by Wencke Schuncken
author awarded score: 75/100

SunAge Review
Published By: Lighthouse Interactive
Developed By: Vertex4
Format Reviewed: PC
Reviewed By: Wencke Schuncken

The whole purpose of getting review copies is obviously to inform and attract the attention of gamers by publishing an article or review. Of course publishers want to promote their game as much and as soon as possible after the game officially has been released. But sometimes a website cannot live up the publisher’s expectations. Not just because the game isn’t as promising as we thought and give it bad ranking but also because it takes too long before a review is published. This SunAge review definitely should have been published “a long time” ago but we do have some strong negative and positive arguments regarding the delay.

Let’s start with the main reason of the delay, which unfortunately is also the negative one. When the game got published, not only the reviewers but also many gamers all over the world were thrilled to play SunAge, an old-skool RealTimeStrategy game (RTS). After all it took the developers eleven years to finish this game and thanks to Lighthouse Interactive to get it out on the market. It took so long as Vertex4 (the developer’s company) is a small company which certainly doesn’t have the budget and the people to test the game and detect every little bug. With the release of SunAge, the gamers started to notice and detecting problems and started to complain, of course. What’s the use of buying a game when it doesn’t work properly? Big companies like EA have many game testers and still have to release patches to resolve game issues, right after a game has been released. Vertex4 listened to the complaints and also started to work with its team around the clock to resolve the issues and make us gamers happy again, as we were when we received the game in the first place. Two patches already have been released and resolved a lot of complaints and made improvements. While writing this review, I’m pretty sure that they’re still working to meet the demands of us gamers. Not just for bug issues but also to improve the game in total with new extra controlling features and difficulty levels.

If I would have reviewed this game without giving Vertex4 the chance to solve the problems, this would have turned out to be one of the worst rated reviews. But SunAge has that special grip on me, and I simply couldn’t break it down just because of issues which would be resolved anyway. Understand that even with bugs included, I still couldn’t let it go and started the game over and over again, trying to accomplish a mission. It’s addictive even when you’re not only fighting against enemies in the game itself but also “fighting” against the scripting bugs. See the positive aspects coming now? Yes, let the trouble behind and focus on the game itself because it truly has many positive factors! "Oh Yeah!"

The overall story is when the earth is teetering on the brink of extinction and Human Federals and mutant Raak-Zun battle for control of its dwindling resources. Then, into this savage conflict steps the mysterious Sentinel in, exploiting superior technology that opens gateways to an alien and resource-rich planet. An epic clash is set to unfold, and along with it the mystery of a sinister creature that lurks at the very heart of their troubles.

The singleplayer campaign mode is divided in three big chapters with lots of varied objectives to achieve. It all starts with the Federal Campaign when taking over the role as Ethan, a rookie commander tasked with protecting mankind’s final bastion, the dome. It is threatened by the Raak-Zun, a network of tribal mutants that populate the wasteland and many confrontations will occur whether you’re prepared or not. As in any RTS game you’ll need to construct buildings, connect power supplies, order units such as soldiers and don’t forget to upgrade all of them as soon as you’ve finished researching them! One of the most important features is of course the income of resources. Without these, it’s game over as nothing can be created and the enemy will torn the remains down and when they finally get hold of Ethan, the campaign needs a re-start. When completing the nine main objectives in the Federal Campaign, it’s time to switch sides and taking over the role of Madok, a battle-hardened and bad looking Slavemaster whose Raak-Zun tribe controls the land that borders the Federal dome. Not only is gaining control of most of the wasteland a priority but also the release of Madok’s brother by the all-powerful Oracle. Between you and me, it seems that his brother is a prophetic figure capable of dividing tribes and herald the transformation of Raak, their god. When all the campaigns are successfully completed, the last campaign is unlocked; the Sentinel Campaign. As you play the Symbiont, a prototype field commander who can upgrade the tactical performance of robotic drones against the Federal and Raak-Zun opponents. Even when being captured and assimilated, Symbiont’s battlefield performance increases and the robotic drones ruthlessly carry out objectives.

Sunage players need to play with a tactical strategy in order to complete all of the campaigns. And no, it’s not always the same strategy of building a base with a huge unbeatable army. It requires a whole lot more. Even with a small army you can accomplish a lot while working on upgrades, having excellent resource / power facilities and defence methods. And even with creating a big army, it can turn out that the ones created are very weak against certain enemies and other unit squads have to be produced which involves not only resources but also time! It may take a while before understanding which units are most suitable for certain types of enemy. But that’s okay, you can either have luck or learn it the hard way by losing units in battle. The good thing I quickly learned was that units could heal themselves while standing still and drawing back your troops doesn't have to be a coward’s act but could be a tactical one to keep your squad operational. Unfortunately this auto-heal does not apply for the more robotic and material units such as tanks.

Power networking isn’t about meeting other races and bundle strengths. Especially not in this game, but I’m referring to power supply connectivity. While building a base / headquarter, it’s necessary that each building is connected to a power supply by building transmitters connected to the main complex tower. When discovering one of the four different resources, but it’s too far away from your base, you need to build a mole to retrieve the energy. Again without the power network, it’s just a useless building. When the power chain between the complex tower is destroyed, thanks to the enemy, the buildings no longer can be operational. Therefore it’s important to create a good defence mechanism, either by units or by building (flak) canons. Build, protect, maintain!

The controlling is mainly done by mouse clicking but it’s not as easy as you may think, ok clicking can be done by a two-year old but targeting clicking is a whole other story. Each unit has a certain range in which it can aim and shoot at enemies (visualised in a light blue circle). When the enemy is out of range you either lock it and wait till it’s in the range or move your units towards the enemy, which isn’t a good idea when the location is still hidden in shadow and don’t want to be surprised by even more enemies behind your first target. By grouping the same type of units, the range will not increase, but makes your squad stronger especially by adding a commander / leader to it. Changing squads like splitting them up, defining the formation or movement easily can be controlled by the mouse clicks. Not all controlling methods are taught in game though, and it’s highly recommended to read the manual, perhaps even before you actually start playing the game!

From a female point of view we can state that there are indeed female characters participating with special assigned roles. Lex for example is an important scientist who sometimes appears alongside Ethan during missions, sharing her discoveries with him. She’s a tough and intelligent personality but cautions about divulging research which often proves critical to the campaigns. Oracle is the second female character that comes into play. She’s the voice of Raak, a god-like entity whose will unifies and informs the Raak-Zun tribes. According to the ritual, the Oracle was picked as a young girl and merged with the Raak’s body and can interpret its will. She feels and fears that an ancient prophecy is coming true and that Raak and its tribes soon will undergo an apocalyptic severance. Besides these two female characters, there’s a female touch during the whole game thanks to the musical contribution of Austrian DJ Angina P. With tribal, uplifting and adventurous sounds she truly knows how to combine well composed music with the game’s atmosphere.

The saying of love – hate relationship isn’t appropriate to define my SunAge experience as I never hated it, even when the game collapsed in front of my eyes thanks to a bug and I had to start over again. A better comparison is perhaps to compare it with the weather and the sun is shining more and more, pointing out to the creating of patches to reduce bugs and making overall improvements by the vertex4 team. I had a blast playing this old-skool RTS game and even found it more enjoyable than the lately released Age of Empires or even the Settlers! It’s the story, the challenging campaigns with varied objectives / strategies, the easy controlling, the graphics with good accompanied music and sound effects that will inspire every RTS-gamer to achieve the very best not only from her- or himself but also from the units on the battleground. "Acknowledged!"