Xenocracy is a space shooter in the same vein as Wing Commander or X-Wing, and if you’d judge only by its lavishly detailed computer-generated intro, it’s somewhat of a masterpiece. Two modes are presented – arcade and simulation – and both have an effect on not just the flight mechanics, but also the way you play the campaign. Arcade is the straightforward way of playing Xenocracy, by simply blasting through the missions. Playing it as a sim lets you choose which jobs you want to take and which factions you’d like to devote yourself to, and has an impact on the political make-up of Xenocracy’s universe.
This mode lets you do things like choose research technologies, outfit your ship and select your wingman. Sounds fun, but a few gnawing problems persist. The flight model is simplified to the extreme; while the game supports both joystick and mouselook, neither run very smoothly. Mouse flying is so rough that it forces one to get as close to a target as the sprite-based Privateer to score a kill without a missile. The engine holding Xenocracy together is a mess overall, as it looks bad and drags down gameplay with it. For comparison, just take a look at Volition’s superlative Freespace.
Missions are also much less interesting than those of X-Wing, WC or Freespace. Every set of objectives revolve around either destroying or defending an objective (a convoy, or mine), or simple generic dogfights. It’s amusing how the actual campaign management seems more complex and interesting than the space combat itself, and if the gameplay were more exciting it would definitely be a winning package.
System Requirements: Pentium 133, 16 MB RAM, Windows 95
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