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Publisher: GarageGames    Genre: Strategy & War
Min OS X: 10.1    CPU: G3    RAM: 64 MB    Graphics: 32 MB VRAM

Dark Horizons: Lore
May 18, 2004 | Eddie Park

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Dark Horizons: Lore was a difficult title to review. This is not in the respect that it was tedious to play or to talk about, but rather that the scope of the project is more ambitious than what is currently available. While the idea of mech combat alone makes it potentially exciting, the eventual plan, according to the online FAQ, is to introduce 4 multiplayer games as well as a paper and pencil RPG and board game. While this certainly isnít the first time such integration has been attempted, itís been a while since anyoneís done it well, and a successful implementation could see a resurgence of mechanized battle not seen in many years.

That aside, the aspect of this plan thatís currently available is the first of the 4 multiplayer games. Known as Lore, this iteration currently features the type of play that typically comes to mind when one thinks of mech combat, allowing players to blithely stomp, jump, and even fly in gigantic mechanized vehicles, blasting away with abandon while attempting to make sure that other players donít spoil their fun with a well-placed missile or two.

Thanks to the choice of Max Gaming Technologies to build Lore using the portable Torque Engine, versions for the Mac and PC arrived concurrently. However, the current retail version is still considered a work-in-progress according to the Dark Horizons site, and very much feels like it. This is a cause of teeth-grinding for myself, as the very outline of a quality game is evident in Lore's structure. The game just screams potential in so many areas, and the tiny spark of mech fandom within me writhes about when thinking of the possibilities.

This being the case, this review could almost be thought of as a preview. The current retail version has been termed an "early adopter's release," and the developers at Max Gaming Technologies assure me that a large update is on the way.

A Tale of Two Factions
The Dark Horizons saga spans quite a bit of time. In Lore, which could be considered the first chapter, a war is currently taking place in the year 2160 between two factions: The Federated States (FS), thrown together after a nuclear strike against the East Coast of the U.S., and the Eastern Confederation (EC), described as the Soviet block reborn.

The conflict in Lore centers on the resources to be had in what used to be the East Coast of the U.S., which is considered to be No Manís Land. While the land still suffers from radiation, the use of remote-piloted Mechanized Assault Vehicles allows for their exploitation. While the States have been slowly mining the area, the Confederation has decided that those resources could better be put to use for their own purposes.

With the EC starting hostilities along the eastern coast of the FS over land and resources, a war was inevitable. It is this war that provides the backdrop for Lore, as pilots on both sides wage battles via remote-controlled mechs.

Lore currently features gameplay that is very much focused on fast-paced mech combat. Rather than being limited to lumbering beasts, the mechs in Lore, known as Mechanized Assault Vehicles (MAVs), come in a variety of builds, from rolling tanks to speedy instruments of destruction. Most of the MAVs sport two legs attached to a pod of some sort, though the high-end power models are more akin to modern tanks and travel around on treads.

MAVs currently come in four basic classes, including Infantry, Scout, Assault, and Armored Classes. The Infantry class seems to be the most balanced, with a decent array of weapon power, armor, and speed. The Scout class is best suited for quick movement rather than frontline combat. The Assault class has heavier weapons at its disposal at the expense of speed. The Armored class, as its name suggests, is an armored behemoth that can both deal and take a great amount of punishment. Depending on which side a player chooses, these classes come with a variety of names, including Mantis, Predator, and Abolisher.

While not insanely detailed, each faction has its own set of distinct MAVs to choose from, making it easy to spot a friend or enemy when close enough to make out a potential target's outline. Furthermore, each class, whether Federated or Eastern, bears a basic shape that makes it easy to tell which class it falls under. Scout classes, for example, sport a pair of wings, while the Armor classes look like tanks, complete with treads and really big cannons that are even more intimidating when stared at from the receiving end.

When selecting a MAV class, players can also modify the class through the use of a speed/armor slider. More armor can be selected at the sacrifice of speed, and vice-versa. While this wonít make an Armored class fly across the landscape, it does allow for some custom tweaking, depending on the playerís style of play.


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