There is a ton of work that goes into developing a real-time strategy game. When you think about all the gameplay elements, it's a mountain of work for even a seasoned team: unit AI, pathfinding, and all of the assets. With that in mind, it makes Meridian: New World all the more impressive, given that the team is mainly comprised of a single person. The game has just launched into early access on Steam, and we checked out the game in its current state of development.
The premise of the title centers on Meridian, an Earth-like planet that seems ripe for colonization. A ship is dispatched to visit the planet to test its suitability, but as the crew is wrapping up tests, it receives a mysterious distress signal. The crew investigates the source of the signal, and an adversarial force begins attacking. It's discovered that one of the crewmembers may be sabotaging the ship and operating under a different set of orders from Earth.
The story element plays out in missions and on the ship, where you control the commander and can walk around to talk to the crew or interact with different stations. The plot reads like something you could've watched on the Sci-Fi Channel (before it rebranded and became awful). Talking with crew members is fully voiced and has a minimalist dialog system that lets you ask different questions or go down different paths of inquiry.
Missions are about what you'd expect from an RTS title, with a few key differences. As you gain experience, your commander gains levels and can unlock abilities to use on the field. The basic one heals a selected unit, whereas others allow you to buff a unit, debuff others, or deal direct damage. These are limited by an energy system that seems to just take time to recharge, but all abilities pull from the same pool and have different associated costs.
Another interesting tweak is the ability to pick the weaponry with which a unit is built. You can build a tank-like unit with a laser cannon, or you may outfit it with an auto cannon to make it more powerful against infantry. These weapons have their own fire rates, ranges, strengths and weaknesses, and many must first be researched at a laboratory. This allows you to pick and choose which units you want to use as your mining units, thus adding another strategic element. However, once built, units stick with what was chosen, and they cannot be changed later.
This is an early build of a game built by one person, but there are a few areas that could use some more love in upcoming builds. Unit pathfinding has issues with bunching up in unwieldy ways, and on a few occasions, issuing a move order made one unit break off from the group and walk the opposite direction. There are issues with the user interface lacking some functionality, like showing the composition of the currently selected group. Again, for an early build, these issues are to be expected, but it's worth noting for early adopters.
Meridian: New World has promise. The ability to build units with a customized selection of weaponry gives you a lot of options when building a fighting force. Likewise, the selection of commander abilities adds a layer of micro gameplay to the mix, and selecting them boils down entirely to your preference and play style. There is still a lot of work to be done, but Meridian: New World doesn't seem afraid to put its own spin on the genre, and it will be interesting to see how it progresses.
Previewed on: Intel i5 2500k, 8gb RAM, nVidia GTX 660 Ti
More articles about Meridian: New World