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Perimeter

I’ve been looking forward to trying Perimeter, after all, this is the game that’s been shouting about ‘redefining the strategy genre’. Strategy games have become essentially much the same over the past couple of years so could KD-Labs pull something rather special out the bag for this new title?. Let’s find out.The game’s scenario is a little strange and wasn’t what I expected, but it’s interesting nevertheless. Mankind has expanded and colonised much of the universe and now there’s nowhere left to settle. In order to survive man now moves around in giant Frames which are large structures housing millions. You are now tasked to travel game universe with your Frame and units in search of a new home, but of course there’s plenty standing in your way.When you start the game you are faced with taking in the Scourge, a weird alien race comprising of what appear to be giant insects. It was at this point I thought this game just doesn’t do it for me, killing giant ants isn’t much fun. Of course you have persevere when reviewing and after the Scourge were disposed of, things got a lot more interesting to say the least as you come up against other Frames. The initial missions are actually quite tough due to the nature of the gameplay, but you’re pretty much eased into the game’s play style over 4 or 5 missions giving you the chance to get to grips with the complex looking game interface. The interface actually looks complex but in essence it’s quite straight forward, it’s the way in which units are created and managed that may seem a little alien to the RTS fan.Unlike other titles in the genre, you don’t build single units, you build 3 types of units, Soldiers, Technicians and Officers. While these units can go into the field and fight, they’re pretty ineffective. Players remedy this problem with a rather unique unit morphing feature. In the game there are many units available but you need to have the correct combination of Soldiers, Technicians and Officers to create these units. So for example, if you wanted to create a Sniper you need to have X Soldiers and Y officers available in the command group. Another nice feature of this game is the ability to morph your units into one thing then morph them into something else allowing you to change your forces on the fly depending on the situation. It’s all a little complex at first but after the initial missions it’s really easy to understand. As you progress, you start to understand the morphing combos and which units are most effective against each other. There’s some great units included, our personal favourites being the subterranean units the Scummer and Extirpator. KDLabs have finally made underground units an interesting feature in an RTS and they add a whole different element to the gameplay when trying to defending against attacks. We’ll keep quiet on the units, half the fun of this gameis discovering what you can create with the combinations.To group units in the game you don’t highlight units and assign a control group as you would expect from most RTS titles, you can actually only have 5 groups in the game and they’re pre-assigned depending on how many Control Centers you’ve built. Each Control Center looks after a specific squad which are all clickable from the interface or hotkey. While I was skeptical about how well this would work by fears were unfounded, only having 5 groups is not a disadvantage due to the defensive/offensive nature of the gameplay, not to mention the fact you can morph your groups, which can be a decent size, into other units at any time.What’s interesting about this game is the way you have to play each level to achieve your goals. In most RTS titles you build your base, build your unit making factories, then pump out units to take on the enemy. Perimeter is very different in this respect. Instead of playing Perimeter offensively, you also need to use defensive tactics to win by expanding the reach of your base via a network of energy cores and transmitters. As far as resources go, you harness energy from the planet’s surface which can be collected by buildings called Energy Collectors. It’s not quite as easy as plonking the building down and letting the energy roll in, you need to terraform the terrain first before placing the building. As soon as you start placing buildings on terraformed areas of land, the enemy start to home in on your new structures making it tough to keep them well defended, again reiterating the defensive elements of the gameplay. The early missions do a pretty good job of placing you in a defensive frame of mind so as missions get tougher you’ll be well prepared for taking on the enemy.So why is it called Perimeter? We’ve talked a lot about the defensive nature of the gameplay and your ultimate defense is your Perimeter shield which can be activated around your base. This shield will completely encompass any buildings under the main Frame or Energy Cores. If you’re under attack, simply activate the shield and anything that hits it will be destroyed. There is a drawback though, while it’s activated your energy drains away at a quick rate. As soon as your energy levels reach zero the shield turns off making you highly vulnerable. Also, if you lose a link between transmitters your whole shield system can become fragmented an cease to function. It’s a battle in itself to keep the network of energy flowing to all your buildings and defensive structures, lose a transmitter in the wrong place and you can find yourself going into panic mode as half you base and defensive structures cease to function due to no power. This is one aspect of the gameplay we really enjoyed.Graphically Perimeter is pretty decent. The 3D levels and units are pretty detailed but our only gripe would be the actual size of the units which are pretty small. If you’re zoomed right out it’s hard to spot some units which can be a little annoying. If you zoom in the detail is pretty good on all of the gameworld objects and the weapon fire is also impressive. If the screen gets busy things can get a little jerky so the beefier the system you have the better. The interface is pretty simplistic looking but it does the job and the intro sequencences and mission briefings are very nicely done giving the game it’s own sense of style.The game’s audio is a lot better than we expected, it’ solid, and the voice giving feedback such as ‘we are under attack’ isn’t annoying for once. The between mission briefing voice acting is really very good and helps pull you into the gameworld. Overall we like the audio throughout Perimeter.No RTS would be complete without multiplayer or skirmish mission and you can play online via Gamespy Arcade, which is probably the main drawback of the online play as the system is just a pain in the ass. There’s also large variety of battle scenarios available, and if you can’t get online, then the skirmish mode with the aggressive and challenging AI featured throughout the game will keep you more than busy for some time.I’ll admit it took a little getting into this game, after about 5 or 6 missions it managed to pull me in and have me hankering for more. The gameplay is addictive thanks to the mix of strategy elements. Perimeter may have been a bit of sleeper title, there’s been bits and pieces about the game appear here and there, but it’s not been that hyped when you compare it to most big RTS releases. This could be a shame, as it’s definitely one of the most interesting strategy games released for some time on the PC and we think it’s a must-have for any RTS enthusiast looking for a challenging title.

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