Sometimes You Just Want to Fly.
It seems that flight combat sims (and I use the word ‘sim’ very loosely)
are getting further and further away from what really makes these games fun
– the flying and shooting. Take an excellent game like Freespace
2. Although I have had more fun playing that game than opening Christmas
gifts (I always get socks!), it took me a while to get accustomed to all the
extra features, such as transferring energy, managing the shields and matching
speed toggles. Sometimes, you just want to fly and shoot. Will Crimson
Skies be the sole title to free gamers from the tyranny of the congested
For a while there, I was beginning to feel like the only gamer
who just wanted to have an old-fashioned dogfight. But then a package arrived
containing a very early build of Buka Entertainment’s new sci-fi flight combat
Whether or not you dig the story is inconsequential. I don’t want to spoil
it. You just need to sit back and enjoy the huge, well-executed cinema which
will bring you up to speed on the massive 300+ year history of the Echelon mythos.
Just know that in the 2300’s, humans go to war with a lost offshoot of humanity
known as the Vellians. And no, this not another episode of Deep Space Nine.
The ship design is second to none. If you thought Starlancer
had some good-looking crafts, then you’ll want to pick out curtains with these
babies. The pre-alpha build we received contained 17 ships, most of which are
fairly standard. You have the carrier classes, larger bomber/fighters and the
light fighter attack crafts. Luckily, Buka promises a much wider array of vehicles
to choose from in the final game, ranging from traditional fixed wing aircraft
and helicopters to gravity-defying, futuristic hovercrafts and over 50 types
of friendly and enemy crafts. Ah, the thought of piloting a beautifully rendered
hovercraft has gotten me all emotional.
Speaking of beautifully rendered, this game looks stellar. The gameplay takes
place within the atmosphere of the various planets. Players will fly over lush
landscapes and around large metropolises. Hardware accelerated 3D graphics allow
for spectacular dust and particle effects, a realistic water and reflections
feature, highly realistic environments and detailed building models. No more
empty, featureless open space with a few poorly done nebulas here and there.
Now you will have actual obstacles and structures that you can either crash
into or use to your advantage, provided that your piloting skills are up to
The game features several branching campaigns and a well thought out storyline.
The player will be able to advance from Lieutenant to Commander during his/her
battles and assume greater control over how each mission plays out. Multiplayer
options include Deathmatch and Co-op modes in a variety of game types, including
Capture The Fort.
Echelon is shaping up to be an excellent game. It looks incredible,
the control is smooth and the ship design is out of this world (no pun intended).
Quite frankly, I don’t know what I’m more anxious for; Crimson Skies
or Echelon. Mom, can I have both of them?