Windows - 2001
Description of Outlive Windows
Great games are often a blessing harboring a curse. They provide us with enormous enjoyment but often tow a string of lame copycats in their wake. StarCraft is often considered one of the greatest real-time strategy games, and for good reason: it features three distinctive, memorable, and balanced forces; an involving story; and a masterful sense of style. Love it or hate it, it's not a game you easily forget once you've played it. Unfortunately, Brazil's Continuum Entertainment seemingly couldn't forget it either. With Outlive, their new real-time strategy game, they've apparently tried to recapture the magic of StarCraft, but in this case the spell has fizzled.
Set in the mid 21st century, Outlive imagines a future beset by strife. Earth's population is expanding out of control, passing the 15 billion mark by 2035, and natural resources are increasingly scarce. When terrorist groups try to take advantage of the destabilized situation, a UN-like World Council is formed to ensure humanity's survival in the face of ecological degradation and political chaos. The Council turns to scientists to ensure a sustainable future for humanity. It launches the Outlive Space Program to survey the solar system for new resources, and one of Saturn's moons, Titan, seems the most promising. Unfortunately, its methane and ammonia atmosphere is unlivable for humans, so two opposing groups propose solutions with which to exploit Titan's mineral wealth. One begins a program of genetically altering humans, while another develops robots with advanced artificial intelligence. As the game opens, conflict between the two factions and various terrorist groups has reached a fever pitch.
It's hardly an original or compelling background story, and neither are the game's two main factions, sentient robots and genetic superhumans. Both sides are boring and hard to relate to. Human vehicle designs and names are bland: "Fighter" and "Tank" are just two uninspired examples. Robot vehicles are no more interesting, and instead of unimaginative literalism, their names usually bear little or no relation to the unit's abilities or role: "Avenger" and "Chaos" tell you next to nothing, and they don't exactly sound awe-inspiring, either. The game's dialogue is just as poor, with characters uttering lame lines like, "Let's rock" and "I love the smell of a battlefield in the morning."
The game is divided into three campaigns: human, robot, and cooperative (mixed forces, not two players working together). These more or less tell an ongoing story and introduce you to new units, concepts, and research possibilities with each new mission. Missions unfortunately feature a lot of aimless wandering and scripted events that sometimes fail to trigger properly, leaving you wondering what's going on. On top of that, the unfolding story is muddled and tedious. In addition to the single-player campaigns, there are a number of skirmish maps for use against computer-controlled or human opponents. Multiplayer supports up to sixteen players depending whether you use a modem, Internet, or LAN connection. Outlive offers a number of multiplayer game modes, including deathmatch, free for all (no diplomatic alliances), conquest (destroy all enemy buildings), and capture the flag. The game ships with an editor to ensure a fresh supply of maps.
If nothing else, Outlive is easily learned. The manual is clear and concise, and an in-game help feature and pop-up tooltips help explain the interface. A twenty-lesson tutorial gets you up to speed quickly, though it focuses too much on base-building and almost not at all on combat, a major part of the game. Staying in control of the gameplay is fairly easy: you can choose from three difficulty levels, the game speed can be varied, and you can issue orders while paused. There's also a full range of hotkeys to select and group units easily.
More of the Same
Gameplay sticks to a traditional RTS formula, particularly reminiscent of StarCraft. You build a base centering around your headquarters, create resource gathering and construction units, harvest resources, research technology upgrades, and pump out military units. Outlive's base building is a thoroughly humdrum affair. If an RTS is going to focus on structure building and resource management, that element of the game should be both important and fun in its own right, as hybrid empire builder/RTS games like Age of Empires IIhave shown so well.
In Outlive, your base management and resource gathering are just means to an end, but as such, they take up way too much of your attention and energy. The relatively long time needed to create combat units versus their typically short survival time in the field skews the balance in the wrong direction. It would be better in this case if the base building and resource harvesting were more subservient to the combat, more akin to supply lines or reinforcements in a wargame.
The resource system is straightforward. Humans collect energy with wind and nuclear power plants, while the robots use solar collectors and radioactive generators. The energy is then used to power structures, including extractor/processing facilities for the game's two mineral resources, iron and uranium. Both these minerals are automatically converted into credits when harvested, and these are used to produce new units and structures. It's a simple system, but with some interesting twists.
For humans, structures can only work at full capacity when built close together, allowing them to connect to an energy network that extends from a power source. The robot resource system works in roughly the same way, though the robot force isn't limited by the need to group buildings near each other since all its structures are automatically linked to an energy network. To an extent, this tilts the game balance in favor of the robots, but both sides will generally want to keep buildings grouped for easy defense, regardless. The whole energy network feature, while seemingly interesting at first, is largely irrelevant in the long run. The same holds true for some of the game's other apparently notable features, like its anemic diplomacy function.
