In an era when games with modest ambitions are produced by studios with dozens of employees, Meridian: New World is a notable anomaly. Crafted by a single developer- Hungary-based Ede Tarsoly, Meridian’s fusion of elements is a minor miracle- with the intricate tapestry of coding, art, sound, and artificial intelligence rivaling the proficiency of a prodigious team of seasoned artists. And while the game will undoubtedly garner an abundance of attention based on its auteurist design, an unlikely production method doesn’t justify the purchase of a product. After spending a dozen hours with an Early Access build of the title, it’s New World’s ability to deliver classic real-time strategy tenets will be the reason why genre fans will want to open their wallets.
After years of playing RTS games with only a skeletal storyline, Meridian involvedplotline is poised to please. An introductory cinematic tells of Earth’s perilous conflicts, driven by an oversized population and the exhaustion of the globe’s last natural resources. After years of scouting a suitable alterative, hope rests on the ability of a planet named Meridian to sustain life. Yet, between a distress call which expresses a deadly plight and an encounter with antagonistic lifeforms, colonization doesn’t appear to be an uncomplicated task. What’s effective about Meridian’s premise is the sense of desperation subtly conveyed by the game. Without having to verbalize the importance of the situation, players will undoubtedly recognize that their actions will determine the fate of our populace.
Gamers assume the role of Commander Daniel Hanson, a charismatic leader with a brief backstory found in New World’s encyclopedia component. Shirking both the full-motion video cutscenes or pared down dialog of most RTS titles, Meridian adopts a role-playing-like system to deliver expositional elements. As players relocate around their colonial ship, they have the ability to speak with their comrades through branching dialog trees. Not only do verbal choices have an impact on the trajectory of New World’s narrative, but being able to select dialog responses enables player identification with the protagonist more than pre-determined conversation could.
Deftly, Daniel is more than just a cypher used to hang the plot on. His presence extends a decently sized tech-tree of Commander Powers to players, granting capabilities that range from area-of-effect healing, production bonuses, and even the ability to target enemies directly. Unlike StarCraft II’s similar hero abilities, these perks are available at all times and usable across the entire battlefield, not just when a lead character is playable and within a designated range.
Beyond upgrading the capacities of the commander, New World also extends a supply of fifteen different weapon upgrades to its squads of mechanized units. Interestingly, once one of the technologies is researched, armaments such as lasers, rail guns, and rockets can be mounted on any unit type, adding a nice nuance to the traditional rock-scissors-paper type of gameplay. In execution, this means players can strap weapons on their resource-collecting bots, converting the thankless gatherer into an offensive force. If only my Age of Empire villagers could be retconned into a wrathful militia.
As such, there isn’t one type of combatant that automatically dominates another, which is a refreshing variation for the genre. On the downside, Meridian’s weaponry doesn’t exhibit much in the way of impact, with each type of ordnance steadily shaving away enemy heath bars, instead of acting like a mighty war machine. While the game’s visuals are certainly top-notch, additional particle effects might help to articulate the ferocity of firefights.
As an Early Access title, New World has a number of other elements which still need tweaking. Perceptive path-finding can often be an issue for RTS games, and occasionally, the title’s AI has trouble navigating occupied areas. Similarly, humans might experience a few course-plotting difficulties, since distinguishing between traversable territories and proscribed zones only comes through play experience- there’s no clear visual identification.
Certainly, players seeking the stimulation of a competitive match might be disappointed by Tarsoly’s decision to focus on a single-player campaign. But with the bulk of the genre fixated on PvP, Meridian: New World’s ambitions are certainly noble. Extending a large assortment of mission types is poised to please players, even if the dodgy stealth or tower defense stage still needs a bit of fine-tuning. One large challenge which await awaits the one-man team at Elder Games is testing. Currently, we had to disable a sound app on our tower and notebook rigs to ensure Meridian didn’t abruptly drop to the desktop.
Fortunately, many of these concerns seem mendable- and given the progress demonstrated so far, there’s little reason to believe these issues will persist. In Meridian’s favor, Tarsoly has also bundled a map editor and scripting tools, allowing the game’s burgeoning community to keep the title supplied with new ideas. Given the title’s current promotional price ($7.49 on Steam until July 14th), Meridian: New World extends an enjoyable build right now and a harbinger of hope for fans of classic real-time strategy.