Outlive is no Starcraft Killer

I normally rate games based on how much fun I have with them while I am playing them, and then I factor in all the other things like whether or not it is a neat or new concept. So while Outlive is nothing to email all your gaming buddies about, based on some of the games I have been playing lately, it is not a bad title. And as you will see, I really enjoyed the first few missions.

Outlive is a real-time strategy game set in the 21st Century where the population is outgrowing the planet and we are running out of resources. So the World Council starts to explore alternate resource locations like the one they find on one of Saturn’s moons, Titan.

Big surprise: the atmosphere is in hospitable to humans. Option A is to send robots. Option B is to send some sort of altered human. Unfortunately Option C is to send both and let them fight it out, and destabilize our home planet at the same time. As the game opens, the conflict between the factions backing the two options reaches a new level where open combat and terrorism is just beginning.

The game is divided into three sections. The human campaign, the robot campaign and a cooperative campaign. This in a way is like Sierra’s Ground Control. While you can play the campaigns in any order, you are encouraged to play them in the pre-described order as the plot is based on playing all three in order.

I started with the human campaign and I had a good time tackling each mission. Nothing really new, but I enjoyed playing them. I have to say though that the vehicle names of some of the units, like tank, leave a lot to be desired. Once I got into the robot campaign I quickly got bored and switched to the cooperative campaign, which is basically running units of humans and robots and all of their supporting buildings at the same time. Again this did not hold my interest for long.

What saved this game from ending up in the dumpster from the start was that it is very similar to other real time strategy (RTS) games, like Starcraft, and it was also very easy to pick up. I started by playing the twenty-lesson tutorial, which has great pop-up help, and I poked through the manual for a couple minutes. Both helped me to pick up the game very quickly and were well though out. I think my only complaint about the tutorial is that it does not cover combat, and for a RTS game that is a bit of a lapse, but I picked that up pretty quickly during game play. In addition to the campaigns, there is also a multiplayer variant that allows up to 16 players to battle in death match, free for all (no alliances), conquest (all buildings destroyed) and capture the flag. A game editor is supplied, so if you are so inclined, you can make your own scenarios and maps.

As in all RTS style games, this one has you out collecting resources, which in this case are turned into credits so that you can build more buildings, do research, and build up your combat troops. The main difference between the humans and robots comes into play here. Humans have to maintain a power grid so buildings can only be placed a certain distance apart. Humans get their power originally from wind and later from nuclear plants. Robots do not have to maintain a power grid and all structures tap into a virtual power grid, which is powered by solar collectors and later by radioactive generators. The game also has two mineral resources, Iron and Uranium. Minerals are converted into credits, as I mentioned before, once they are collected and processed. Originally you would assume that the humans have a major disadvantage by having to maintain a power grid and keep all there buildings linked close together, but I found that having only one type of defense tower, as I will talk about in a moment, more than makes up for this disadvantage.

As I just said Humans have only one type of defense tower which handles both ground and air attacks. This combined with having all their buildings close together, in my opinion, makes their bases far easier to defend. And as you advance across a map you have to bring power and defense with you. Both a major pain and a good advantage, if you are smart, is to keep making fallback positions. I was able to easily turn that disadvantage into an advantage. While playing the humans, and in the short time I played the robots, I found the separation of ground defense and air defense cannons far too easy to penetrate. This was great originally, but when I switched sides, I found it to be a pain the butt.

Combat and research go hand and hand. Just like in every other RTS, you have to quickly build up your knowledge and then pump out the biggest and toughest combat troops that you can in order to overwhelm your opponents whether they are other players or the computer. My strategy was always to turn research onto the automatic setting since the computer usually makes good picks on what to research next. That left me free to start fortifying my base and build a couple of small forces to rush into hot spots. It’s a testament to the AI that it can handle different aspects of the game for you.

Overall, I really did not find that Outlive had anything really spectacular that would make it jump ahead of the crowd. I have heard people talking about how it is a fine competitor to Starcraft, but I don’t really think it is. Starcraft had three races and each was unique and rather cool. Here there is only two and their differences are not really anything special. Plus the graphics and sound for Outlive are passable and I would even go so far to say good, yet nothing too over the top. On the other hand I really enjoyed playing the Human campaign. Of late, I just have not played very many really good RTS games and I was really looking for one to step up to the plate and knock it out of the park. Call Outlive a ground rule double. In the end I rate Outlive as average with 3 GiN gems. If you like strategy games I would buy it, otherwise just keep playing Starcraft.

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