by Sergio Brinkhuis
previewed on PC
Hard to believe, but true
“A one-man development studio made this?” Even after meeting the man that made Meridian: New World and hearing that some of the graphic modeling was done with the help of outsiders, it is tough to believe. Meridian: New World looks like it was made by a big-time publisher back in the heyday of RTS gaming. Granted, that was about 10 years ago and graphically the game looks from around that time, but even back then these games where made by teams, never by a single guy.
The presentation started with the opening scene where we saw a human mining crew getting ready for their departure from Meridian where they had been mining for rare minerals. Before they can leave, however, the crew is contacted by their headquarters and informed that the planet may have been home to a malicious virus and that until they know for sure, they cannot return to Earth.
Your ship acts as a central hub from where you embark on new missions. Your crew can be found in different areas of the ship and – as the commander of the expedition – you can go up and talk to them using a simple but seemingly competent dialogue system. After having been told that their trip home will have to be delayed, they are obviously dismayed. Some waste no time to share their opinion of HQ’s orders and do not believe there to be virus at all, others may speculate about what is really going on. Your actions, both during missions and while on the ship, will affect how your crew responds to your rule.
Meridian is clearly modeled after Starcraft, complete with fast-paced battles, in-mission conversations between NPCs and a developing story that promises an interesting twist or two. What is different is that no mission plays out like the one before, or even the one before that. If your current mission is to destroy all opposition, then the next one may task you with sneaking past the enemy units, searching an object or something different entirely.
Getting the most out of your army
Not all missions involve combat, but when it does, it will be interesting to see how unit customization will work out. You see, not every unit is the same. You get to equip each unit with the weapons or tools you think it will need for the job at hand. If you are going up against an enemy that relies heavily on flying units, you can equip it with anti-aircraft measures but if it is peace time you might want to give it a mining tool instead. Beware of using the same unit layout all the time though, the enemy AI is looking at your units and learns from your approach to warfare. It will respond accordingly by changing its own tactics.
Once engaged in combat, you can attempt to sway the course of the battle using special commander skills that are powered by an energy bar that fills up as you destroy enemy units. Some skills provide buffs or healing for your units, others will hamper the enemy ability to fight. To keep things fresh, new skills become available through experience.
Meridian: New World is impressive. I really have no other word for it. It is clear that Ede Tarsoly, the sole developer of Meridian, set out to create something that was not just your average RTS, there is just too much going on in there for the game to fall into that category. Yet despite the sheer amount of features, I find it difficult to gauge how all of the individual elements will meld together into a cohesive and engaging game. So while leaving me impressed and intrigued, I will wait for the final version to be convinced.