Space has always been the final frontier of mankind and the source of hundreds and hundreds of great games. These games have varied from everything from simple shooter games to epic, grand-scale strategies. One genre has always been close to the hearts of the players and that is the 4X strategy genre (explore, expand, exploit and exterminate), started by the legendary Master of Orion. Over the years we've had lots of 4X games, some great, some not so great, and now we have the latest in the genre, Legends of Pegasus (LoP for short). We've all seen Star Wreck (if you haven't, I suggest you watch it) and said to ourselves "Oh I wish I was Captain Pirk, commanding a fleet of starships and conquering the galaxy for the Finns". Well here is your chance since LoP promises just that. And then some.
The story starts when an alien race attacks Earth. The human population is defenseless against the superior aliens. The fight is intense and just as the last of the human starfleet is about to get decimated a weird, wormhole-like, phenomenon sucks the remaining starships inside and hurls them across the galaxies. Cut off from Earth and clueless of their current situation, the remainer of the human race with (you guessed it right) you as their commander must fight for survival and colonize planets in an effort to save the human race. Most of the story is told by discussions between your crew mates but the most important events are shown by ugly, weirdly drawn "videos" that look distorted. The main campaign is divided between the three races in the game, humans, (all logic gate fans say hooray) X'or and Arthrox (yeah I read it as 'anthrax' first also). Each race has four episodes which have to be completed in the correct order in order to unlock the next one. Each of these episodes is an independent game in it's own meaning once you've completed the previous episode, you have to start a new game and select the next episode. So much for grand strategy and long-term planning. The campaign itself is quite lengthy, around 40 hours depending on how much time you spend battling the game mechanics (I'll explain later), but the ridiculous episode-format gameplay ensures you'll quit the game after a few episodes (if not after the first one).
The game is played as a turn-based strategy game where you and your opponent(s) take turns moving fleets, building colonies and researching new technologies. The base mechanics are simple; click on a ship and then it's destination and once you hit 'End Turn', the ship will carry out the orders. I guess the game developers didn't want it to be quite that simple so they added in a 'feature'; you can never be absolutely sure whether the given orders will be carried out. I can't even recall how many times I moved a fleet into attacking range just to find out only the light Corvettes were there to greet the neighbours. Save-Load syndrome here I come. To add to the confusion the game features '3D movement' which allows you to position your ships under or over other ships. The game tutorial (human episode 1) claims there are advantages in positioning your ships in 3D but it's so messy I never used it. The star systems in the game are rather small but luckily you can travel between them using jumpgates found on the edges of the system. Unfortunately this is just another thing that adds to the confusion; once a structure has been built for example, you get greeted wíth an annoying voice saying "Construction completed" but no indication WHERE it was completed. Good luck finding that planet with no construction going on when your empire spans 10 star systems...
In order to colonize a planet you need a ship that's equipped with a colonization module. Once you've got that, it's as simple as moving the ship into a planets orbit and building a colony there. Each planet has a certain amount of tiles to build structures and some of these tiles offer extra bonuses; some might give extra culture or research points while others act as base tiles, offering no bonuses but you can build any structure there. The construction of buildings is simple; just select one from the list and drag it to the appropriate tile. Each building costs a certain amount of resources (mostly credits) and takes a certain amount of turns to get fully constructed. You can also build special buildings on the orbit of the planet like a repair dock that allows you to repair your ships. Credits that allow you to build structures are gained from the occupants of your planets (henceforth known as 'taxpayers') and you can increase the number by buildings habitats. Some buildings also require production points which are gained from factories. Most of the buildings in the game have an upkeep cost that you must meet or the moral of the planet will start to deteriorate, spelling trouble. You can raise or lower the tax rate on each of your planets to affect the moral but this (of course) affects your income also. You can also define how you want to distribute a planet's budget; you can set the values for culture, research, industry and defense. Culture brings you culture points and it's essential for good moral, research brings you research points which are used to research new technologies, industry brings you production points which are used to construct buildings and ships and finally defense adds to the planets defense budget. Each planet also has a pollution level that also affects the moral. Luckily the game doesn't resort to micro-management since as long as you don't only build certain types of structures, your planets will thrive.
