Reviewed by Didi Cardoso
Review Date Platform Genre Rating Production
2008-05-18 PC Strategy T (Teen) Lighthouse Interactive / Vertex4

SunAge might have been overlooked by many just because of its simple 2D isometric presentation. Yes, it is something that doesn't seem to belong in this "age" of gaming anymore, but does it make it any less playable than other RTS titles? Not a chance.

The story of SunAge takes place in a sci-fi setting, sometime in a distant future, where Earth has now become a wasteland and people live in industrial environments. You play Ethan, a member of the Federation, an organization that tries to protect the planet and their domes from the mutants of the Raak-zun clan, as well as an invasion of Sentinel alien drones that have managed to open a portal to Earth.

When you complete the main campaign while playing as Ethan, you will switch sides and step into the shoes of Madok, a Raak-zun clan leader and play their side of the story. The third and final campaign will be unlocked once you have completed all the goals with Madok, and you will be able to play as Symbiont, the field commander of the Sentinel drones.

So as you can see, the single-player campaign is separated into three chapters, each containing a series of goals specific to that faction. In the traditional RTS style, you are tasked with building and upgrading structures, connecting them to power sources and ordering your units around.

The structure and units for each faction are very distinct, as are the environments of the planets. But you don't just get a few units that can work in nearly any situation - that would be too simple. Instead, each faction has a good bunch of different units, each with its own specific strengths and weaknesses, which basically is a way of saying that there is more strategy involved that you initially think. Instead of producing a mass of each unit, you must pick and choose what's best suited for the situation and adapt your strategy and tactics to every situation.

Units have four types of armor (Synthetic, Plated, Flak, and Structural) and can do four types of damage (Explosive, Bullet, Laser and Flame), so the usual "ranged versus air, melee versus magic" type of combat strategy doesn't really apply anymore. Every now and then you will find that your armies aren't properly arranged to deal with the enemies, so you need to adjust. For example, Sentinel units have Synthetic armor, which is really weak against explosives but great against lasers, and these are also light units, which makes them tougher targets for heavy units. You are constantly trying to find the best way to deal with an enemy, even if not using the most favorable solution - because there may not really be one.

You can up your chances of better combat by researching alternative weapons for your units, which can be swapped at any time during a battle.

The one thing that it's different in SunAge - at least from the RTS experiences I've had with Warcraft and Lords of Everquest - is that your buildings must be connected to a power source in order to function. Similar to building something in SimCity and connecting it with power lines, you need to connect anything you build to other structures that already have power. You get power from your starter building, and to expand you must build power transmitters within its range. The transmiters let you have powered up floor grids further away from your settlement, allowing you to reach far away resources.

Taking down a single enemy transmitter is a good way to hinder your enemy and rendering a remote settlement unseless, since basically what you do is cut the power lines leading to it. Needless to say, you should keep your power transmitters guarded.

While it may not sport the lattest graphics, SunAge is still impressive. Every bit of the environment and the sprites themselves are rendered with a lot of detail, from the lavish greenery in the jungles of Elysium to the desolated deserts of Earth, and they are quite worth looking at.

The gameplay in SunAge is interesting and challenging, and it goes beyond building your settlement and harvesting resources to create the biggest army as soon as possible to obliterate your enemy. Plus, there are LAN and online multiplayer options, with 10 maps to play in.

Although SunAge had its good share of issues at launch (just like Dungeon Lords) last November, a series of patches, fixes and the addition of multiplayers have made it a lot more user-friendly and less frustrating by now. It's definitely worth checking out, especially if you're into sci-fi RTS.

Special thanks to Lorraine Lue and Lighthouse Interactive for providing a copy of this title.