If there's one inherent flaw among the majority of massively multiplayer games for the PC, it's the fact that they make you feel like a little fish in a huge pond. Games such as Phantasy Star Online, Everquest and Ultima Online treat you like you're just an ordinary citizen, and that your existence in their virtual world really doesn't mean anything. This is the total opposite in Nexon's Shattered Galaxy, the latest edition of multiplayer games that they've developed. While their previous titles such as Dark Ages and Nexus were online RPGs, Shattered Galaxy strays from the norm and offers a persistent online world set in a real time strategy game.
Shattered Galaxy puts you into the role of one among a plethora of humans inhabiting the solar system of Morgana, where a constant struggle for control of each of the planets occurs between numerous factions. While you don't directly involve yourself in the battle for dominance, once you land on the planet of your choice, you can begin amassing an army of robots and organic creatures to do your bidding. At the beginning of the game, you can only control 6 units at a time while in battle, but this number grows as you gain more experience and levels. Yeah, you heard me, you gain experience points in battles, much like an RPG. Leveling up allows you to control more units as well as selecting more powerful ones. Battles also allow you to gain Tribute points, which you can use to upgrade your existing army. There are two types of enemies that you must face in Shattered Galaxy: the rivaling factions, and the aliens. While the aliens pose no threat in capturing land from you, they do pose a vital role in the game, for if they are left alone for a long amount of time, they have the potential of rising to the surface and attacking everyone. Fortunately, there'a always people hunting down these alien scum when there isn't a battle to be fought on the front lines.
The actual gameplay is really smooth, with the units themselves ranging from huge, hulking tanks to single warriors with lightsabers slashing at anything that comes near them. Many of the units you control wouldn't seem out of place in StarCraft at all. Because you only have to start off with controlling 6 units at a time, it's fairly easy to keep track of the action on the playing field. This is further simplified by the fact that you don't have to bother with any real resource management during battle as well, as this is taken care of outside of combat. One problem I did have with the game is that it's pretty difficult to actually attack an enemy. With games such as StarCraft and Age of Empires, it only takes a single click to attack someone, and you knew who to attack because the cursor changed icons. In Shattered Galaxy, you have no such luxury, and it usually takes a double click to attack. In a game where you don't really know what side you're on when you join in a battle, I think it's essential that you can figure out just what side you're on from the get go.
But in the end, Shattered Galaxy gives off one impression that no other massively multiplayer online game has given me, and that's the feeling that my participation matters at the end of the day. When you select to go to a battle, you're issued a prompt to either enter in a current conflict as a reinforcement, or if the event of that no battles are taking place, to help fight the alien infestation. But think about that for a second if you will. You are the reinforcements. You are fighting against the aliens. You are at the front lines, fighting for your faction and for its livelihood. It's an empowering feeling to have, and it's unlike any other online games that have come before it, with the exception of Total Annihilation: Boneyards, but that doesn't even come close to the completeness that Shattered Galaxy contains.
Overall the graphics are really impressive, although the zoom level is a bit extreme. While I like that all the sprites and environments are really detailed, but in my opinion, had Nexus used a higher camera angle or gave players the option to zoom out, would've proved beneficial since it would allow players to view a larger area of the playing field. Moreover, the atmosphere is excellent, adopting elements from games such as FallOut and StarCraft and rolling them into one really nice package; although the battlefields are extremely drab, with not much color to them (except for brown).
Fortunately the musical score and sound effects in Shattered Galaxy don't have as many technical flaws as the graphics. The soundtracks used respectively featured in battle and during the period you're navigating throughout the cities reflect the mood appopriately. The battle themes are majestic, and epic in proportions, creating a atmosphere of imminent victory, while the city sountracks reflect a brooding, yet peaceful tone.
For the price of Shattered Galaxy ($20 for the game, $5 a month with 1 free month for trial), you really can't go wrong by picking this title up. A few years ago, when I envisioned creating games, Shattered Galaxy reflects the type of game that I endeavored to design; an online game that treats its users like they're an important part of its world, because they are. Developers should take notice and let Shattered Galaxy stand as an exemplar model, because this is how you make an online game fun and entertaining!
· · · Reno