Shattered Galaxy is a massively multiplayer RTS from the relatively unknown Korean game developer, Nexon. The game might sound familiar to anyone who attended or read about this year’s Game Developer’s Conference since Shattered Galaxy walked off with four Independent Games Festival awards – the Seumas McNally Grand Prize, Best Game Design, Technical Excellence and the Audience Award. With so many awards to its credit, I was more than eager to get this game up and running.In the same vein as popular MMORPGs, Shattered Galaxy is a subscription-based online RTS game. The massively multiplayer online community is uncharted territory for RTS games so let’s see how well Shattered Galaxy performs. Once you set up your player (or hero as it is called), you are good to go and Shattered Galaxy does a great job of making the online transition as seamless as possible. Once online, the game can be initially a bit unwieldy with its busy interface and multiple points of interest within the capital city (home base). Spending some quality time investigating all of the different areas is well worth it since you’ll be using most of these areas to improve your fighting skills and units. The points of interest consist of factories for repairing, trading, or upgrading your units. Training grounds can also be accessed with choices of going up against online opponents or computer-controlled aliens.Before going into battle, you must select a faction to belong to and make your choice of fighting units to own. You can own a large number of units but you’re only allowed to choose up to six units for going into battle. Additional units can be used as long as you have the required number of tactic points in your attributes (one additional unit for every 20 tactic points). This limitation might turn off some gamers since you have such a large pool of characters to choose from, but makes sense when it comes to the harsh reality of multiplayer online bandwidth. The fighting units are fairly diverse as you get to select from a pool of infantry, mobile units, aircraft, and organic characters (i.e. aliens). The capabilities of these fighting units are dynamic and can be upgraded once you start to increase your attribute points through successes on the battlefield. The attributes consist of tactics, education, clout, and mechanical aptitude. They all have a bearing on the type of upgrades you can access. There are also resources (money, ore, silicon, uranium, and sulfur) that can be accumulated and used for upgrading units. Upgrades come in the form of a new chassis or additional items to improve your fighting units. Upgrades are critical to future success since you live and die by the strength and quality of your fighting units.Once you have your deployment, it’s off to the strategic map to find a good fight to join. The strategic map is great at showing the status of each territory. It identifies controlling factions and a complete status on battles. Find an open battle and you’re ready to rock and roll. The battle positions are either offensive or defensive with the primary objective to either take or protect POCs (Points of Contention), which are littered throughout the battlefields. There is a set amount of time for either taking or defending these POCs. The battles are very intense since the fighting usually involves multiple units swarming around each other. The cool part is watching the power struggle between units and then seeing how the momentum shifts as one faction ends up overpowering another. But you can’t rest on your laurels since reinforcements are plentiful due to the fact that when units are destroyed, a player can elect to either retreat or reinforce and re-enter the battle with new units. You don’t really die in this game – you just lose units, which can be repaired after the battle has ended.The overall graphics are acceptable but don’t expect any real eye candy here. The unit graphics are good but the battlefield environments come across as being somewhat sparse and the fact it’s in 2D doesn’t help matters. I consider these relatively minor gripes since Shattered Galaxy is all about gameplay and you spend most of your time focused on the action anyway. Sound effects are good with my favorite being the stomping sound of the Wraith units. It’s too bad the unit voices aren’t better. The units acknowledge movement orders and sometime they are cool (e.g., robotic voices) while others are just plain lame – whassup is one that should have been left in the sound room!The resolution limitation of 800×600 resolution and the inability to collapse the control screen does makes things cramped during intense battles. The control panel takes up about one-third of the bottom of the screen (which is about right when needed) but having the ability to collapse it would have been a great feature for those moments when you want to view more of the battlefield.Online connectivity is good with the only drawback being some lag when new players join a battle due to server synchronization. Other than that, the online gameplay is flawless. With a DSL connection, I never experienced any real slowdowns during battles or any system crashes whatsoever. I know this sounds strange but kudos go to Nexon for releasing a massively multiplayer online game that works right out of the box!Shattered Galaxy provides a solid massively multiplayer online gaming experience that is simple and fun. Throw in the added depth of fighting unit upgrades and the end result is an online RTS game that should keep most gamers locked in for some time to come.
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