It's not often you get a brilliant new game from an unknown publisher that creates a new genre in PC gaming. Nexon has given us just that with their ground breaking title, Shattered Galaxy. Imagine playing StarCraft with a few hundred of your closest friends. Yup, a Massive Multiplayer Online Real Time Strategy.
It's not often you get a brilliant new game from an unknown publisher that creates a new genre in PC gaming. Nexon has given us just that with their ground breaking title, Shattered Galaxy.
Shattered Galaxy is a MMORTS. That's Massive Multiplayer Online Real Time Strategy for you acronymophiles. Imagine playing StarCraft with a few hundred of your closest friends. The game is based around a character you make. The character controls your units in the battle telepathically. Meaning they're never actually on the battlefield, only the units are. Your character has many attributes. Some you can control. Others you cannot. The four basic attributes you assign when building your character are: Tactics, Clout, Education, Mechanical Aptitude. Each of these has impacts on the kinds of units you can command, how they are equipped, and how you interact with the other commanders.
The attributes break down basically like this:
Tactics influences how many units you personally command. The commander with the highest tactics rating is also in charge of the battle they're in. They can say who gets to join the fight or not. A base commander can control 6 units. They can control an additional unit for every 20 points of tactics they have.
Clout controls 3 aspects. First and most important, the kinds of units you can command. More advanced unit types require a high clout rating. Secondly, it determines how much tribute the commander receives. This is your paycheck. It's needed to buy, repair, and refit units. Lastly when viewing the planet map, if your clout is 10 points higher than another in a battle, you will be able to see the type of units they're fielding. This is useful when determining what to join a battle with. Every 2 points of clout increases your influence rating by 1.
Education simply determines the tech level of the weapons, armour, etc. that you can put on your units. Every 2 points of Education increases your tech level by 1. This is added to the level of the unit to determine the tech level it can use.
Mechanical Aptitude, or MA as it's known in the game, determines how much weight a unit can carry. Armour, weapons, sensors, and other items have a weight rating. A higher MA allows a unit to use heavy armour and weapons.
Attributes you cannot directly control are Honor and Prestige. These are ratings that allow other commanders to judge how proficient you are on the battle field. Honor increases by finishing battles against players. It decreases when fighting aliens in caves or retreating from battles. Prestige increases when you win and goes down when you are defeated. You character will also have a win/loss rating, Character level, and may earn awards and medals.
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Your character level is rather misleading. When pulling up a list of commanders, a level will be shown. This is the highest level that the commander has in one of four areas. Infantry, Mobile, Aviation, and Organic. Infantry is the rating in infantry units. Mobile is for vehicles. Aviation is for flying units. Organic is for Alien/Xeno units. The level rating is deceiving because a 4/4/4/4 commander will show as level 4 while a 16/1/1/1 will show level 16. Thus the level 4 commander may well be as powerful as the level 16 commander.
Another important aspect is unit design. You buy base model units from the factory in your faction's capital, then drag them off to the lab for modification. You can completely customize the unit's load out with power sources, engines, weapons, armour, sensors, and special equipment. This is where MA and education is critical. Better equipment has a higher tech and weight rating. A balance between offensive capability and defensive systems is a tricky balance. I like most players favor big guns over armour. If you can blow them away before they get to shoot back much, who needs armour. On the other end, units with very high defensive ratings are needed for specific tasks in a battle such as defending or taking points of control. Special equipment can allow some units to launch nuclear weapons, cloak, jam radar, infiltrate (appear like a friendly unit to the enemy), collect raw resources, heal/repair units, move faster, and much more. Each unit has it's own load out of special items it can use. These are well documented at on the Shattered Galaxy website.
To pick a fight is simple and complex. The act of joining a fight is easy. Open planetary map. Right clock on an open fight. Your commander trudges off to it. Picking which fight to join is the hard part. Joining a fight where your faction outnumbers the enemy is an easy win, but you will get little or no experience points for it. A fight where your faction is vastly outnumbered is a gamble. Your reinforcements may help turn the tide of the battle, or you might get stomped like a narc at a biker bar. You sometimes get some experience when losing a fight, if you managed to get a decent number of kills. But nothing like you will receive for winning.
