Fans of the space RTS genre will be familiar with the name Imperium Galactica 3, which was original scheduled to hit stores in late 2001. Of course, this date came and went, and it seemed like the title was itself lost in space. Shortly after, it was renamed to Galaxy Andromeda, yet there was still no sign of its release. Three years after its original release date, however, a title by the name of Nexus: The Jupiter Incident was finally released, which as anyone who remained interested would know, is the final name change. So, essentially, the game is finally here, with a new name, a new publisher but the same goal in mind - ultimate space RTS gameplay, but with multiple space RTS titles launched in the time it took Nexus: TJI to arrive, is there still any room left for success?
After being introduced to the game's background story, you will be sent off into a few preliminary "tutorial" style missions in an attempt to familiarize you with the game's mechanics. These missions will run you through the basics whilst still somewhat introducing you to the background of the game via character introductions. If you have the patience and don't just click through the information boxes randomly, just about every fundamental function is covered which is a relief, however with the sheer amount of information on the screen even from the get go, new comers will likely become overwhelmed, particularly when they are launched into real missions for the first few times.
Strategy is the name of the game in Nexus: TJI, without careful planning and precise execution you may end up as space junk. For the most part, besides actually traveling to your waypoints, you will be engaging in cosmic battles amongst the stars, which is where the game is at its best. As we've seen with recent titles in this genre, the benchmark for battles has entered the realms of being able to target almost every component on enemy ships, and Nexus: TJI does not disappoint. Depending on your enemy, or enemies, your OSD will update with information about the target ship including any detected on board components, such as engines, gun turrets - you name it. You can then target any component easily enough, which obviously directly affects the capabilities of the enemy's ship should they be eliminated. You also have to constantly take into consideration what type of ship you're targeting, what weaponry you're using and what poses as the biggest threat at any given moment, so as you can see, the combat is very strategic and fans of the genre should enjoy every last second of it. However, even during combat the game is very slow in pace; outside of combat it almost seems like a real space journey, and that's not in a good way.
Unfortunately that really seems to be the impression you get from Nexus: TJI - it is just so slow in game speed the only word suitable for it is 'dull'. Of course, this is subject to personal opinion, I'm sure for some fans this is how a space RTS should be, that is, accurately paced, but the last time I checked this is still a computer game, and if you don't keep your audience interested, they don't need to take a long space flight back to earth, they can just quit. Unfortunately I personally do not share a passion for this genre like some gamers do - don't get me wrong, I'll enjoy anything that keeps me interested including space RTS games, but it seems Nexus: TJI just didn't do it for me as far as the gameplay goes, and I can safely presume this will be the same case for many general PC gamers. The mechanics are there, but the execution is not. For the most part, you feel as if you're a spectator, not a ship commander.
However, If there is anything that does keep you even slightly keen on continuing, it is the storyline. Obviously the game is set far into the future, as with all space RTS games, and you have 26 missions to complete, spread out over 6 different episodes. The story itself is quite interesting, and due to the slow nature of the gameplay as already mentioned, it almost feels like a movie (or maybe a trilogy of movies). Of course, the storyline alone won't keep everyone going, and since it is unlikely the gameplay will either, the end result is probably going to be a lot of gamers losing interest pretty quickly into the game.
One aspect which does not do a whole lot for the game, but still manages to impress, is the Planetary system. There are 10 solar systems with over a 350 planets in this game, and you can zoom in on every one of them (amongst other objects) thanks to a very powerful rendering engine, once you have come across them in the campaign mode anyway. During actual gameplay this has very little value - whilst this 3D Planetary system is used as the medium to select your next mission, often you don't have much of a selection beyond one mission, so a dynamic mission selection setup is a tad redundant. Regardless, nothing makes you feel small and insignificant quite like zooming out from a single planet view to a galaxy view in the matter of seconds, and hey, it is a great way to see our own solar system in a pure 3D format. On top of this, the planets, comets etc apparently move based on real life physics, which I'll take its word for, because if there's anything slower than the gameplay in Nexus: TJI, it is watching planets spin.
The good thing about space in 3D games is its environment and surroundings are very low detail when compared to, say, your typical jungle in an FPS, so a lot of visual detail can be spent on the battleships and other space craft, and a lot has. Other space ships, and your own fleets, are rendered with very high attention to detail, usually to the point where you can learn individual ships easily based on sight. Whilst the graphics are not the best I've seen in this genre, they are appealing and not overly system consuming either, most mid range PC's should be able to obtain nice performance with high end image quality settings. With that said though, a jumpy frame rate is not overly obvious when for the most part, it hardly feels like your moving at all.
The thing about Nexus: TJI, like many space RTS titles before it, is you really have to be a fan of the genre to enjoy it, and with each game release within this genre becoming seemingly more and more advanced as time goes by, the train station where the average PC gamer can jump on board has long been passed. That is not to say new comers won't find Nexus: TJI enjoyable, because I'm sure a few will, but with this genre gradually heading towards ultra simulation in each iteration, the window of appeal for the average gamer is getting smaller, which means eventually your typical space RTS could end up steering itself into the ultra niche market, effectively selling to the same audience over and over again. This is bad because I feel the majority of the PC gaming community would enjoy a decent space RTS title as seen in the past, but it just seems despite their impressive attention to detail, they are jumping ahead too quickly, with Nexus: TJI being a clear example. It is a fundamentally sound space RTS, just not one a typical PC gamer will have enough patience for.
As for the fans of the genre, Nexus: TJI is not the best available, but it is worth checking out if you simply can't get enough of what you've probably already done before - in other words, it isn't really innovative as a space RTS, but it is still a solid space RTS, which is all some fans need to be happy. With an active mod community, it is again clear that the best experience found in Nexus: The Jupiter Incident is reserved for fans of the genre, which is great if you are one, not so much though if you're not.
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