Dominion: Storm Over Gift 3

4_1And now for something completely similar.

Dominion: Storm Over Gift 3 is Ion Storm’s first entry into the RTS market. A supposedly messianic artifact of great power rests on the surface of Gift 3 (some planet in some faraway solar system), and four major races vie for its possession. Only the smallest of landing parties may reach the ground of the planet, forcing military expeditions to construct their own bases on the surface of Gift 3.

Dominion introduces some nice elements to the real-time hoarder genre. Infantry can duck, crawl, or kneel to enhance their combat performance, and unit Commanders can accompany battlegroups for better autonomous reactions. A simple but nonetheless present officer command structure is unfortunately always automatically targeted by all computer units. Infantry is also pivotal in battles, lending firepower by sheer numbers.

A functional power supply system rewards those who strike at critical base points: entire sections of a base may be shut down when an energy umbilical is destroyed. The same umbilicals form chained power lines to remote resources, introducing some concerns for patrolling and remote fortification. It is unfortunate that these wells dry up after a while—a cue from Dark Reign would have been welcome here. Bridges for crossing bodies of water at preordained points and defense tower energy screens for barring enemy movements round out the notable advances.

All of these little details add to the gameplay, but in the end it all fails because of Dominion’s predictably formulaic mission structure. Traversing this rigid ever-increasing difficulty hierarchy is a frustrating undertaking, each success rewarding you with odds more impossible. Even on the lower levels of difficulty it’s a rough trip.

6_2And the invariable key to completing a mission is not out-thinking the computer or outfighting it, but out-exploring it. In every setting, uncovering the fogged map will dictate in which direction you must build to keep the money flowing, an element increasingly sparse for you and consistently seemingly inexhaustible for your computer opponent. Learn the map or die trying. For what it is, it works. All of the minor innovations cannot save this title from mediocrity though. Get it if you want a challenging RTS or grab something more worthwhile, like Dark Reign or StarCraft.

System Requirements: Pentium 166 Mhz, 32 MB RAM, Win95 / NT 4.0

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