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  Allegiance - Review

Review: Allegiance
Developer: Microsoft Research Games
Publisher: Microsoft
Review by: Rob "RJCombo" Garret
Published: April 19, 2000

 


Graphics

83% - Solid

They won't knock your socks off, but the graphics are definitely solid. Being that the title is published by Microsoft, it's a given that Direct3D is the only available API option. Since pretty much all video cards are D3D capable, there shouldn't be any compatibility issues.

Like we mentioned in the preview, the ship and base models are smooth and detailed. There really isn't a need to go higher than 800x600 resolution, though the option is there. Overall, the game looks even cleaner than it did during beta. However, the bottom line is, Allegiance was built for gameplay, not for eye candy. It is, after all, in an outer-space setting.

 

Sound & Music

91% - Crucially Tight

Games like Thief and System Shock 2 proved how much of a vital role sound and music can play within a game. They used sound effects and environmental audio to make the play more immersive. Allegiance goes a different route, instead taking advantage of sound to provide the player with all kinds of critical information. Everything from different sound tones to the voice soundbytes save players the trouble of seeking out information, and instead provides it to them in real-time. This is a HUGE benefit to players, especially the commander who has to deal with a lot of information throughout a contest.

Music? Well we think it's in there somewhere, but not sure how to access it. There's a music on/off switch, but we didn't hear any music either way.

 

Game Play

88% - Yeehaww!

You know a game is good when you look at the clock and realize you just played a 2-hour match, and are still itchy to play another. From the first few minutes of scouting, to the final bombing run on the enemies remaining outposts, there is so much going on that you'll always be left with war stories to tell.

The interface has remained pretty much the same as in beta. Very clean, and very customizable. There is, however, still the issue of too much clutter on the screen during larger battles, which becomes very disorienting. It's definitely a good idea to get used to using hotkeys in your first few sessions, as they can make the difference in situations where every second counts.

Whether you prefer staying back at your base and providing technologies and leadership to your pilots, or diving headfirst into the dogfight, Allegiance is a damned fun and intense game.

 

AI / Difficulty

70% - Needs Documentation!

Since all the pilots are human players, the only AI in the game manifests in the miner ships, expansion builders, etc. Thus, only the Commander needs to deal with them. It's pretty straight forward; they obey commands and alert the commander when certain events occur.

The toughest part of the game is learning how to play. A new player might feel overwhelmed by the massive list of controls and options. The training missions only provide the minimum of critical information on how to pilot a ship and perform the command role. You really have to jump right in and get "on the job training". If you have a question, don't hesitate to ask your teammates. They'll more than likely help you out. Also, I can't imagine playing this game without a joystick, though it is possible.

 

Multiplayer

78% - WANTED: Cable, DSL

Since the game is multiplayer ONLY, we'll focus on two issues. The first is a sore subject. Although anyone can host a game using the Allegiance Server software, they are limited to 32 players. The BIG games (100+ players) can only be played on The Zone. Guess what? They want you to pay $10 a month for it! So lets get this straight. It's not a persistent world game like Asheron's Call, the only "character data" they store are stats for rankings (which Unreal Tournament does for free with NGstats), and it's not a dynamic, expanding world like EverQuest. Yet, you still want us to pay $10 a month? That would be like playing $10 a month to use Blizzard's battle.net... no Thank You! On a brighter note, at least the game comes with a free month of play on The Zone

The other issue is bandwidth. If you are playing in a game with a large number of participants, there is a very bad lag problem for anyone who is without a cable modem, DSL, or faster internet connection. Unless you have that fast access, the game becomes pretty much unplayable. This is a trend we are seeing for just about every game hitting the shelves now. Broadband is becoming more critical for today's online gaming enthusiast, and a lot of people still don't have the option to purchase it. I'm sure many of you are familiar with the phrase "should be available next month". Bleh.

If you are fortunate enough to play Allegiance in a LAN environment, you are in for a treat.

 

Final Analysis

87% - Break out the...
Joysticks and the Port-a-potty

Plain and simple... Allegiance ROCKS. Hopefully, players who aren't normally drawn to space-sims or real-time strategy will give the game a chance. They won't regret it. Allegiance is the kind of game that will have you barking taunts (and curses) at your monitor. That's always the mark of immersion, I say.

The game sports a lot of the characteristics to earn a 90+ score, but there are a few shortcomings that can't be denied. The lack of quality documentation, the cost of playing on The Zone, and the critical need for high-speed internet access will likely frustrate or even turn off some players.

Other than that, all I have to say is.. BREAK OUT THOSE JOYSTICKS! We've mentioned before that team-based play and massive multiplayer is the wave of the future for online gaming. Alleigance is an excellent model to prove it.

But we already knew that.

Rob "RJCombo" Garrett

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Note: Check out our Allegiance Preview to get a more detailed look at the inner workings of the game.

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