Sim City meets
Civilization, sort of..
Mankind's Future in Space" is the daunting challenge thrown at you
by the folks at Sierra Online, the computer gaming company that brought
us such perennial allstars as the "King's Quest," "Space
Quest," "Leisure Suit Larry" and other game series.
you're given charge of the remaining dregs, er prime examples, of humanity
and faced with the opportunity of getting them safely off Earth before
the planet is destroyed. To do this, you must send out probes and choose
a new world for your colony from among several star systems throughout
"preamble" process of choosing a planet (which involves selecting
your population and supplies) you're warned by the irritatingly sweet-voiced
computer that any mistakes will doom your colony to certain death, followed
with "Have a nice day." And the computer's right, though you
may not find out for many, many turns that all your hard work and planning
has been for naught.
you've chosen a planet and deployed your various probes and satellites,
you pick a landing site and begin your colony. From this point on, the
game sort of becomes a science fiction version of "SimCity 2000,"
which is not necessarily a bad thing. You must dig mines and build a living,
expanding colony before your supplies or your colonists run out.
Along the way,
you'll lose colonists due to accidents, old age, or even defections (there's
a rebel colony building hundreds of kilometres away from yours and if
you're not smart your people will move there. Conversely, if you're the
greatest leader since Margaret Thatcher - or whoever your particular brand
of politics likes - the rebel colonists will eventually beg to join yours.)
but your population will also grow thanks to that old standby wonder of
biology and human reproduction. Unfortunately, these ankle-biters have
to grow up before they become productive members of your colony; in the
meantime, they take up space and supplies.
As your people
age and drop off, you have to educate the younger generation to take their
place. This all happens underground, where you build your residences,
universities, recreation areas, laboratories, etc. On the surface you
stick to things like factories, smelters, warehouses, and the like. Quality
of life is definitely determined by the "underground economy"
in Outpost. Sounds more like today's reality than science fiction, doesn't
The object is
to build your colony, all while rediscovering Humanity's knowledge that
was lost with the destruction of the Earth (Which happens on your way
to your new home). You do this through scientific research on everything
from fine arts to Nanotechnology.
As your new
civilization advances, you gain new capabilities (or improvements on existing
capabilities) until you're ready to build a new starship and sally forth
back into the galaxy to found yet another colony. At that point, when
you launch your starship, the game is over and you've ensured humanity's
future (presumably until a new leader screws things up on the next planet!).
You can continue
playing past this point, however, merely by not launching your starship.
That way you can terraform your planet, giving it a breatheable atmosphere
to let you go outdoors. We never actually figured out a way to get your
people outdoors, though.
is pretty addictive, once you get past the rather tedious opening sequence
of choosing your planet and actually getting to it. Periodically during
the game you get interrupted by animated sequences denoting events happening
in your colony. These sequences are very well rendered, though they slow
down an already leisurely game. Fortunately, you can go in to the "Preferences"
menu and shut them off, along with the music and sound (like that damn
tested the multimedia CD-ROM version of "Outpost," designed
to run under Microsoft Windows. A floppy disk version is also available
but, as with anything else, if you have a CD-ROM drive you'd have to be
some kind of nut to opt for using scarce hard drive space for a game.
On the whole,
"Outpost" is very interesting (being supposedly based on current
scientific research and prognostication) and fun if you like the simulation
type of game. It takes a long time for anything to happen, though, so
patience is most definitely a virtue. To say this game is leisurely is
an understatement. Fortunately, you can run multiple turns if you want
and this will help speed things up, though you may miss some interesting
event along the way and, if you run too many turns, you may find yourself
face to face with a dead, empty colony when the waiting ends.
is one instance when the game seems to speed by at warp speed. That's
when you're busily working to ensure humanity's survival and future, but
suddenly discover that it's all for naught when "Outpost" announces
everyone is dead and you get a terrifically rendered (and extremely frustrating)
3D dead guy in a space suit staring out at you.
If you manage
to avoid such pitfalls, however, there's an entertaining time in store
for you as you rebuild human civilization and terraform the planet to
create a breatheable atmosphere.
Oh, and if you
get bored with the game, you can always take the CD ROM and put it into
your audio CD player, where you'll be treated to a rendition of the "Mars"
suite from Holst's "The Planets."
isn't a razzle dazzle space shoot-'em-up and so will probably not appeal
to the arcade game crowd, but as a simulation it's pretty neat, as long
as you don't mind the leisurely pace.
Tell us at TechnoFile what YOU think