RTS

Blood Tactics (Artefacts Studios) [PC – Cancelled]

Blood Tactics is a cancelled fantasy RTS that was in development by Artefacts Studios in the mid – late ‘00s. The team is mostly known for their work on such titles as Agatha Christie: The ABC Murders and Space Hulk Tactics, but it seems they were also planning this obscure project. Unfortunately Artefacts never officially announced Blood Tactics so the only proofs of its existence are a few images from an alpha demo, probably developed to pitch the project to various publishers.

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Battletech (Microprose) [PC – Cancelled]

In the late ‘90s Microprose UK was working on a Battletech real-time strategy game for PC, based on the official license by FASA Corporation. FASA’s own development team (FASA Studio) was probably still busy working on their first MechCommander video game (published in 1998), so we can assume the company asked Microprose to work on a different game in the meantime. In the end Microprose’s Battletech was cancelled, but thanks to game designer Terry Greer we know a few details about this lost project:

“Battletech (based on a license from FASA and set in the Battletech universe and with lead designer Richard Bakewell) was in relatively good shape when I started as Head of Game Design at Microprose UK, so I really had very little to do with it – apart from working on creating the cutscene scripts, and overseeing it until its untimely cancellation.

Battletech had its own engine, a basic terrain editor, and the beginnings of control mechanics. It was also very extensively documented with a detailed GDD and specification, along with lots of artwork and models – and was fully thought through (the Battletech license was owned by FASA).

The game was based around controlling a small squad of mechs (basically big power suits) with just a single operator  across a height-based map with deformable terrain. Tactics and squad formation and use were to play a large part in the gameplay.

Unfortunately the game was canned a short time later for reasons that were out of our control and which involved FASA suddenly reversing their decision to continue. I still have some artwork from the game – but can’t get the demo to run any more, it required other installed files which I no longer have.”

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Orcs: Revenge of the Ancient [PC – Cancelled]

Orcs Revenge of the Ancient is a cancelled real-time strategy / action game that was in development by Berkeley Systems around 1998 / 1999, planned to be published for PC by Sierra Entertainment. It was going to use J.R.R Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings / Middle-earth settings and gaming magazines and websites at the time were quite hyped for the project and was described by IGN as being “somewhere between Pokemon, Die by the Sword, and Master of Magic”.

As we can read from its original press release:

“Sierra Studios proudly announces Orcs Revenge of the Ancient, a fantasy strategy game developed by Berkeley Systems set in the world of Middle-earth from J.R.R Tolkien’s internationally acclaimed trilogy The Lord of the Rings. Cast as an Orc chieftain who has been assigned command of an elite group of fighting Orcs by Sauron, the Dark power, your group is charged with keeping the peace between the many evil factions of his army using whatever brutal means necessary. However, two other evil powers have emerged from the past to vie with Sauron for your aid in their respective quests and you must choose your alliances carefully to survive.

Orcs Select up to four common Orcs and transform them into brutal fighting machines, each with a unique fighting style created by you. Customize your Orcs’ fighting skills through intense training in which you build the best combination of killing moves suited to your Orc. Each Orc has its own specific personality and characteristics. For example, an Orc who is prone to violent outbursts may be difficult to train but ferocious in battle. Develop your Orcs’ Statistics such as intelligence, strength and dexterity in arena and field combat and sustain these skills with training exercises.

You will command your Orcs in real time 3-D combat, choosing their armor and weapons and suggesting fighting moves. Pit the Orcs under your command against over 30 enemies before taking them online to match skills with other Orcs in multiplayer mayhem.

As the original story of Orcs Revenge of the Ancient pulls you deeper into Tolkien’s Middle-earth, you will find yourself trapped in a deadly conflict of interests between the three dark powers. Your Orcs’ survival within this violent power struggle will determine whether they are capable of self-determination or merely servants of the Darkness.

Product Features

+ Original and rich storyline based in J.R.R. Tolkien’s Middle-earth
+ Open-ended gameplay
+ Customizable training and fighting
+ RPG-based skill system
+ Combo builder to create custom moves
+ Multiplayer online component”

Unfortunately the game was canned in late 1999 due to an internal reorganization, as we can read on IGN:

“What we do care about is the fact that due to this reorganization, Sierra has cancelled four of their upcoming titles including Desert Fighters and Pro Pilot Paradise (for which we shed no tears), and, more seriously, Babylon 5 and Orcs: Revenge of the Ancients. Worse news still is that the company has laid off more than 100 people who were working on those titles.”

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Captives (Impressions, Sierra) [PC – Cancelled]

Captives is a cancelled real-time strategy / puzzle / adventure game, with an interesting gameplay somehow similar to a mix between Lemmings, Choplifter, Lost Vikings and Blast Corps. The game was in development by Impressions Games (mostly known for such games as Caesar, Global Domination, Pharaoh) around 1996 – 1997, to be published on PC by Sierra Entertainment.

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Next Generation magazine wrote a nice preview of the game in their May 1997 issue, but even if Impressions and Sierra are still quite loved by PC gamers, today Captives is mostly forgotten by everyone. Only a few pages about the game can still be found online in some old websites and Sierra fansites.

“It could be argued that the action/puzzle genre, which took off with the publication of Lemmings in the early ’90s, has languished since the advent of real- time strategy games like Warcraft II and Command & Conquer. Now developer Impressions is trying to remedy that with Captives, a new spin on the formula. The game takes place in a far-off planetary colony, under attack by some decidedly unfriendly aliens, who have taken numerous hostages.

The player takes the role of Dak Ransome, a professional hostage rescuer, who enters the domed city in his combination rescue wagon and tank. Gameplay resembles a  combination of elements from Lemmings and the classic Apple II game Choplifter.

The main idea is to locate a group of hostages, free them using the firepower of the tank, and then use the skills of the rescued captives to open up new areas and free additional prisoners. The four types of captives are civilians, engineers, scientists, and soldiers; only a limited number of each can be found in each of the game’s 25 to 30 levels. The developers are quick to point out, however, that like in Lemmings, many levels will have multiple solutions.

The most noticeable break from the tried and true is the use of a three-quarter, isometric perspective, as opposed to the side-scrolling, 2D which has been the norm, even for such recent action/puzzle releases as Lost Vikings II. While not yet fully 3D, the perspective still manages to open up the playfield considerably, giving a sense of scale and size often missing from the more simplified graphics of a Lemmings or Humans.

Overall, the game should  combine a fast pace with humor and an easy-to-use interface. Multiplayer support is planned, and a level editor should be released sometime shortly after the game itself hits the shelves. With its high-res graphics and new approach, Captives could fill a niche the computer game industry hasn’t really seen in a while.”

It sounds like this could have became a fun and fascinating cult-classic, but unfortunately something went wrong during development: Captives was never released. By looking at the screenshots and short trailer available, it looks like the game was quite far in development: maybe one day someone could find a playable beta to share it to the world? It would be great to preserve this lost piece of PC gaming history.

Thanks to Moritz for the contribution!

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