Starship Troopers: Terran Command Review — Would You Like To, No More?
When Starship Troopers came out in 1997, I had a blast in the cinemas. After that, I found out it was based on a novel, which wasn't my cup of tea when I read it. Since then, a couple of movies have been released, none of which ever came close to the original. That brings us to Starship Troopers: Terran Command, a new strategy game from The Aristocrats and Slitherine.
If previous media based on the license have disappointed you, then Starship Troopers: Terran Command won't change your mind. Indeed, it might be one of the blandest titles I've played in this broad genre.
Starship Troopers: Terran Command Review â — Would You Like To, No More?
Starship Troopers: Terran Command starts on the planet of Klendathu. War rages on between the United Citizen Federation and the Arachnids (aka. the Bugs). The Bug homeworld, gloriously depicted in the film, is but the prologue or tutorial to an unbearably tedious campaign.
After a disastrous retreat, you'll be in control of soldiers in the mining colony of Kwalasha. As the Earth prepares for a new offensive, Kwalasha acts as the means of bolstering the war machine despite being overrun by the Arachnids. From there, you'll explore desolate lands and dark caverns that look no different from previous locations.
The Mobile Infantry
To combat the Arachnid threat in Starship Troopers: Terran Command, you'll take control of different kinds of units ranging from reliable Marines and stealthy Snipers to devastating Marauders and Rocket Troopers. Units have a particular skill or ability that can be used, and you may also unlock another ability once they level up. For instance, MK. II Troopers can drop grenades in a small area, and Fleet Liaisons can call in airstrikes.
Arrayed against you are some of the meanest eight-legged creatures in the galaxy, such as vicious Tigers, heavily-armored Tankers, beam-blasting Scorpions, and deadly Plasma Grenadiers. Most missions also have nests and hives, spewing forth numerous reinforcements until they're destroyed.
You might think those offer enough enemy variety. Sadly, very little in the game actually feels engaging or unique. While things might get interesting during the latter half of the campaign, the first few missions will mostly have you relying on the same old tricks, hampered further by the core mechanics.
From Point A to Point B
Starship Troopers: Terran Command isn't necessarily a traditional real-time strategy (RTS) game with base-building involved or any focus on actions-per-minute (APM). At best, you'll choose an upgrade to your outpost so you can field different kinds of units. It delves further into the tactical usage of your squads as you move from point to point, mowing down hostiles until you reach a defensible position or the level's conclusion.
It becomes repetitive to a fault. Underground/cavern missions are comprised of one narrow corridor after the other, while exterior missions have one canyon/ravine after the other. Those are usually punctuated by a base defense sequence where hordes of monsters pour in from all sides.
Bugs! Bugs! Bugs!
I hear what you're saying: "it's got lots of Bugs to kill, which means it should be exciting, right?" No, not quite. That's primarily because of "True Line of Sight" and "True Line of Fire," two mechanics that simply don't mesh well with pathfinding and control issues.
Here's the gist: units in Starship Troopers: Terran Command cannot fire while they're moving. They have to stop fully before they can shoot targets. If your units move down a corridor or pathway where their line of fire is blocked, they simply won't bother to shoot even if a friendly is getting mauled. In essence, you'll often need to reposition them carefully while exploring the map.
Alternatively, you can hold the CTRL key while right-clicking to issue an "Attack Move" command, which is fairly common in strategy titles. But because of the discrepancy in unit ranges, and because enemies can appear from corners, there are many instances when some of your soldiers get left behind or they just go in the wrong direction. Lather, rinse, and repeat this as you gingerly traverse maps and you'll understand how tedious it becomes.
Sadly, the "bugs" here aren't just your alien foes, but also technical issues. There were moments when units would simply get stuck while passing through doorways, down a lane, or in an open field. Naturally, this also meant not being able to attack at all. We were even told that there was a nasty bug that caused units to get stuck inside hives, though I was fortunate enough to not encounter it (and hopefully, it will get squashed).
Starship Troopers: Terran Command Review — The Bottom Line
- Very short cinematics preserve the campy feel of the original movie.
- Can be thrilling and exciting at times, especially when you need to find a defensive position to eliminate hordes of aliens.
- Some unit abilities are a wonder to behold.
- Repetitive and tiresome campaign.
- Over-reliance on line of sight and line of fire that leads to a stop-and-go approach.
- Pathfinding issues and units getting stuck.
- No multiplayer component.
In the end, Starship Troopers: Terran Command is woefully rough around the edges. Considering the poorly conceived core mechanics and level design, it's an exercise in frustration. Mind you, this is mostly a single-player experience with no multiplayer component at all, co-op or competitive. You'll resort to the same tactics, hear the same voice lines, and explore the same-looking environments over and over again.
To be fair, there might be some thrills, such as moments when you have to defend a base from a limitless horde or when you have to escape from a pack of mobs chasing you. However, the majority of your run will be duller than the Starship Troopers film sequels.
In a way, the United Citizen Federation might ask you: "Would you like to..." But before that question is finished, you'll answer with, "No more."
[Note: Slitherine Software provided the copy of Starship Troopers: Terran Command used for this review.]