WHILE HOMO SAPIENS was still learning to daub pictures on cave walls using his own faeces, Godzilla Jurassicus had already been extinct for several million years.
There has been much speculation about how, had both species coincided, man and dinosaur may have learned to pool their efforts in the areas of resource-gathering and real-time strategy. Rejoice, then, as ParaWorld answers all our questions on such an inter-species link-up.
ParaWorld is set in a land where Vikings rub shoulders with velociraptors, and Zeppelins float above herds of Mesozoic grazers. Flung into the midst of this eramuddled realm are a bunch of groovy modern-day scientists, led by Anthony Cole, an ordinary Joe wearing a jacket from TK Maxx to prove it.
And what a land it is he finds himself in. You don't often get to see these kinds of vistas in the isometric, polygon-lacking world of the RTS. Yet here's an environment as lush as Kew Gardens, as teeming with life as London Zoo, and as utterly pleasing to the eye as one of those postcards of Switzerland when it's summer.
With a decent graphics card under the bonnet, we're talking 'every blade of grass' levels of detail here. We're talking night turning to day in front of your very eyes, the weather changing and the seas lapping gently against white, crystal sands. For a moment you're tempted to sit back and watch the herbivores graze peacefully, before the irrepressible urge to brutally slaughter them for food takes over. Yes, to do anything, first you need to collect that unholy trinity of the fantasy/history RTS: food, wood and stone.
There really ought to be a law against having to collect berries and logs in RTS games. How many times do we have to do it? Fruit-picking may have been quirky back in the Age of Empires, but industrialscale blackcurrant-harvesting is hardly the stuff of gaming dreams. With its stubborn insistence on old-school resource collection and base-building, ParaWorld, for all its exotic trappings, is at its core a deeply conservative RTS that probably voted for Michael Howard in the last election and thinks that 3D is a bad idea, but one it will grudgingly accommodate.
BACK FOR MAW
But you know what? Despite the aching familiarity, the game keeps you playing. Perhaps the ease with which you can sink into this exotic world is its strong point. Or perhaps it's the slick presentation that makes everything so easy on the eye. Or perhaps it's the surprising, incident-filled levels, which, while they often boil down to you building a big army to go and smash the enemy base, manage to throw some curve-ball sub-quests into the mix.
You know the main disappointment, though? It's the dinosaurs. You want gargantuan prehistoric killers locked in savage, bloodthirsty, barbaric tooth-and- claw battles. Bone-crunching, visceral carnage that kicks you square in the plums with its white-knuckle, 10ft-lizard-based gore.
But what you get is something a lot tamer. Huge, hulking behemoths, instead of flinging corpses this way and that, tend to nuzzle their foes until their health bar turns red and they keel over. Instead of stomping buildings into Ikea flat-packs, they stand next to them, waving their mighty necks or tails gently until the building collapses in a jumble of flames. These dinosaurs may be beautifully drawn and animated, but there's just not enough blood and thunder pouring out of them to generate that shaking-glass Jurassic Park 'Oh my God, here comes the T-Rex' moment. They sure got the dandelions right, but not quite the dinosaurs.
Big, old and beautiful
- Jaw-dropping environment
- Clever levelling-up system
- Levels you just can't predict
- Please don't make us pick any more berries
- Please don't make us chop any more wood
- Please don't make us mine any more stone