home > review > Dark Planet: Battle for Natrolis Review
GamesFirst! Online since 1995
ups: Cool special effects; decent unit depth for the three races; cheap price tag.
downs: Unoriginal concepts and plot; sluggish gameplay; awkward interface.

|| Get Prices

Dark Planet: Battle for Natrolis Review
game: Dark Planet: Battle for Natrolis
two star
posted by: GF! Back Catalogue 10/2004 => 1995
publisher: Ubi Soft
date posted: 09:10 AM Fri Jun 28th, 2002
last revision: 01:10 PM Sat Oct 29th, 2005

Advertise on GamesFirst!

by Todd Allen

First and foremost I am very disappointed with Dark Planet. This game comes to the table with a lot of potential, but falls way short. The imposing lizard-man adorning the software package has \"rush job\" written all over his green face. Dark Planet is a title so obsessed with presenting an ambient, three-dimensional experience that it forgets all the wonderful things that make the strategy genre fun. There, I said it. This game is not fun. So how do you suck the fun out of a strategy title?

The story that sets Dark Planet into motion is quite unoriginal. You find yourself in the future, the third millennium to be exact. A planet called Natrolis, which is similar to Earth has been discovered. Natrolis obviously attracts human colonists who are eager to expand. Insect-like aliens called the Dreil also have their sights on Natrolis. What neither the humans nor the Dreil know, though, is that another race already inhabits Natrolis and they don\'t like visitors. The reptilian Sorin are fierce warriors and magic-users. They are the guardians of the planet. Natrolis is up for grabs and gamers choose who will dominate its future. If that didn\'t get you excited, chances are nothing else about this game will either.

The obligatory tutorials on how to chop down a tree and put it in your storehouse are all included. Gamers will yawn as their workers slowly plod back and forth during their menial tasks. Dark Planet\'s game-play is sluggish and jerky. Frustration levels will rise especially when players try to manage their troops that are not on the screen. As the alarm gong blares you\'ll struggle to scroll the map and find the location of the battle. This isn\'t helped by the awkward interface either. Commands that you would expect to easily find are floating somewhere else on some out-of-the-way button. But hey, kids, it\'s all in 3-D right?

Dark Planet does allow players to manipulate the camera with the mouse and keyboard. You can zoom in and out and choose either a bird\'s eye, isometric, or true 3-D viewpoint. I\'ll admit that the first time I saw my troops running through a forest towards me I was impressed. Soon, though I found that this option was extremely handicapping when I kept losing my grand army behind mountains and hills.

Once battle is joined gamers can delight in several weapon effects and various outbursts of agony. The explosions are really fun to watch. The first thing I thought of was the Death Star exploding on the Special Edition Star Wars. Impressive energy waves rush outward from a building that has met its end. The sound is on par in Dark Planet both on and off the battlefield. While the music isn\'t that great, the environmental sound effects help arouse some ambience. Dark Planet\'s efforts to provide atmosphere graphically, though, are frustrating at best.

The game presents several major effects in efforts to make gamers feel like they are on Natrolis. First we have weather effects. Occasionally a slight drizzle will arrive to soak the landscape. At least that\'s what they call the white lines falling on your soldiers. You\'ll notice the \"trees\" swaying in the wind as well. No doubt before you realize they\'re trees you\'ll swear you\'ve stumbled into the Mushroom Kingdom. These poor trees bob up and down rhythmically to simulate wind. Finally we have my personal favorite, the ambient wildlife. These babies boast their own life span too. Let it not be said that Dark Planet never stirred any emotion in me. I almost cried when something that looked like a baby turtle walked across my screen and suddenly keeled over in death.

Dark Planet\'s graphical woes are inherent in its desire for the third dimension. Naturally the units and structures are polygon based so they aren\'t very detailed because they must be seen from multiple angles. Players probably will hesitate to trade the architectural standard set by the Age of Empires series for a blocky habitat cube with some texture mapping. The idea of a 3-D strategy game is nice, but it just seems that the two concepts are not proving to be good bedfellows.

Dark Planet does provide good depth within each race, though. The unit variety is a nice touch. You aren\'t just stuck with a vehicle, a flying unit, and a soldier. Each race has different units that avoid being generic. Many games pit soldiers that look exactly alike, besides the different color of their shoulders, against each other. It\'s refreshing to see distinctness within each group. Still, though, there are only three choices. That may have been par for strategy games a few years back, but today it is mediocre at best. Mediocrity, it seems, has really bit Dark Planet in the rear.

Strategy games are a tricky business. Not many folks initially want to micromanage for two hours. Developers have to make gamers want to stick around. Several great, and oftentimes simple, formulas have led to such franchises as Age of Empires, Command and Conquer, and the beloved Warcraft series. Unfortunately, Dark Planet doesn\'t exhibit any of the draw that its competitors do. Being a mediocre game leaves way to much room for consideration of a game\'s shortcomings.

I would like to end with some praise for this game, though. Dropping the price to a \"bargain\" level was a very smart decision. At $50 this game could not hope to compare, but at $10 it can provide a short distraction. Hey isn\'t Deus Ex only $10 too, though? Natrolis will have to wait.

Todd Allen (06/28/2002)