To put it bluntly, Hegemonia: Legions of Iron is one of the best real-time-strategy games I've played recently. Not so very long ago, the genre started featuring a lot of 3D titles, instead of 2D graphics. But problems were aplenty. Not only did most of the titles fail to introduce many new elements, but they often had jumpy, hard to control cameras, perplexing controls, and tricky interfaces. Hegemonia hopes to change all that, and thankfully, achieves it's goal most of the time.
Hegemonia features an interesting story, which is a good thing. To put it in a nutshell: Earth has come a long way. It has colonized many planets of the solar system, and has been living peacefully since. But one fateful day, a Mars ship was shot down by unseen forces. The Martians immediately blamed the attack on Earth, who of course denied any such thing. A war began to erupt... but that's not the half of it. Little do they know, unseen alien races are lurking in the shadows. Soon enough, they attack, and Earth and Mars decide to team up to take on the enemy. The rest is up to you.
Backing up the cool story is some great, though somewhat complex, gameplay. You'll be working with groups of ships, not single units like most games. So you are usually dealing with groups of five, ten, or more ships. If you click one ship, it selects the squad it's flying with. From there you can tell the ships to do a number of things, from simply getting from point to point, attacking enemies, guarding ships, or whatnot. Another great feature is the experience system: after ships do battle succesfully, complete mission objectives, or something else of importance, they're given a number of experience points similar to an RPG. As the squad levels up, they gain speed and agility, stronger weapons, and better shields. And so your efforts aren't a waste of time, you actually get to bring a number of squads with you from mission to mission. It's a simple system and works quite well.
Money and researching is also handled in a nice way. In order to earn money, you need to guide mining stations to asteroids. Once there, they start to siphon off the asteroids resources. Sometimes a little decision making is required; should you start to mine the small asteroids nearby or head out into dangerous territory where larger asteroids, chock-full of resources are? You can also make some cash by building trade ships, or increasing the tax of your colonies. You must be careful, however; if a planet's morale drops too low, they may break away and become independant. Researching is done via Research Points, which can be gained much in the same way you gain experience. Once you have the points, you can start researching all sorts of things. There are different kind of ships, different kinds of weapons to equip them with, spy technology, and more. Sometimes the key to defeating the enemy is simply in the power of a new kind of weapon. Experimentation can be rewarding.
If I were a very religious man, I'd shout "Hallelujah!" for the great interface that the game sports. Well, actually, I tend to shout that anyway, but that's not the point. The point is, the interface is very clean, efficient, and nice looking. In the lower left-hand corner we find three nifty buttons. One is for squads, one is for spy ships, and another is for miscellaneous ships such as mining stations. By holding in the appropriate button, a list of all your ships scoots out next to it. Hovering over these will then tell the camera to go to exactly where they are at the moment, and letting go will select them. This is extremely handy while sending out multiple squads in different directions. In the top left corner there is a similar feature, but instead of ships, it allows us to skip over to planets and their moons easily. Nice. The only other thing occupying screen space is a little button in the lower right hand corner, which will take us to various screens, such as research.
Instead of a big bar with commands that takes up screen space, almost every action can be performed witht the mouse. Left-clicking will select your squads, and depending on what you right-click on, something will happen. Say you have a fighter squad selected and you right click on a group of enemies - they begin to attack. If you right-click on a fellow ship, they don't attack it, but instead, guard it. Simple and easy. The camera is just as nice. By holding in (not clicking) the right mouse button, you can rotate the camera in whatever direction you please. Moving the cursor to the edge of the screen will, of course, propel the camera in the desired direction. It's very smooth, and works well. If you have trouble seeing whats going on at any point, you can press the space bar to zoom out and view a nice overhead map of all the action, with easily spotted symbols representing ships.
The graphics are certainly no slouch, either. Ships are modeled nicely, and with style. Selected ships are represented by a ring, which also has an innovative feature - it shows your health. It's fully colored when in tip-top shape, but begins to fade out when being attacked. The animation is great, too. While attacking, the ships get into formations and do the best they can. It looks very realistic and well done. Special effects are awesome, from dusty asteroid belts, to fantastic explosions, or trails coming from the engines of all ships highlighting their movement. Planets are stunning, too - you could swear you can see Earth's atmosphere and clouds swirling around it. Nicely done.
The sound doesn't disappoint either. Sound effects are well done and realistic. The musical score has kind of an epic feel, and although it's sometimes a little quiet, when the action gets going, it kicks in, and it works very well. It isn't all that memorable, sure, but it is above average.
You can't go wrong with Hegemonia: Legions of Iron. It may not have a ton of hype, it may not be done by a very well known company, but that doesn't matter. What matters is that the game is fun, it adds innovation where the genre desperately needs it, has a cool story, and the interface is nice and easy to use. What more do you want? Go check this game out!
Score: 9.0 / 10