Rules of Engagement. (computer game) (Evaluation)
by Scott May
A strategic game of extraordinary breadth and challenge, Rules of Engagement makes good on its promise to redefine the art of science fiction role-playing. Set in the year 2374, the game casts you as fleet commander in the Federated Worlds Armed Forces. Your tour of duty coincides with an era of great turmoil in the universe. Deep space exploration continues to uncover new alien life forms, many of which are openly hostile. Rebellion in the outer worlds presents increased diplomatic and military complications. The most harrowing news, however, has just arrived: The United Democratic Planets (UDP) have declared war on the Federal Worlds.
Your objective in the game is simply to advance your character through 11 levels in rank, from lowly ensign to mightly fleet admiral. You accomplish this goal with the successful completion of individual missions, earning points based on a number of performance criteria. Although higher rank has its privileges--including larger, faster ships--it also means more complex and dangerous assignments.
Commanders issue orders through a series of primary control panels: Navigation, Communications, Tactical, Deployment, and Data Retrieval. In addition, each primary menu hosts a series of submenus, many of which are interconnected. The entire system fills more than a half-dozen screens, packed to the last pixel with buttons, dials, gauges, and interactive displays. The result is an eye-popping array that's both aesthetically appealing and slightly intimidating.
Fortunately, several of the game's opening scenarios build confidence as well as character. The 212-page manual, penned by codesigners Thomas Carbone and Maurice Molyneaux, reads as a masterwork of clarity considering the magnitude of its subject.
The action unfolds in real-time, instilling a rare sense of urgency for a game strategic in nature. Despite the cold, calculated menus and often faceless commands, the game evokes intense emotions. As the tides of war shift and responsibilities increase, players run the gamut of exhilaration, fear, and frustration.
Sensational on its own, Rules of Engagement takes on renewed vigor when joined by Mindcraft/Omnitrend's Breach 2 ($29.95) via the company's unique Interlocking Game System (IGS). During ship boardings and planetary commando raids, gameplay automatically shifts to Breach 2 tactical combat. Although only 6 of the 21 scenarios offer IGS compatibility, both titles have mission builders capable of utilizing this exciting new feature. Omnitrend also promises to support IGS with upcoming products and supplemental mission disks.
Sound effects are sparse but well placed and appropriately atmospheric. Likewise, the graphics are strictly functional. How ironic that a game boasting so many innovations should resign itself to chunky, garish EGA graphics! Omnitrend would do well to invest in VGA technology.
Intelligent and original, Rules of Engagement pens a bold new chapter in the future of role-playing games. Commit yourself to a lifelong mission today.