Adv: Flatspace [by Cornutopia]
Release: December 23, 2003
Developer: Cornutopia Software
System Requirements: MS Windows 98/ME/XP/NT/2000, DirectX 9.0+, 500 MHz CPU, 3D Graphics Card, 60MB HD space
Flatspace is an ambitious title that allows the player to become a trader, bounty hunter, police officer, mercenary, etc. Basically, you can be whatever you want and do whatever you want. This game is very open-ended and allows you to do so. You can trade between stations, or destroy them while avoiding the Law, or become the Law
The universe of Flatspace is one where worlds crumbled apart, stars died, and everything just became flat. Now, humanity exists on
space stations strewn throughout different sectors. Law is mostly an honor code, with police stations in certain areas trying to keep order where it can. Bounty hunters do their own party, and pirates attempt to make a living off of others. This is the universe that you live in.
At the start of a new game, you get to choose which career to start in, which basically determines what ship you will receive and what it will be equipped with. Traders receive small ships with some cargo and a basic scanner. Scavengers get a tractor beam, while police officers get stun
missiles and radar as well as a transporter to arrest people with. Of course, once you have a ship, you can actually do whatever you want. If you pick the life of a Police Officer, nothing says you can't play the bad cop except for people trying to collect your bounty for your lawlessness. Likewise, playing as a scavenger doesn't mean you can't participate in a dogfight here or there.
You start out the game with only the nearest sectors mapped out. As you accept missions and trade, you will expand your knowledge of the universe. Certain areas are havens for space pirates, so you need to watch your back in those sectors. If you find yourself in trouble, you can always request emergency assistance, but it is also possible that no one will reach you in time, or a space pirate might respond to finish you off. You can also call the police, but again they might not arrive to help out before you lose your ship.
As you earn money doing whatever jobs you are doing, you can purchase new types of armor,
missiles of varying types, shielding, and other equipment. You can even buy yourself new ships, and equip them with fighters and turrets, as well as staff them with crew members. You can get new thrusters if you need speed, and new
hyper drives if you need to cross great distances in a short amount of time. There are even special pieces of equipment which can be found at certain stations with a purpose that isn't very clear at first, but they are expensive to procure.
Throughout the different sectors you will find all sorts of ships, each going about their own business. The game amazingly keeps track of each and every ship, meaning that entire battles may happen in sectors without your knowledge. Scavengers will scavenge and bounty hunters will hunt, and you won't even have to be anywhere near their sector. If you agree to kill a space pirate, it is possible that someone else will do it and take your bounty before you even track him down. The fact that each individual ship is being controlled at all times is no small feat, and Cornutopia should be proud of this development.
Besides hyper spacing between sectors, you will need to fly between different space stations, and knowing how to maneuver your ship is especially important in a battle. If you have a small and fast ship, you can usually dog fight your way to victory, but bigger ships will have to rely on their massive firepower and shielding since they won't be able to turn as quickly. Of course, bigger ships have more room to transport cargo, prisoners, or passengers. It can be quite
exhilarating to threaten a massive Goliath Starcity space station and watch as a series of fighters fly out to greet you with lasers and
missiles while the station's turrets fire their own volleys at you, and all while you try to weave in and out of it all.
There are a few modes of play available in Flatspace. There is the Standard game, which itself has two modes, Death Means Death and Undead. In Death Means Death mode, your saved games are deleted if you die. In Undead mode, you get to keep your saved games, which makes it a bit easier if you get into a major fight after playing for a hours. There is the Custom game, where you can customize everything from the types of people to the number of asteroids to be found. Of course, for those just interested in fighting, there is Combat Training, which can be quite fun if you enjoy dog fighting through asteroid fields, especially with some of the cool looking space pirate ships.
Some people might get turned off by the lack of story, but others will like the challenge of making their own. Flatspace is open-ended and full of variety, which should please fans of games like Nethack.
The 3D models are simplistic, keeping in the spirit of the flatness of Flatspace. I did like the different and unique looking ship designs, especially some of the pirate ships which turned and spinned gracefully. There is a lot of variety and special effects like the explosions that occur when a major structure is taken out can be amazing to watch.
There are a number of musical tracks provided with this game that really set the mood. The sound effects were right on, although the alarm could get annoying if you don't turn it off right away.
Game Play: 9
I really enjoyed the openness of this game. You could choose to go through it any number of ways, so there is plenty of replay value.
There is the Graveyard to keep track of your best scores, as well as standard video and sound options. You can configure the multiple controls as you like, which is really nice.
Unfortunately, some people might get turned off by the use of key codes in order to play the full version. You get three licenses, so you can put the game on your main desktop, bring a copy on your laptop, and have a third in case one of them fail. After the third, however, you have to reregister the game, but I don't know how many people would be willing to do so.
Having a huge game like this with everything being dynamic and having it all come out as nicely as it did is amazing. What would have made it nicer is some kind of story mode, but with what Flatspace already provides, you can still expect to see a lot of interesting things happening in the game.
If you enjoy simulations and real time combat, Flatspace should keep you entertained for quite some time.
With the huge world, incredibly dynamic AI, and sheer number of things to do, Flatspace should provide plenty of hours of diversion.
Added: April 29th 2004
Reviewer: Gianfranco Berardi
Related Link: Flatspace Homepage
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