Universe at War isn’t your usual strategy game and, in a time when most RTS games are re-running historic wars or attempting pseudo-realism, Universe at War comes across as a breath of fresh air.
This isn’t a game that takes itself too seriously. It doesn’t have extensive biographies on the true-to-life generals you command. It doesn’t have intensely complex micro-management or resource gathering systems. What it does have is giant robots and zombie cows, which is exactly what the RTS genre needs at a time like this.
Plus, with a development team who’ve worked on both Command and Conquer and Dune II, you can be reasonably sure that it’s going to play pretty good too.
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War of the Worlds
Universe at War doesn’t mess around or play nice and players are immediately shoved into the thick of the story, forced to pick up the game mechanics and backstory as they play. Thankfully, we’re a little bit nicer at bit-tech so we’ll explain the story nice and easy.
As the game opens, players are controlling a minigun-toting Sergeant who is tasked with leading a small band of marines through an inexplicably ruined Washington DC. The President is in the White House and is badly injured – it’s up to you to get him to safety! As players make their way through the city it quickly becomes apparent why the city is in ruins.
It’s a full scale alien invasion and armies all over the world are falling before an unstoppable army of technologically superior forces. The aliens in question are called The Hierarchy, a race similar to The Combine of Half-Life 2 in that they advance from world to world, devouring resources and enslaving whole populations almost as a pastime.
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By the end of the second mission in the prelude though, it’s clear that the humans don’t stand a chance against The Hierarchy and that humanity faces destruction. Thankfully, a miracle happens and a race of sentient robots appear on the scene; the Novus. The Novus are a mortal enemy of The Hierarchy and quickly start to ally themselves with the humans and face down the baddies together.
The Novus aren’t the only anti-Hierarchy aliens about though and a third race called the Masari quickly pops its head up to round things out – The Hierarchy are the generic unit-corrupting bad guys, the Novus are the cold, logical robots all decked out in iPod white and the Masari are the obligatory magic wielders.
In fact, the Masari make quite a dramatic entrance from beneath the oceans and it’s slowly revealed that they once ruled the city of Atlantis until it disappeared under the waves. In fact the Masari, who can warp reality and harness different types of energy effortlessly, are responsible for the whole situation since they created The Hierarchy aeons ago and then fled to Earth when they realised their mistake.