If I had to describe Allegiance in one word, ambitious would
probably just about do the trick. Microsoft's Allegiance combines
elements of strategy and real-time combat into a massive
multiplayer online-only space-action game that seems to have all
it's creative juices flowing. It's a standard setting, time-consuming
experience to say the least, so grab your helmet and space boots
and hop onboard, let's see what this galaxy has to offer.
It's the year 2140 and Earth no longer exists. An asteroid, in transit
to a refining facility on the moon, strayed off course and crashed
into the Pacific Ocean, killing the bulk of the human race.
Fortunately, shortly before the cataclysm, scientists discovered an
unsual spatial anomaly, a network of wormholes - code-named
Alephs - that allows travel to the farthest stars. The survivors have
all fractured into three factions, the Iron Coalition, GigaCorp, and
The Bios, each competing for the remaining resources that are
critical for survival. So the epic battle begins?
It's important to realize that Allegiance isn't the type of game that
you just jump right into. Beginners will find themselves at a loss for
words if they happen across a veteran pilot who knows a trick or
two about space flight. Fortunately, Microsoft has included a set of
six single-player tutorial missions that you can complete before
you hope on the Zone or another Allegiance server. The tutorials
cover all the basic elements of the game and should provide
gamers with enough knowledge to get their rookie cadet career off
the ground. For those who didn't quite understand the opening
paragraph, the single player experience stops at the tutorial
missions, this is strictly an online multiplayer game. With that in
mind, you can play Allegiance over the Internet on any one
particular server, although Microsoft has conveniently set-up an
Allegiance community at MSN Gaming Zone. Free for the first 30
days and $9.95 per month thereafter, Zone members gain access to
a fourth civilization, massive arenas as well as exclusive
tournaments and events.
Allegiance supports up to six teams of between three and 15
players each. Teams select their faction and one member of
choice becomes the commander of the group. The commander is
the most unique position in that it allows one player to quarterback
the entire team's operations. The commander issues orders
(although teammates don't necessarily have to follow orders) and
takes care of the resource development and general operations.
The commander is a very important position and should not be a
rookie whose never played Allegiance before. Commander aside,
somebody on the team must become the investor as well, the
individual who gets to handle finances as well as tech
development. This individual will decide which ships to build first,
which weapons to research, and so forth.
The rest of the team members will take to the cockpit of one of 18
distinct fighter craft. There are several roles players can take on
such as a fighter pilot, turret gunner, bomber, ship captain and
base defender to name a few. Their tasks will accrue to their role,
whether it be to attack the opposition's mining plants or simply find
an opposing ship and begin their dog fight. Besides the large
number of crafts available in Allegiance, there are also 20 weapon
types to choose from.
Graphically, Allegiance is an extremely beautiful game to look at.
Environments are filled with planets, black holes, novas, asteroids
and wormholes among other objects, and each is rendered with
stunning detail. The HUD display is sleek and well implemented,
but far too much information is presented at one time. Information
about enemy craft, speeds, distances, shields, and weapons all
continuously appear on the screen. Fortunately, you can turn some
of the information off, but beginners will undoubtedly find the HUD
too confusing to understand. Sound effects include such events as
collisions, failing shields, passing capital ships and weapon fire
and each sound is relatively sharp and realistic. There's also
pre-set voice chatter that you can send back and forth although it's
nothing more than acknowledgments and taunts. Musically,
Allegiance doesn't offer much but then again, there's far too much
action going on to worry about the musical score.
Controlling the ship is relatively simple, aside from the ever-busy
HUD, and the physics engine is just as good. You won't be able to
turn your ship on a dime, but there's enough manoeuvrability to
allow pulse pounding action sequences. Players can choose to
view the game from the standard cockpit view or a third person
strategic overview that provides a full view of the combat zone in
Allegiance is a team game, so teamwork is the name of the game.
There are all sorts of gameplay modes including Deathmatch,
Property, Capture the Flag and Conquest, among others. One of
the main gripes I had with Allegiance was the length of some of
the epic battles. In fact, struggles better describes some of the
games that lasted hours and hours. Allegiance takes a certain
amount of patience sometimes, so gamers looking for a quick fix
are unlikely to find it here. Allegiance was designed for gamers
who enjoy a good amount of strategy to go along with their action.
You can expect some games to last upwards of 4-5 hours in length if
you've got squads that aren't too offensive in their tactics.
Picture your favourite space combat simulation. You're entering a
stunning 3D universe filled with other ships just itching to begin an
epic war. Now take out the AI and replace each of the ships' pilots
with real human beings from all across the Internet. There's no
scripts, no tricks that the computer doesn't realize, just human vs.
human interaction. That's what really separates Allegiance from
your average space combat title, each and every ship you come
across is piloted by another human player. It's ambitious, unique
and undoubtedly sets the standards for future multiplayer games of
its kind. For those with the patience to learn its intricacies and
metalwork, it's a gaming experience well worth exploring.