Domination is a turn-based strategy game set in a war-torn futuristic galaxy where two factions, the Free Nations Union and the Phantom League, battle for supremacy. Domination is actually the third title in a running series of Massive Assault games and is not much better than the last two.
There are some redeemable features in Domination, however. For example, the controls are easy to figure out, and the interface is user friendly. Where units can move and shoot is very clearly defined for each when they are selected. The game also offers useful tips, in that it will inform the player if they have left a unit unmoved when they end their turn and allow him/her to move it if they wish. Every unit can move a set number of “spaces” and – excluding a small number of units – can only fire once per turn. All units have a small dotted line above them that indicates how many hits they can take. In this game, killing becomes almost a science as the player figures how many +2 damage shots it will take to down an enemy. You would think that with so many options added to aid the gamer surely they’d have decent training missions. In that assumption, you would be mistaken. Oh, they have training missions, but they are simplistic, boring, and teach you little about the finer points of the game.
Tactics become very important even in the early stages of the game. That said, the game A.I. is brutal. Even on normal settings it is likely that you’ll have to replay a mission several times before finally winning. The A.I. can be turned down however, and until a firm grip on the finesse of Massive Assault strategy is gained, I recommend lowering it. Somewhat like a chess board, units can only be moved onto certain places on the map, and they cannot pass through other units, ally or enemy. This makes bottle-necking an absolutely ideal tactic, because if the enemy cannot get more than one unit at a time in firing range, then they can be torn to ribbons with ease. The war effort, however, is funded through the capturing and defending of territories. Throughout the missions there are numerous territories, often with some of the oddest names to ever be seen. Some of these are neutral, some are allies, and others are enemies. In an interesting touch, when a country is invaded, that is, when an enemy unit crosses its boarders, the local militia will scramble and surround the attackers. Also, they will ally themselves with the invading army’s opposition, making takeovers very difficult.
Bottle-necking is not always possible though, as there are units that have ranges that far surpass that of normal units. And that brings us into an entirely different topic, unit diversity. Aside from a few uniques on each side, both the armies of the FNU and the PL are only cosmetically different. While this forces more responsibility on the player to depend on strategy rather than unit strength, it still feels like the developers took the cheap way out.
Now, graphically speaking, the game looks pretty – until things begin moving. Then the animations become choppy and somewhat annoying. Again, the rendering looks nice, but the animations are pretty low quality. The player is given complete camera control and can observe the “action” from most any angle they desire, which is good, seeing as how trees and other such obstructions can often block the view of friendlies and hostiles alike from above. Often, combat errors can occur from not being able to see an enemy that is sitting behind a copse of foliage. Movement looks rather bad, shooting effects and explosions are fairly poor, but landscape and water are rendered nicely. Go figure. I can just imagine the developers saying, “Nah, don’t worry about units, just make the water look pretty!”
And that brings us to sound. Oh, and the sound in this game. It’s terrible. It almost sounds like they had someone come in and make explosion noises into a microphone. Laser and gunfire effects sound like they were ripped from an old Star Trek movie. Missile and rocket fire sound equally weak and un-realistic. On a positive note, the voice acting is slightly better than the sound, which really isn’t saying much. Though not as bad, the acting is still pretty terrible. All voicing is done in a different language. I believe it is German, but I’m not certain. Practically no emotion can be read in the foreign voices, so little can be gained by listening to them. Written dialogue is in English, but it is fairly obvious that some program was used to directly translate it. (Either that or they didn’t figure they needed to rely on someone who actually knew how to speak English to translate the dialogue.) Some lines were so off the wall that I didn’t even understand what they meant. Fortunately, most of the dialogue can be skipped altogether, and thank the Lord for that. As I was forced to listen to foreign gibberish whilst reading depressingly annoying text, I felt the grasping fingers of madness clutching at my consciousness. And as for music, what little there is is unremarkable and generic.
Characters are forgettable, which is a shame, because a lot of personality could have been in them. In the campaigns the player plays the part of either side’s protagonist. If you remember their names, I’ll be very impressed.
And finally there’s the price. $40 is the price tag on this game. I wouldn’t pay $15 dollars for it. Domination won’t take long to find its way to the bargain bin, I’m afraid. The half-decent and fairly challenging gameplay is offset by shoddy graphics, horrible sound, poor voice acting, and shallow character design. Much more could, and should have been done with Domination. However, I fear that, except for die hard fanboys and board game fanatics, the turn-based genre is dying, giving way to its hybridized kin.