The X-COM series labeled UFO for those of you outside North America hit during the golden age of turn-based combat and served up an incredibly mix of research, financial planning, base management and, oh yeah, blasting gray aliens into gooey bits. The three core games (plus red-headed stepchildren like Interceptor, Enforcer and the still-unseen Alliance) had a huge fan base. So its no surprise that reaction was strong when the guys at Mythos Games decided to make an unofficial sequel called the Dreamland Chronicles. Reaction was equally strong, albeit negative, when the project was scrapped.
Dont despair: Czech Republic-based Altar Interactive recently took over the Dreamland project for Virgin Interactive and Titus Interactive, and changed the name to UFO: Aftermath. ESC Magazine editor/Martian hunter (freelance) Andy Grieser talked to Altar public relations manager Jiri Rydl about the games history, what you can expect and why gray aliens are scary.
How did Altar get the UFO rights from Mythos? Is any of the former Mythos team involved?
Jiri Rydl: We developed the successful RTS Original War last year for Virgin Interactive Entertainment and after it was released, we were offered a chance to work on Dreamland Chronicles: Freedom Ridge, which had been formerly developed by Mythos Games. We said "Yes!" and thats it. Please understand that we do not have the rights for the game; those belong to our publisher. We sent our design document to Julian Gollop [designer of the X-COM games ed.], but we are not in touch these days.
What is Aftermaths storyline?
JR: It begins with a strange spaceship entering orbit around the Earth, which then launches spores into the atmosphere, too quickly for anyone on Earth to do anything about it. Almost every living thing on the planet animals, plants and humans are killed over the course of a few hours. A few people in sealed underground bases survive, and set out to retake the planet from the invaders.
Tell us how gameplay will work.
JR: There are two parts of the game. The strategic part is about re-conquering the world, which is now occupied by aliens and mutants. Capturing territories is very important, because only through them you can control more airspace, which allows you to track and shoot down more UFOs and to take control of more bases. The bases are necessary for research, manufacturing and military purposes, so try hard not to lose them!
The second part is the tactical game, man-to-alien combat with your best troops. You will explore completely 3D areas, which will be randomly generated for each mission by our in-house graphics engine. You can look forward to hunting for downed spacecraft, rescuing important people and items, fighting for your lives when your bases are invaded and much more.
What multiplayer options will be available?
JR: There will be no multiplayer option, but this is for a good reason. This game is suited to one strategy master, a person who will save the world with his best soldiers, his smartest scientists and his tactical decisions, of course. Maybe it could be played in a cooperative mode players vs. aliens, but why? What will be the next step after winning or losing a mission? You need to research and plan the next attack too, so its not only about fighting.
The second reason is our simultaneous turn-based mode. It works like this: The game is paused and you have to give an order to everyone in your squad. Then you can unpause the game and watch how everyone is doing their job walking, changing guns, waiting or even shooting. If something unpredictable like spotting an alien happens, the game will pause again and you can change your orders according to the new situation. It is very hard to imagine how multiplayer would work in this context.
Whats it like, being able to work on the next part of a series beloved in Europe and the U.S.?
JR: It is important to mention, we arent working on the next installment of UFO/X-COM series, but we are developing a tactical squad-based game about aliens attacking the Earth. We love many games with similar ideas and it is natural that we take the best of them, even without knowing it. It is called inspiration and every game we have played throughout the years could leave traces in UFO: Aftermath, but were going our own way with it, which is in our humble opinion the best for gameplay and overall enjoyment.
Gray aliens arent very menacing, especially after the Alien movies. How will you make the enemy aliens in Aftermath menacing?
JR: Thats an interesting question. I think gray aliens are menacing in their own way, without big teeth and deadly weapons. They are smart and confident and you never know what they are going to do next. Think about their psi abilities for instance!
But we know that players want to be scared, so we have prepared about 20 different menacing mutants products of the terrible spore catastrophe and deadly foes. Youll have to wait for the game to discover their secrets!
What was the reasoning behind the name change from Freedom Ridge to Aftermath?
We have changed the name in relation to the changes in the game itself. It has nearly nothing in common with Dreamland Chronicles, so we have decided to change the name completely. And it sounds better.
Whats your ETA on when the game will be in stores?
I would like to say, that you might be able to buy it on Christmas 2002, but it is a very tight deadline, so give us a few months as a reserve, please.
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