After three so-so games in three years, you should really think that expectations for the fourth Alien Breed would be low. I'm all the happier to report that with Tower Assault, Team 17 finally got their act together. It is the last one of the classic series, and also its pinnacle. Finally a game which can really be recommended. Why is that?
Well, it actually does address most of the shortcomings of the predecessors. Most importantly, level design differs quite fundamentally from what we've become used to in the series. Instead of a linear progression, different areas of the colony base can be accessed from a map in arbitrary fashion. They are connected through outdoor levels. These different parts of the overall base have different functions, but not only by name, but the indoor areas are then actually somewhat believable, in the sense that somebody could actually live or work there. Which concerns room layout (not as many stupid dead ends) as well as furnishing and other things lying around. Including those ripped human bodies, which may appear gratuitous at first, but actually do get one main point across – finally – this used to be a human-inhabited base!
At first glance Arcanum looks like a role playing game full of great ideas: Its main attraction is its fantasy world, which is set at the time of an industrial revolution, that is about to turn it into a science fiction setting. It is a refreshingly unique place, full of whimsical magic and technical marvels, that has great potential for interesting twists to age-old cliches: How does an ageless being, like an elf, react to the rise of science, which is about to make the magic, that has kept him alive so far, obsolete? Is there a cheaper workforce than orcs, which can be exploited at will, for they are obviously evil and therefore deserve no less? Or what about safety: Should a wizard, whose magical power has an unpredictable effect on machines, be allowed to get close to steam engines or trains? There are so many new stories that could be told…
The universe of good computer game ideas may be large, but it is nowhere infinite. Ingenious ideas don't grow on trees, but they are rather rare like pearls. So it is not surprising that programmers – and those who wish to become one – often fall back to trusted and tried concepts instead. When one's own creativity is added to it, the original hopefully turns into an original clone. In this gaming universe, one well known means of transport is Space Taxi, which inspired a number of clones.