Title           Reunion
Game Type       Management Sim
Publisher       Grandslam
Players         1
HD Installable  Yes
Compatibility   All, and separate AGA version
Submission      James Sellman

In the Beginning...

    I love space sagas. Not that politically-correct garbage like the new
Star Trek shows, where we've managed to solve all our problems with peace
and love and old-fashioned American capitalism. I love the stories of vast
empires, of cataclysmic battles, and of great leaders. I love Star Wars
and Gundam. That's how Reunion caught my eye. It promised to go beyond
simple military conflict (a la Wing Commander), and deal with exploration,
trade, colonization, and an important long-term goal. It looked fantastic.
I had no doubt in my mind that it would be a fantastic adventure in
interstellar space.
    Here's the story. Earth was experiencing a period of great peace. The
United Nations had successfully quelled all war, and as the world turned
to peace, people looked upward. (At this point it starts to sound like
ST:TNG or SeaQuest bullshit.... It gets better, read on.) Humanity's next
step was obviously to the stars. Exploration vessels were sent out to map
the cosmos, and find other worlds on which humanity might live. Finally,
two suitable planets were discovered, and two great colony ships were sent
forth to claim them. One ship disappeared mysteriously, and was presumed
lost. The other ship encountered an errant field of asteroids and was
severely damaged, the occupants escaped to the surface of their new home,
without the advanced technology which lay on board the ship. Earth,
unfortunately, was in no position to help. In the meantime, you see,
people there became strangely hostile, and many wars ravaged the planet.
    All of this happened centuries ago. New Earth has crawled back from
the primitive level which was forced upon it, and a great civilization has
sprung forth. You are, of course, the dictator of New Earth, and it's your
job to find out what the heck happened to the old one. Not a small task.

At First Sight

    The game starts showing you standing over a holographic projection
table. This is your command room, and it is from here that you issue your
orders to the forces of New Earth. A row of buttons on top and a set of
"hot zones" on the screen allow you to access the other menus and displays
through which you control your civilization. Initially you are alone, but
in order to get anything accomplished you need to hire a set of advisors;
a builder, a pilot, a warrior, and a scientist. You can choose from three
different candidates for each position, a cheap and unskilled one, one
with moderate skills and cost, and an expensive but powerful one. These
advisors don't really offer much advice, but are needed in order to build
structures, conduct research, pilot ships, and fight wars. Once you have
procured them they will huddle about you, looking like the generals in
    Here's my first problem, your advisors are stupid. Very stupid. You
can send them to the university, and they still come back stupid. This
becomes apparent when you have a conversation with them. These
"conversations" take place through a menu system of possible questions and
commands. Most of them are useless. For example, if you ask them how they
are they will either tell you that they have everything that they need, or
they complain that they want more money. There is NO WAY to give them more
money! Once you've paid their price they become your permanent slaves, no
salary is needed, or possible for that matter. The only cost they incur is
when you pay their tuition when you send them to the university. You can
also ask them what you should do next. They NEVER EVER give ANY useful
information. They only tell you to research stuff that you haven't already
(duh), or they tell you everything's fine. The whole conversation aspect
of the game is pointless and wasted.
    If you feel the need to relax, there's a pub next door. You won't be
doing much there. The few people there you can talk to have very little to
say, and will sometimes repeat the same thing until the end of the game.
After a while a spy will show up, who you can hire to give you information
on other races' colonies and fortifications. A pirate shows up later, and
you can send him on a few preset missions for small amounts of ore or
weapons. At one point in the game the bar becomes incredibly useful,
allowing you to halt hostilities with an entire race of aliens.
Unfortunately the place is so damn boring you probably won't go there
often enough to notice.

Where Does the Fire Station Go?

    The first display you'll probably access is the land display. This is
a Sim City-esque view of your colony, showing rivers, trees, sand dunes,
etc. as well as your buildings. You need to erect structures to give your
colonies various abilities, and your citizens will periodically demand
public works (We demand a stadium! Sound familiar?). Basic needs such as
food or shelter must be supplied. Mines must be built to supply the raw
materials needed to build spacecraft and weapons. New Earth's settlement
comes well supplied with basic facilities, but will need upgrading
periodically to cope with you expanding population. New colonies must be
built from scratch.
    Once again, you are hit with a sense of pointlessness. It doesn't
matter WHERE you build your buildings, it never effects how your colony
functions. The map only serves to limit the amount of buildings you can
have, which becomes really aggravating when you're forced to fit buildings
in like a jigsaw puzzle. This is supposed to be the surface of a PLANET
for crissakes! What kind of planet has only 25 square kilometers of
surface area??? You should be able to build ROADS and BRIDGES and CITIES!
Unfortunately Reunion's surface display is little more than a fancy means
of limiting your colonies to ridiculously small levels.

Subliminal Learning?

