Perimeter Review

Perimeter is a 3D real-time strategy game that plays a bit differently than other games in the genre. Sure, you still have units, structures, and resources, but it is in how these elements are utilized that Perimeter separates itself from its sci-fi RTS brethren.

There is a single resource in the game, energy, and to produce it you build special energy core structures. The catch is that these energy cores draw their power from the ground on which they are built, but the ground is seldom flat enough to build on. The fully 3D maps are filled with mountains, gullies, and other terrain features that are not conducive to base-building. That’s where the game’s terraforming feature comes into play. In Perimeter you can designate a swathe of land for flattening and special robots will go to work to transform a mountainous landscape into flat plains. It’s actually pretty cool to watch the robots at work as they will dig pits in the surrounding terrain to collect the dirt that they need to create a nice smooth surface.

Screenshots
A base puts up its shield.

There are several reasons why you’ll need to carefully plan your terraforming projects instead of taking on a grand campaign to flatten each world you encounter. First of all it takes these robots a little time and energy as well to flatten the terrain and it won’t do you much good if you’ve got robots all over the place haphazardly flattening terrain. Also, the energy cores will only produce energy when they are placed within the transmission radius of another core and your core network must link up with your “frame”, your mobile mothership/town hall structure, so you need to expand in a methodical manner. Finally, Perimeter derives its name from a special feature of the energy cores. You can use your cores to create a force field around your base that will keep all enemy units out. The force field requires a tremendous amount of energy to sustain, but it can be a godsend in a pinch. Of course you’ll need to plan the layout of your cores well so that you don’t leave gaps in your perimeter field.

Perimeter also takes a different approach to unit building than most other RTS games. Instead of providing an array of specialized units, Perimeter has only three basic unit types, soldiers, officers, and technicians. These robotic units are very versatile and can be combined to form a myriad of unit types – snipers, rocket launchers, tanks, choppers, and more. All it takes is a little bit of energy and the presence of the requisite structures and you’ve got a very dynamic and versatile fighting force. On the downside, once you’ve got this force in play it can be a little difficult to control. The first issue is that the units are tiny. Sure you can zoom the camera in, but at the standard zoom level that gives you a practical field of view, many of the units literally appear as dots on the screen. Once you find and select them they’ll be surrounded by a HUD-like green marker, so most of the time it feels like you’re moving around triangles and circles instead of transforming robots. Also, there’s none of the standard grouping and unit management features that are pretty much the de facto standard for the genre and far too often I found myself hunting for units when I needed them the most. The last issue I had with the units was with their AI. The pathfinding is too direct and single-minded in that units will struggle to cross mountains in their path rather than take an easy shortcut through adjacent flatlands. I’ve also seen units follow each other lemming-like to their doom through the holes and gaps in the “floating” maps. Also, while the AI does have the concept of the benefit of concentrated fire, it follows it to a fault. When faced with an enemy mass of low-level units you’ll see your entire army haphazardly concentrate its fire on one enemy at a time in an orgy of overkill.