“O’Neill… what is…a boobie?”- Teal’c
Another week, another piece of Stargate SG-1: The Alliance coverage. I’d also just like to announce that I have conducted an interview with Ben Lenzo, CEO of Perception, about SGTA, why it was cancelled, planned Stargate games assuming SGTA was released and, if there is a future for SGTA. We will make a full announcement in time but expect it two weeks from today. Next week I’ll be kicking off the extensive Youtube gameplay coverage. Stay tuned! The best is yet to come…
Since first being given the build of Stargate SG-1: The Alliance, I’ve been playing it over and over again. While it is rough in some areas, almost devoid of cut scenes, and generally feels like a broken up experience, what must be kept in mind is that it is an early build that was never intended for review or, in this case, preview. So with that in mind I played through every level, tested out the vehicles and weapons, and basically made sure that I experienced everything there was on offer. While it may not have been the “Halo killer” like some fans prematurely touted, it was the game Stargate fans were hoping for.
Despite speculation SGTA doesn’t take place between any particular seasons of the TV series. In fact, the game could almost been seen as a companion piece to the series, not impacting on canon but rather serving as an extra adventure for SG-1. The story is rather epic and perfectly fits in with the feel of the series. Anubis’ forces are moving from planet to planet seeking something. It’s unclear what Anubis is looking for but it soon becomes apparent that he is seeking something that will grant him unlimited power and, most importantly, break the constraints the Ancients have put upon him. With General O’Neill taking back command of SG-1, and allies like the Asgard, the Tok’ra, and Oma by their side, the SGC are at the forefront of a deadly threat that is sweeping the galaxy.
The game starts the players off at Stargate Command as General O’Neill is in the infirmary. After being instructed by a doctor, the player must act out some basic actions to test whether O’Neill has injuries. In doing this you are quickly introduced to movement, combat and the Stargate itself. It’s quite a nice set up and the game masks that forced feeling of a tutorial under the guise of O’Neill making sure he’s fit for duty. At the shooting range you get a chance to try out your pistol, shotgun and P90 machine gun, with static and moving targets. You also get to try the command ability. The command ability allows the player to direct other members of SG-1 to attack particular targets. For instance, by clicking on Teal’c you gain his attention. Then, by merely clicking over an enemy, Teal’c with focus his fire on them. In contrast, not directly clicking any character means you’re granted to full attention of all members of the SG-1 team. One very important aspect of selecting all team members is that you can request concentrated fire on an enemy – this is especially effective when low on life and in need of cover fire.
During the course of the game, the player assumes control of different members of SG1. Each have their own abilities but I’ll touch on that soon. Once the game kicks off you find yourself up against the classic Stargate enemies, the Jaffa. Armed with Ma’Tok staffs, the Jaffa are perfectly recreated in SGTA. Also, Horus guards can been see in the game complete with helmets that open and shut in quite an impressive manner. Compared to firing at shooting range targets, going up against the Jaffa is a different beast altogether. Weapons handle quite nicely with the shotgun being excellent for up close damage, the P90 for mid to long range, and the pistol for conserving ammo for the other, bigger, better firearms. However, once a Jaffa is killed the player can then choose to pick up their Ma’Tok staff. It handles exactly how you might expect, with the ability to fire quickly or hold down the fire button to build up a powerful shot. It’s very satisfying when you power up the staff only to unload the shot on an unsuspecting enemy, sending them flying into the air. Additionally, the further you progress into the game you’ll gain access to other weapons including the Zat’nik’tel, which any fans of the TV simply calls the “Zat”. Sadly though the Zat disappoints in its effectiveness in SGTA and never quite feels as useful, important, or even iconic as it should.
