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GF! Archival Version Copyright 1995-2004

star06.gif (4104 bytes)star06.gif (4104 bytes)

by Vatical Entertainment

Ups: Several career choices; hybrid CD.

Downs: Poorly designed HUD,  dated graphics, no fun.

System Reqs: 
P2 300, 64MB RAM, 3D accelerator, 4X CD.

Well, it’s the middle of the summer here at GamesFirst! headquarters and things have been picking up lately.  Some really great, highly anticipated titles have finally made it into the stores--Diablo II, Vampire: The Masquerade, Icewind Dale and Deus Ex, just to name a few--and gamers are happy.  Yes, life has been good.  But I knew it couldn’t last long.  Every so often   a pit sneaks into the lemonade and makes the cool draught bitter. Same thing happens in the PC gaming business when yet another title hits the shelves masquerading as a good game only to turn out to be a stinker.  Terminus is one of those games. So, without further ado, I invite you take a sniff.

Despite the great gaming summer so far, I had some reservations about Terminus when GamesFirst! graphics wizard Al first dropped it by my desk and asked me to take a look at it; the packaging was chintzy and the box was crushed.   Still, Terminus did fall into one of my three favorite categories (those being Space Sim, FPS, and RTS).  Anyway, the game was waiting for me when I got to work (along with a few others), and after much head scratching, I decided that the best thing to do would be to keep an open mind and at least see what I had to work with. But I should've followed my gut in the first place.

After a couple of hours of play, my worst fears for Terminus were confirmed. There was VERY little to work with.  This game is such a huge step backward in space sim design and playability that it is almost embarrassing.  I have been playing games (console and computer) since Pong and Commodore 64’s were the top of the line platforms.  Therefore, I would like to think that I have some idea about what makes one game “good” and what makes another game a disappointment.  Of course, there are always some gamers who like the games that others abhor, just as there are gamers who insist that the old games, like Space Invaders, consistently outclass the flashy new stuff. Maybe Terminus could be for them.

Terminus seems to start fine.  You drop the disk in and go about installing the software (650 min or 1.2 gig full; it's a space suck) and you think that you’re ready to play.  Well, think again.  If you’re using a Ge-Force (or any D3D card) you might have some trouble.  The game seems to default to a Glide setting, so when you try to run it and there is no Glide card on the machine, it pops up some errors and fails.  Of course, there is a way to select Glide or D3D in the start menu, but sometimes you can get there and sometimes you can’t. So far, Terminus--which means "end" in Latin--is not even off to a good start.

After you get the video settings squared away, you're now ready to start the game.  The menu setup looks fairly standard in its design, but looks can be deceiving.  It is not a very functional interface.  The configuration is not at all intuitive, and I have never played a game that I had to fight with as much as this to set my control preferences for play.  Trying to quell my mounting frustration, I settled for a “sub-standard” configuration so that I could actually play the game and not spend hours just looking at the menu.

Before you actually get into the game to play though, you have to choose your “path” in life.  You can be a Pirate, Mercenary, Fighter Pilot, or Bounty Hunter--you have a lot of different roads that you may travel, which makes the game interesting.  (This wide array of career choices, by the way, account for half of the 2 star rating this game is being awarded.)  So with your career choice made, it’s off to the space station where you can get busy making a name for yourself.  Of course, as is the case with many summer rentals, when you actually get there it’s not nearly as lush as it was in the brochure.

The “station” area reminds me of the old Wing Commander games, but if you can believe it, it’s even more stripped down than that.  You really only have two options in the station.  You can talk to people (sometimes) or you can go to the hanger and fly.  You will notice some differences if you’re in Free Mode, or Career, etc., but overall it’s pretty apparent that you've begun your climb up the slippery slope of doom and it’s all just a free fall till you hit rock bottom.

Finally, you make it aboard the ship and get out into space. The game's designers did get the stars white, and the vastness of space black, and even some of the ships look pretty cool.  The big BUT is that the cockpit HUD (that you see all the time) is the most basic, ugly, un-functional, piece of equipment I have ever seen on a space sim game.  Wing Commander and all of the Star Wars space games had better looking and better working displays.  And yes, I did go back and check!  The radar or scanner display, as it's called, is extremely awkward to use, which makes finding your target a project in itself.  Of course, if you’re a young Jedi and the force is strong with you and you don’t need radar or scanners to play than you should be just fine.  And don’t even get me started about the strange green blocks that form some kind of demented “vapor trail” in space--at least on my machine it looks like a mistake.   (As mentioned earlier, though, maybe there's something here for the Space Invaders fan in all of us.)

There is a multiplayer option with the game, but with the single-player game itself so bad, you'd think the multiplayer mode can’t do much to save it.  Surprisingly, the multiplayer function is ok, but again it is hard to get past the rest of the game to actually enjoy playing it with other people.  All of the other space sim games out recently (StarLancer, Alligiance, Tachyon and others) blow Terminus out of the water with no trouble.  Granted, they tend to be space fighters/operas as opposed to the Terminus career/economic model; unfortunately, the packaging seems to imply the former, not the latter.  “But Ben," you may ask, intrepid reader, "you have only accounted for 1 of the 2 star rating so far.  Where is the other half?Well, it’s in the versatility of the game.  A single Terminus CD will run on a PC, a MAC, or a Linux box.  Given the limited choices available on platforms other than Windows, Terminus might be an alternative worth investigating but I'd suggest steering clear of it on the pc. 

--Ben Moore