Perimeter

Review

posted 8/18/2004 by Tyler Sager
other articles by Tyler Sager
One Page Platforms: PC
Perimeter is one of those games that are really difficult to describe. It’s an RTS, in that there is the typical “build up an army and destroy the enemy” play, but are a lot of twists on that RTS theme. First, the story behind it all is just a bit…um…weird. Seems the world, or universe, or whatever has fragmented into several different dimensions. These fragments are connected to each other via portals, and the entire chain of worlds is knows as, well, the Chain. People now live in huge Frames, a sort of cross between a mothership and a floating city. Technology is quite impressive, as everyone has access to some pretty nifty nano-technology, including morphing nano-robotics. Humans, being human, have divided themselves into different ideological factions, the Exodus, the Harkback, and the Empire. These factions don’t tend to get along very well, to say the least. In addition, there are strange creatures, called Scourge, populating many of the Chain worlds and generally wreaking havoc whenever they come across a Frame.

The Frame is home to five construction units, which can be either builders (“buildmasters”) or terraformers (“brigadiers”). These units can be swapped out throughout the game as the need for quicker building or faster land reformation comes about, but there are never more than five available in whichever combination is best at a given time. Unfortunately, buildings can’t be placed just anywhere, so the land needs to be flattened out to allow proper construction. Buildings require “zero level” land, which can only be accomplished through the work of the brigadier unit. These units send out an army of tiny little ant-like nano-drones which tear down or fill in the land as necessary to smooth everything out. Not only is this a neat game mechanic that adds an extra level of complexity, it also looks really cool. Once a bit of land is flattened out, it’s time to start the actual building. The buildmasters are straightforward units—these guys build stuff. They send out little nanobot packages to the building site, and when enough of these packages get together, the structure is finished.

Usually the first order of business is to set out a few core generators. These are the backbone of the entire infrastructure, and they are also the key components for the titular Perimeter field. Core generators draw energy from zero-level ground in a small radius around them. Energy is the only resource in the Perimeter world, and it’s vital for constructing buildings, forming combat units, and powering the various defenses. Core generators also power the various buildings and defensive weapons (such as laser turrets or rocket launchers). No building, other than the Frame itself, can function outside the influence of the core generator. Linking core generators is the primary method of claiming territory. Only generators that are linked directly to the Frame are capable of gathering energy or powering the buildings. In fact, generators (and the surrounding buildings) that are not connected to a Frame can be captured by anyone who gets a link back to their Frame. In this way it’s possible to attack an enemy’s power system at a weak point, breaking their hold on a large number of buildings/generators, and with some quick building link the system to one’s own side.

The final, and most impressive, trait of the core generators is their ability to project an invulnerable energy shield Perimeter. This shield envelops the radius around the core generator, protecting the buildings and units inside, and if several linked generators are all projecting the shields, the entire base can be covered. While this shield offers protection from most attacks, it is terribly draining on the base’s energy supply. Learning how to use the Perimeter field effectively takes a bit of learning.
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