As the game industry becomes flooded with more and more of the same, reviewers and fans alike strive to uncover that hidden gem that sets out to be truly innovative. While innovation is a word that’s used in almost every review, it is a small few games that actually accomplish the feat. When evaluating a game, we must be careful as to not mistake a gimmick for something that is truly new and different. Even when a title manages to break the mold and dares to reach for something new, it is rarer still that it is something that makes a game worthwhile. The latest game to try and buck the trend is Russian developer 1C’s real time strategy title, Perimeter. Perimeter attempts to bring something new and unique to the very old and very tired real time strategy genre, and manages to do just that.
Perimeter is set in the distant future where humanity finds itself traveling across space and time through different dimensions aboard vessels called frames (which are essentially floating cities). Their purpose: to find a new home world that they can safely colonize and start life a new. On their perilous journey, they are confronted and continually harassed by an alien entity known as the Scourge. It is the Scourge that serves as the main antagonists in the games convoluted and confusing plotline. The Scourge is described during the games introduction as some sort of physical manifestation brought forth from mankind’s own fears. Psychobabble or not, the plot, just like the gameplay in Perimeter, is something different.
Perimeter gets its name from the games single most effective weapon, and the device that is the focal point of each mission. Known simply as your perimeter, it is a large force field that can be raised and lowered at will providing you have horded away enough energy, and will destroy any enemy entity that comes in contact with it. In order to make a successful perimeter you are required to construct energy and power cores which provide your frame with an outlined area that determines the perimeters shape and allows it to function. Because energy is the games only resource, it is imperative that the player be judicious with their usage of the perimeter. If it is lazily left engaged, a frame’s power is drained leaving it unable to produce more units and in turn leaving it vulnerable to attack. Creating the various structures that make up the base is not as simple as clicking on an empty plot of land like in every other RTS game. In order to create the buildings that manufacture the games units, a piece of land large enough to hold the structure must first be terraformed. This is the process of razing the landscape to the ground creating a smooth even surface. If you’re having trouble visualizing it, just think of the land shaping tool from Sim City fame. This coupled with the use of the perimeter, open up the game to a variety of strategic possibilities. This is the crux of Perimeter’s gameplay. It is far more effective to construct a sound base with adequate defensive and offensive capabilities than it is “zerg,” or overwhelm your enemy with force.
While the emphasis is on base building, Perimeter is not without its offensive units. Another unique feature to an already unique experience is the ability to morph singular units when grouped together into different, more powerful ones. This forces the player to adapt and mutate his own units depending on the type of attack he is confronted with. Again, this adds another layer of strategy that must be applied during each mission. It is safe to say that Perimeter is the “thinking man’s” RTS game.
When engaging the Scourge the perimeter is almost all that is needed to successfully defend your frame. These instances when you must either survive or eradicate a force of Scourge are the low points in the action. The Scourge’s AI consists simply of throwing wave after wave of enemy at your perimeter and frame on suicide missions in an attempt to destroy them. Perimeter really shines against the other human factions when the aforementioned strategic maneuvers come into play. In order to accomplish a particular mission’s goals, you must coordinate and plan your attack or defense and be ready to adapt and change at a moment’s notice depending on the type of threat that is encountered. While one type of unit is designed to counter another, when approaching Perimeter it is more important to build an intelligent base and strategic series of power cores than it is to have the most numerous and powerful units. However, many missions do tend to become bogged down into a war of attrition when both sides manage to stage a staunch defense.
Perimeter is a good looking game that goes above and beyond the detail and flash found in most other RTS titles. While not spectacular, the effects do a very good job creating a believable environment on a far away world. What is most impressive is the terraforming effect and the landscapes which it is used upon. The alien geological settings are quite impressive and the games graphics engine does an excellent job of showing off their details. The interface is fairly standard for a RTS, although not as polished or intuitive as it should be.
Perimeter’s sound leaves something to be desired. The ambiance is nothing commendable and the sound effects themselves can also be lacking at times. For instance, there are many occasions when units that are destroyed by the perimeter don’t have any sound effect to accompany their destruction. They simply dissolve after coming in contact with the field. During the course of the campaign one gets the feeling that this aspect of the game was neglected during production.
Perimeter doesn’t have any truly obvious faults other than the fact that those players looking for a quick skirmish and an easily accessible action fest will be quickly disappointed. Those of you looking for a traditional RTS experience have been warned. The game is not particularly exciting and certainly not bad, however even with its innovations in gameplay; Perimeter feels less than inspired and certainly not enthralling. While some may criticize the new approach that 1C has taken straying from the traditional RTS formula, they are to be commended on taking that risk. Although Perimeter can get repetitive, sluggish and matches often dissolve into a battle of attrition, it can also be a rewarding experience for those who are willing to put forth the effort to get involved in one of the most truly innovative RTS games to date.