previews\ May 21, 2002 at 8:00 pm

O.R.B. - PC - Preview

There are times when all you want to do is sit back and enjoy the view.

O.R.B. (it stands for Off-world Resource Base) is a game that allows just that, but wait – there are missions and combat and objectives that must be accomplished. So much for just enjoying the scenery.

This upcoming (Fall 2002) PC release from Strategy First is a three-dimensional real-time strategy game that pits the races of the Malus and Alyssia against each other in a battle for control of a resource-rich asteroid belt that circles their planets.

As the storyline goes, the galaxy was once ruled by an empire that spanned the stars. But that was all erased when a long and brutal war left the galaxy a desolate place. In the Aldus system, two orphaned races, believing they were unique and alone in the universe, slowly developed the technology that would take them to the stars and straight into the guns of each other.

Features of the game include full freedom of movement in space; two fully developed races with their own single-player campaign and unique strategies; a dynamic universe depicting multiple solar systems alive with planets, moons, asteroid belts, complex orbits, persistent debris and extraordinary spatial environments; fleet combat with a wide variety of vessels and specialized units including tactical ships, shock troops, various fighter types, multiple capital ship classes and support vessels; a downloadable campaign editor and tools, complete with the ability to script your own scenarios, event triggers, campaigns and cut-scenes; and explosive battles with up to eight players in cooperative and head-to-head multiplayer mode.

The beta received for preview was anything but stable or complete. No instructions, and only a partially complete tutorial (the combat instruction portion would not play, and defaulted to the desktop and Windows), but enough was there to get a look at the game.

First impression? While not a game that is intuitive, it is impressive visually.

It will take time to learn the control elements, and to master the fundamentals of controlling your forces. The Alyssian game was not in place, only the Malus campaign – and that was a short combat game in which players were to find a lost unit, and quickly became engaged in a battle. All of this played out against a stunning backdrop, disturbed by the grid overlay that allows players to send instructions to units.

The camera plays a big part of letting players watch the action and keep charge of forces. The effects were very well done, and gave the promise that this could indeed be the kind of RTS that will set new standards for the genre.

The game, as sent for preview, refused to recognize the host system’s sound card and would only play with sound disabled.

Playing the preview was a struggle, albeit an enjoyable and challenging one. When completed O.R.B. should be quite enticing.

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