Weekly Wire
Austin Chronicle Scanlines Sidebar: SSI's Dark Colony

DECEMBER 15, 1997:  Timing. SSI, known primarily for war simulation games, is in good position to capitalize on the hoopla surrounding Sojourner by offering you the chance not just to explore Mars but to take control of it. In Dark Colony, which is, given the bulk of other SSI products, somewhat surprisingly a real-time game, Earthlings have landed on the planet and begun establishing colonies. As luck would have it, some intergalactic wanderers, called Taar, have just showed up and they want the red rock as well, but they want it because, somehow, controlling Mars is the key to controlling the Earth, which is what the Taar really want. It seems a little unnecessary to stage a war for Earth on Mars, but the game scenario is just an excuse to kill things (you can play as either the humans or the aliens). And call me old-fashioned, but I always thought the fun of killing things was that you actually got to kill them. In Dark Colony you don't. Your units automatically engage the enemy when they get within range, so really all you do is move a monitor. You send your troops next to the enemy's and you watch them fight. It's pretty antiseptic. There is no quenching of that bloodthirst instinct to take high-tech weaponry and brutally assault another living being. It just happens automatically. Again, the game is in real-time and the enemy upgrades pretty rapidly, forcing you to do so as well, so conquering the planet is pretty tough. As it ought to be, because let's face it, if dominating other planets were easy, everyone would do it, right? Dark Colony scores points for the challenge, but it loses big by providing that vicarious thrill of the kill. - Michael Bertin

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