Outside of weapons any member of SG1 can wield, each member can use weapons that are character specific. Carter can uses the Kara kesh (aka the hand ribbon device). Out of all the Stargate weapons featured in SGTA this is handled the most effectively. Used exactly how it appears in the show, the player can use it to push enemies away, sometimes to almost comic effect. Nice little additions to using this weapon are the hand gestures and movements Carter does when idle. She cracks her knuckles and gestures to enemies as if to say, “bring it”. O’ Neill can use the Sniper Rifle which is great when picking off distant enemies before they become a problem for you up close. Teal’c, being the physically imposing presence he is, can use a melee attack to hurl opponents away from him. Finally, Jackson uses a power much like Carter’s Kara Kesh. Known as the “Hand of Light”, Jackson uses the power of the Ancients to drain the life from enemies. His hand glows white while his skeleton can be seen beneath the skin. However, I must admit that I’m a little confused by the true effect of this power. In two builds of SGTA I played they seemed very different. In one build an energy ball followed the enemy and drained their life, while in the other build the Hand of Light power stretched, contorted and gave them a worse, and more immediate death.
The inclusion of the new enemy, the Haakan, is an interesting story element. Adding new characters to an already established franchise is a perilous road. However, Perception may have struck gold with the Haakan. These large behemoths, equal in intelligence and strength, are quite tough to go up against without utilizing the command ability. They use powerful, large weapons and quite substantially devastating melee attacks if the player gets too close. The Hakaan are used sparingly, but to great effect.
The best part about SGTA is the fact that the Stargate itself is such a perfect story device. Within a matter of minutes the Stargate could transport a player from Egyptian-esque ruins to dark, rainy forested landscapes. This shines through as each level is very much unique in terms of visual design. The game never feels like it’s going over old ground and the visual appeal of the levels keeps it fresh, exciting and new. What’s more, the player gets to travel through the Stargate in real-time. That’s right, there are no loading screens from point A to point B. It’s really quite impressive and Perception’s recreation of the Stargate sequence using in-game graphics must be applauded.
One of the most impressive elements of SGTA is its audio. First off, the music in SGTA is cut up into countless little chunks. The reason for this eluded me at first, but after talking to a developer who worked on it I became aware that depending on the situation you’re in the music will dynamically play certain types of audio. For instance, when exploring a level the music may be quite low key. However, upon spotting an enemy the music will alter itself accordingly from a vast array of sound files. This means that there’s never any real soundtrack to SGTA in the way that we’re used to, there’s no individual tracks. Another stellar aspect of SGTA is its use of the original TV cast in the voice acting. Everyone is there- Richard Dean Anderson, Michael Shanks, Amanda Tapping, Christopher Judge, Don S. Davis, Corin Menec, Carmen Argenziano and more. But what’s getting the original cast for if the writing doesn’t live up to the TV show, right? Thankfully, the script is nicely written, charming, packed full of references to past SG1 missions and, most importantly, sounds like the TV show. It’s like playing though a lost episode of the show as Perception have hit the nail on the head with the characters, story and dialogue. It’s perfect.
That leads me on to the biggest compliment I can give SGTA- speaking as a Stargate fan, I absolutely feel that SGTA was a game made by fans for fans. It plays out like a love letter to the series while never being too tongue in cheek about it. This is the Stargate videogame fans were waiting for. Yes, I haven’t played a final build. Sure, the build I played was very much unpolished. But I can see past that. I can see past it and I see a game brim full of potential. I see wonderful story worthy of the Stargate franchise and an overall game that brings me back to the glory days of the series. In an age of FPS’s like Modern Warfare and Battlefield, some kind of revival of SGTA would be incredible. SGTA is not without it’s high stakes but it never takes itself too seriously, much like the TV series. Simply put, it’s pure, harmless and fun adventure.
Overall, I found playing SGTA a little bitter-sweet. Granted I was playing a working copy but I don’t think I’ll ever see it completed the way it was intended. The saddest part about it all is that the work done at Perception all those years ago has never been fully recognised and appreciated. Well, I only hope that we’re starting to do just that with our coverage. Starting next week I’ll kick off extensive ongoing Youtube video coverage that will show you everything you need to see in SGTA. For now though, I want to publicly thank all the Ex-Perception devs out there who are reading this. You’ve made a great game that feels perfectly in tone with its source material. That’s quite a hard thing to pull off in gaming but you did it. Thanks for all your support and, despite how it turned out, for breathing adventurous life back in this franchise. Thank you.