Starship Troopers: Terran Command Review

Thanks to the folks at publisher Slitherine, I’ve been checking out the new RTS from the Artistocrats, Starship Troopers: Terran Command. As usual you can find our full video review here, as well as an extended written review and parent’s guide. We’ll take a look at the content in the title, accessibility and the typical graphics, narrative, audio, replay and overall value.

The Basics

I’ve been a huge fan of the 1997 Starship Troopers film since it released, and most will know of my passion for tactical RTS titles. I’ve been overly excited about this title since I first heard about it, and I have been very glad to find out that it hasn’t let me down.

In Starship Troopers: Terran Command you take control of the Mobile Infantry, beginning with Starship Troopers’ own Kobayashi Maru – the Battle of Klendathu. Players’ first touch with the title will be getting to grips with the very basics of management in this hostile situation, with a very “light touch” (and that’s being generous) tutorial.

Following this, the majority of Terran Command takes you onto and under the surface of the planet Kwalasha. Here, players will spend their time liberating mining operations, rescuing workers and generally operating as the state’s capitalist protection arm, as should be expected by anybody who has been paying attention.

The Mobile Infantry – service guarantees citizenship

There is some resource management in the title, and players will need to spend supplies and war support to build and fortify basic bases and drop in troops. The focus of the title, however, does seem to be on the “mobile” part of the Mobile Infantry, and base building does seem to play a background part.

This isn’t something that I’ve found disappointing, as the limited number of troops provides a significant requirement for strategic thinking. With only a small number of troop units available in each map, you’ll need to ensure you’re selecting the right troops, buildings and defences when spending limited funds. In contrast, the arachnid menace seems to have no end to their numbers. Rather than detracting from the title, the focus on troop management and restrictions on numbers actually make it feel much closer to the narrative of the film, with the “against all odds” nature of the Mobile Infantry’s goals.

Troops and Mechanics

While the total number of units you’ll use in each map is relatively small, the variety to choose from seems to just keep growing without end. There are dozens of unit types and upgrades available, as well as the option to add different specialisations for units after they kill bugs and progress to Elite status.

Because of this, the aim of the game is to keep units operational, by dropping in reinforcements. Again, this burn of troops only to bring in more reinforcements seems to really echo the ‘97 movie’s depiction of the disposable nature of the Mobile Infantry troops.

Not only choosing the right troops, positioning is vital if you are to stand any chance at all against the Arachnid menace

Each unit type has unique features which require even more tactical thinking within battlefield placement. While the riflemen are the backbone of the Mobile Infantry, combat engineers’ flamethrowers make them perfect for choke points, with officers providing leadership and bonuses from the rear.

Snipers’ long range efforts should be contained to elevated positions, allowing them to shoot accurately over the heads of your troops. Line of sight also plays a huge part, with specific mechanics in place here as well. Rather than the click-drag-click in other RTS titles – sending in large numbers of troops to simply attack one enemy – placement in Terran Command is significantly important. Troops cannot fire while moving, and must also retain line of sight to provide an effective force.

This means that if one troop is moving or stationed between your army and the enemy, your teams will not be able to fire. This is one of my favourite features in the title, and leads to some great strategic gameplay, positioning and movement of troops.

while roughly the same desert styling for the most part, the title does vary up the locations from mission to mission

Parent’s Guide

Rating: Mostly Harmless Starship Troopers: Terran Command doesn’t come with ESRB ratings or PEGI ratings which I’ve found, and while the title does focus on warfare it’s certainly not the worst I’ve seen. The less appropriate parts feature the moans of dying troops, and the ichor or bug blood or the arachnids you kill. Overall the Pixel Bandits’ rating for this one is Mostly Harmless and if anything it’s likely that younger gamers simply won’t enjoy the slow mechanics rather than having a problem with the content.

Accessibility

Rating: Low Barrier. There are some new mechanics in here and they’re not all explained in what I would call good time at the beginning of gameplay. While there is a fair amount to learn, once you do things become second nature and the compartmentalised battles and a good autosave make it easy to drop in and out.

The Run Down

Visuals – Good: I’ve no huge complaints about the visuals in game, other than unit animations which can break the fourth wall a little when you get up close. Other than that things look pretty good, and the title manages to keep a very “starship troopers” aesthetic for those who enjoy the 25 year old film.

Audio – Good: A good show here for audio, and the voice narration works well throughout the title. The moans and call outs from troops are nice at first, with lots of movie references, but can get a little repetitive. The soundtrack itself and effects sounds are outstanding and overall audio is only hampered by the repetitive nature of the troop calls when giving orders

Narrative – Good: Starship Troopers: Terran Command provides a new narrative, which hints at just enough of the nineties movie to keep nostalgia magnets like me happy. Each mission has some nice, if light, narrative around it, but it should be noted that much of the overall theme is simply “die bug die”, though that’s likely an homage to the movie itself.

Replay – Good: I do really enjoy replaying the levels in this one, experimenting with different starting points and different troops to see what’s most effective. It must be said that a multiplayer PvP or Co-op mode would have been absolutely epic and it’s a shame not to see one, but there are still reasons to drop back in.

The Verdict

Overall the Pixel Bandits I’m from Buenos Aires and I say kill em all Level for Starship Troopers: Terran Command is a Good 3/4. While there could have been some elements such as multiplayer and a little more base building freedom that raised this to outstanding, it’s still a title I have really enjoyed. Terran Command provides just enough nostalgia but spoons in more story and some excellent mechanics.

It would have been easy to simply lean on the franchise name, so it’s good to see that the developers at Aristocrats have looked to really make this one their own, and they’ve certainly succeeded. Line of sight mechanics might be my favourite function in any RTS to date and if you’re looking for a new strategic challenge, I’d say this is one for you.

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