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Project Nomads

Minimum system requirements:
  • Windows 98/2000/ME/XP
  • Pentium 3 450Mhz with 64MB RAM
  • GeForce 1 video card
  • 100% DirectSound compatible soundcard
  • DirectX 8.0
  • 800MB free hard disk space

  • Official website: http://www.project-nomads.de

The latest in CDV's game lineup is Project Nomads. As the name might suggest, the game is all about a particular group of roaming engineer/magicians, who end up getting shot down in a dogfight over the remains of a planet. Conveniently, the very floating piece of rock you land on contains the grave of a master builder, who re-awakens and decides to help you with rescuing your friends.
Partially confused? I was at first, but you're launched into the game with a small tutorial from said master builder, and the plot unfolds from there.

Remote turret carnage! Yeah!
But, i'm getting ahead of myself, let's rewind a bit. Nomads is about your player character (one of three that you choose at the beginning of the game) and his adventures throughout the remnants of the Planet of the Nomads. By remnants, I mean floating hunks of rock that are suspended in the upper atmosphere, which still have trees, shrubbery and people living on them. The one you crash land on is transformed into a roving battle-fortress (no, i'm not joking) and for the rest of the game, you treat this as your home base. Your character can obtain components which enable him to build extra buildings such as gun turrets, power stations and hangars, and basically beef up the island. If you want a precise comparison to existing games, i'd have to splice together BattleZone and Incoming to convey the right idea. You build up your base by exploring the levels and collecting components, and you defend it by operating the turrets yourself. If you aren't a good enough marksman, you can leave the aiming to the computer and run around your island, desperately repairing buildings before they're blown up by attacking fighters.

The agony of choice..
Hot air balloons are the least of your worries
Even my shadow looks tough
Got expanse?
As far as I can find information on it, Nomads appears to be a PC only game at the time of review. I could be wrong, and I wouldn't be surprised if I was - the entire game feels like it's been ported from a console. Everything is chunky and large, your character is simple yet effective, the graphics aren't exactly spectacular and the aiming reticules are just like the style you find on console games. When aiming at a target in range, your reticule will auto-track the target, helping you aim. It really isn't needed, since even in 1024x768, the targets are easily recognisable and trackable. I guess the developers tried to cater for the younger crowd as well.
Talking of resolutions, the video options are few and far between. The option of changing resolution is one of 5 options in total that you can adjust. That's right, every single alterable property is located in one large Options menu, and it includes video resolution and detail level, invert mouse, mouse senstivity and volume. The ability to change your controls is not present, which is a crippling factor in a games rating as far as i'm concerned. It's not all misery though, since the controls are few and far between, which is due to excellent design. Your mouse controls the jetpack, use and attack, the cursor keys control movement (you can't strafe), F1 brings up the menu and F2 displays the objectives. Simple stuff, but then again it's not exactly a complex game.
A brief mention of the sound is deserved because the localisation of the in-game speech is very well done, at least in the version I reviewed. The narrator speaks clearly and with an appropriately English accent, and does a good job of forwarding the plot when necessary. Other than that, pretty average sound all round.

There are a few glitches or annoyances with the game that make it seem a little incoherent at times. For example, your character can sometimes wedge his feet in buildings or the landscape when he lands, which often requires a quick jig on the arrow keys to rectify. Also, your aiming cursor in turrets isn't precise - shots often go above the center of the crosshair, which can be fatal in large attacks on your island. One time I managed to teleport my character about half a mile from my island by simply landing on a powerstation, which was a little disorienting. Still, there are no major flaws in the game, and the crash upon exit is no doubt due to my clogged-up operating system.

The structure of the game is based on levels, which vary in size and type. Some require you to manouevre your island through a canyon, others require you to leave your island completely and use your character instead. Most of the time you're pretty restricted in what you can do, and the game itself is very linear. Some levels are circular in shape, which means that if you locate the jetpack powerup (explained later), you can fly around and generally mess about. Occasionally you'll be required to use both your island and your character to complete the objectives.

Right, the shooty stuff! Your island is upgradeable by combining components that you find throughout the levels, for example two level 1 turrets combine to make a single level 2, and so on. Your island has set places where buildings can go, and some places are reserved for larger buildings (the hangar for example). The main building, the one you have to protect at all costs, is your lighthouse. Once that explodes it's game over, unless you yourself die first. It's well armoured though, but don't expect it to take an extended beating without some assistance on your behalf.

The weapons available for personal use when you leave your island take the form of magic. Battle spells are the name of the game, and they're quite fun to use. The basic fire spell will lob fireballs at your target, while the explosives spell is immense fun when deployed in the right place. Powerups also make an appearance, including health pickups which are best appreciated when you're far from your island (you regenerate when on your own turf). The previously mentioned jetpack powerup is the most notable however, as it bestows the ability of flight for the rest of the level. Re-live moments of the Rocketeer and Superman as you soar through the level like a maniac. Stray too far from your island however, and you'll receive some involuntary skydiving practise. This same restriction also applies to aircraft launched from your hangar, incidentally.

Project Nomads is a very original game, which is quite a rarity nowadays. In the market of endless clones, it's nice to see a simple game with an interesting twist on the FPS strategy genre. But for all it's great features and ideas, it's just not what I had hoped for. The game probably won't last you beyond completion unless you fancy some multiplayer, which looks to be IPX based considering you can't specify an IP address to connect to. Also, the lack of customisable options gets on my nerves, and the forced controls just aren't on. Still, if you're looking for a quick blast of level-based, shoot'em'up gameplay, you'd do well to place this in your crosshair.

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