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Independence War 2: Edge of Chaos Developed by: Particle Systems Published by: Infogrames (Atari) Release Date: 2001 ESRB Rating: T for space violence, mild profanity, and suggestive language System Requirements - Windows 95/98/ME - 16 MB 3D video card - Pentium II 350 MHz - 64 MB RAM - 4x CD-ROM - 600 MB Hard Drive space For: PC
In the late 1990?s, a relatively unknown UK-based development studio, Particle Systems, developed a beautiful game known as Independence War. ?I-War,? as it is also known, was a visually stunning but downright tough game to play, thanks in part to the to the different ship?s stations you had to manage all by yourself. Independence War 2: Edge of Chaos eliminates many of those problems, and while there is a learning curve attached to the game?s ultra-realistic physics, the payoff is one of the most beautiful and engaging space sims currently on the market. And it?s cheap, too.

Gameplay:

Independence War 2 is a pirate space sim, not unlike Wing Commander: Privateer or Freelancer. Your main character is a colonial who eventually finds himself in the classic Robin Hood role, along with a band of motley convicts. Many of the game?s missions surround your campaign to gain support against your powerful foes or subvert them. Overall, it is a very long game, divided up into several ?acts,? that advance an interesting and at times surprising plot. With somewhere around 40 missions, expect to get a lot of gameplay out of this one, depending on how much time you spend doing some of the non-linear work. The first lesson you receive upon entering the world of Independence War 2 (IW2) is one in space physics, and at first it can be a bit of a rude one. Unlike Freelancer, or anything Star Trek, IW2 doesn?t let you arc around to hit your foes. Your ship must use its retros to stop, then turn around. It is eminently realistic, and a bit awkward to get used to at first. After awhile, though, you come to appreciate the stark realism of the game. The realistic physics, and the difficult gameplay that comes with it, is both a strength and a liability for this game. Unfortunately, just as you?re starting to learn the ropes, IW2 throws a real hardball that might derail a lot of players. In one of the game?s more bizarre twists, the first actual combat situation you face is one of the hardest in the game; it took me nearly a dozen tries to get past it. In fact, after beating the game, I went back to retry that opening combat mission, and it was STILL ridiculously difficult. How tragic it might have been had I abandoned the journey there. After numerous, maddening retries, I finally squeezed by, and was relieved to see the game level off and become more manageable. Granted, IW2 is still a very challenging game that requires steady patience and resilience, but the rewards are great and come in the form of better ships, support fighters, better weapons, and sturdier defenses that make the game much more manageable and offer a respite from some of the more nerve-wracking encounters. Gameplay begins and ends at your home base. There you can outfit your ship, make trades with various organizations, and even view an extensive encyclopedia which helps flesh out much of the plot and provides useful information about weapons and equipment. Admittedly, the trade system isn?t quite as deep as it could be, but it?s serviceable, and it nicely reflects the alliances you make along the way. Additionally, there are a couple of very useful mods out there that spice up the trade engine and even allow you to trade for specific goods at certain stations, something that could not be done in the original game. In-space gameplay is by and large linear, like Freelancer, but with some flexibility. Most of the time you are presented with a mission objective, but you are normally not required to embark on that mission then and there. In that sense, there is a bit of non-linearity to the game. If you want, you can run to the local trade routes and raid the locals, though picking the wrong fight can be deadly. These raids are actually quite important through most of the game, for they yield valuable goods that can be traded for weapons, munitions, and other important ship accessories. If you are stumped at a mission, taking some time out to hunt down a few hapless cargo vessels can give you the goods needed to beef up your guns, armor, or defense fields. As a final gameplay note, I was impressed by the significant upgradeability of IW2. Once you have the patch installed, the game allows for a myriad of official and fan-made modifications and upgrades ranging from new ships, to the aforementioned beefed-up trade engine, to a free-form mode that can be unlocked after beating the game. Although I did not discover these upgrades until I was late in the game (perhaps for the better), they add a lot of additional value and potential to what is already a really good game.

