Bargain bin games are all over the place these days. If you have an older computer, you may want to check out the bargain bin sections in stores. Up until earlier this year, I had an old Pentium II, so I was continually looking through bargain bins trying to find some gems. Buying a new computer has not stopped me from checking out the cheap stuff. On one recent visit to Babbage\'s, I came across Universal Fleet Commander for $4.99! What a great price and it includes 3 games! Even so, I didn?t want to spend that amount of money if the games were going to be complete duds. So I spent a few days reading reviews of the games, played two demos, and decided to go back and get it. So, is the Commander Pack worth it? Let me start by saying the Commander Pack does not come with any physical manuals, except for a flimsy, few page ?Getting Started? booklet to simply get you started. Personally, I really enjoy having the physical manual in my hands to read, but for $5, what could I expect? Maybe I?m strange, but I actually enjoy reading game manuals. Anyway, all of the manuals are installed off CD. For the first part of the series, I will look at Submarine Titans, a futuristic RTS taking place under the water. The manual starts off with a storyline describing the results of a meteor hitting the earth and most everyone having to move down into watery realms. In the end, there were three separate factions, and these are the three races of the game. I had no problems installing and running the game on an XP machine. The beginning cutscenes were nice, but I think that?s all the video you get with the game. Each race has its own separate tutorial (nice idea), so I ran the first one for the White Sharks. Teaches the basics, which were soon forgotten. Starting a skirmish battle was useless. I really didn?t know what I was doing or what to do. I had to read the manual. After reading most of the manual, I was ready to start the campaign missions. So far, the campaign missions have kept me on my toes and have been pumping adrenaline through my veins. Here is a quick rundown of the game aspects.
I actually found the gameplay to be quite exciting. There are quite a number of resources you need to manage (Oxygen, Gold, Metal, and something called Corium. The alien race has a slightly different mix of resources to gather.). Only Metal and Corium require you to micromanage using Transport subs. For oxygen and gold, you just build the structure and it does the rest. There is a unique addition to the game regarding weapons. Most subs actually run out of firepower and need to be reloaded (you need a special structure for this). This took me awhile to figure out. I was playing the game and my subs suddenly were not fighting back. They would just sit there. It took me awhile to get used to this aspect and found myself creating new subs, rather than reloading the ones I currently have. The manual mentions this aspect of the game, but did not get into how to actually reload the subs. After more playing, I realized you build an Armcenter and it will automatically replenish the torpedoes. I haven?t played enough to understand the full extent of unit balance, but from what I have seen and read, there really isn?t much. As far as the military subs go, it seems each sub just gets better armor and firepower, making the old ones useless (except for their lower cost). You get better subs by researching new technology that the next better sub requires. So if you are looking for balancing out long range, short range, quick scouts, I don?t think this game has it. The manual recommends the earliest sub as a recon (quick move-in, do some damage, and quick move-out), but I just don?t see that working too well later in the game when the more powerful weapons are available and can destroy the smaller/quicker subs with one shot. There is a large tech tree which will probably take awhile to research through. Some of the technology will improve what you already have, some will allow you to build new types of structures, and some will allow you to build new sub types. Each of the three races has different tech trees. The biggest issue I have with the game is the A.I. Too often, I click my sub to move somewhere and it either just sits there motionless or moves but stops at some other point. This tends to be when I want it moved not too far from the current location. The enemy A.I. was not all that intelligent at times. For example, I sat firing at a construction sub and it never even thought of moving out of the way. It just sat there getting destroyed. This could be based on my A.I. setting of ?Weak/Easy?. On the other hand, there are some nice A.I. features when playing the skirmish battles. You can have the computer manage your resources for you. Hooray! Or you can have the computer manage the building of base defenses. Or, you can actually have the computer completely take over your command. But what?s the purpose in that? I don?t know, but perhaps you can learn some new strategies.
The 2-D graphics are definitely dated looking. There are 3 separate zoom levels. The closest looks pretty nice but you don?t have much map to view. The middle is what I normally keep it on. The furthest out is plain awful. Everything is too small and gritty looking. Explosions at any zoom level look a bit gritty. But the most unfortunate thing about the graphics is the chameleon aspect. The submarines blend right into the structures and sea floor. Sometimes it?s hard to find all your subs because they just disappear into the map. Although the game talks about being in 3-D, it?s that your subs can be at 5 different depth levels. The graphics themselves are all 2-D.
The sound is pretty nice. I really like the music when there is no battle. It fits well with the game. But I don?t care too much for the battle music. All the voices and ambient sounds were nicely done.
Christian Perspective:
The game is an RTS, so you will be destroying things. There are no cut scenes during the game, but each campaign mission starts with someone explaining the situation and what you need to do. So far, there was no bad language. One of the three races is an alien race, which implies there are other species beyond earth. But it is sci-fi after all.
There is good and bad. The good is there is a random map generator giving you an endless supply of maps. The game itself comes with a healthy amount of maps. It also includes a mission editor and even an A.I. editor. You get full control over your maps. This is a great benefit to the game. The bad is, there is no user community for this game. There are no FAQs, no hints, no new units, no new maps, nothing. You are basically on your own. This is sometimes frustrating because I feel you are not given enough information on the campaign missions. Several times I found myself not sure of what to do on the campaign missions. You need to experiment, which means you will need to lose the campaign a few times, before you start understanding how you will accomplish the goals set out for you.
Well, I have been enjoying the game and definitely think it?s worth 1/3 of the price. I even think it?s worth the whole $4.99 (Babbage?s has the game by itself for $4.99 as well). I would not recommend paying full price ($20-$30) for it. If you are a seasoned RTS fan, this game may have too many frustrations over what is currently available. But if you are able to see beyond the A.I. issues, and the other frustrating aspects, the game ends up being a fun ride. I plan to continue playing through the campaigns. One other note?one of my favorite things about the game is the in-game menus. You are viewing out a sub window and looking at the ocean. You see killer whales floating casually by and plant life slowly swaying. It?s very soothing and I sometimes find myself just sitting back and relaxing.

Final Ratings

Gameplay: B- Graphics: C (by 2002 standards) Sound: B Interface: B Stability: A Christian Perspective: A

Overall 80% B-

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Christ Centered Gamer looks at video games from two view points. We analyze games on a secular level which will break down a game based on its graphics, sound, stability and overall gaming experience. If you’re concerned about the family friendliness of a game, we have a separate moral score which looks at violence, language, sexual content, occult references and other ethical issues.

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