Videogame series (from 1994). Dynamix.
After developing the first MechWarrior game in the late 1980s (see Battletech), Dynamix lost the licence to Activision. Their response was to create their own version of the Battletech (1984) universe, featuring HERCULANs (human and AI piloted bipedal robots) in a unique Future History, and develop their own games within this Metaltech continuity. The first game, Earthsiege (1994 Dynamix, DOS), is similar to the 1989 MechWarrior, with pilots playing through a series of linearly plotted missions, using a first person perspective view of a three-dimensional landscape. The game is set on Earth in the twenty-sixth century, after a rebellion by AI "Cybrids" has left humanity on the brink of extinction. Cybrids greatly resemble the genocidal Robots of the Terminator films; the background is perhaps best summarized as a depiction of human survivors using giant robots to fight the future shown in the opening sequences of Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991). Gameplay is focused on HERCULAN versus HERCULAN combat; the choice of robot for a mission and effective communication with computer controlled squadmates are important. In the end, the Cybrids are expelled from Earth. Metaltech: Earthsiege – Expansion Pack (1995 Dynamix, DOS) is an expansion that largely repeats the structure of the first game, centred on an attack on Earth by Cybrids who have been rebuilding their strength in space colonies.
Earthsiege 2 (1995 Dynamix, Win) is a similar game which continues the story from the Earthsiege expansion pack. The plot is multilinear (see Interactive Narrative), with failed missions leading to different branching paths. In the end, the player must confront the first Cybrid, Prometheus, on the Moon. Starsiege (1998 Dynamix, Win) is set in the twenty-ninth century, in a slightly different version of the Metaltech continuity. In this variant, the Cybrids rebelled after Prometheus came into contact with the mind of its creator, Solomon Petresun, and decided that humans were only semi sentient animals who did not deserve to exist. After its ejection from Earth, Prometheus fled to the outer solar system, where it prepared for an eventual return. Meanwhile, Petresun has Uploaded his mind to an almost immortal cybernetic brain and become Emperor of the inner worlds, justifying his oppressive rule with the continuing threat of Cybrid invasion. As the game begins, the Mars colony rebels against the Empire and Prometheus launches an attack on humanity. The player can adopt the role of a human rebel or a Cybrid soldier, playing through two very different views of the war; the Cybrid campaign is of interest for its depiction of their language, culture and internal disagreements. By the end of the human-centred storyline, both Prometheus and the Emperor are dead, and the Cybrids have been defeated. The plot is well integrated into the game through regular news bulletins and simulated public discussion of events. Gameplay resembles that of the earlier games, but HERCULANs have become more nimble, giving the game more of the feel of a First Person Shooter.
The Metaltech series also gave rise to a line of turn-based Computer Wargames, played in an Isometric three-dimensional view. These games take place after a human victory in Starsiege, when mankind is expanding into interstellar space. In MissionForce: Cyberstorm (1996 Dynamix, Win) the player controls units of HERCULANs piloted by Genetically Engineered "BioDerm" soldiers, with the aim of exterminating the surviving Cybrid refugees in a series of ground battles. Cyberstorm 2: Corporate Wars (1998 Dynamix, Win) is a sequel, based on a struggle between competing interstellar corporations; it received mixed reviews.
Starsiege: Tribes (1998 Dynamix, Win) is a multiplayer only online game (see Online Worlds), marking a change of direction for the franchise. It is set in the fortieth century, after many of the worlds colonized during the Cyberstorm games have seceded from the human Empire. The forces dispatched from Earth to suppress the rebellion became trapped in an unwinnable war, and both sides fragmented into battling tribes. Gameplay focuses on First Person Shooter style combat between teams of players wearing Powered Armour. The game is well crafted, including combined aerial and ground combat and strategically useful items such as deployable self-targetting gun turrets; it remains popular today. Tribes 2 (2001 Dynamix, Lin, Win) is a sequel, featuring such enhancements as the option of playing as a BioDerm. Tribes: Aerial Assault (2002 Inevitable Entertainment, PS2) converts the online team battle concept to a game console; it includes a simple single-player campaign in which the player is a new recruit fighting against a BioDerm invasion. Tribes: Vengeance (2004 Irrational Games, Win) is also similar to the original Starsiege: Tribes, but includes an extensive storyline in addition to the multiplayer game. The linear plot, in which the player adopts several different roles, depicts the neo-barbaric culture of the interstellar clans and describes the origins of the universal state of war that exists in the original game.
Related works: Metaltech: Battledrome (1995 Dynamix, DOS) is a player versus player game of HERCULAN combat, with an optional computer controlled opponent. Tribes: Ascend (2012 Hi-Rez Studios, Win) is a late entry in the Tribes series, concentrating on competitive free to play games in temporary Online Worlds. [NT]
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