Galactic Assault: Prisoner of Power Review (PC)

It seems we have yet another laboured genre emerging: the futuristic, post-apocalyptic, stranded on an alien planet, turn based strategy-Ďem-up. Galactic Assault: Prisoner of Power is a worthy addition to this increasingly mired genre, but keeps far too strict a check on breaking any rules.

Motivation is a big deal when it comes to waging war (just ask the American people). If weíre not convinced that mass destruction of a particular populace is justified, profitable or somehow required, itís hard to get onboard with the actual conflict.

While I donít expect a Hollywood quality production when it comes to the storyline of a strategy game (although I suspect my expectations are such because of ritual disappointment rather than the abilities of the system), my immediate reaction to such titles is a demand to know why Iím fighting. It doesnít have to be anything complex; I just want to know my enemy, as the ancient Japanese used to say.

Unfortunately, Galactic Assault addresses this inciting issue with the usual kind of far distant alien planet neatly separated into well-matched warring factions, and youíre naturally stuck in the middle. As chance would have it, youíre also in a position to build an army and develop new technology oh-so organically. As best I can recall (only minutes after playing the game) it has something to do with crash landing on this post-apocalyptic planet and quickly coming to the conclusion that escape involves triple genocide. True enough, this stuff isnít massively important to the gameplay, but engaging the player is, and to that end Galactic Assault failed very quickly.

Once out there on the random battlefield, the pieces fall quickly into place. A familiar (is it cruel but fair to say all too familiar?) scenario eases the player into the controls of the game. Perhaps not overly simple controls Ė after all, thereís a lot to do in an strategy sim, so itís only reasonable that the keyboard is well used Ė the rich heritage of this kind of game ensures even a novice player wonít be overwhelmed. Establishing a beachhead and developing a well rounded strike and defensive force is a well balanced event, and the objectives are easily accessible and clear.

Already, this review is becoming a forensic dissection of the strategy genre, rather than a detailed examination of this particular title, but as I sit here and type, I can see no alternative. Galactic Assault is so middle-of-the-road that an off-the-shelf approach to describing its gameplay and events is the only way forward. Such a shame that taking chances with originality is so very frowned upon by contemporary publishers, as thereís a distinct feeling that the creative team at Paradox Interactive are straining against the leash with Galactic Assault, unable to break free and forced, instead, to follow a path too frequently travelled.

The visuals are every bit as mediocre as the storyline, favouring the established norm and attempting nothing new. Resorting to futuristic, alien technology is becoming something of a cop out for developers, since the capability and practicality of such machinery requires no justification or discipline to attain. Make it pointy and powerful in all the right places, call it a techno-tank and roll it out onto the battlefield. Even the environments look like something from a theme park; glowing on occasion, splashing water in predetermined places and disguising a myriad of crimes beneath a clunky aura of providential fog.

The objectives are not so much a breath of fresh air as they are a refined method of delivering the prerequisite elements demanded by PC based strategists. Not always demanding a fast and efficient destruction of the enemy, but also insisting on a considered approach to defensive entrenchment, the attainment of a certain developmental level, protecting a friendly base, purging the enemy from a specific location or any combination of these (in campaign mode, that is) ensure thereís always lots to do. These many and varied missions generally surmount to the same basic gameplay, however, with very little in tactical deviation whether freeing your own base of destroying the enemyís facilities.

The environment does provide some interesting tactical advantages and disadvantages, and making practical and measured use of the right forces in the right situation makes a sincere difference to play. Strategy is easily interchangeable with sheer brute force, however, so shoring up the powerful units still finds success for a lazy player, meaning a strategist can find themselves aggravatingly well matched by brute force and ignorance. A little more attention to the cohesive design of the level and its objectives might have given more authority to the type of player likely to be drawn to this game, rather than the twitch shooter whoíll do equally well and in less time.

While this all sounds very harsh, itís really not a damning report on Galactic Assault per se, but on this overfed, bloated style of game that plays to an empty theatre of war. A little more imagination and Galactic Assault could have been a far more valuable addition to the overfull alien battle strategy genre.

Top Game Moment
: Even for a quick game, campaign mode offers the most variety; mixing up objectives and crafting a more engrossing experience than the run and gun stand alone missions.