Format: Playstation Genre: Space Combat Simulator Released: 1997 Developer: Psygnosis
Plot or story seems to be seen by many developers as the most unimportant aspect of a video game. How many games can you think of with a well thought out, interesting and gripping plot? Cut scenes that you don’t skip but actually enjoy watching? Characters that act in a believable and convincing way considering the environment they are in? Not many is it? Even games which I love like, well, the C&C series or the Resident Evil games… You may enjoy them but the stories don’t really make sense.
I’m sure there are others but right now the only game plots I can remember actually enjoying are the first Spider-Man game on the Playstation (a story which could have come straight out of the comics) and the game I’m here to talk about today – Colony Wars.
Now I’m not suggesting Colony Wars had the most original of plots. Indeed the ‘Colonies breaking away from the despotic Earth Empire – it’s like the American War of Independence, but in space’ thing has been done a thousand times. But what Colony Wars did do was invest time in building it’s universe.
The developers had obviously sat down and carefully thought about the look, feel and history of the universe they had created. There was an in game database which went into detail about the Earth Empire, the League of Free Worlds, the spacecraft in the game and the various star systems and worlds that you come across while playing. In fact there were even histories of worlds you didn’t come into contact with. You didn’t need to know any of this information to play, but just having it there helped sell the story. References to the ‘Battle of Bennay’, the colonisation of Alpha Centauri and so on really enriched the playing experience.
The story also changed depending on how well you did in the game. There wasn’t one path to victory and there were multiple endings, everything from the League being totally crushed by the Earth Empire, to an uneasy truce, to the League conquering Earth. Not only did this offer lots of opportunity for replay, but you felt that your actions were having a tangible impact on this universe.
In terms of game play it was good fun, though could get a bit samey. This is why a good plot helped so much. I was willing to plow through the occasional dull level as I was eager to see the next cut scene! Imagine that.
Colony Wars had two sequels, the first being Colony Wars Vengeance, with player as a pilot for the defeated Earth Empire. Again, a great, a very dark plot with a similar ‘multiple paths/endings’ structure. The last game, Colony Wars Red Sun, was ok. It had some good ideas but it illustrated how important the stories were to the previous games, as Red Sun’s story didn’t work as well (I certainly can’t remember it now).
So yes, an underrated classic in my opinion. And the Emperor of Earth called himself the Tsar. How cool is that?
P.S. Apologies for the German video below, it’s the only one I could find of in game footage.