    Once you've built New Earth up enough to support space exploration,
you need to research the technology for it. This is done by listening to
compact discs. I am not kidding. Research consists of going to the
research screen, pushing a CD into a player, and watching a nifty
frequency analyzer display. If only real research was like this. After
listening to the CD a vector display of what you just researched pops up
on your holographic projector (this is its only use). This looks cool but
is not realy add much to the game.
    The annoying thing about Reunion's R&D system is that you CANNOT
research new technologies until the computer decides you can. Many
technologies can't even be developed by you, but must be obtained
elsewhere. Sorry, if I can develop spacecraft on my own I DAMN WELL can
develop something as primitive as a tank!

Keep Our Jobs at Home!

    Now we hop over to the building screen, where you can see the same
nifty vector graphic as well as a bitmapped image of the product. Building
stuff is simply a matter of clicking on a purchase button and selecting
how many you want. The amount you can build is limited by the amount of
money (from taxing you citizens) and raw materials you have. Sometimes a
support system must be built for you to build the item. A space station,
for instance, must be built before you can build a cruiser, and each
station can only build one cruiser at a time. It takes time to build each
item, so don't expect stuff to just appear.
    It is here that you hit one of the stupidest oversights in the game.
You can only build things on New Earth. No matter how advanced your
colonies are, even if they have a HIGHER level of technology than your
homeworld, they can't construct so much as a miner droid! They just can't!
This means that in order to build a defense force for other colonies YOU
pain in the ass. I just left my colonies undefended.

Mapping the Armada

    So, we've built our spaceships, now let's sally forth into the cosmos!
You first must organize your ships together into groups. You can access a
screen which displays all of your groups together, from which you can
select the individual group you want to work with. There are four kinds of
groups that you can create - Satellite, Cargo, Combat and Defense. Once
you've created the necessary type of group you can add your ships to it.
    Reunion gives you a limited number of groups, spread over two pages.
One page is dedicated to planetary defense forces, while the other is for
all other groups. As I mentioned before, building defense forces requires
a LOT of work and patience. They don't even appear to be required
(discussed below). Yet Reunion makes 50% of the available group slots
DEDICATED to defense forces! You can't put anything else in them! No one
would possibly EVER need that many groups of them! Furthermore, there is
apparently NO WAY to disband a group once it's been created. If all the
ships are removed or destroyed, the "group" is sent back to New Earth. The
name of the group (which you can't change) sits empty in the slot it
occupies. You can't get rid of it. Fortunately Reunion gives you plenty of
slots to work with, I didn't even use half of them. It's still annoying to
leave all those empty groups sitting around.
    Having grouped your ships together, it's time to hop in the cockpit!
This gives you a view of the stars, if you're in space, or of the planet
you're on when you've landed. It's pretty. It's useless. I would never
ever use this screen were it not for the fact that it's the only place
where you can command your ships to take off or land. Every other order
can be issued from the starmap.
    The starmap is a pretty display of the star system or planetary system
that you've currently selected. It looks really similar to the map display
in the multistage Psygnosis shoot-em-up Awesome. At its main level it
shows an entire star system, with all known planets shown. Other known
star systems can be selected from a menu on the right. Clicking on a
planet zooms in to show the planet, any known moons, and any known fleets
of spacecraft in the system. Most functions concerning ships, such as
moving them, combat, etc. can be accessed from the menu here. This is also
the only way to access a planetary view of another planet. If you hit the
button in the command center you only get New Earth, nothing else. The
starmap is probably the most polished of Reunion's features. It works
well, and allows most functions needed during the game to be executed.
It's no more complex than any of the other displays, but this type of
display calls for simplicity rather than complexity.
    Sending out your ships once built is relatively painless. Launch them
from the cockpit then tell them where to go. If you watch from the cockpit
you can see a nifty starfield. Once you've reached another world you can
drop satellites to explore and determine the mineral content and
inhabitability of the world. Mineral worlds can have robotic mining
stations installed, while habitable planets can have new colonies erected.
It's even possible to build a mining station before the inhabitability
report comes in, and then build the colony later.
    True to form, Reunion just doesn't go deep enough here. Mining
stations are next to worthless, they can't be upgraded and can only store
a tiny amount of ore. I soon abandoned them in favor of constructing
colonies, which can still have mines, plus storage centers to hold the
ore. While it's possible to make use of the added output of the mining
stations, it requires a massive effort to collect the ore. Ship after ship
must be sent in to pick up the small amount generated, because if the
stores get full, production stops. It's too much work.

Not Alone

    Not long after your first ship is sent out, you'll encounter your
first alien race. They live within your OWN STAR SYSTEM. For some reason
you haven't detected them up until now. Oh well. Anyway, they're a nice
folk. They give you all sorts of interesting technology that you wouldn't
be able to get otherwise. Your meetings with them take place in a small
room where you can ask and answer questions. This is the only interaction
(aside from the bar) that you can have with aliens. The only trade in the
game is available here. You can't even contact the aliens, they have to
contact you. If you wanna talk, tough beans. You can even send a ship
laden with useful ore and equipment to an alien world and LAND on it, but
to no avail. You can't trade and they won't even talk to you. You can even
land on a HOSTILE planet, with no attempt being made to attack your juicy,
undefended cargo ship.
    They will, however, destroy your satelites. Even if the race is
friendly, normal satelites will be destroyed when deployed. Only spy
satelites and spy ships can be deployed over alien worlds. Not that
they're very useful, mind you. When you drop a satelite over a supposedly
densely populated alien world, the images that come back are of a BARREN
SURFACE! NO BUILDINGS OR ACTIVITY! I guess all aliens must live
underground or something.