Research follows a predictable pattern of increasing resource gathering and processing efficiency, as well as gaining the ability to create new units and improve existing ones. One welcome feature is an advisor who will make suggestions for your next research goal. You can accept these suggestions, decline them, or even allow the advisor to completely take over research for you. Since the advisor's suggestions are generally useful ones, this can cut down on micro-management.
Combat is largely a matter of who can crank out the most units and rush them at the enemy first, and the computer seems to produce units with improbable efficiency. As games like Shogun: Total War and Kohan: Immortal Sovereigns have shown, "real-time strategy" needn't mean "really simplistic combat." Factors like terrain, weather, morale, command and control, cover, suppression, and formations are either not featured or appear in only the most rudimentary fashion. Too many combat units in Outlive differ only in degree, with slightly different weapons or armor ratings, when what's needed to make the combat tactically interesting are units with truly unique characteristics.
Another problem is that both sides are too similar to one another after you discount the cosmetic differences. Despite special powers like invulnerability or force fields that can be temporarily activated by certain units, combat is usually a dreary affair that calls to mind the bad old days of the "tank rush."
One area in which the game shines is its uncluttered, attractive interface. It includes a mini-map, resource level readouts, and information about your currently selected unit. You select orders with iconic buttons (or hotkeys), and the icon design alone typically makes it clear what each button does. You can access a wide variety of commands for your units, like setting up complex waypoints, including one-way paths, two-point patrol paths, and circular paths. Similarly, you can set rally points for unit-producing buildings, as well as retreat points for units. One of the more welcome and unusual orders is harassment, in which you can command a unit to make repeated, brief sorties against a target. Units generally respond to orders intelligently and can usually find their way across the maps well enough, but pathfinding becomes a real problem when multiple units are gathered in one place, as is the norm in the game. Then, units tend to stumble over each other or temporarily get blocked in place, which can lead to disaster in combat.
Don't Talk Back
Outlive is presented with a 2D isometric view. Units and buildings have a very similar visual style and scale as those in StarCraft, and many terrain tiles quickly call that game to mind. While very derivative, the graphics are still pleasant. You can see the exposed frameworks of buildings as they're erected in stages. Completed buildings have animated fans, radar dishes, smoke stacks, and so forth. Many structure animations change depending on the building's state. You'll see electrical arcs flicker across a dome on the human research lab as you investigate new technologies, for instance. The graphics are nothing new, but at least they're well implemented.
While the graphics are decent, the sound ranges from mediocre to utterly abysmal. Both the combat sound effects and music are eminently forgettable. Outlive does distinguish itself, though, by featuring some of the worst voice acting ever to mar a game. The verbal unit command responses are so atrocious as to provide loads of unintended comedy. The human Builder unit sounds like a cartoon caricature of a disgruntled construction worker, peevishly muttering things like, "Waddya want me to do?" and moaning, "Me, me, it's always me." The human Gatherer sounds suspiciously like some character exiled from Sesame Street. Other units sound like they could have been voiced by your next-door neighbor or a local slacker kid who got dragged into the recording studio against his will. You won't know whether to laugh or cry when units utter responses like "cool" and "what's up?" Robot units are just as bad, responding in cheap synthesized voices. The whole point of giving units verbal command responses is to imbue them with distinctive character and help you relate to them in a game filled with otherwise anonymous, expendable units. StarCraft does this to brilliant effect, but here the attempt fails dramatically.
Outlive should serve as a warning to other developers not to pay undue attention to their gaming idols. Continuum obviously put a lot of effort into their game but focused it in the wrong direction. Outlive is exceptionally derivative and only a weak shadow of its betters. Voiceovers are so bad as to be extremely distracting, the graphics are pedestrian, the story and campaigns are boring, and the game mechanics offer little that's new or fun. After playing the game for a while, you'll only hope that you can outlive the tedium.
Review By GamesDomain
Comments and reviews
Militant Nod 2019-09-07 0 point
A worthy RTS from our Brazilian friends. Many did write it off as a mere SC-clone, as much was in those dark times of reviewer arrogance, but this thing is so much more. Two completely distinct races with incredibly complex, almost 4X like tech trees you research in specialized buildings (reminds me of Submarine Titans in a way), long ass campaign full of intrigue, backstabbing, power-mongering and unlikely alliances, interesting additions to controls, like detailed waypoint planning, maintenance of units and commands to disperse, keep distance or retreat for repairs, and incredible, thick atmosphere of human vs machine conflict, complete with great cutscenes!
Persistently recommend this to any RTS enthusiast out there, give this a shot.
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