GameOver Game Reviews

Game & Publisher Descent: Freespace - Silent Threat (c) Volition Inc.
Overall Rating 92%
Date Published , ,

Divider Left By: Pseudo Nim Divider Right

In the gaming history, numerous are examples of spin-off games based on a popular series. More so, usually these spinoffs are somewhat, to put it mildly, worse than their predecessors. Take the Command and Conquers. There too many of them, but which ones are truly good? In my view, the original, as well as Red Alert. All the addons, i.e. Aftermath, Red Alert Strikes Back, The Return of Red Alert, How The Red Alert Can Be Used To Prevent Multiple Sclerosis Syndrome, as well as others - they're just plain annoying. What about Wing Commander? It's the most respected series of games in my list, and yet there was WC: Academy and WC: Armada. Armada was actually not too bad, considering it had - *gasp* - multiplayer, but that was much too ahead of its time. Academy was just a waste of time, it wasn't even fun. In any case, to sum up that really long intro that sort of got out of hand, one of the better spinoffs that I know, one that actually is better than that off which it's spun, is Descent: Freespace. And this time around, Descent: Freespace: Silent Threat (I could never get the punctuation right in that name. I don't think Volition could, either - I have a strong feeling I saw it written at least in two different ways on their site. Not even talking about the smaller magazines.)

The action in Silent Threat is set abot fourteen years after the start of the Great War. As you know (or as you don't know), at the end of Descent: Freespace, the giant evil destroyer Lucifer is destroyed. It happens in the hyperspace passage to Earth though, and the result of the explosion of Lucifer's five reactors completely collapses the passage, thereby cutting off Earth from the rest of the civilized world. Universe, I should say. Or our dimension. Thing is, the Vasudans (you know, the ones who secretly sponsored the Hammer of Light but never really admitted it?) and the humans are growing restless of each other. Occasional attacks are starting to happen, and the turning moment happens when a wing of human fighters engage a Vasudan convoy, with intentions to kill. The GTI gets pretty unhappy about things like this happening without its knowledge, and your first mission is to preserve the peace treaty, which would surely be broken if the Vasudans found out about this unauthorized attack. Slight interlude: I wonder if the storywriter read anything about Stalin. I happened to be reading some history at the time when I played the game, and some very intereting parallels can be drawn... but then again, all dictatorships is similar. Stalin's had some interesting twists... but this is not a history lesson. Your orders are to warp into the system where the attack happened, and eliminate all witnesses. No, that doesn't mean the rebel humans. Well, it does, but it also means the Vasudans. I suppose the guess is no one'll miss some loser 20-ship convoy. Um, that must be it. Anyway, in the course of the mission, one of the Vasudan ships escapes. Your next mission is even more ingenious: the escaped ship has been tracked to a nearby system which is home of a Vasudan cargo depot, guarded by three destroyers and a couple of wings of fighters. Your mission is to go in and wipe out all 'witnesses'. Pretty prozaic. I'm sure no one will miss three destroyers, a load of cargo and a star system.

There'snot much I can say about what the expansion pack adds to the game, since it really isn't much other than the missions. On the other hand, D:FS had some of the nicest graphics I've ever seen in a space sim, and there's definitely not much that can be added on that account. The particle systems, the exquisitely-modeled explosions, wicked ship detail - everything rocked. Except for the ships, I'd say. I still think they were a bit bland, unimaginative - and what I really want to know, is who came up with the naming system used in the game. 'Shivans'? 'Wing Aries'? Kain? Arjuna, Krishna (from Mahabharata)? Please. If the developers were so unimaginative as to take the religious texts or myths of different cultures, take out all the neat-sounding names and use them? That's sad. Here, Origin gets all the kudos for their naming of the Kilrathi. Thrakhath, Vakhtoth, nar'Hhallas - now that's originality. Damn, they might've as well named the wings and objective as chess pieces - 'Destroy Knight', 'Capture King', 'Protect Rook'.

Apart from those complaints, there really aren't many others. I mean, Volition took a great name (although I always hated escaping those mines in Descent after you took out the reactor - I always thought it was pointless and useless) and made it even better. I don't know if the multiplayer got any better in FS:ST, I do remember trying multi in the original, though. Slow doesn't describe it. Having tried a one-on-one by modem, even though the lag meter said 500 to 700 ms, the lag was significantly higher than that - probably much over a second. The more objects, the worse - and Freespace loves particle streams and miscellaneous debris.

A note on the computer AI. I'm used to the Wing Commander-like wingman (or wingmen in the later WC's), where your wingman is like a baby - you have to protect him, he's a person, therefore indispensable, and, at times, he's pretty good cannon fodder. Imagine my surprise when I saw that you could have up to eleven wingmen in Freespace, and more - they were actually useful! Not only do they tell you when someone's on your tail, but they also attack, defend, and generally do a very good job. More so, they are skilled, so they don't die immediately, either. Impressive stuff. And, if they all die, sometimes you can even request an extra wing for backup - talk about 'at all costs'. And no one penalizes you for losing them. I suppose it's not too great in a sense, as it sort of encourages wingman loss, but on the other hand, had Volition intended them to be indispensable, it'd add an eject capsule to the ships or something.

Overall, Freespace is a great game - and Silent Threat is a great addon to this great game. Even though it brings nothing new except for missions, ships and weapons, that's really not needed - the sound is there, the music is there, all that's needed is some good old-fashioned kickbutt action.

Highs: great graphics, gameplay, AI, ship customization options, challenging missions

Lows: storyline must've been found in a dumpster by a trailer park refugee and accepted without any editing; high detail level requires a monster of a machine; multiplayer is really lagged, lest you belong to the class of high-bandwidth-blessed mortals.

Graphics: 20/20
Sound: 13/15
Gameplay: 28/30
Fun Factor: 18/20
Multiplayer: 3/5
Overall: 10/10


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