Just Fight, OK?

    Not all aliens want to be your friends, and of course the only real
way to deal with them is by blowing the crap out of 'em. For that you need
a navy, an army, and weapons to arm the two. How you group them depends on
whether the force is to be offensive or defensive. I got through the game
with only one defensive force, stationed at New Earth. The aliens either
didn't know or didn't care about my fat, juicy, undefended colonies just
waiting to be invaded. All of their assault attempts were on New Earth.
Aliens are dumb.
    Therefore you'll probably only be building offensive forces. These are
similar to your peacetime groups, except they have slots for both warships
and ground forces. The ships are to take out opposing navies and the tanks
and jets are for mopping up on the surface. Naturally you have to take out
the enemy spacecraft first. (It should be mentioned that you can actually
land on enemy planets with a full complement of tanks, troop carriers,
jets and warships, without the enemy so much as throwing a pebble at
you... Aliens won't fire first around their own planets.)
    Space combat is simple, noninteractive, but cool. It's probably the
prettiest part of the game. After you give the order to attack, a radar
display showing your ships and the enemy's ships pops up, and the battle
ensues. This is kind of like watching the space battles in Macross or
Gundam from far away, with little specs of light exchanging little
blossoms of fire. In the lower right corner of the screen a series of
animations plays during the battle. These are reminiscent of the final
battle in Return of the Jedi, and look real cool. They don't actually MEAN
anything, mind you, they're just eye candy. Only the radar gives
meaningful information. It would be nice to be able to issue orders and
strategies during the battle, but the only option you have is to retreat.
I usually didn't; the animations are so cool that I didn't care if I lost,
I just watched them until the end. All in all, the whole affair basically
amounts to sending out your boys and telling them to "wing it".
    Ground Combat is different. Before combat begins you are asked to
organize your troops into divisions, deciding between concentrated strength
and firepower or greater flexibility in movement. Combat takes place on a
single screen of terrain, where you can issue orders to individual
divsions. It all happens so fast that you can't really do much but tell
them to go ahead and shoot, and it doesn't pay to have lots of them
because you could never issue orders to all of them. Once all the
defenders are taken out the planet's yours.... And you get a colony there
whether you want it or not. Invading is real expensive, not because of the
cost of warfare, but because you're required to build a whole damn new
colony every time you win.

Summing Up

    I really wanted to like Reunion, honest. It's very pretty, even on the
ECS version, the music is fantastic (you have two user-selectable tunes to
choose from), and the whole concept of a civilization attempting to
discover what became of its progenitors is absolutely fantastic.
Unfortunately its flaws are much too great for me to recommend that someone
plunk down their money for it.
    For one thing, it's way too linear. You can't do ANYTHING out of the
proscribed order. You discover each star system in a certain order, go to
war in a certain order, and are at the mercy of events which you aren't
allowed to change. For example, soon after you meet the nearby benevolent
aliens, they tell you that an enemy race is coming and that they need your
help. They give you plans for a simple space fighter and ask that you send
as many as you can build to help them. You have enough time to build about
THREE before the aliens attack. If you send them out you're greeted by an
armada of over 500 ships (far larger than ANYTHING ELSE in the game!)
which neatly destroy your little force, kill all your buddies, and
generallly give you a bad time. Once your buddies are dead, the armada
disappears as mysteriously as it came. The force guarding the alien
HOMEWORLD isn't even a fifth as big! The whole thing screams plot device.
As an experiment I cheated by editing the data files to give me a massive
fleet, big enough to take out the alien menace. I sent it out, and after a
long, protracted battle managed to defeat the invaders. No sooner had I
done this when I was told of how the friendly aliens' base was destroyed
by the armada which I HAD JUST OBLITERATED! This defied all logic and
really pissed me off.
    But what really kills Reunion is that it just isn't deep enough. It
shows wonderful potential in its colony building and exploration
sequences, but they just don't have enough complexity to make them
worthwhile. Why offer me the ability to lay out my bases when the layout
makes no difference? Why let me have defense forces when I can only build
equipment at my home base? Why have trading ships when I can't even trade?
The whole game is an exercise in astonishment giving way to
disappointment. A lot of talent clearly went into the basic design of this
game, but hampered by its linearity, shallow gameplay, and incredibly
stupid ending, I have to say that it was wasted.


Sound: Excellent

Graphics: Excellent

Gameplay: Poor

Lastability: Once you win it you'll never play it again.

Value: Below average

Overall: Below average

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