In this week’s Classic Mondays feature, we take a look at the 1996 turn-based strategy PC classic Deadlock: Planetary Conquest.
Accolade, the developer and publisher of Deadlock, is well known for a large variety of great games, including Slave Zero, the Bubsy Series, the Star Control series, Eradicator (which will make an appearance in a future Classic Mondays article), and the first 5 entries in the Test Drive series. What they’ve done with Deadlock is create a turn-based strategy game in which seven species fight for control over a recently discovered planet. The battle begins in space, but the seven species soon realize it’s a pointless gesture; just because a species wins the war in space doesn’t mean they’ve gained control of the planet. Agreeing to a compact of war, they decide to cease all fighting in space, and allow the conflict to play out on the planet itself. The seven species start sending colonists down to the surface Gallius IV, and thus the game begins.
Each of the species offers different positives and negatives. For example, the ChCh-t grow and expand quickly, but they’re absolutely useless when it comes to researching technology, while the Tarth are unstoppable warriors, but require an obscene amount of food. These positives and negatives mean that your game will change drastically depending on which race you choose. It doesn’t just come down to stats, however; your species will also affect your diplomacy with other species. For example, the Cyth and the Tarth form a natural alliance, but the Re’lu and the humans are natural enemies.
The game can be played against a number of human opponents (over the Internet), or against the computer. Before starting, the player picks one of seven [playable] races to lead, modifies the desired size of the planet, its basic geological make-up, the number of enemies, the number of City Centers required to claim victory and the landing site. The colony starts with a small population, which grows in size every turn. By constructing various kinds of buildings, collecting/producing resources and researching technologies, the colony can be greatly expanded. Each can field as big an army as it can support.
Military units are divided into sea, land, air and missile, each type produced by a different line of buildings. Specialists, such as spies, are trained in City Centers. Units can only be given combat orders in advance – the player is presented with a video recording of a battle after one has occurred.
There are two modes: the “world view”, where the colony leader can move armies, trade resources with or attack other colonies, and the “settlement view”, where colony management (such as town planning and building) takes place. The map is divided into “provinces”, which can differ in land type and the amount of natural resources (food, wood, iron, energy, and – later in the game – Endurium) available. Natural resources are unlimited, but different resources are gathered at different rates on different land types.
Capturing all of the other colonies’ territories or constructing a pre-set number of City Centers wins the game. The latter is much more difficult than it seems: each consecutive City Center is more expensive than the last.
Deadlock sucked up an unfathomable amount of my time when it was first released (I was in sixth grade, so free time was something I had in abundance). I loved trying to balance diplomacy with military action, ESPECIALLY when I was trying to be diplomatic with a species that my own species normally hated, or trying to be aggressive with a species that my own species normally loved. This strategy never resulted in a blowout win or loss; I either reigned supreme over the other species, or got completely and utterly destroyed.
Unfortunately, Deadlock can be a challenge to get up and running on modern Vista/Windows 7 PCs, but if you’re still rocking XP or don’t mind running a VM of an older version of Windows, this one is definitely worth checking out.