Graphics:

This game is lights-out beautiful, and at times even outshines newer games like Freelancer. Best of all, it runs well even on lower-end systems. I originally played this game on a P3 1.0 GHZ with a GeForce2 MX (32 MB), and it was still jaw-dropping and yet had no slowdown problems whatsoever. The texture mapping is gorgeous and the ship and planetary models are awe-inspiring. Each system has its own feel, with unique spacescapes that will have you staring out your cockpit. Add in great particle effects, a sweet heads-up display, awesome weapon effects, stylish FMV cutscenes? need I say more?

Sound:

The soundtrack is primarily orchestral in its feel, with hints of folk and techno-pop at times. And it rocks. The tracks are both memorable and epic, and they change as your current combat changes. The music does an outstanding job of creating an in-game mood, whether that be a tense combat situation or a lonely sector of space. All of the dialogue in the game involves voice work, from that obscure outpost to your fellow fighters. The voice work is generally good, particularly the dialogue central to the plot. The game also offers a serviceable amount of in-game ?chatter? ? such as stations greeting you as you arrive ? and that work is usually okay.

Control:

The controls for IW2 are designed ideally for a flight joystick with a hat. I didn?t have one, and I was unwilling to fork out more money for a joystick than I?d actually paid for my ten-dollar game, so I played through the game with a Sidewinder gamepad, supplemented by keyboard controls. It wasn?t ideal, but once I got used to it I was just fine. Understandingly, other gamers may not like this arrangement as much. Unfortunately, the game does not support the mouse for in-game combat. More unfortunately, extensive changes to the controls require modifying configuration files with a text editor, and that may scare off some casual gamers. With a little tweaking, the controls can be modified fairly easily within a \'default.ini\' file in the game. But for the out-of-the-case game, the control options are not nearly as varied and customizeable as they could be.

Stability:

I had a few minor stability issues with the initial game, but nothing too serious. Others, however, have reported major stability problems with the game, depending on your hardware. At worst, seems to fix almost all the stability problems quite nicely, and is a manageable 6 megabytes for those who have modem connections.

Appropriateness:

IW2 is rated T, primary for space violence. There is some tight-fitting clothing in a couple of the cutscenes, as well as some gunplay, there is no gore. Your team is a band of convicts, so it should not surprise that there is some scattered mild profanity, and a bit of innuendo from one particular member of your party. This reviewer is generally of the opinion that gamers 13 and up will have few qualms about this game (and gamers under 13 will probably find it too difficult anyway).

Closing Comments:

I discovered Independence War 2 by accident while perusing a budget title section at a local retailer. Though I had never heard of the game, my fondness for the Wing Commander series ? and the game?s price ? prompted me to take a chance. As seems to be the case more often than not, my cheapest games so often seem to be my most memorable. I was immersed for weeks in the vast colonial systems, and when I emerged I found that there were a nice assortment of add-ons and mods available on the Net. To this day, IW2 maintains a sizeable cult following, in large part because it?s a surprisingly good game. Independence War 2 has a few mild technical faults, and seems better suited for hardcore sim fans than for the faint-of-heart... or this game just might make a casual gamer into a hardcore sim player, as it did for me. Either way, the dirt-cheap $10 price tag alone makes this game hard to resist. (I suggest looking on half.com or amazon.com to find it.) If you are a fan of space sims like Wing Commander or Freelancer, you owe it to yourself to give this game a try.

Final Ratings:

Gameplay: B- Graphics: A Sound: A Control: B- Stability: B- Appropriateness: B

Overall score: 85%

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Christ Centered Gamer looks at video games from two view points. We analyze games on a secular level which will break down a game based on its graphics, sound, stability and overall gaming experience. If you’re concerned about the family friendliness of a game, we have a separate moral score which looks at violence, language, sexual content, occult references and other ethical issues.

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