Novagen/Woakes Incorporated for PC
by Paolo Besser
Twelve years have passed
from the first release of this game, on C64. It made much progress from then
and now, in 1998, it finally appears on PC
|Eight years ago,
in April 1990, The Games Machine reviewed one of the games that made history:
it was Damocles, which brought onto the Amiga all the playability and the feeling
of its predecessor, Mercenary. Damocles was an extremely complex space exploration and trading game,and the editors of
that period called it "a new Elite". There were many reasons to praise it sky-high,
the first being its vectorial/solid graphics (it's incredible what those
programmers were able to do with a simple MC68000, or worse,
with the 6502 of the C64!!!), without forgetting the good gameplay. Damocles
was followed by a third episode, The Dion Crisis, but the use of the same engine made it
to be soon forgotten. Unbelievably, such a masterpiece
has never been converted for PC, or better, it was in its development
stage when the same accident that occurred at Cinemaware, occurred at Novagen too:
they ran out of money. It was a very bad thing, because Paul
Woakes and his team had to abandon the project, probably
But nothing is ever lost. There is always a nostalgic part in all creative people,
and everyone remains linked to the past.
Woakes did not break the rule either, and managed to refound his former software house
(even though it is
a simple label), making the Novagen name famous again and
bringing the PC Damocles port back to life. Obvoiusly, times have changed: releasing a game based on vectorial graphics
with no hardware acceleration would not be a good strategy,
so the new game will be an evolution of what was seen on the Amiga, with
full rendering and plenty of textures. Now
the game cannot support hardware acceleration yet, but
Paul has already let us know that he is going to release a patch soon,
maybe even in time for the European release of
Mercenary IV that will happen in mid-April (we of Zzap! are reviewing
a pre-master beta, the complete game without the serigraph on the CD and other things.
If you read the FAQ, you will discover that an accelerated version was not even supposed to be released! But then they must have changed their minds...). Thus we had to play
the software version, but we didn't regret it, at least for this time:
Paul Woakes has always been a very good programmer, so we can
enjoy a good speed (about 20 fps in 1024*768!) even with unaccelerated cards such as
the S3 VIRGE, albeit without very smooth textures or other effects.
But Mercenary IV is an all-action-and-thought game, and graphics are not so important.
About the plot, we are in the Gamma system again,
discovering that all of the pyramids of the planet Midas are emitting a strange radiofrequency
signal towards a specific point of the universe.
The Gamma System's equilibrium is gone because Marduk, a planet with an irregular orbit, inhabited
by scum with the hobby of intergalactic domination, has entered the system again.
Of course, your aim will be to restore the harmony of Gamma, preventing the Nephilim
(Marduk's inhabitants) from putting their conquest plans into effect. How will you do it? In the same
old way. You'll wander through all the planets of the system with your small spaceship
and you'll keep political/commercial relations with all the present populations.
Sometimes you'll meet some other rival mercenaries or hostile spaceships and you'll have
to shoot them down.
Well folks, we've been waiting for it for many years... Enjoy it!!!