energy supply.
While the harvesting of energy (the lone resource in the game) is a very cool feature, the niftiest part of Perimeter is the way in which the military units are handled. Your units are actually robots that can transform into a myriad of different units with the click of your mouse (and the required energy). There are three base unit types -- soldiers, officers, and technicians. By themselves, they're extremely weak, but when you combine them in a certain order, you can morph them into flying rocket-launching units, an anti-infantry helicopter, a hover tank, etc. There are a lot of tremendously cool weapons and units in the game and the fact that you can change your standing army in a matter of seconds to fit your current strategic need is a stroke of design brilliance.
Then there's the shield. The perimeter shield is your frame's ultimate defensive system. Nothing can penetrate its defenses, but it requires and ungodly amount of energy to use for any length of time. So you need to balance out using your shield with creating new troops and structures for your base. All of this forces you to make some tough choices, which is what a good strategy game is all about.
The missions themselves are fun, but the game stumbles a bit in the brains department. The pathfinding AI is passable but hardly top-notch. Units will take the most direct path to a location, even if it forces them to climb up a mountain to get there, rather than taking the quicker route around its base. The enemy AI is more puzzle-like than anything else, as many times the bad guys will spawn out of the same location and it's up to you to figure out the best way to handle the timed attacks by The Scourge. Once you figure out a mission's "trick," then it's not too tough.
Perimeter doesn't hang its hat on multiplayer functionality. Technically speaking, it works, but you can only play deathmatch games and the lag can be brutal on lower-end systems, and the maps are also way too big for head-to-head games. Perimeter is a much better multiplayer game when you can get four friends to duke it out rather than try to play a simple two-player match. But even then, the game's strength is in the single-player campaign.
Visually, Perimeter is stunning to look at and an ideal product to show off your brand new video card. From fantastic special weapon effects to the blue protective aura of the perimeter shield, the game is simply flat-out gorgeous. The audio is pretty standard: decent, but nothing that stands out.
Perimeter certainly has its share of problems, from a bizarro-world storyline and ho-hum multiplayer support to lackluster artificial intelligence. But playing the game is just so much fun that it's almost impossible not to recommend. If you're hard set on the same old real-time strategy formula, then this game isn't for you, but if you're in the mood for a different approach to the genre, then Perimeter deserves your undivided attention.
People who downloaded Perimeter have also downloaded:
Perimeter II: New Earth, Perimeter: Emperor's Testament, No Man's Land, Original War, No Surrender: Battle of the Bulge, Railroad Tycoon 3, Pharaoh and Cleopatra, Ground Control II: Operation Exodus
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