Liquid War (PC) review
"Let me take you back to my first year of college at the University of Puget Sound, Tacoma, Washington (I know you’d probably rather not be taken to Tacoma, but bear with me). The year was 2002. Life was simpler back then. You didn’t have to own three home consoles and two hand-held systems to round out your gaming experience. Xbox users didn’t have to worry about their machines spontaneously combusting. Roommates didn’t have to keep glass valuables out of Wii-range. Half Life 2 hadn’t even..."
Let me take you back to my first year of college at the University of Puget Sound, Tacoma, Washington (I know you’d probably rather not be taken to Tacoma, but bear with me). The year was 2002. Life was simpler back then. You didn’t have to own three home consoles and two hand-held systems to round out your gaming experience. Xbox users didn’t have to worry about their machines spontaneously combusting. Roommates didn’t have to keep glass valuables out of Wii-range. Half Life 2 hadn’t even been announced yet. Things wouldn’t stay simple for long, though. 2002 was a year of acquisition and change. Nintendo was in the middle of taking former nemesis Sega under its wing. Square Soft was entering into a deal with Enix that would combine the two biggest RPG producers into one of the industry’s all-time silliest names. There was a general sense of impending doom as companies began to get behind their biggest titles in a serious way. Nintendo had just released Metroid Prime. Xbox had just released Halo. Sony was going strong on the Grand Theft Auto games. The console wars had just heated up. The gaming world would never be the same.
But me and my friends didn’t care about any of that. We were too busy playing a little piece of free software called Liquid War.
Wikipedia calls Liquid War a unique multiplayer action game based on an original shortest path algorithm. I don’t know what that means. All I know is that you control a blob of colour and assault other player’s blobs with the goal of assimilating them. And it’s really addictive.
To be a bit more descriptive, gameplay takes place on a two dimensional field, usually littered with obstacles which block movement. The view is top down. Players direct a single army of pixel-particles via a cursor that they control with the directional keys (for multiple players, you can map the keys to different spots on the keyboard). The particles follow the cursor and “attack” any other armies they come into contact with. Particles don’t actually die, they get turned into the other army’s colour, so the total number of particles on the playing field is constant. The goal is to have more of the particles be your colour than anyone else’s. As for how it plays out, try to visualize a bunch of spilled paints rushing towards a low point in the floor. The confusion of colours, the brightness at the edges mixing into greys and browns where the paints collide, should give you a good idea of what Liquid War is all about. Imagine someone taking a shower in the background, and you’ll have a decent notion of the sound effects, as well. Don’t let my metaphor of oozing paint lure you into thinking that Liquid War is a slow-paced game, though. This is mayhem and chaos. The tides of Liquid War change on a dime’s notice. Who was winning seconds ago is the next minute’s big loser.
A multitude of maps help mix things up, though herein also lies my one complaint. Some of the maps are favoured towards certain players, specifically the ones who DON’T start in a tight corner or in-between two obstacles (a position also known as “thanks for playing, see you next time”). Pinch points are bad, because as far as strategy goes, the main goal is to surround your enemies on as many fronts as possible. Of course, at the same time, you have to be avoid getting too spread out or surrounded yourself. Particles only attack in the direction of the cursor, forcing you to balance your efforts between fronts and to keep your cursor closest to the most essential pinch points. Otherwise, the enemy can break through a weak point and suffocate you.
It’s simple, yes, but it’s also satisfying. There’s nothing like the joy of trapping an enemy in a corner and watching your cannibalistic colour blob eat away at them like a ravaging virus. There’s also nothing quite so disheartening as watching an enemy sneak up behind you and trap you between two different colours as you struggle to fight your way clear.
These simple strategies can be further modified depending on how you set the game options. It should be emphasized that Liquid War is YOUR game. You can set everything from the attack power and defense to the graphics HX amplifier... whatever the hell that means. Here’s the settings me and my two roommates used at Puget Sound: We boosted the attack really high and turned down “winner’s help” (which gives an advantage to the player with the most colour). This created an ever shifting game where even a trapped player might be able to punch a hole through the army surrounding him and make a come back. They affectionately called it the “Super Deluxe Best Game Method” (I affectionately called it “Jon’s awesome settings”). We would throw on a couple computer players for fun, assign them names like Jesus and Napoleon, then we would turn off the music and rock out to They Might be Giants or the Cowboy Bebop soundtrack while kicking some liquid ass.
Ah, those were the days. I hear the game has got online multiplayer now, but I still prefer playing on a single keyboard with everyone jamming their hands wherever they’ll fit, like some sort of gaming mosh-pit.
Wiki calls it a shortest path algorithm, and I suppose Wiki should be trusted, but if this is math, than it’s the most fun I’ve ever had with an equation. Will it keep you entertained for all time? No. But it'll do for a couple hours... every day. Go download it and get your war on, and maybe you’ll forget what’s going on around you, too.
The game is available for download for PC, Mac OS, and Linux here.
Community review by zippdementia (March 07, 2009)
Zipp has spent most of his life standing in an open field west of a white house, with a boarded front door. There is a small mailbox there. Sometimes he writes reviews and puts them in the mailbox.
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