How a battle is one or lost is based off of one thing. A point of control, or POC as they're referred to in game. When your commander enters a fight, there will be 3-6 POCs on the map. The battle is over when either the attacking faction controls all the POCs, time runs out, or the attacking side has no units left. To act of taking control of a POC is easy. Park a ground based unit on it and sit there for 40 seconds. That's a lot harder than it sounds. A well defended POC will be covered by artillery, ground attacking aircraft, heavy armour and infantry. So parking a unit on there and having it survive for 40 seconds is not easy. It takes a coordinated assault to get through that. Anti air units to take out the ground attacking aircraft. Fast attack units to find and destroy the artillery units. A mix of offensive artillery, armour, and hard hitting infantry to take out defenders. Sometimes a nuke will do the job as well.
Battles in the game somewhat mirror real life. They are chaotic, often not well coordinated, and have a lot of causalities. For a brand new commander this is overwhelming. Stick with it and ask questions. Most other players are happy to give tips or guide you. Don't worry if you are destroyed in a battle. You are put in 'reinforcement' mode. Basically have to sit and watch the fight for about 75 seconds then you can reinforce with a different set of units. Simply hit F7 and select your next set of units. When the timer runs out, hit the reinforce button and you're back in action. If you run out of units, you'll have to retreat and head back to the capitol to repair them. This will cost you in honor, prestige, and experience. But as there is a limit of 16 commanders per battle per side, it is better for your faction for you to retreat and let a commander with fresh units in so your side can win the fight.
Shattered Galaxy has a full blown political system as well. As you rise in levels (rank) you gain more political power. Once you have consolidated enough power, you can nominate yourself for vote as Overlord. The Overlord is the commander of the entire faction. They can issue orders, make foreign policy, and shape domestic policy. They can name their council as well. There are also sub groups of a faction known as regiments. Regiments typical try to organize their assaults and attack as a team. As a member of a regiment you can typically count on backup if you call for help in a fight and are expected to help other members if they call for it as well.
Another aspect to make things more interesting is faction rankings. Factions are ranked based on how much territory they control, win ratios, and resource control. The tier ranking appears on the official Shattered Galaxy website at www.sgalaxy.com. Higher ranked tiers will be placed on different worlds with other higher ranked tiers. This keeps balance and prevents a faction from dominating a particular world indefinitely.
Shattered Galaxy is not without it's bugs however. It was in an open beta for 18 months and many many balance and gameplay issues were well tweaked. As in any online game, lag is your worst enemy. Playing Shattered Galaxy can be difficult during peak Internet usage time in the evenings through no fault of Nexon or the player. But the game does sometimes do some bizarre things. Since the game went commercial recently, I have found one bug to be particularly annoying. After a battle when the game returns to 'hero' mode. I cannot see my character nor navigate the map. I have to log off and back on at that point. This is painful if you're involved in a big push, especially if you're steamrolling over the opposition. You can lose out on a lot of experience because of that.
On the flip side, Nexon is very diligent about resolving these issues and also does many events to keep things in a constant state of flux. For example, a formal war declared between two factions, alien uprisings, and planetary climate changes can radically change gameplay. Nexon will occasionally do a rejuvenation event where all characters will be reset. Characters will receive accomplishment points to purchase special units and equipment for the next round that could not be purchased normally.
Overall, Shattered Galaxy is a great game. Innovative concepts and active participation from Nexon have groomed the game into one that is fun to play without the Pokemon "Gotta get em all" mentality of item hoarding and questing in current crops of Massive Multiplayer Online games currently available. Shattered Galaxy offers a lot of interactive play that is rewarding and a lot of fun. It can be gotten at any major software retailer and has a monthly fee like EverQuest or Anarchy Online do. I've been playing the open beta for a year and feel it's absolutely worth the money in it's current commercial form.