I have to admit I have longed for a game that’s based on Starship Troopers, the original movie is one of my all time favourites, and it’s a movie that despite its flaws (of which there a few) is just damn enjoyable. The last game I recall playing based on this was way back in 2005, which was in fact a first person shooter. Terran Command’s offering today is a strategy game, and I can only ask – would you like to know more?
I hoped you would, so I shall continue… In the movies a lot of soldiers die and the whole premise is growing up purely to enlist in the military and kill as many bugs as possible. Afterall, the only good bug is a dead bug. However, in Starship Troopers: Terran Command you will rarely lose a soldier, especially in the very early hours of the campaign. It’s odd, and changing the difficulty doesn’t alter things that much, but around the mid-way point it starts to ramp up. That being said, it has a great system of getting your units back to full size, so if you do lose a few you can get some more dropped in, and this is good for pulling back a levelled up squad to reinforce them. Much like many RTS games, the longer your units are alive the stronger they are.
The rifleman squad is your most basic unit, in RTS games they are usually just cannon fodder until you can produce better ones, yet I found them useful throughout. Their range is decent and they have grenades, which means once the bugs are on you en masse, there’s no better way to blow them to pieces. In moments the game really captures the look and feel of the film where you’re faced off against hundreds of bugs at a time. This is especially apparent when defending a base as you sit on the walls as they attack and your riflemen, snipers or turrets will just spray bullets like no tomorrow. If you remember the scene from the movie, it’s this all over. I loved it.
The only downside to managing the squads is that it’s very much micro-managing, and at times you need to tell your snipers to shoot the ones further away, and it’s the same with the rocket troopers. It’s almost as if the AI can’t recognize which unit is which so it doesn’t target what’s most logical. e.g., the Rocket Trooper is better off targeting the plasma bugs than anything else. Pathfinding is also frustrating at times because they may take the longest route possible even when it’s not needed, meaning you have to manage smaller routes for the AI. It’s frustrating as it draws you away from the action when it happens. What’s important to bare in mind with the pathfinding is that whilst it can frustrate, it also makes you more self aware of your armies positioning. Starship Troopers: Terran Command encourages you to take higher or lower ground when required, and it does add to the strategy element. This can lead to some really interesting battles and on the off chance you get it wrong… well, the bug wins and it’s no more legs for you.
Terran Command draws quite well from the books and the films in both its gameplay and audio work, it’s nice to see it well adapted especially after the movie sequels made us want to root for the bugs! You can feel overwhelmed in the later parts of the campaign as it starts to ramp up, and it becomes more important to clear the bug holes to lower their reinforcements. What I feel is lacking from the game however is any form of replayability. This is purely single player and once it’s done it’s over. Many games are single player and I’m not saying it’s a bad thing – I love a single player only game – however, for this genre I’d expect multiplayer or at least the ability to play as the enemy. In this case though we only play as marines, and I’d have liked to play from the bugs side, or have the chance to defend with a friend. It has scope to do this and I hope in future updates it’s considered.
I don’t want to be too negative as there are a couple other good parts: one being the simplicity of the UI, and the other is the level design in the campaign. One of the early levels has you going through a building in preparation for an execution, and it was well structured and fun to play. Prior to the insertion you had to defend the base at certain points too, and it came across as well thought out with the feeling you could handle it in a few ways. For those who enjoyed the source material, the tone of the characters and overall feel of the game is very much like the original Starship Troopers, so fans will feel right at home with this and I’d recommend picking it up. That said, if you’re after Terran Command as an RTS fix to keep you going for weeks or months, then look away as this is too sparse of an overall package to deliver that.
A PC review copy of Starship Troopers: Terran Command was provided by The Aristocrats PR team, and the game is available now on Steam for around £25.