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UFO: Freedom Ridge
Release Date: December 2002
Publisher: Virgin Interactive
Developer: ALTAR Interactive
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ALTAR Interactive's upcoming strategy game, UFO: Freedom Ridge, has a long and somewhat difficult past. The game was originally called The Dreamland Chronicles: Freedom Ridge, and it was being developed by a team that had previously worked on what many consider to be one of the greatest computer strategy games ever made: X-COM: UFO Defense. In fact, Dreamland Chronicles was to be the spiritual successor to X-COM, since it would feature a similar story and many of the features that had made X-COM so great, but unfortunately, the project was canceled early last year.

X-COM: UFO Defense. A bona fide classic.

However, the project was resurrected at the end of 2001 by a new company, and development on Freedom Ridge has resumed. The new development team is proceeding with as much of the original game's design as possible and is regularly consulting with one of the former designers. In the meantime, ALTAR Interactive is working on implementing the kind of enjoyable tactical strategy that made the original X-COM so popular.

X-COM featured an extremely fun combination of tactical turn-based battles--in which you commanded squads of high-tech soldiers and scientists--and scientific research to uncover new technology and weapons. Freedom Ridge will improve upon each of these aspects of X-COM. The new game will expand on the original game's tactical options, and although you'll fight your battles in a turn-based setting and take action based on the number of movement points that each of your characters has, you'll also be able to walk, crouch, or lie prone. Each option provides successively more defense and less mobility. What's more, the game's 3D engine will allow for terrain deformation; rather than always having to sneak around some obstacles, you'll actually be able to destroy them, which may come in handy when you're facing tough enemies that are shielded by ample cover.

They're ba-ack...

Freedom Ridge will also feature a sizeable arsenal of conventional weapons, including machine guns, rocket launchers, and rifles, as well as more-exotic high-tech gadgetry and space-age alien weapons. That's because although Freedom Ridge will pit you against hostile aliens as in X-COM, the situation in Freedom Ridge is much more grim--aliens have successfully invaded Earth, and it's up to you and your small squad of resistance fighters to survive and ultimately stockpile enough arms and scientific assets to be able to overthrow the aliens completely. Since Earth has more or less been completely overrun by aliens, you won't be able to buy any upgrades or ammunition, but you will be able to scavenge weapons and technology from fallen foes.

Can UFO: Freedom Ridge be as addictive and fun as the original X-COM? We'll have to wait and see when the game is released this Christmas.
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