Thursday, February 03, 2005

Linux Free Strategy Game Roundup Part 4

This week's entry into the venerable Linux Free Strategy Game Roundup is netPanzer - a game that unlike, let's say netHack, is actually playable over the internet.

The last sentence was a bit of an understatement on the scale of "air is breathable by lungs". You see, netPanzer's main focus is hectic online play. Any player can jump right in to the middle of any game, at any time, no matter what. This small, seemingly inconsequential detail provides netPanzer with the bulk of it's staying power. When a player joins a heated battle, any multitude of things can happen. An area that had previously been thought safe can suddenly become a new source for a volley of shells, making an already heated battle even more chaotic - or the same battle can be swung in the favor of a struggling army if the newcomer decides to become allies. The ally aspect, by the way, is built right into the game, something I can't remember seeing in any of the other games in this roundup so far.

netPanzer's graphics, while not stunningly beautiful in screenshots, are a step up from, or at least on par with any of it's peers. Clouds of smoke billow up from still flaming ex-tanks, explosions are well animated, and the battlefields have a nice pseudo-3d look. One note against the graphics is that, while running 1024x768 resolution, the framerate is only around 48 fps. I'm not sure if they just have it capped but, at the same resolution, Cube gets 100+ fps. Only after pushing the resolution to 1600x1200, with 3x full scene anti-aliasing, does the resolution start to fall that low. Sound, while not the best I've ever heard, does a good job at capturing the intensity of a given situation with explosions-a-plenty.

Now, as I stated before, netPanzer's focus is online play but it is possible to get a game going with bots - it just takes a little more work than you may be used to. I'm not going to give step by step instructions here, as they're included in the README that comes with the game. For most GNU/Linux distributions, the game is either included on the installation CDs or available from a package management system like apt-get, so it's easy for most users to get their hands on. As with most any game now, Windows binaries are also available for download. Sorry OSX users, nothing for you yet. If you can, get your hands on this one, it's quite possibly my favorite out of all the games mentioned so far.

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