Gene Wars: Crossbreed Your Way to Universal Supremacy
Review by Al Giovetti
Price: $39 - $44 - $65
Genre: real-time strategy (combination god and war game)
Release: December 1996
Developer: Bullfrog,
Producer: Peter Molyneaux
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Phone: (800)245-4525
Requirements: REQUIRED: Intel486 DX2 66Mhz+ or 100% compatible PC system, MS-DOS 5.0 or higher or WindowsR 95, 8 MB RAM, 41 MB free hard drive space, 2x CD-ROM drive or faster, MSCDEX version 2.23 or higher, 256-color SVGA local bus or PCI video card, VESA 2.0, keyboard and Microsoft-compatible mouse and driver for DOS. SOUND CARDS: Sound BlasterR SB, SB Pro/SB 16/SB AWE 32 or 100% compatible, ProAudio Spectrum, RolandR RAP-10, Ensoniq Soundscape. MULTIPLAYER: IPX-compatible network. RECOMMENDED: Intel Pentium 75Mhz, 16 MB RAM, VESA 2.0 video compliance, 76 MB hard drive space, Sound Blaster 16

History: Some of the greatest games ever produced have been produced by Peter Molineaux and his Bullfrog crew of now 60 workers during the last nine years. Games to watch included Populous, Populous II, Powermonger, Syndicate, Theme Park, Magic Carpet, and the latest game, Hi-Octane. All of the games Bullfrog has produced have transcended regional and country boundaries to sell in high numbers in Europe, America, and around the globe. So when Bullfrog talks about a new game, you really should listen.

Plot: Thousands of years from now, one of the intergalactic space police forces, called the Ethereals, find the distant corner to our galaxy. The Ethereals are from an advanced, peace loving race and are shocked to find numerous worlds in our galaxy striped and barren by a war. Eventually, the Ethereals find the cause, four races that have been warring for centuries: the direct Earthlings, the subservient Saurians, the casual Bohemians, and the kill-everything-but-us Schnozzoids, or whas that Schizoids with a big snoz?, err nomatter.

The Ethereals are moved to action, they establish a base and kidnap and imprison all four races that they consider criminals. The Ethereals subdue their prisoners with a display of the "infamous Killing Stick (schtik? - Ed.) by Kkka Sidrik, the Etherial High Commander. The stick schtik causes the four races to verbally insist that they have repented their evil ways, and try to con the Ethereals into believing them, which they succeed in doing after a short term of imprisonment. The races are released to perform community service, wash the dishes, and clean up the garbage in four solar systems.

The four races eventually find themselves restoring one of the war scarred planets to their pre-bellicose condition with special Ethereal technology. Like recalcitrant children, the races surreptitiously try to continue the war in subtle ways. While they may not have weapons, they use the equipment they have to devise makeshift engines of destruction, which they hide from the watchful eyes of the Ethereals.

Using the Ethereal biological engineering technology, each race engineers killing beasts that will dispatch their enemies, and the battle begins anew. The race for ever more destructive and deviously unseen beasts becomes the order of the day.

Game play: Gene Wars is a god game and war game rolled into one, like the original Powermonger game. This time the game is humorous and has the capacity for multi-player. The game requires that you learn how to crossbread in order to be successful.

Each species and environment will have its own problems. Species that freeze to death on ice planets must be helped to migrate. Some plants will grow better in different climes, which you must determine by experimentation.

The Etherial, who command, occasionally drop in to check on how things are going. If they like your colony, you get a monolith that bestows extra powers (skills) on your colony.

You accumulate GOOP by minining minerals and growing and harvesting plants. The GOOP can be stored or used to grow more animals or build more structures.

Interface has the right hand four fifths of the screen occupied by an overhead oblique view of diamond shaped movement squares. At the top of the left one fifth of the screen is an overhead map that is revealed a piece at a time in true fog of war fashion. Below this are three screens that indicate the object selected and the controls active over the selected object.

You will find it easy to command and move onto the next specialist or structure. The troops have very little in the way of artificial intelligence and must be attentively commanded or they will always go amuck.

Missions: You have a team of five specialists chosen from botanists, engineers, geneticists, and rangers. Like most real time strategy games, each specialist has his own advantages (strengths) and disadvantages (weaknesses). The engineer builds the structures, the botanist plants the flora and gathers seeds, the geneticist collects DNA samples from both the pure and mixed species, and the ranger helps your now grown and able "men" to fight, eat, and mate for a more populous army.

War is inevitable and the only way to win the game. A rather nearsighted solution to problems, war is our only option. The first three missions train you for the later missions and are at the novice level of difficulty. The other twenty missions become progressively more difficult with time.

Graphics: SVGA graphics in spite of how small has a definite three dimensional look and feel.

Animation: There are little animation when areas are prepared for building, or when units walk through water, Etherials leave a blue vapor trail.

Voice actors: The voice clips are quite humorous and keep you apprised of the events controlled by your specialists.

Music score: An atmospheric sound track adds "yet another dimension to the game," with science fiction music from the 1950s and 1960s movies on the subject. Luckily you can replace this music with your own music CD or simply turn it off.

Sound effects: The sound effects also add to the comic nature of the game from the crashes, donkey cries and kicks and other sounds that just scream laugh.

Multi-player: Up to eight human players can compete over a network. There is no null or phone modem play supported.

Kevin J. McCann, Computer Player, volume 3, number 7, December, 1996, pg. 90 - 91, (80%).
Rob Smith, PC Games, volume 3, number 12, December, 1996, pg. 161, 82%.