What do you get when you combine one part third-person cover shooter, one part point and click adventure mixed with a sci-fi mystery and topped with high quality pre-rendered graphics? You get the story driven adventure game Colonies: NeoCiv. This XBLIG sports some of the most impressive 3D visuals that you can find on the service and some rather lofty goals for overall gameplay, but does it live up to the screenshots?
Yes and no. For the most part Colonies: NeoCiv manages to give the customer what it claims to be selling; the game does have a honest attempt at a narrative (with some solid world building done in the introduction), and the visuals gleamed in the screenshots and trailers do represent (mostly) what you see when playing the game. The story centers on a world where at least one colony has completely overhauled how things work, allowing people the opportunity to only work where their passions lie. A rival colony doesn’t seem to appreciate this and seeks to make slaves of them all; which will totally just mess up your Saturday afternoon. You must work to unravel their plot and save the colony.
Apparently you must do this by filling out a TPS report.
No really, the big quest of Colonies: NeoCiv involves filling out a TPS report.
That isn’t to really make fun of the game, though it is somewhat humorous to think about. Colonies: NeoCiv, like most good sci-fi, points and quietly mocks numerous bits of the real world in how it goes about things. Judging from this XBLIG, I would say that Guy Galer, the developer behind Twist-ed Games has spent some time in a cubical. In this effect the game does have some pretty funny moments, funny in their ridiculous nature sort of way, while pointing out the many redundancies of the modern corporate world. Plus there are lasers.
As for the rest of the actual game; it looks and sounds great. The voice acting in Colonies: NeoCiv may finally knock Clover: A Curious Tale out of my top spot in terms of quality. The score is also fantastic, and composer Milosz Jeziorski deserves a shot out for it. Not only does it capture the mood perfectly, it is just really freaking good (sometimes it isn’t worth it to make the words all fancyfied). Visually the game is well above average, and significantly above any other truly 3D XBLIG I’ve encountered. This is largely done by using pre-rendered visuals and even in combat there isn’t much character action, but the sets and pre-rendered cinematics looks great. Though to an extent the quantifying phrase, “looks great for an XBLIG” is needed; as much of the visuals look like they were made in a program called Poser, which I actually learned how to use in high school, and often looks a little too “polished” to me. But don’t let me short-sell it, this game looks good. Also, as is to be expected, the lead female is scantly clad and of course taking a shower mid game restores health; so there’s that.
Unfortunately the gameplay isn’t nearly as pretty as the actual game. The point and click part of the game is pretty standard for the genre and won’t really wow you if you aren’t already a big fan. To an extent the missions and goals are a little lack-luster as well, but interesting enough to keep you going. The combat is primarily done in a third person cover based style and while it is a nice break up of the typical monotony of a point and click game, it is also the weakest aspect of the gameplay. Combat mostly consist of aiming a recital with the right stick and moving left to right with the left stick while firing like a mad man. Occasionally you can also take cover behind objects that typically break away pretty quickly. The left trigger powers a battery for your shield, which keeps you alive. The result, especially early on when you can’t really maneuver much, is a bit sloppy. Taking cover is always a little hit or miss and when facing multiple enemies your shield lowers so quickly you blow through your batteries rather fast. It isn’t “bad” so much as it just feels like an after thought that wasn’t explored as much as it could have been development wise.
Ultimately, Colonies: NeoCiv is a fantastic looking game that decides to do something different with the point and click genre by throwing in some third person combat as well. The idea is actually great, as it certainly inserts some life into a genre that can be a little dull, but it just isn’t quite there yet. A little more time and refinement into the combat sequences and a bit more depth to the point and click aspects of the game (such as allowing gamers to browse the environment at a closer view) would take the game to a whole new level. There is hope that this will happen in the future as Colonies: NeoCiv ends rather abruptly with a “To Be Continued…” obviously showing the intent to extend the series beyond just this single episode. Without the top notch visuals, voice acting and music score I would be inclined to rate this game a little lower, but as it stands it still garners a respectable score and it stands as a great example of how an XBLIG can look great, as well as a great example of how an indie game can try something a little different. Kudos Twist-ed Games for going the extra step.
Final Rating: 7.8/10
CBR Break Down:
Console Played On: Xbox 360
Time to completion: An hour to an hour and a half, approximately.
Gamer Score Earned: N/A
Price Bought at: N/A – Copy furnished by Twist-ed Games
Current Price: 240 Microsoft Points ($3)
Recommend Purchase Price: Could get cheaper but I wouldn’t expect it
Why you should buy it: Looks and sounds better than probably any other XBLIG out there.
Why you shouldn’t buy it: Big breasted lead female characters make you feel “funny.”