Off the Grid: Deadlock – Planetary Conquest
I don’t often venture into the area of PC gaming these days, save for World of Warcraft and perhaps the SimCity or Civilization franchises, but in the past I used to play some PC games pretty heavily. One example of a PC game I used to devote unhealthy amounts of time to is Deadlock, which was released by Accolade back in 1996. I was a big fan of these RTS-lite space colonization games, this being one of the two I’ll discuss here in the coming weeks.
Deadlock had a fairly simple back story to get you started. Eight races are vying for control of a certain planet, named Gallius IV. These races faught against each other, in hopes of knocking the opposing races out of the picture. The conflict, however, was stopped before it escalated into an intergalactic free-for-all, and a committee was built to sign a treaty. Seven of the eight races signed this pact, which stated that each of those civilizations could send 500 colonists to Gallius IV, armed only with laser pistols, to colonize the planet. While there were limitations on what they could bring with them, there were no limits set on what they could develop on the surface. So, it was up to each civilization to improve their colony’s infrastructure and armaments faster than the others, to be able to claim the planet for their race.
This is the premise you begin with, and you choose one of the seven races to play. Each race has its own unique graphic style and special units. You would build up your colony in hopes of overrunning your opponents. There was a neutral race that would serve as everyone’s advisers, and give you pointers as to what to do (similar to your advisers in, say, Civilization). If you were running low on supplies, you could always hit up the black market for an extra boost, even though they were greedy bastards and overpriced everything.
Deadlock featured everything from military strategy and conquest to minute colony micro-management, which is one thing I love most about these pseudo-RTS-style games. Just like any other game in its genre, different resources are gathered on different land types, and these resources are combined and used to build up your colony’s infrastructure – whether it be logistical, scientific or militaristic. Of course, added into this mix is the fact that each race had its strengths and weaknesses, and I often chose my races based on who has the best technological or scientific prowess – I’m not much of a militaristic guy. In retrospect, this is probably why I dislike playing RTS games online against other humans, because I tend to enjoy sitting back and building up my knowledge and science resources over amassing a huge military to seek out and destroy others.
While the franchise eventually had campaign modes, one of the things I enjoyed about it was, for the most part, it was sandbox-style. You were given your objective – take over the planet by any means necessary – and left to have at it. I don’t enjoy RTS games that are focused so much on a set campaign that the freedom to do as I please is left to the wayside. Just give me a broad objective and let me dive in.
As an aside, there was also a sequel to the game, called Deadlock II: Shrine Wars, that released a couple years later, in 1998. It was basically the same game with the same art, just some game play improvements such as more diplomatic measures that could be undertaken, a streamlined interface and an actual campaign (which I never did play).
Deadlock was probably my first foray into some form of RTS gaming, and it really paved the way for my enjoyment of other games in the genre. Although, I have to say, I missed out on playing some of the heftier names in the business, such as Starcraft. I’m very particular about what RTS games I like and don’t like, for various reasons. But, this was one I highly enjoyed and would spend hours upon hours in my room on my Windows 95 laptop playing into the wee hours of the night. This is one of those games that I’m not really sure how well it did financially, but it did manage to sneak in there right before the Starcraft craze of the late ‘90s. I’d love to see this franchise re-imagined, but with heavy hitters like the sequel to Starcraft coming up real soon, I doubt it will ever happen.