Genre: Space Sim
Publisher: 1C Company
Release Date: Q3 2005
This is why you shouldn’t provoke developers. Actually, to be more accurate, this is exactly why you should.
During E3, we got a chance to sit down with 1C and view a slew of upcoming titles they will be publishing in the near future, one of which being the space sim Parkan 2. Not many people have heard of the title, and to be frank I only knew the name and the look as I sat down. As the title was demonstrated, I was told the game overall was sort of like Microsoft’s Freelancer, which, personally, is one of my favorite titles of the genre. Of course, most titles advertise themselves as being "like" a polished and well-known title, so I took the bait.
The first thing that you will immediately notice about Parkan 2 is that it is really quite easy on the eyes. Granted, there are titles that have engines capable of slightly higher degrees of detail and flashier special effects, but Parkan 2’s graphics have a high degree of cohesiveness overall, thanks to consistent art design. Weapons fire has powerful looking special effects that genuinely convey a sense of impact and intensity, while smaller details, such as the cratered surface of a planet, aren’t as immediately grabbing but subtly add to the overall look as a whole. When ships explode, they explode in a big ball of fire and shrapnel, obviously more enjoyable when one isn’t the ship that is getting obliterated.
So, the demonstration turned to how you can fly around and engage in small ship-to-ship dogfights al la Freelancer and launch small unmanned drones to assist you in combat. Using an on-screen interface, you can select your drones, launch them, give them attack orders, or tell them to return and dock with your ship. Similarly, you can hire mercenaries for a price that will fly on your wing, allowing you to give them orders in much the same fashion. Images of maybe a five-on-five dogfight flashed through my head, and I mentally noted my approval.
There will be a large variety of ships to choose from in Parkan 2, ranging from small fighter craft, larger assault craft, freighter ships, all the way up to your capital ships. While the small fighter crafts hold drones to assist you in combat, the capital ships can hold actual fighter craft, meaning you can effectively hire mercenaries and have your own fighter wings to scramble. This allows the player to tailor their ship to their playing style; some will appreciate the nimble dogfights while others might yearn for the massive firepower only a battleship provides, while yet others might just want to hop from planet to planet, buying and selling goods. In Parkan 2, there will be approximately 30 solar systems, each with 10 interactive planets, making a grand total of 300 planets you can actively visit.
The demonstration continued onward to how, while in a dogfight, your ship can be docked with and boarded by the enemy. Rather than some random number that determines the outcome or something else that would be expected, the player must don a first-person view and grab a gun and repel the boarding party by force. The FPS mode itself didn’t seem too polished yet but was already fairly impressive, and allowed for not only a new element to the space sim genre, but it actually looked fun. What’s more, you can board enemy ships yourself, either with the intent on sabotaging systems, such as engines or weapons, or taking over the ship entirely, making it yours. Images of attaching myself to a freighter, fighting my way to the bridge, and stealing the ship and cargo flashed through my head, and I again noted my approval.
The universe of Parkan 2 is based on what is essentially a story-driven sandbox mode where you can follow the main storyline or wander off on your own whims and have fun that way. There are many factions in the title, and while no specifics are available, it was mentioned that doing missions for or attacking the property of a faction will raise or lower your rep with them accordingly. Do you want to play as an outlaw, a vigilante police pilot, or stay neutral?
At this point in the demonstration, I was already impressed. Granted, not all of it was completely new ground for the genre, and the new ground did seem a bit overambitious, but watching all of these actions play out on the screen made it fully clear the ambitions weren’t just talk and were more than smoke and mirrors.
So, you have a capital ship full of fighters, and you see an outlaw planet in front of you ... fancy taking over a planet? In Parkan 2, however, you don’t simply say, "Ok, I’ll send a bunch of fighters to the surface and see if they win." You actually land on the planet and get out on foot and fight it out on the surface, or in tanks or hovercraft. Yeah, I thought what you’re thinking right now too: I only hope my jaw wasn’t as wide open as I imagine it was. When you attack a planet, you land your ship outside of the reach of planetary defenses and unload your tanks and hovercraft, after which you must then fight your way to the enemy base across the terrain. Once there, you must go on foot inside the facility and force the control of it into your hands by blowing away anyone who opposes. Once under your control, planets can be attacked by any of the other factions who think they want it more than you. You might by flying a few systems away when you get a message that one is under attack, which you could choose to respond to or think back to the fact you left 50 tanks to defend the planet and smile knowingly that the poor attackers will be slaughtered.
Essentially, Parkan 2 is a space sim that has ridiculous and utter scale to it. Fans of the space sim genre have always hungered for more things to "do" in their titles, as in the early days the entire genre was limited to only combat, and only between relatively small ships with the odd capital ship in the mix. Parkan 2 effectively takes the smallest of cellular scenarios of space combat, such as two small ships dogfighting in deep space as they juke and squirm to try and draw a bead on one another, and scales all the way up to the player controlling his/her own literal army as he/she tries to assault an entire planet, an entire faction, and take over their planets as their own. If you are feeling particularly underhanded, you could take it upon yourself to literally pirate other ships, boarding them using the first-person shooter mode, blasting their crew, and stealing not only their precious cargo but their entire ship as well. "OUberLord’s Used Ship Sales," here I come. Keep an eye on Parkan 2 as it progresses further along in its development cycle because the title looks to be in position to really give the space sim genre a complete and utter shakedown.
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