Starship Troopers: Terran Command can be added to that holiest of lists of licenses tied to the correct game genre. A real-time strategy that utilizes the satirical propaganda heart of Paul Verhoeven’s sci-fi classic to make the constant cycle of expendability and patriotism an oddly enchanting experience.
Just like in the film, humanity is waging war on giant bug-like aliens and the government is perhaps exaggerating just a teensy bit about how great things are going. Truth is, many men and women are being sent to slaughter for very little, but at least they’ve been provided with all the gear they could need to blow chitinous hides to smithereens. It’s onto the frontlines with the kind of bravado overcompensation via war and weaponry that made Verhoeven’s not-so-thinly veiled jab at the USA’s warmongering work so well. In turn, it gives this particular real-time strategy a distinct flavour that’s largely missing in the genre nowadays. Anyway, yay for shootybangs and big bugs!
As you’d probably expect, Starship Troopers: Terran Command puts you in charge of the war effort. The story portion of the game sees the troopers called in to solve a bug problem on the arid mining planet of Kwalasha. As the mobile units push back the bug menace they’ll meet a variety of characters, and hopefully, restart the valuable mining operations. Simple enough, right? Yet the key thing to remember about Terran Command and Starship Troopers, in general, is that even with a grossly overzealous budget and colossal manpower, humanity faces a foe that is practically limitless. Thus your awesome power is actually minuscule in relative terms.
And so comes the strategy. There’s a constant need to teeter on the balance between accepting your units’ inevitable expendability and making the most of the skills they have while they remain whole. There’s a grim fascination and horror to seeing a sturdy rocket unit wade into battle, smashing scores of spidery creatures into colorful pulp, and then suddenly, as you take your eye off them for just a second to focus on another small skirmish, they get pounced on by a surprise attack and ripped to shreds. No time to mourn though, just Deploy! Deploy! Deploy!
The propaganda in the campaign has the tongue-in-cheek feel of the film.
The result is flitting back and forth, effectively trying to put out several fires at once while the insectile foe keeps pouring oil on the problem. It’s often tense, a little frustrating, but mostly satisfying trying to play firefighter for the fighters firing. The setup of the maps includes a true line of sight and fire too, so ambushes can just pop up at a moment’s notice, while a unit could be rendered helpless if the scenery is blocking off means of swift assistance from backup. Believe me, the bugs will take every opportunity to get a sneak attack in, which is a hard lesson to learn early on when unit after unit is eviscerated in short order. Terran Command certainly knows how to keep the player on their toes.
So how best to avoid 90% of your infantry ending up as the starter soup on a buffet of humanity? Simple! Caution, alertness, and planning. Yes, it sounds almost condescending simple, but it’s so very easy to forget such things in the heat of battle. While not the most brutal strategy title out there in terms of challenge, Terran Command does require a keen eye and a generally strong level of concentration in order to survive and maybe even thrive.
Key objectives include holding down and capturing infested stations that allow you to further build up your forces, unlock saucy new tech, and ultimately push the beasts back. The enemy you face is all alien, but rarely the same kind, so there’s no one ‘fix all’ plan to these objectives, and that’s honestly an essential part of why Terran Command doesn’t end up floundering in the heat of the moment. It revels in the precarious balancing act it puts on. Sometimes shotgun troops are the best defense, pulverizing arachnids as they move on the objective. Other times an air raid is needed to take out the big cannon bugs as they rain death on your shell-shocked platoon.
The relief of blowing up a swarm.
Additional objectives emerge as progress is made through a battle. Some are optional, but generally speaking, completing them can help make life easier down the line, albeit at risk to the main objective and your soldiers. Again, adaptation and balance are key.
I don’t think Starship Troopers: Terran Command does much new in the real-time strategy genre, but the use of the license gives real flavour to the solid meal that the gameplay provides. Plus, a good bug hunt never goes out of style.
Terran Command pulls off some smoke and mirrors stuff to manage its often chaotic battles without screeching to a juddering halt. Even on higher settings, it works pretty well thanks to most offscreen action being shrouded, focusing on only what the current units can see.
Fairly bare bones, but in truth, there’s not a lot it needs to offer.
STARSHIP TROOPERS - TERRAN COMMAND VERDICT
Starship Troopers: Terran Command is a pretty standard RTS game that manages to evoke the feel of Starship Troopers magnificently.
TOP GAME MOMENT
It can be an intense experience when hordes of arachnids pile over the hill as your final units make their last stand.
Good use of Starship Troopers license
Sieges are intense
Solid RTS action
Not a particularly deep RTS
Fairly simple presentation