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DAMOCLES

Novagen, Amiga 24.95

Sizzler

Zzap! Issue 59, March 1990


Paul Woakes returns...need we say more?

It's been a long time, in fact just over four years, since the revolutionary Mercenary touched down on the C64. After finally escaping from Targ you've arrived at your original destination, Eris, the fifth planet in the Gamma solar system.

Eris is the jewel of the system but within a few hours this jewel is going to be severely tarnished. The rogue comet Damocles is headed direct for the planet which, as it happens, you're to land on. Maybe it would have been wiser to stay on Targ.

As your ship glides downwards to the Eris spaceport you admire the planet's beauty - the vast oceans, the numerous cities and bases clinging to expanses of land emerging from the watery depths. Still, the solar system has eight other planets and nineteen moons. Aquick sandwich at the spaceport and you can be off to somewhere safer. Unfortunately while you begin searching for loose change, your ship is falling apart - this is its last flight and you're stranded!

Your personal computer, Benson, promptly orders you to go to the State Office in an antique car - A Chevy '99. Your destination, like most of the buildings around the city, has quite a few floors, packed with rooms. You find the briefing room in the basement, and it's here you're asked to save Eris...

You may want to explore the first city but the real challenge lies in getting a spaceship and taking off. There's many other cities to find. If you stay around long enough you'll see the beautiful sight of sunrise from Dyon, Acheron, Icarus, or any of the other worlds.

As befits a mercenary your primary concern is for financial gain, with the sideline of saving Eris to give you something to do between sales. In an emergency, poor capitalists can go to the Lawson Bank (!) for a loan.

To earn money you must trade objects - there are over a hundred - which can mean a lot of delivery runs in a big variety of ground and air vehicles; although there are other ways of getting from A to B - enough said. To help you out, you may load old Mercenary saved games, not that a Mechanoid leader is of that much use this time round!

As ever, things most certainly aren't what they seem with buildings holding their secrets deep down or high up in ten-storey office blocks. Was that Sphinx monument you just passed really just for show? How do you get to other planets? Where's the filofax? What about all those locked doors you passed an hour ago? And what use is the computer in the office block?

Most importantly of all, how on Eris do you destroy Damocles? To add insult to injury, what's Benson got so much to be cheerful about anyway? We'll you to answer these questions and unravel the game. Don't take too long though; Damocles draws ever nearer...

Marks:

PRESENTATION 91%
Great start-up sequence to rival the original's, and you'll be pleased to hear Benson is a heck of a lot smarter.

GRAPHICS 93%
Not particularly sophisticated polygons for the buildings but there's a lot of them, they're varied, fast moving, and ooze incredible amounts of atmosphere.

SOUND 65%
As expected there's no music or sound track but the effects are well done and very cleverly implemented.

HOOKABILITY 95%
The moment you land you're hooked...

LASTABILITY 98%
...and with the secrets of 28 worlds waiting to be discovered and several different ways to complete the game, you WON'T put it down.

OVERALL 95%
A superlatively polished, amazingly large and challenging adventure brought to life through amazing 3-D 16-bit graphics.

Reviewers' comments:

Robin Hogg
A wave of nostalgia swept over me as I witnessed the sequel go through its start-up sequence and Benson return like a long-lost friend. The length of time we've had to wait is immense and even now I still can't believe it's finally here!

The feeling of anticipation and desperation when first faced with the enormity of the task is wonderful. So too is the sensation of curiosity and wonderment as you explore the first city. It's like being a child again. Exploring buildings, gazing in awe at the superbly detailed structures all around , puzzling over the use of strange new objects, and generally living a new life is all just so enchanting you quickly become immersed in the world and its ways.

Once you get your first deal and its subsequent reward the feeling is tremendous, but this is nothing compared with the sense of satisfaction once you lift off from Eris, and anticipation when you suddenly have to come to terms with the fact that there's 27 other worlds to investigate! The graphics are brilliant in what they aim to achieve, the detailed polygon graphics creating a rich atmosphere with a surreal, high-tech, lonely and ominously silent feel to it all. Sound effects are well done and perform their task admirably. Welcome back Mercenary, you've been away for far too long.

Stuart Wynne
Not since Starglider 2 has there been such evocative use of polygon graphics. Sunrise on a distant planet has never looked as good as in Damocles. The buildings are numerous and very individual, creating a great sense of reality which goes a considerable way towards keeping the player enthralled. Just exploring is a captivating sensation in itself without thinking about the big task at hand or the many sub-missions. It's all a very surreal experience which moves fast graphically but adopts a slow pace in its gameplay. The heavy emphasis on adventuring and exploration will diappoint anyone looking for a quick blast - there's no acrade action here. But if you're prepared to put in the time needed, many weeks of long nights I suspect, then Damocles will reward you. This is truly a journey into another world or more accurately solar system. So although the only real changes in the Mercenary game-style are a massive increase in scale, accompanied by some great solid 3-D, fans of the original wouldn't have it any other way.
Phil King
The original Mercenary was great - you could play it all through the night, and I did! Inevitably, though, I got stuck and gave up. Now we see its return and it's even harder than before. Like the original, once you're captivated by the game the hours just speed by. The fast 3-D graphics are some of the best I've ever seen, helping to create an incredible atmosphere - it's so real it's frightening! And there's just so much to explore, you'll be playing it for months on end. There aren't many games that can drag me away from the delights of Kick Off, but Damocles is definitely one of them. It's not quite football, Brian, but then what is?!


Notes:
The standards of Zzap! reviewers fell over the years, with an emphasis more on journalistic skill than gamesplaying ability. Mercenary was certainly not a difficult game to complete, but Phil King clearly found it too hard. His comparison with football is rather bizarre also. The opinions of Wynne and King seem to have prevented Damocles from getting the Gold Medal it clearly deserved (in my opinion).

Other games reviewed in this issue of Zzap! included 4th Dimension, a collection of four previously unreleased games by well-known programmers. One, by the famous Sensible Software, was a Dropzone clone called Insects in Space and was apparently rather good (I've never played it).

Transcribed by Peter Young, 19-Nov-98
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