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Talonsoft made their name with the Battleground series of hex-bound, turn-based wargames. So when such a specialist company launches a CSC clone, you've got to stop and wonder why. Are they cashing in - perhaps a little late - on the huge market for this type of game, or have they in fact got something genuinely new to offer?
The game is Tribal Rage, and it's about as far from the solidly serious Battleground games as you could wish to get. In fact, it's fun all the way, without an ounce of serious simulation in it - except perhaps when it comes to the Al...
That's the bit we're all hoping is going to set Tribal Rage apart from the crowd, because Talonsoft pride themselves on their AI programming, and that's where C&C and most of its clones fall down, We've all seen troopers walking under tanks, tanks twiddling their turrets as their mates are chewed up just two dozen pixels away, and so-called 'scout units' that couldn't scout themselves out of a paper bag. Talonsoft hope they can improve on that kind of AI and give units some real brain power.
Looking at the early alpha versions of Tribal Rage on Talonsoft's huge workstations, long before anyone had thought of a name for it the game was unofficially codenamed Bikers, Boobs And Bazookas. Which says an awful lot about it. It's fun, it's aimed at network and Internet players as well as the lone gamer, and it has a distinctly Mad /Maxfeel to it. There are six different player tribes, from bikers to ex-cops (called Enforcers), trailer trash and Amazons.
All sides field several different troop types, vehicles which they can drive and use, and the usual range of buildings and defences like walls, turrets and so on. Some teams are relatively mundane -like the Enforcers - while others are much more comical, The Amazons can fly on prehistoric flying dinosaurs, and the trailer trash include grannieson rocking chairs with sawn-offs concealed under their knitting. Another good move in Tribal Rage's favour is its modular game design, which means Talonsoft can add new tribes, complete with their own weapons, buildings and vehicles at a later stage.
Tribal Rage might be a late release in the genre, but that means it includes the most popular features of games like Total Annihilation (a big hit with theTalonsoft design team) and leaves out the worst. A scenario editor is included, and there are four or more different behaviour modes for each unit (such as run away, hold, attack etc), plus grouping, waypoints and even unit experience levels. You can also customise your vehicles and even some weapons, and save particular designs. The ubiquitous police squad car, for example, can carry anything from an MG to a multiple missile launcher, and can have added armour or be fitted with better engines.
All units and vehicles travel at different speeds Over different terrain types. So as the scenarios are mainly Mad Max-style deserts, you need to make sure you design powerful vehicles adapted to move over sand. Adding armour and weapons slows down the standard chassis, of course, so careful design is needed.
Tribal Rage will be a milestone for Talonsoft, and it looks like it could give the C&C clone market a massive, much-needed shot in the arm. We'll see.
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