Updated: December 2, 2006
If you carefully look up the meaning of the word nostalgia, you'll probably realize that the title of my article is not exactly Oxford material. But it does accurately portray the feelings you'll have if you've ever played the old, original Scorched Earth game.
Yes, does this ring a bell?
Ah, yes! It was a simple, turn-based game, with players in control of small tanks and all sorts of weapons. The goal was to destroy your opponents by firing your tank turret, using only power and elevation angle settings. Against the backdrop of rugged 2D terrain and constantly changing wind, this required a bit of skill.
Winning each round bestowed you with cash, which you could use to buy delicious armament - including nuclear bombs, guided missiles, napalm, and whatnot. You could also invest in defense, buying shields, batteries and parachutes.
Scorched Earth was rudimentary in graphics and gameplay - although it looked fantastic in Windows 3.1. And for exactly these reason, it was so compelling and addicting. It has a bit of everything - 256 colors that were a real treat in those days, a bit of cash management for financially inclined, a bit of logistics for quartermasters at heart, a bit of warfare for the male among us. You had a huge number of weapons to choose from, and each one offered a unique visual effect. It was perfect.
It was also the foremother of all modern turn-based shooters like Worms. The only earlier type of this game that I can remember is Gorilla, which ran in DOS 5.0, but nowhere near as sophisticated as Scorched Earth. Scorched Earth is rightfully dubbed the Mother of All Games. Now that I have reawakened the old memories and whetted your appetite, I can proudly tell you that Scorched Earth has been resurrected as a beautiful 3D game!
First, this is going to knock you out the trees - down to your knees (thanks, Peter): Scorched3D is a free, cross-platform game. So do not lament if you are a UNIX/Linux user. The game can also be played online or in LAN environment, with up to 24 players in a session. It is also constantly being developed. I can vouch that it works flawlessly, as I have both joined and hosted servers on LAN and the Internet. The game is available for download from the official site.
|A missile drops in the vicinity of an evil bot tank called Jezebel ...|
|... and evil Jezebel is engulfed in a great ball of fire|
Scorched3D starts with a configuration panel that allows to start or join existing games, play a tutorial or host a server of your own, with your own rules. You can play on your own, against bots, or against a mixed batch of human and AI opponents.
The game can be played in the "normal" or the "apocalypse" mode. The normal mode is fairly loyal to the original game, as most of the weapons found therein are based on the old ancestor's arsenal. The apocalypse mode is clear attempt by the game designers to break away from the tradition. The apocalypse weapons are crazy, uber-destructive toys that have only one purpose - make a diehard geek chuckle with glee.
|The red haze is what comes before a huge meteor strike that can wipe half the map off; costly to buy but definitely worth it!|
|Strangelove is the most frightening weapon available in the game; it will utterly obliterate the map, along with all of the players, including yourself - do NOT expect to survive!|
The game also has several levels of difficulty - from turkey shoot to artificial intelligence hell. At the easiest level, the tanks will just wait to be shot - the preferred mode for getting familiar with the game and testing the weapons. At the hardest level, you will be a bunny in Edward Scissorhands' hands, so to speak.
Once the game launches, you need to select your player name, color and tank. There are many cool options, but none cooler than Tux the Penguin. Do you think Linux geeks had any say in the development of the game?
Once you finish tweaking with the many fun-enhancement options, the game begins. Unlike the old Scorched, where you had to wait for each player to commence his move individually, in Scorched3D, all players make their moves simultaneously. This makes each round a splendid show of fireworks.
Below, you can see an online session I played with my friends. Our mate booh is in serious trouble; but luckily, both missiles narrowly miss him. Shame on the penguins, though!
Dying players will have a nasty farewell present for the survivors. Each destroyed tank packs a nasty surprise of random explosion that can cause serious harm to other players in the nearby vicinity.
What more can I say? Scorched3D is huge fun. It brings the turn-based community games to a new level, with great graphics, lots of imagination and superb dynamics. If you have had a remotely pleasant experience playing any of the games of this kind, you will love it. If you're a sworn veteran of the Scorched Earth, then this an early New Year present for you.