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Lander came out in 1999 - the same year as Freespace 2, X-Wing Alliance, System Shock 2, Half Life, Quake 3 and Unreal Tournament. Baldur's Gate as well came out late 1998.
In other words, we've just seen the first 2d engines gain 3d acceleration with 3dfx cards. And the competition is turning up with other variants that don't use Glide. Graphics acceleration is about to become standard - but a game that wants to sell would need to have it as an option.
Lander also came on dvd. The cd-rom version was sold along with the dvd-version in some countries, I think.
The FMV-sequences in the game as well as the sound production probably did take up half of a dvd - even if the game itself isn't very big. After all, it's just geometry and similar textures - so forcing a dvd seemed, perhaps, as a way to promote the title as more cutting edge than it was?
The same with no software render option. Since the graphics look, at first blush, somewhat basic, not having a software option seems again to be "3d just for the sake of 3d".
Of course, it was no such thing - the game has a type of lighting treatment and geometry accelerated graphics that couldn't run in pure software on a 166Mhz computer. That new graphics cards at the time could push this up in 1024x768 (720p baby, woooh!) resolution without problems, and look super-smooth, just wasn't mentioned at the time. The 3DFX version in 640x480 would have to settle for beautiful reflective panels and the environmental lighting treatment. Which, truth be told, really did look great as well.
Actually, some of those effects are unique, and you wouldn't see this in 3d games for a while, because it wouldn't look good on complex geometry for another.. ten years basically. Simply because of lack of processing power. Instead, overlay effects would be used, because they bloom across surfaces more smoothly (actually, overlay effects are still used over scene-dependent effects).
But it's not a title that someone would buy a new 3d card and computer + dvdrom to run, I guess.
The biggest obstacle was the controls, though. If you just try the game, dive in, you're toast. You turn the ship, and it lose balance, and you crash.
Ten minutes later, the extremely good players would be doing basic flight well enough to run out of fuel before running out of shield.
An hour into the game, savants would be zipping around the levels, as well as doing curved ascents and descents. And hovering effortlessly into the view of a turret, just quickly enough to blow it up, and then to fade from view again.
And it would be extremely satisfying when you did that. Not just because it took skill, but because it looked so great in motion.
There's another reason why I like this game, though. 1999 was a year with a lot of incredibly large titles. And all of them focused on arcade action, and became simpler and faster and easier. More violent, etc.
And in that context, Psygnosis released a game where the main feature to provide suspense and tension was gravity and kinetic animation. Not explosions and violence.
I'm not sure what the sales were like. But this was to be Psygnosis' last self-published title, and the last title of their semi-independent Manchester branch. Psygnosis then went on to become Studio Liverpool (who made WipeoutHD). Which also, as we know, is now dissolved.
Therefore the entire "sadly" part of the review. If you can, though, getting this gem on disc is definitively worth it.
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