previews\ Jan 16, 2003 at 7:00 pm

Nexagon: Deathmatch - PC - Preview

Nexagon takes unit gladiatorial combat into the fourth millenium

A great many games have been predicated on the theme of gladiatorial combat. After all, what is it if not a progression through a host of warriors lined up to challenge the game player’s avatar.

Nexagon Deathmatch, a Strategy First game slated for the release this summer, has taken the core elements and advanced them into a futuristic setting. Of course, entertainment is the essential ingredient in the notion of this futuristic world.

As the backstory describes it, in the fourth millenium, dire predictions about the Earth’s population proved unfounded. The population was content, perhaps too much so. That was when the idea of The Pit was conceived.

It was a simple plan: take prisoners who had no hope of release and put them into an arena. Those that survived could win their freedom. The rest of the world could enjoy the spectacle.

The first release of the title was a single-warrior combat vehicle. In the next generation, player are given a team to combat with.

At first blush, the game looks rather limited in scope with hostile though finite maps. Not to worry, it is intention. You see, the world is no longer a pristine planet, but rather riddled with complex grids of concretes, polymers and steel. Biospheres floating in the air deliver oxygen. The planet is also home to a variety of species ­ some of which are realized in this program.

The arena itself is laid out in squares, with nearly each region occupied by opponents. Plotting your course through the arena in this real-time tactical outing is nearly as important as making certain your avatar is ready for the adventure. The goal is simple, really - move your units through the competition, level them up through successful ventures in the arena, and upgrade them as well as your sanctum.

The goal in the combat is easily defined: destroy all the enemy units and/or their sanctum within the pit. With no manual to work through, much of what powers Nexagon had to be guessed at. This took time, but the developers did allow for some fundamental control elements generic to the RTS genre which made the task marginally easier. For example, each fighter in your unit can be controlled collectively or individually. The game also relies on line of site and does not immerse the battlefield in the fog of war.

The graphics of the game are bright, and the three-dimensional feel is very good. The animation in the beta was solid.

 Nexagon Deathmatch will likely appeal to fans who want action up front and quickly. A lot of planning must go on before actually entering the combat phase, but once there, the combat is intense and fast paced. This is a chess match in hyperdrive. You can plan all you want, then watch it go downhill in the blink of an eye. What fun!

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