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If the thought of interstellar trading, or living as a galactic mercenary, gets your heart going at warp speed, then Terminus is for you.
It’s extremely complex and involving – it’ll take a couple of days just to learn to play the game. You really have to learn to fly this virtual spaceship before you can start the game. It isn’t one of those point-and-shoot jobs either – it uses a realistic Newtonian physics model to simulate space flight (well apart from the odd vortex gate). When flying, a joystick is advisable – it’ll make life less complicated. Even with a joystick, the keyboard is needed for some tasks, such as toggle inertia-compensation and activating vortex gates – don’t worry, this sci-fi gobbledegook makes perfect sense when you’re playing.
Once pilot training is finished, the newly-qualified recruit must choose a career path. There are four to choose from: space pirate, mercenary- or military-fighter pilot for either Earth or Mars. Each has a different perspective on the story that unfolds – and what a story it is.
It starts in 2021 at the time of the first Mars mission, and tracks humanity’s migration into space. Suffice to say, there is plenty of intergalactic dog-fighting, trading in alien artefacts, mysterious technology, and space politics. Whichever career is chosen, space combat is guaranteed.
I’d like to say how long the game will entertain you, but I haven’t finished it – and there’s a lot more of it left. The game is massive – it comes on three CDs.
Even when the story is finished, there are other modes to play. You can play on your own, with a friend, or with lots of friends on the Internet. You can even play a free mode – where there isn’t a story, you just live and work in this futuristic world. You can take jobs when you want, trade goods – whatever you feel like. Some people will spend an unhealthy amount of time on this endless game option.
It took three years for the programmers to complete Terminus. It’s available for the Mac, PC and Linux. While this is admirable, it makes installation difficult. There are no installation instructions anywhere – not on the Web site, not in the 200-page manual, and not in any read-me file. Furthermore, the game needed updating with a patch from the Web site before it would work. The interface is a little clunky, and the cut scenes don’t quite join-up like they should.
If your machine can handle the hefty system requirements, and you can spare 40 or 50 hours at the weekend to play it, Terminus is superb. But it’s so immersive that you may miss the rest of the summer.