Based on the sci-fi novel “Inhabited Island” (which I admittedly have never heard of), Galactic Assault pits four warring factions against each other in turn-based battle. These battles at first seem rather simplistic: Each faction takes a turn moving and attacking with all of their units, followed by a building and repair phase. Play then moves on to the next faction, and continues until one side is a smoldering husk (or the appropriate goal has been reached). The units themselves, while quite numerous, are also relatively simple in nature. Once players get a little farther into the game, however, the strategic depth of Galactic Assault begins to shine through.
Differences in unit strengths are often subtle, and many are conditional, depending on terrain advantages and proper army deployment to truly take best advantage of each. Most infantry can entrench themselves, denying their movement for a turn but giving them a great defensive bonus. Many units can make use of the defensive bonuses of wooded hexes or buildings, allowing players to set up the perfect ambush or perimeter. Height advantage and a day/night cycle also come into play. Furthermore, there is a “rock, paper, scissors” element, with certain units gaining large bonuses against a particular target, such as anti-tank or anti-infantry artillery. And clever timing and use of the extremely mobile transports can seem to slingshot an entire army across the battlefield in a single turn. Many of the same tricks that worked so well in Massive Assault Network are still present, and jus as fun to use.
Central to the action in Galactic Assault, players gain control of Bases, the central hub of economy and construction. During the recruitment or building phase of the turn, players can build new construction plants around the base, construct new units, make upgrades, or repair current units. However, since this phase takes place after combat, units have to survive all the enemies’ turns before they actually get a chance to get in on the action. Many times I found myself saving up for a nice powerful unit, only to find it destroyed in one of my enemies’ lightning-quick strikes against my base.
The balance between the factions is pretty good, but there are decided advantages (or disadvantages) to playing a given side. The AI is also fairly solid, and many times gave me a sound drubbing during the campaign. As for the single-player campaign itself, the maps and scenarios were good, although most were a “find the trick to win” sort of endeavor. I had troubles following (or even staying interested in) the storyline, but the gameplay was strong enough to carry me through. The graphics were solid, not spectacular, but a step up from Massive Assault Network. My pet peeve once again reared its head, however: I couldn’t easily tell many of the units apart at a glance. The infantry were especially troublesome, and while a quick mouse-over solved the problem, I would have liked to see a bit more difference. I also quickly grew tired of the little dramatic camera movements that highlighted certain attacks, as they seemed to pull me out of the moment rather than increase the drama. Thankfully, these could be skipped, so I wasn’t pulled out of the action for too long.
The interface was good, although when controlling too large an army I had troubles quickly telling which units had acted in a given turn. Many times I overlooked a unit, even with the end-turn reminders in place. On the whole, though, I was happy with the controls and menu systems. Sounds and vocals were a bit of a letdown, but I could easily overlook this issue in view of the solid gameplay.
And Galactic Assault: Prisoner of Power is a solid game. It may not be the flashiest title on the market, but there’s a lot of addictive play packed in there. As always with a niche-market title, I’d highly suggest grabbing this demo before diving in. But Galactic Assault: Prisoner of Power is certainly worth a good look for the turn-based strategy fans out there, and for those wanting something a few steps from the mainstream market.
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