Originally a derivative of Total Annihilation for the open-source Spring Engine, free multiplatform real-time strategy game Zero-K is similar to its source material as well as Supreme Commander with which it also shares a general vibe and spirit. At its heart a Command and Conquer style game, Zero-K differentiates itself through unique game modes and a slant towards general accessibility.
To download the game for free click on the button at the end of this review. The game is available for free download. If you like mechs but prefer turn-based games over RTS action you can choose to download BattleTech instead.
The Game Review
The game begins with the players in control of a bipedal mech known as the Commander – essentially the stand-in for the player himself. This mech is capable of constructing all manner of battlefield implements they need for a functioning base. This base will become the Commander’s center of operations and, once ready, can be used to launch attacks against enemy players. The Commander’s building is incremental and thus the base’s growth is organic – expanding as the player achieves certain milestones within the game.
A crowdfunded game that is again based upon open-source software, Zero-K promises to scale its abilities as the technology itself progresses, allowing for more units and action on screen as computers capable of doing such things become available on the market. In this way, Zero-K distinguishes itself from its spiritual real-time strategy games Total Annihilation and Supreme Commander because it will be incremental in development rollout and perpetually in a state of upgrade.
Zero-K: a Special Take on Real-Time Strategy
Similar to many RPGs, players will not only upgrade their bases but also their mech Commander itself as they progress through the game, adding new modules to equip better abilities and in-game functions.
The game will come with ten or more factories and eight unique units. In addition to the factories, there are radar stations and defensive structures that will help in the detection and deterrence of enemy forces once it comes time to engage in real-time combat with opponents.
To keep things simple, Zero-K only asks that players monitor two resources – metal and energy. These two key resources will determine much of your ability to upgrade and advance your units in the game.
For those players unfamiliar with the real-time strategy game format offered in Zero-K there is a single player campaign that gradually introduces the game’s concepts to the player. This is similar to the story mode found in other games of this genre such as StarCraft.
Gradually acclimating the player to the game’s expectations, Zero-K uses its skill points system to actively gauge a player’s proficiency and progress at mastering the game’s concepts, rewarding those players that may otherwise skip a narrative in a real-time strategy game.
Unique Game Modes
One unique game mode that players will find interesting is “chicken” – essentially a tower defense game within the framework of Zero-K. This mode tasks players with surviving waves upon waves of oncoming attacks which ends with a confrontation with a Chicken Queen or the player’s death and defeat – whichever happens first.
A marked difference compared with other games in this genre, Zero-K has a minimal interface and tries to maximize usability over information. Zero-K offers online player versus player, arena matches, FFA style bouts, cooperative “chickens” and narrative modes.