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(hx) 03:18 PM CEST - Oct,22 2006

ParaWorld is a real-time strategy game set in a parallel world - a prehistoric world that has been ruled by warring tribes and dinosaurs. In the 19th century this world was discovered by a brilliant mathematician, leader of a group of top scientists. For decades it had remained undiscovered, and only now three young scientists (Anthony, Stina and Bela) are beginning to uncover the secret. Using perfidious tricks, the opposition manages to lure the three into a trap and they are lost in the other world. From that point it's a fight for survival and the search for a way back to Earth...

At the first glance, ParaWorld looks like any other strategy game - you do need some resource gathering to establish your town - in this case gathering food, wood and stone. Resources are limited so you need to get out and capture new resource nodes. Along the way, you will have to upgrade your resource capacity and can also upgrade how quickly their workers harvest the resources. On top of the traditional resources, you also have to collect skulls in order to level up your units and buy upgrades - there are five levels, and each unit can advance as far as you want, gaining more hit points and better combat abilities. In the case of the Dustrider faction, skulls are also used to advance Epochs in order to open up new technologies.

In the campaign mode you'll have to opportunity to play as three different tribes, the Norseman, the Dustriders and the Dragon Clan. The Norsmen descend from the Vikings or Celts, the Dustrider are African nomads, and the Dragon Clan has its origin in Asian regions. The races play very differently and require different ways for basebuilding and tactics. The Norsmen are the allround-race, have a strong defensive and are useful especially for the newbies.

The campaign mode offers tutorial and 15 missions. During each mission you'll have a variety of objectives to complete, some optional and some which are not, and for each one of these you'll receive points. These points will allow you to purchase units and supplies before you begin your next mission (see "Army Builder" below). Each mission becomes increasingly difficult with more bases to attack, an increased amount of tougher enemies to fight and the fear of constant attack on your own base - you have to actually use some brain power to play this game!

The basic user interface is very much like the stuff you know from other strategy games. Although there are two key innovations: "Army Controller" and "Army Builder". The "Army Controller" is a wonderful way to control, access, and survey your units. The Controller, which rests along the left-hand side panel of the screen (look at screenshots), can house up to 52 unit icons (maximum unit cap is 52 units including 15 workers....) split into several army groups. The units that are in the Controller are completely accessible- you can issue orders, see if they are in combat by checking their health bar, upgrade, check worker idleness, right down the line. The "Army Builder" lets you purchase units and resources to start with ahead of a match. All units of a tribe are available and you can also directly buy high-level fighters. For instance, you can get Stina at Level 1,2,3,4 or 5 instantly. Of course, the more powerful a unit is, the more it'll cost.

There are 50 different species of dinosaurs in the game, all scientifically accurate, and the dinos can come in friendly and not-so-friendly types. The dinos, as well as other animal species, can be tamed and used as units. For example, there's a brontosaurus with a little guy riding on its head as a lookout, and archers firing from a bunker on its back, while some of the larger dinosaurs can be used as transport units. Besides animals, there are steampunk robots, magical ice archers, druids who heal your units, traps you can lay for the enemy, and mighty walls that you can defend with ranged units firing down from the rampart etc.

Heroes play an important role in ParaWorld, be it in Singleplayer or Multiplayer mode. They possess special skills and can progress through various levels in the course of a Multiplayer game or a Singleplayer level by gaining experience points. The campaign begins with three main heroes, Anthony Cole, Stina Holmlund and Bela Andras Benedek. These heroes all offer unique skills, Cole is excellent in close combat, Holmlund is excellent at fighting against animals and Benedek's strength lies in ranged combat. There are a total of 9 controllable heroes, including an Arch Druid and each unit power become stronger as you level up. If heroes are killed they can be restored providing you have a tavern built.

Multiplayer is where the game really shines, however. Skirmish between you and computers and going for some online play (if you can find an opponent) are probably the most favoured options between players. This is where you select one of the three available clans; Dustriders, Dragon Clan, and the Norsemen (all a little different for varied play) at a default, boomer, or rush favoured play type. The game offers three different modes - Deathmatch, Defender and Domination. In the Defender mode one player has to defend his base against all the other players. Domination is comparable to the standard mode of games like the Battlefield series. Every map features one or several flags that have to be conquered and kept for a certain amount of time by a player or a team.

Overall, ParaWorld is a good, solid addition to the RTS genre. If you like dinosaurs, steam-punk and a good solid RTS, you can't go far wrong with delving into this game.

related links: homepage, demo, resources cheat, patch v1.01, community website, buy ParaWorld DVD.

System Requirements
Minimum: Pentium with 1.6 GHz or equivalent Athlon processor, 512 MB RAM, DirectX 9-compatible graphics card with 128 MB RAM, DirectX 9.0c
Recommended: Pentium with 3 GHz or equivalent Athlon processor, 1 GB RAM, DirectX 9-compatible graphics card with minimum 128 MB RAM, DirectX 9.0c

snd: 4/5 - excellent orchestral score, acceptable voice-acting, acknowledgements could be better
gfx: 4/5 - pretty good, some cool effects, neat character models, the map can be zoomed and rotated at any time, animation in the battles is a little bit lacking
playability: 4/5 - great, 16 story-driven single player missions (~25-30 hours), Army Controller gives easy control over your whole army /maximum unit cap is 52 units/, over 50 different types of animals, heroes, 3 different LAN and Internet Multi-Player modes for up to 8 players (DM, Defender, Domination)
genre: steam-punk RTS
release: September 2006
developer: Sunflowers
publisher: Aspyr Media/Koch Media
Overall: 80%

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