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Submitted by Derek dela Fuente on February 12 2004 - 00:00

We take a close look at this tactical RPG set in a cyberpunk vision of the future...

All those sharp-eyed PC gamers will not have failed to notice the disproportionate release schedule where console games are now out numbering PC games and it is not merely due to the fact we have a number of console formats. Although some developers are saying that the PC has never been stronger in terms of the machine being able to do many things that the console can’t and even with PC games transgressing into the console arena with addictive and less cerebral games, PC releases are at their all time low. It must also be said that publishers are tending not to risk releasing 10 PC games a year and preferring to play safe with 4 AAA PC titles. All this aside there is a number of developers who are churning out a ready to go formula of PC games which are being eagerly snapped up by publishers UBI, CDV, Bethesda, and the like. Even Codemasters has snapped up titles from their associate company. Akella, from Russia, have been around since 1993 and throughout that period have released a number of excellent titles. The latest one for them to showcase is Metalheart: Replicants Rampage, inspired by the classical RPGs and turn based tactical titles.<br><br>Metalheart: Replicants Rampage is a cyberpunk role-playing game where the player will lead their team to success using well turned-out tactics, whilst exploring a huge isometric world, experiencing unique cybernetic body implants and tactical, turn-based combat.<br><br>A tidy story offers both intrigue and playability and sets the scene for the game and like in many scenarios the main objective is to escape from the planet you’ve landed on and find our way back home. The problem, as you would expect, is that it is not easy to do. You’ll have to survive dangerous events, ‘cause the planet’s a smocking barrel, multiracial and rebellious. <br><br>Though the main impact and focus for Metalheart (and the team was secretive about the origins of the title’s name) is the tactical combat, and the battle system complex, created in a traditional style, the team hoped that some of its elements could be classified as truly unique.<br><br>The player controls a team of 6 players but essentially there are two main characters. Death of one of them means ‘game over’. The team can be formed during the journey from the following races: replicants, cyborgs, mutants and nomads. All other characters are mostly the hired guns, recruited here and there, working for salary. There are 16 RPG attributes: Vitality, Dexterity, Strength, Agility, Perception, Reaction, Luck, Health Level, Implant Digestibility, Sniper, Intelligence, Protection, Will, Endurance, Charisma, and Instinct, along with special skills which are obtained when you use different implants.<br><br>The character’s development is pretty traditional with experience and level ups but there are also some twists. For example, some implants can raise your stats incredibly. Not mentioning the special abilities they can give. The abilities which cannot be obtained through level ups!”<br><br>The game world consists of many locations. The universe allows free movement through new locations as well as through old ones. <br><br>Alexander Filatow, Chief Programmer, further elaborated on the re-generated story quests. “Well, we have the main storyline and the most sophisticated quests can be found here. We also have the quest-generator, which can generate about 14.000 different quests. Sure, they are not very sophisticated, more simplified, like ‘go there, do that’, but it is the most used type in all the genre, it works fine. And when you have such a quantity of quests for the game’s world exploration offers great playability for gamers.”<br><br>Every game should have something unique and innovative and Metalheart serves up its own individual take on things. The body implants is a very important part of the game. They can change everything. You can take a weak character and enhance him with implants! There are lots of ways to acquire the implants. You can obtain them from somebody, buy them, etc. The total number of implants in the game is about 600 and some of them have unique functions. These gadgets are divided into classes. Level 1 implants, like external adrenaline controller bracelet, can be ‘inserted’ instantly. Level 3 implants require some medical assistance, and level 3, the most sophisticated implants, like digital nerve system, can be put in you only in special clinics. The usage of futuristic items and body implants influence the abilities of each character in an extraordinary way.<br><br>Alexander Filatow, “The idea and inspiration behind this isometric and turn based game is simple. We all love this genre of game which include Jagged Alliance, Syndicate, and Fallout. We simply wanted to create our own, pioneering masterpiece!”<br><br>The world you move in is large with plenty of exploring available and offers a story orientated theme – although conversely there is plenty of freedom. The team is exceedingly proud of the post apocalyptic aesthetics world that they believe is truly impressive with lots of different locations, ‘lots of stuff which will impress you’.<br><br>Resources play a part in the game - with the Tactonium mineral - and it drives the storyline, not gameplay. Tactonium is used in some energy weapons, but it is more important as a commodity, which is pivotal to the Empire. Tactonium is the reason why the Empire doesn’t allow anyone to escape from the planet. It is central to the plot. <br><br>Metalheart looks like it has been created, as it has, with a real empathy for the genre by trying to merge in interesting ideas. Allying with different groups changes the flow of the game: being hostile to nomads opens the way to getting friendly cyborgs or mutants to provide new quests. A lot also depends on the composition of the team: a pure cyborg team requires a different strategy than mutants or nomads.<br><br>We allowed Alexander a final say on the team’s work.<br><br>“We wanted to create a game which will taste like it came from the hot days of tactical RPGs golden era. So we decided to make an isometric 2D game – we always liked the classic-style visuals. But times they are a changin’, so we knew that we must use modern features in the 2D technologies. And Metalheart, though it looks very much like Fallout-type games, is not actually a game of yesterday, speaking technically. Our engine creates powerful 2D performance, with good little features and available resolution up to 1600x1200, which we think is not bad. The AI we believe is rather good. We just couldn’t afford to make it stupid! Metalheart is a tactical combat oriented game, and our final pitch would be - Tactical RPG with ‘post nuclear’ and cyberpunk influences, and gameplay in the vein of the classics of the genre.”

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