Genre: First-Person Shooter
Publisher: Play Ten Interactive
Developer: Deep Shadows
Release Date: Q4 2008
Video games and science fiction have enjoyed a long and mostly successful marriage. The most relevant example was last year's magnum opus of gaming goodness, Mass Effect. A critical darling and unabashed success, it raised the bar of what a space shooter could be. Now, Deep Shadows is hoping to entice a few gamers from the same market to their forthcoming title, Precursors.
Very little plot has been revealed, other than the fact that you are some sort of humanoid space being who is caught in the midst of galactic upheaval. Several factions are vying for power, and you must work with each of them in order to fulfill your own personal objectives. Truthfully, the title shares a lot of common characteristics with Deep Shadows' other new title, White Gold. From the several warring factions whose attitudes toward you increase or decrease based on your actions, to the identical inventory system and light RPG aspects, these two seem to bear more than a passing resemblance.
However, it would be unfair to call this game "White Gold in space," as there are a few special gameplay mechanics that promise to be a lot of fun. The first is "organic weapons," living, breathing firearms that must be "fed" rather than reloaded. It's a cool concept, and watching your "gun" eat some sort of space slug in order to use its toxins as ammo is both amusing and satisfying. Another nice feature is the vehicle selection. Sure, you can take out buggies and rovers, but you will also find fully functional mech suits here and there, which let your rain down all manner of destruction on all who dare oppose you.
One final touch that holds a lot of promise is deep space dogfights and assault missions. As you fly from planet to planet, you'll likely encounter enemies who will be all too happy to blast you into space dust. As I watched the demo run through one of these sections, I couldn't help but think of the old Wing Commander games as a twinge of nostalgia ran through my body. It's too early to tell how fully realized the interstellar combat will be, but I'm personally hoping it turns out to be a fairly major component of the final build.
The team hasn't revealed how many planets will be present, but they are promising that each will be unique, complete with its own distinct landmarks and monsters. Also, with a main storyline that's planned to clock in at 20 hours, with 20 more devoted to side-quests and extra content, one can only assume that there will be lots and lots of new realms to explore.
Precursors, also like White Gold, will be running on the Vital Engine 3, allowing for some pretty impressive graphics. In addition, since the worlds themselves are alive in Precursors, shooting the local fauna will often make it twitch and quiver in response to your projectiles. When it comes right down to it, giant wiggling mushrooms may not mean much, but it deepens the sense of immersion when the environment reacts to the things you do.
While it doesn't look like Precursors is going to knock Mass Effect off its perch at the zenith of sci-fi gaming, it should make for a more than adequate follow-up for any gamer who has followed the paths of both Paragon and Renegade and yet is still itching to kick some alien booty. The wide-open exploration, coupled with creative weapons and vehicles, mixed with deep space combat, all give Precursors a good chance to make a splash late this year. You just have to tear yourself away from a certain Commander Shepard first.
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