Is it just a cheap “Command&Conquer” clone or a game with new ideas? Both is right because Z is obviously a part of the past wave of real-time strategy games but it is also far better than similar games.
The basic game concept should be clear: You control battle units which - unlike to turn-based strategy games - are moved across the battlefield simultaneously by both players. You get a little help by the computer as units are defending themselves when enemies enter their fire range.
The most obvious difference (luckily) between Z and similar games is the not so strict seriousness and the missing of an otherwise regular feature 'mining resources'. There´s also no background story.
In Z your goal in every mission is of course to defeat your opponent which means to conquer his fort or destroy it. The road to success on the other hand is somewhat different: The battlefield is parted into several sectors which are conquered by touching a flag. Control over a sector will mostly also give you possession of a factory which is in that sector and which will let you produce new units whereas the production speed depends on the number of sectors you´re in charge of. And keep in mind that whenever the enemy touches a flag just once the whole sector is back in his hands. So imperialistic expansionism (occupating sectors) and capitalism (control over production facilities) is required to win.
The units system is quite simplified: Basically there are just robots, vehicles and guns, but of course various types of each. Vehicles are getting better straightforward; from the jeep to the mobile rocket launcher their destruction power is ever increasing but they´re getting ever slower. The robots on the other hand have their special abilities (look into the manual for further details). Because of the longer production time of 'better' units the player always has to find a compromise between quality and quantity. The unit-producing factories are sorted by units (vehicle-/robot-factory) and by levels (of production capabilities) which slowly improve during the game and thus make new models available.
The 20 levels are divided into 5 surroundings (planets) with 4 levels each which apart from other graphics only bear minimal differences.
In which way these hard facts affect the fun is to everyone´s liking. For my part the relatively small number of units is - concerning the hectic gameplay - surely advantageous. Basically speed is more important than tactics. Luck is also a major factor in this game.
But you can´t deny that Z is well suited for beginners because you can start instantly without having to work your way into it. Unlike in other games of this genre the player has to deal with some kind of 'artificial intelligence' which tries to react intuitively to different situations and not to fall into certain routines of placing units always the same way. Besides that the graphics and also the interface are very convincing. Saving is possible at any time.
A negative aspect is the lack of options. Instead of just a gamma setup other options would have been desirable. Also the concept of sectors has one downside: It´s almost impossible to turn the tide when one side owns a majority of them for some time because the doubled advantage - more facilities and faster production speed - will make one´s superiority unsurmountable.
All in all a puristic game without unnecessary gimmicks - very well made indeed!
Comments (8) [Post comment]
The key to win (in basically all levels) is to learn to control individual units effectively in the early game. As I said, the danger lies in the AI starting with more/stronger units. So a typical situation which will occur early on is that your light tank meets an enemy medium tank. If you just tell it to attack and leave it alone, you'll be blown to pieces. If you manage to sneak up, take a shot and then quickly run away again (and repeat), you can win this one.
That way, you should aim at taking exactly half of the territories. Try to secure those, because as I said, once the frontlines are settled this way, you've already won. One more hint: The best gun isn't actually the missile thrower, but the howitzer, in my opinion. It will even take out heavy tanks, because seeing the howitzer shell approaching, they will try to turn around and run away - making them practically stand still on the spot to be hit by one shell after another. This is another AI 'bug': A heavy tank would just have to drive on to the howitzer, taking the first hit (it can survive it) and then destroying the gun with a single shot. Same on the other end of the spectrum: you can take out an enemy howitzer with a jeep by controlling it carefully - make sure not to let it turn around when the howitzer starts shooting, because the shells will then explode well behind you.
Now... I've got to make a confession... I never beat the AI of Z, not even in the first level. My (then 10 years-old) brother played half through the game, my mother (being overstrained with Dune II and never playing any other RTS games) kept beating the little blue suckers with ease... and I failed at even the simplest challenge the game would offer. Can't tell you why, maybe I was so accustomed to games in the style of Dune II, where you build you defence grids, mass units and go crush the opponent. Having to hold a territory was too much for me. Well probably I should give it a serious try... possibly I gave up to fast.
Concerning the rating: I don't think she is trying to say, that the AI isn't good, but that the slogan with which it was advertised is very exaggerated.
I agree on removing the reference to HotU downloads, I actually had that in mind.
Well. She Says:
And indeed the computer player reacts on your moves. And yes, sometimes it makes silly moves. But I have not seen any other game with such an strong AI. And what is the meaning of an AI anyway? It should simulate an human player and as we all know, every human player makes sometimes silly moves. So the AI does an pretty good job I´d say.
Just rated the game with 5. But obviously you´re right. My opinion is not the point. On the other hand, the original reviewer has not mentioned a single RTS game with an better AI than "Z".