ALIEN LEGACY by Dynamix/Sierra On-Line

Reviewed by Philip Chiu

              Computer        Graphics         Memory        Disk Space
Minimum:      386/20sx          VGA           570K min          22MB

Control: Keyboard, Microsoft compatible mouse recommended
  Sound: Adlib, Adlib Gold, Soundblaster, SB Pro, Roland

Notes: It is best to work from a boot disk as this game is memory
       intensive. Unlike previous Sierra boot disk programs, you will need
       to customize it yourself to fit your own system.

Reviewed Version:  1.00.  Game reviewed on 486 DX2 66, 16 MB ram,  ATI
                   Ultra VGA plus, Logitech mouse, NEC 3 FGx monitor, 
                   PAS 16 Sound Blaster compatible card, MS DOS 6.0

Reviewer recommends:  486 25 Mhz VGA system, Soundblaster or SB compatible
                      card, and Smartdrive with 512K buffer.

It is the 22nd century and Earth is embroiled in a deadly interstellar war with an alien race called Centaurians. The war is going badly for the Earth forces and the United Nations has decided to launch colony ships to other star systems in hopes of avoiding the total destruction of the human race. You are captain of the UNS Calypso en route to Beta Caeti star system. You have enough supplies and materials on board to begin building a new world for humanity. However, surviving in an alien system is not the only problem you must deal with as captain. After you wake up from cryogenic sleep, you discover that another colony ship was sent to Beta Caeti and had established a base there but now all contact has been lost. Could it have been caused by natural disasters, mechanical failures, or even by an alien race?

Being such an avid fan of games dealing with space exploration and discoveries such as STARFLIGHT and STAR CONTROL II, I was eager to install and play this game. Since ALIEN LEGACY was designed by Joe Ybrra, the creator of STARFLIGHT and YSERBIUS, I knew that it had to be of certain good quality. I was not disappointed. Despite only being able to explore a single star system, the mechanics and story line of the game can provide countless hours of fun and excitement. Although the replayability is limited, one game play is enough to satisfy even the hard core gamer.

You begin the game in orbiting Gaea, one of the more pleasant planets in the solar system. Finding habitable planets is not a prime requisite as you have the materials to build self sufficient colonies any world but colonizing habitable worlds will provide certain clues and/or needed materials not found on other planets.

The game is a combination of Sim City and Starflight. You must build facilities to house your people as well as constructing factories, power plants, research stations, etc in order for your colony to grow and expand. To be fully self-sufficient, your production of materials must exceed your consumption. Since each building/construction requires certain raw materials, you must carefully balance your resources and allow enough reserves to meet emergencies. For example, your power plant provides a certain number of power points for use but only if it has the minimum amount of people, robots, life support etc. to keep it in operation. If at any point, this minimum requirement is not met, the plant shuts down and cannot provide power. Hence, you should not expand too fast in the early stages of the game as you only have a certain amount of resources to spend. Eventually, as you explore other worlds, you can establish a supply line linking resource rich worlds with resource poor worlds. As time progresses and your technology improves, you can upgrade or enhance all your facilities. Although this will increase your consumption of raw materials, the production output is also increased.

The ability also to construct space stations is a big asset and should not be overlooked even though it is expensive to maintain. Space stations can provide certain information not available anywhere else. Without giving away too much, just be advised that a player should expand as much as possible and avoid putting all the eggs in one basket so to speak. Save the game often and always be prepared for emergencies.

For those who have played STARFLIGHT, this game will bring back old memories. The methods of exploring planets is quite similar to that game with a few exceptions. Unlike STARFLIGHT, the game is played in real time and the planets actually move in an orbital path around Beta Caeli. Hence, there is no turn sequence. Another difference is that you explore sectors instead of the entire planet. As some planets may have more sectors than others due to their size, exploring one planet may take a while. The rest of the exploration game then is very similar to STARFLIGHT. While your main ship, Calypso, can be used for exploration, the main workhorse of your fleet are the shuttles.

The shuttles are very important for both exploration and defense. They are equipped with lasers as well as a cargo hold for supplies. With the exception of the Calypso, the shuttles have a very limited amount of fuel. Hence, they can be left stranded if you are not careful but they can be used for interplanetary travel. As your technology base expands, you can equip your shuttles with equipment which will make your exploration tasks easier.

The Calypso bridge crew, composed of an Engineer, Scientist, Military Advisor, Navigator, and a Robot, are always available and can provide some very helpful advice from time to time. Of course, you will need to determine if the advice is worth pursuing.

Although the graphics are not up to par with that of OUTPOST by Sierra, the VGA graphics are more than adequate for this game. Actually the graphics reminded me somewhat of DUNE and DUNE II by Virgin Games especially with respects to the bridge personnel and building graphics and I was very happy with the results.

For those who like an intriguing mystery and a knack for managing cities, this game is for you. It has enough elements to keep you busy for countless number of hours. The game is very easy to get started and after a few sessions of learning how to go about creating a self sustaining colony, the rest will fall into place. As always in all Sierra games, be sure to save often. You never know what will happen next.

Of course with every good side to a game there will always be bad sides. One of the most glaring problems is that the computer will not prompt you to let you know that some colonies are in trouble. You will have to micro- manage everything to make sure that all your colonies are producing. Stalled factories or other installations will remain unproductive until you do something about it. Hence, once you get multiple colonies underway, you will have to go back and forth making sure that each one is producing. This can get quite tiresome as there are other things which may require your immediate attention.

It would have nice to have some sort of computer control for the colonies to operate on automatic. The computer would regulate the resource production and consumption. So if a colony was running low on robots, for example, it would allocate priority production for robots in the factories.

Another problem is not being able to destroy your own ships. As stated earlier, your smaller ships have limited fuel so they can easily be stranded in space. I had about 10 ships which I couldn't get refueled and they took up space in the inventory screen. Also there are certain times where you will need to destroy some ships.

Although I have not encountered any horrendous bugs, there is one which needs to be addressed. It has to do with the option of abandoning colony sites. The game states that you must withdraw all personnel and equipment from the site before it can be dismantled. However, some sites keep producing people even though there are no more habitats and therefore the base cannot be abandoned. As with shuttles with no fuel, the colony sites take up space in the inventory screen.

Overall, the good aspects of this game far outweigh the bad. As with most Sierra games, the music is quite engaging as certain sequences come into play and the background music is low enough not to be a distraction or annoying.

While there are many paths to a satisfactory conclusion, you will lose the game automatically if the Calypso is destroyed or if certain requirements are not met as the game progresses.

The Sierra Tech Support people have been very responsive and very helpful in acknowledging the minor complaints that I had with this game. Since I believe there may be a sequel, a patch or revision may be out soon.

This review is Copyrighted (C) 1994 by Philip Chiu for Game Bytes. All Rights Reserved.