Preview by Al Giovetti, 12/20/96
Genre: real time strategy
Release: December 1996
Website: http://www.gremlin.co.uk/games/fragile/news.html, www.interplay.com
Company line: Death, destruction, deceit, diplomacy and the chance to make more cash than a lottery winner are what makes Fragile Allegiance - Gremlin's new strategy game for the PC.
History: Gremlin and Interplay seem to have something going with Normality and Realms of the Haunting and now Fragile Allegiance. Interplay and Gremlin seem to work well together for the betterment of both, not like many alliances in the computer gaming world.
Plot: Fragile Allegiance takes place in a future where the Earth can no longer support its ever increasing population. Pioneers have established colonies on countless new worlds. The fortunate ones have prospered, mining the rare ores and minerals that they found there. These operations have now been taken over by a ruthless inter-planetary corporation known as Tetra Corp. As a franchise holder, Tetra Corp. have put you in charge of the colonization of the asteroid field that clutters the edge of the known universe and the mining operations that drain them of their precious ore.
Game play: In-between attending to the needs of your colonists and satisfying the insatiable greed of your corporate taskmasters, there are 6 alien civilizations to deal with, each with their own characteristics and ambitions. You'll have to cope with the competing interests of each of these groups if you're to run a successful operation and earn a transfer back to Earth.
You must build and run your settlements with the limited funds that Tetra Corp. have made available. You're provided with a stunning array of 3D rendered buildings, ships and missiles to choose from. As the profits roll in you'll be able to add more sophisticated facilities to the existing colonies as well as extending your operations to new asteroids. You can also choose to trade on the black market. These shady dealers will supply anything from recreational drugs, to keep your colonists quiet, to biological weapons, highly illegal but devastatingly effective.
As your operations extend deeper into space you'll become aware of six alien races. You'll be required to negotiate with their representatives, assessing their potential as allies or enemies. Each civilization has it's own idiosyncrasies and every move that you make will provoke a different reaction thanks to the game's advanced artificial intelligence routine. You can attempt to achieve your objectives by going it alone, forging alliances or declaring all out war.
Difficulty matrix: Fragile Allegiance contains many game options, allowing players to select the exact set up that they prefer. The difficulty level can be altered in a number of ways by varying the length of the player's contract, alien aggressiveness, the number of asteroids and frequency of random events.
Options: Fragile Allegiance also features a colony manager option. This can be used to delegate any number of tasks, from life support control to the setting up of new settlements. This feature means that Fragile Allegiance can have as much detail as each player desires. Fragile Allegiance can be played as a pure strategy game or as a detailed and complex management simulation.
Graphics and animation: Fragile Allegiance is the first game to make use of Gremlin's new facial motion capture system. This technique is used to animate the in-game communications from the alien ambassadors and company representatives. The results are stunning. The characters look uncannily real because they have actual facial expressions. This creates a unique atmosphere, adding an extra element to each encounter. Players can search an ambassador's 'poker face' for a hint of bluff and relish the genuine look of anger and hatred on their defeated enemies face.
Multi-player: Fragile Allegiance also features a networked multi-player mode, allowing up to 4 players to compete against each other. Each player represents a different mining company and communicates via an in-game e-mail system. Players can form alliances with their human counterparts and then stab them in the back. Alternatively they can stab them in the front with an all out attack. This creates a highly charged playing atmosphere where anything goes. Fragile Allegiance is ideally suited to network play and is an unforgettable multi-player experience.
Chris Hudak, http://www.gamespot.com/previews/fragile/index.html
Glenn Broderick, Computer Player, volume 3, number 7, December, 1996, pg. 38.