Malcolm Owen On November 3, 2004 at 10:37 pm

Call me stupid if you will, but I am not a great chess player. Granted, I understand the rules of the game, what “Check” and “Checkmate” do, and how to win a match in 3 moves if the opponent is careless. Yet somehow, I am actually bad at playing the game. The current record of accomplishment is 67 games played, 65 of which are losses and one being a stalemate. It is a similar problem with most Real Time Strategy games. I understand the basic principle of it all, but I just end up being crushed humiliatingly in less than five minutes. Maybe it is because I came in too late to the whole RTS scene and played against people whom were spoon-fed it from birth, and therefore can never really win. Perimeter, however, is a more level playing field, in that it moves away from the normal ways of doing things so far that most RTS fans would feel out of place.

In the future, we will all develop psychic abilities after leaving earth in giant ships called “Frames”, and after gallivanting around the other planets in the universe, the pilots discover they have left the interplanetary A-Z at home, so everyone is a bit lost. Your task is therefore to protect the Frame from attack, mainly from enemy units, but also from the Scourge, creatures supposedly created from the thoughts and fears of the people you are transporting, thanks to the aforementioned psychic stuff.

Using your Frame, you create buildings on land that you can “terraform” from the surrounding landscape (therefore changing how the land lies at the same time), and from these buildings you can create units that can form more land how you want it, thereby gaining more energy to create more stuff, and the cycle goes on. Not much change from the standard RTS game, you may think, except that from this point onwards, things start to get a bit different.

For a start, you can protect your base, frame and buildings by generating a “Perimeter” shield, which causes hefty amounts of damage to any opposition that decides walking through it is a good idea. This may protect against almost all attacks coming your way, but it also eats tons of power from the energy reserves, and therefore gets used sparingly, be it on specific buildings or as a last line of defence against the enemy hordes.

The other big difference comes in how you use your army. Before, you would create units and then order them to their doom, in a big game of Jan Ken Pon. Big tanks would work against vehicles well, but against an army of infantry, they are useless, and therefore you have wasted the game and most likely lost as well. In Perimeter on the other hand, when you build something and find that you have to fight something somewhat different to what you expected to appear, there is no problem at all. You combine various units into other units, like a weird RTS Lego set. There is also nothing stopping you from rearranging said units into another formation, and therefore being able to carry on the fight without any real worries. This feature alone kicks some much-needed life into the RTS genre, and it’s a wonder that no-one else had thought of doing anything like this before.

Multiplayer, strangely enough, isn’t actually that great. Playing against other people just seemed less as brilliant as the single player missions, which are themselves fun and exciting. It could have been better, but it just seems like a bit of a let down for this game.

The other problem lies with the fact that it is like starting from scratch for some people. Seasoned pros at RTS games will have to adapt to the change in playing style, which may stop some people from even bothering in the first place. Couple that with the less than stellar multiplayer, the storyline that requires a PHD to not only understand and a psychiatrist to heal the aching brain afterwards, and it does put a dampener on proceedings.

Perimeter is a good game when you are playing on your own. Playing with others is not as cracked up as it would be, but it does make you think about why C&C has to be as restrictive as it is, where games are won and lost by preparation before rather than during the battle. We need more design teams to think this way. Not so much outside the box, rather outside the solar system.


A refreshing change at times. At others it isn’t


Well done, yet not over the top


Not the most impressive this side of Mars


A headache, but a fairly good one
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