I greatly enjoyed the original Perimeter, with its truly innovative approach to the stuck-in-a-rut RTS genre. Not only was Perimeter a fresh breath of strategy goodness, with its puzzle-like levels, morph-on-the-fly units, and distinctly bizarre setting, it was also a beautiful game for its time. Needless to say, I was quite excited when I heard about an expansion for this sadly-overlooked RTS gem. I was looking forward to more of that fresh, almost revolutionary strategy goodness. Unfortunately, what I got upon installation of Perimeter: Emperor’s Testament was a complete rehash of original, with very little in the way of much-anticipated freshness.
Emperor’s Testament plays exactly like the original, which can be quite a stumbling block for any newbies trying to jump directly into this stand-alone expansion. K-D Lab made a huge mistake by neglecting to include any sort of tutorial, instead throwing players right into the fire of the much-more-difficult expansion levels. After a yearlong hiatus from the original, I found myself floundering for an hour or so as I struggled to regain my bearings and remember which strategies worked best.
Players are once again put in command of the mighty mothership-like Frames, as they move their way across the interconnected worlds of the Sponge, fighting both enemy Frames and the creepy-crawly denizens of Sponge, the Scourge. Most of the gameplay particulars were already covered in my original Perimeter review, and nothing has changed. Players still gather energy by terraforming the craggy terrain to a useful flat surface, upon which they build their defenses and technology buildings. Armies are made up of 3 basic units, which can be mixed in various combinations to morph into more powerful and versatile units, depending on the level of technology buildings constructed. Players also have access to the indestructible Perimeter, a force-field that can surround all friendly buildings and units at a huge energy cost. A few new buildings and units are made available in Emperor’s Testament, but they do little to change or freshen the game in any meaningful way.
Once again, the control scheme was quite good once I got back into the Perimeter habit. There are a lot of non-traditional elements to Emperor’s Testament, and yet the game never bogs down in the management of troops and buildings. The graphics and sound are unchanged from the original, and they’re beginning to look dated. I still have problems differentiating some of the smaller unit types, which is important when deciding how best to deal with an approaching swam of enemies. The AI is also not at all improved, and the computer tends to get into a tactical rut, often sending out the same unit types over and over again, only to have them completely wiped out.
Most of the levels themselves are fun, and many are very challenging. Some of the 2-dozen-or-so maps can be completed in minutes, while others took me upwards of 2 hours to finally grind my enemy to dust. Almost all of the levels had some sort of puzzle-like solution, although carrying out that solution could be frustratingly difficult. Several of the levels put the players at a huge disadvantage, and I found myself restarting again and again to find that perfect timing or build order.
Perimeter’s single-player campaign plot was out-and-out confusing, and Emperor’s Testament is no different. I don’t really know what was going on with the original, and I’m certainly no more clued-in after completing the expansion. The story is told through a series of cut-scenes in between missions. These cut-scenes bounce around from faction to faction, often changing sides mid-scene. I think there was some sort of threat to the universe of interconnected blob worlds, and there may have been a rogue Frame behind it all, and I’m pretty sure there’s some sort of time-loop paradox going on. In addition to the single-player campaign, a few new multi-player maps have also been added, but no new match-making services have been provided, so finding human opponents is still a bit of a chore.
Perimeter: Emperor’s Testament is a lot of wasted potential. Sure, there are several fun and challenging new levels here, but I was just expecting a lot more out of the Perimeter franchise. For those who want more of the quirky, puzzle-like RTS goodness, Emperor’s Testament is a solid pick. For those looking for that next innovative step in the Perimeter universe, as I was, Emperor’s Testament will likely disappoint.