A lot of space troopers died horribly in the 1997 film adaptation of Starship Troopers to highlight how having a whole civilization built on joining in the military to go fight aliens is rather horrible, actually. So it’s strange that I didn’t lose a trooper for at least half of Starship Troopers: Terran Command’s 19-mission campaign.
That isn’t a boast. Early on, these bugs are quite forgiving. It’s a lot of joy to watch the carnage when this simple but excellent RTS gradually turns up the heat and provides a very intense single-player experience in the later half.
I swear I won’t spend the rest of this review making jokes about how “buggy” it is. Because it’s actually not that horrible from a technological standpoint. The only exception is unit pathfinding, which produces significant jittering when squads are posted too close to barriers or too close together, as if they’ve been hopped up on stim packs. When a squad must travel around an impediment and perform a U-turn, move instructions might be unreliable.
Starship Troopers Terran Command Review
If a unit is given a direct assault command and they can’t obtain a line of sight to the target, they may fall asleep and let the swarm shred them apart. I primarily avoided employing the large, stompy Marauder mechs since they need so much skill to move successfully that they can sometimes become a problem rather than an advantage.
However, once I figured out how to work around these peculiarities, I discovered that there’s some very rewarding tactical action to be had. Because the Mobile Infantry outrange and outgun the bugs, Terran Command is all about increasing lines of fire to the enemy. The chittering hordes, on the other hand, have a significant edge in mobility, numbers, and melee warfare.
Most squads are unable to shoot through friendly fire and must choose between having a clean shot that deals full damage, a partial line of fire that decreases damage, or being fully blocked. It takes a lot of clicks to adjust your field of fire, but I liked manipulating topography and elevation to create perfect kill zones and seeing the bugs melt before my attack. Even when you’re only pitting basic riflemen against simple drones, it’s a great method to keep things fresh.
To see the bugs melt before my attack, I relished putting up precise death zones utilising topography and elevation.
The problem is that the first part of the campaign is so straightforward that I didn’t feel compelled to pay much attention to my placement. For mission after mission, it’s essentially Attack-Move Simulator 2022, where pushing ahead in relatively good order was often enough to go through with few or no losses. You can change the difficulty, but not in a subtle or fascinating way, such as by introducing new foes or lowering your resources.
It just reduces the damage of all your weapons by a percentage. That is all there is to it. In most missions, there isn’t even a penalty for losing your whole army the two resources, supplies and war support, are both basic population limitations, so you’ll never run out of men. This is consistent with the Starship Troopers world, in which the Federation is content to keep putting warm people through the meat grinder. However, it eliminates the bite from a number of circumstances.
And, before we go any further, I should point you that this is essentially a 20-hour campaign. If the first half of Terran Command wasn’t also half of Terran Command overall, my objections about it being a cakewalk wouldn’t be that significant. There is no multiplayer, which seems like a huge oversight. I’d love to defend a base against a buddy who was attempting to overrun it, or join forces in some co-op missions.
There is no bug campaign, despite the fact that they have a large roster of units and a whole distinct playstyle that may have been fun to experiment with. There’s no scenario editor at all. With the exception of a handful of one-off challenge situations, you’re done with Terran Command after the campaign is completed.
The campaign’s second half really cranks up the heat.
It’s good, though, that the second half of the campaign really cranks up the heat and presents some fascinating problems for me, not for my soldiers. In the war-torn urban hellscape of the planetary capital city, balancing my resources between guarding a refugee camp and clearing hives with my offensive force was a genuine test of competence, because simply throwing more people at the problem wouldn’t solve the problem.
It was stressful and full of lethal surprises in an invaded underground complex with no way to obtain reinforcements, so I had to think carefully about how to approach each new room and hallway. At a few of moments, the difficulty curve smacked me in the face, but I was expecting it.
The plot isn’t that interesting. Your mission is to combat a bug infestation on Kwalasha, a bleak mining planet, while dealing with different Federation military units along the way. The speech is highly hammed up, both for units and named people, but that’s appropriate for Starship Troopers.
The scenario authors appear to understand that the movie is parody, with plenty of “Are we the bad guys?” Scenes like defending a broadcast station as a union organiser is executed on live television. The Mobile Infantry has some fine individuals in it, but it’s clearly depicted as the terrible parody of jackbooted military fetishism that Paul Verhoeven imagined. There is no Niel Patrick Harris, unfortunately.
The combination of colour, lighting, and UI to make everything readable and easy to follow pleased me.
Terran Command also incorporates aspects from the Robert Heinlein novel and the larger Starship Troopers world, so fans of those sources will have lot to look forward to. The Federation’s Marauder mechs and elite powered armour soldiers, which appear late in the game, were fantastic to see represented in current graphics for the first time.
It’s also a fairly nice-looking game! Because battles may be chaotic, the use of colour, lighting, and UI to keep everything readable and easy to follow pleased me.
The bugs had their own set of surprises, and figuring out which tools to employ against particular foes later on became a big part of keeping the conflict fresh. Even the best-organized firing line of regulars may be melted by Scorpions and Royal Guards, therefore carrying missile launchers and being extremely accurate with concentrate fire becomes crucial.
I also loved deploying combat engineers to see if I could create a network of overlapping static fortifications that would self-maintain and allow me to leave my base unattended, allowing me to deploy additional soldiers for offensive operations.
The exoskeleton of Starship Troopers: Terran Command is a solid RTS with some unique, asymmetrical, positioning-focused warfare. There are only a few snags that prevent it from becoming truly fantastic. The primary ones include a campaign that takes much too long to get hard, some exasperatingly awful pathfinding and targeting AI, and the lack of multiplayer or a scenario editor.
But if all you want is a respectable single-player campaign that hits all the right notes as a Starship Troopers fan and finally gives some interesting and tough tactical challenges to solve, this is the game for you.
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- June 18, 2022