Occasionally you'll stumble upon asteroid fields. These fields are filled with precious minerals, Boronium and Choxid (J.R.R. Tolkien just turned in his grave), and require a ship with a special module installed to be harvested. Once you have the ship constructed, just fly it over the asteroid field and it'll automatically collect the minerals for you. Boronium is used to backstab hobb... Oh wait. Boronium is used as the main fuel for your ships and the larger your fleets are, the more Boronium you need. Choxid on the other hand is used in trading with other species. Whatever happened to the good old "I'll give you my plasma cannon for your advanced shields"? And now Sid Meier is turning in his... bed.
Once you've built at least one laboratory, you can start researching new technologies. The technologies are divided into four categories, each with three sub-categories. There are two categories for ships; ship bonuses and ship modules, and two categories for planets; available structures and planet bonuses. These categories are defined further in the sub-categories; planet bonuses has cultural bonuses for example. You can only research one technology at a time and if you choose to (or if the game randomly chooses to) stop the research, the spent research points stay in that particular technology. Very handy. The time in turns it takes to complete a research depends on your research points and the amount of laboratories in your planets. Researching doesn't require a Masters Degree but it does allow you to play the game as you see fit; whether as a defense specialist or maybe as a colonizer, trying to colonize every planet you see. At least until the episode ends.
Even though we all love the strategy portions in 4X games, it's the combat that our inner Skywalker screams for. The battles in LoP are fought in real-time but you can pause the action to give orders. Most of the battles occur randomly when your enemies are trying to invade your colonies. The only thing random about these attacks is the time when they occur; the enemy ships always appear in the same spot. "Sir, from where should we attack now?" "Exactly the same spot we did last night, dumwit! Do I have to think of everything?" *sigh* The ships you use are constructed in the shipyard but before you can actually construct one, you first have to design it. Yep, there are no pre-built ships to satisfy our need for casual 4X gaming. The ship editor is luckily very easy to use; first you select the hull of the ship and then the modules you want it to have. Each different hull design features a set amount of tiles that allow you to 'plug-in' different types of modules. These modules vary from different gun systems to special scanning modules. Each module takes up a certain amount of tiles (you can't fit a colonization module into a light Fighter for example) and consumes a certain amount of power. You can increase the power output of your ship by adding reactors into it but this takes up precious space. Some modules grant the ships special abilities like the ability to warp. Unfortunately I never managed to get the warp working. The battles are very streamlined and require minimal strategy, just destroy the biggest ship first.
The game features multiplayer which can be played using direct connection, LAN or the in-game internet server browser. At the time of writing this review, there were no servers. No one is playing this online. I guess they're smarter than me. Quick browse through the multiplayer options reveals that it's played like a skirmish battle (which is also available in single player). Unlike some other strategy games, LoP has co-op support. In co-op, you and your friends fight against the AI. Sounds fun but I can't torture my friends by making them purchase this game. You can also select different victory conditions and customize the star system.
The music in the game does it's job but the other sounds are... awful. Massive firefight going on between two huge fleets and what do you hear? *piu piu* And if that's not enough the voice-over of the AI who helps you must be the most annoying, retarded voice I've ever heard. The first time I heard "Research has been completed" I almost cried. I dare anyone to put that sound as your ringtone and wait for a call in the morning bus. Just make sure your health insurance is paid. The voice-overs also add to the overall confusion since they overlap each other, making it impossible to know what has happened.
The game has no graphical settings (other than resolution and vsync on/off). The ship models look pretty good but the building graphics look like they've been doodled in Paint. The same Paint'ish graphics continue throughout the game; cut-scenes, planet textures, you name it. Luckily when you zoom out the camera the star systems look excellent, almost beautiful. This of course makes the game unplayable but at least for a second you can look at your screen going "not bad". Needless to say my Colossus ran the game like a dream.
The game shows a lot of promise but shortly after it's release the company behind it, Novacore Studios, went bankrupt. So no chance of anyone patching the game anytime soon. What we're left with is a game filled with odd gameplay quirks, massive bugs and an overall unfinished feeling (not to mention huge typos). The game does have it's moments, don't get me wrong. I just can't recommend this game to anyone, even if you get it for free.
NOTE: The game has one serious bug. If you've ignored all I've said about the game and decide to give it a go and you use ZoneAlarm, you're in trouble. The game won't even start with ZoneAlarm installed. I had to uninstall ZoneAlarm and resort to the magnificient (*krhm*) Windows Firewall.