reviews\ Nov 3, 2002 at 7:00 pm

Project Nomads - PC - Review

When stranded on an island of rock floating in the sky, and with friends captured by the enemy, there is only one thing any hero-wannabe can do: resurrect a member of an extinct race from a long slumber, and build or forge new machinery to enable that rock to become your vehicle.

Project Nomads, a release from CDV and Radon Labs for the PC, is the type of program that combines elements of several genres, and then sets them against a rich backdrop with excellent graphical elements.

The story begins in the years following a huge explosion which ripped apart the world of Aeres and set it as numerous islands floating in a sea of clouds. The Sentinels are the top fish in this pond, but are ruthless pirates who plunder the remaining settlements. There is evil afoot, and it is up to one of three characters to stop them. Sent on a dangerous mission to recover some arcane artifacts from an island, the intrepid trio is assaulted by a squadron of Sentinel fighters. Hopeless outclassed and outgunned (this is akin to jet fighters taking on WWI biplanes), the fight is quickly over. One of the planes crashes on an island, its pilot presumed dead. The Sentinels capture the other two. But the pilot of the crashed plane is anything but dead. And the crashing of the plane has awakened a Master Builder, one of the old races, who was put into a deep sleep by the Sentinels.

Basaltface is fixed on revenge. Your avatar (you can choose from three ­ a man, a woman or a gigantic muscular creature that looks like it was carved from rock) is bent on rescue his or her friends. But first things first ­ and that means getting some motion in the island. Basaltface gives the hero two artifacts, one to create a lighthouse, the other to create a watchtower.

Herein the game diverges into an RTS/FPS formula. You need to build up your island, equip it, guard your lighthouse (if it is destroyed, you lose), and maneuver through this realm. The game is also a shooter. You can build gun towers (where you position them is important), and then take them over to ward off aerial assaults.

Perhaps the biggest drawback to this game is that it basically is an RTS/FPS game. The setup to the game is wonderful, and the graphical elements are also unique. But then the game settles for average gaming.

The world of Aeres is richly textured and lushly rendered. And the game’s soundtrack is solid. The game tends to alter from a 3D look in normal gameplay to a forced 3D (from two dimension) look in construction. But the environmental elements, with the real-time shadings and wonderful weather effects, really bolster the game’s appeal.

The game does boast a lot of game play, though most of it seems repetitive by the very nature of the missions. Each character has different strengths and weaknesses and there are approximately 28 playable missions over three progressively difficult levels.

As for the multiplayer aspect, though it is primarily a LAN-based deathmatch, you can import the island you have created in the single-player game into the multiplayer combat scenario to see how tough it really is.

Project Nomads has vision and a creatively amazing environment. More should have been done with it in terms of gameplay. Still, this game is a challenge and a visual treat.

This review copy of the game did not carry a rating.


Gameplay: 7.8
The game features a variety of cutscenes which interrupt the flow of the game, and like most RTS programs, you will have to spend construction time.

Graphics: 8.7
Some of the elements of this game are amazing while others seem to falter a bit. The islands are remarkable, but Basaltface’s rendering seems a bit weak in comparison to the main avatar’s design. The animation is well done.

Sound: 7.8
The vocal acting is solid, as is the special effects and music.

Difficulty: Medium
There is a bit of a learning curve here in understanding the control elements, but once you take the 15-20 minutes to get them down, the game is remarkably easy to work through. However, the challenge lies in building up your island, recovering artifacts and fending off Skrit hordes bent on your destruction.

Concept: 8
The story has a wonderful concept and vision. The player interface is also easy to navigate through once you have a feel for the game.

Multiplayer: 7.5
The multiplayer game is more-or-less a deathmatch played over a LAN. Up to eight players can participate on one of 15 game maps. The goal is to fly your islands around, collect artifacts, build and attack. The one left standing wins. Though the gameplay is somewhat standard, the nature of this game gives this aspect a unique feel.

Overall: 7.9
This game is like a fascinating combination of arcane magic and technology in a shooter world where real-time strategy counts. It has a few faults, but nonetheless intrigues, is a visual treat and presents a solid challenge in both the RTS and FPS realms. If there are any drawbacks to the game is that it sets up a great premise with wonderful graphics, then becomes a somewhat typical shooter/strategy game.


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