Review: Outpost 2: Divided Destiny

Dynamix, a studio famous for Betrayal at Krondor, developed a sequel to an ambitious game Outpost. Outpost 2: Divided Destiny, has very little to do with the first game, but it stands on its own.

Outpost 2 begins after an asteroid called “Vulcan’s Hammer”, causes extinction on Earth. So a handful of scientist and engineers escape in a starship Conestoga. After several centuries of traveling through space, supplies run out and ships A.I. is forced to awaken the passengers. They decided to land on the most habitable planet in the current system, and unfortunately, they land on New Terra, a planet that isn’t the most pleasant. They establish a colony called Eden, but after several years, fighting over colonies direction starts, causing even more divide among the populace. It turns out that Eden wants to terraform the planet, while the others want to adapt to planets harsh environment. Eventually, the separatist decide to steal some transports and materials and start their own colony Plymouth. The rival colonies still communicate, but when Eden announces they will go on with the terraforming, Plymouth shuts down the only communication satellite. It also turns out that nobody had a reactivation code, so the comms are down permanently. Eden proceeds with the terraforming and they fail spectacularly. It turns out that one of their labs exploded, and the bioagent used in experiment causes more earthquakes, lightning storms, and other disasters. It turns out that “The Blight” (the bioagent), will soon engulf the entire planet, and to top it all of the planet doesn’t have enough atmosphere to burn off asteroids, as it passes through the asteroid belt. To add insult to injury, the colonies soon discover that there aren’t enough resources to construct two spaceships, which means that conflict is inevitable.

IIf the story seems interesting, it is because the game was shipped with a novella by J. Steven York. The plot is revealed through a combination of mission briefings and passages from a novella. Before each mission you can also read the chapter of the novella in game, you will still get the backstory, but it’s best to read the whole thing as you may find yourself confused as to what the motives and backstory are for mission objectives.

New Terra is a planet similar to Mars: dry, cold, airless, with just resources to establish a human colony. No data is given about it, like size, distance from its parent star, but some of these things are hinted in the novella and the game manual. New Terra is mostly made orange sand and rock, so you can expect to look at the same terrain through each mission.

Unlike most RTS games, Outpost 2 instead focuses on survival with some light combat elements. In the first couple of missions, you need to evacuate and do it fast, before “The Blight” or lava destroys your base. If an enemy is present in the mission, you will have to allocate resources to build up defenses. Outpost 2 has only two resources: common ore and rare ore. Common ore is used for building structures and vehicles, while Rare Ore is used for more complex and advanced projects. Common Ore is usually located near your base, while Rare Ore is located far from your base, forcing you to expand. There are some references that, may lead to a conclusion that there are precious and semi-precious gems included in their mining.

The most important thing in the game is morale. If your colonies morale is low, this can lead to colonies stagnation, decreased efficiency and worst of all worker shortages. To counter this you must maintain a good amount of basic necessities and good worker distribution. Morale will take a hit if there are food shortages, disasters, and overcrowding. The biggest trouble you can get is if a meteor hits and destroys your Command Center. When this happens you can kiss it goodbye and start your game over if you didn’t build the second one, as this structure controls all of the colony. This makes Outpost 2 a kind of a crisis management game. There is some difference between colonies, like Eden will have a better tech tree, while Plymouth will have better morale.

The biggest flaw of the game is combat. You can research and build units, but there is no limit to how many you can build, which will lead to using tank rush tactics. All of the combat falls down to selecting your units and clicking on what you want to destroy. There aren’t any special abilities, even though you can build more powerful and advanced units. The same thing goes for defenses, which consists of building turrets, which use the same weapons as your tanks.

The overall presentation is good. The buildings look good, the animation is nice, and each event is announced by a female computer voice. Each description of the topic in the tech tree is full of scientific jargon and seems believable. Outpost 2 features three game mods: Campaign, Colony game and Multiplayer.

Campaign consist of 24 missions, 12 for each colony and the game lasts about 8 hours to beat, at least in my playthrough. Colony game has two modes, Population and Starship. In these modes, there is no time limit, and you must simply reach the given objective. Multiplayer is surprisingly still available, and the most common way to play nowadays is using a virtual network like Hamachi.

Outpost 2 is a challenging game, but not without flaws and, less patient players may give up early one. The foundation is good, the story and backstory are pretty good, but I feel there could’ve been more options, like hostile alien lifeforms, different planets, etc. It has a dedicated fan community and they make their own scenarios and maps and continue to support the game. The game is now considered abandonware and is a nice twist in an RTS genre.

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