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Trash






The Earth is in ruins, a large scale nuclear war has turned parts of the populace into vicious mutants, and the remaining humans have to fend for themselves making use of what's left over from their once proud civilizations: Endless heaps of Trash.

Unlike many indie strategy titles, Trash doesn't try to take short cuts or be minimalist. Instead, Trash is busting at the seams with intelligent details and hidden as well as obvious features.

Players get to choose to side with Humans or Mutants, though alliances in multi player are not only possible, but can prove to be very beneficial. They start with a partially built base, usually with a few windmills as power plants, a recycling facility, a gas well for fuel, and a bunch of huts to supply human resources. The usual buildings, such as basic or advanced factories, research facilities, and defensive structures are augmented with special buildings that serve as upgrades to a team's army.

Such upgrades can only be built on rare sites like toxic waste dumps or precious metal mines. Usually, the first upgrade of a kind also unlocks a certain technology associated with it �€“ the Explosive Damage Upgrade allows players to build Semis, large trucks with a powerful artillery piece mounted on a turret.

To fuel their expansion and ongoing war, players have to harvest trash using dump trucks, and establish an infrastructure of pipes and roads to provide a closed supply chain. Power, people and raw materials move through the pipes, while units use roads and warp gates to get to their destinations faster.

The tech upgrade system distinguishes Trash from its competition. While most games have a retroactive upgrade system �€“ you buy the upgrade, and instantly all applicable units use it �€“ Trash only applies these upgrades to new units. Old units need to be placed near an engineering facility or be serviced by a mechanical unit in order to be upgraded. Now, the cool thing is that these mechanics can install upgrades in your allies' units, as well!

This and a plethora of other game rules allow teams to become more than the sums of their parts �€“ and with up to twenty-four players in a practically lag-free online game, this difference makes you wonder whether you'll ever want to go back to single player or ganging up on computer opponents.

Graphics: 7
Viewed individually, all of Trash's units and buildings look pretty good. Unfortunately, large bases built in even larger fields of loosely scattered trash are difficult to survey. Having car wrecks in every second trash pile doesn't help when half of your units are cars of the same size and shape. The colours and textures are good and vibrant, but rarely seem to be matching. While it may be plausible that anything built from trash is bound to look like a patchwork of stuff, a better way to tell units, trash and teams apart would be desirable. Trash's menus look superb, if a bit empty.

Sound: 6
Not really good, sadly. The game greets you with decent menu sound and music, but in-game, things are quite different. The samples used seem to lack volume and are sometimes too high-pitched to please. Especially the building machinery that can be constantly heard during a busy game sounds more like tools a dentist might use than a heavy duty recycling industry. Combat sounds are better, but unit acknowledgements and less monosyllabic voice-overs are missing.

Game Play: 8
Trash is advertised as a game that is easy to learn and difficult to master. I disagree �€“ it has a significant learning curve, especially since base management is more complex than in, say, all those Command & Conquer clones out there.

But this complexity is a good thing, and the game is quite forgiving when you make smaller mistakes. There is plenty of trash to go around, and with a good pipe network, you can draw on your team mates' resources when your own are depleted.

The controls are fairly intuitive, and the units and AI usually act pretty smart for a $20 game. I especially like the small text comments that appear on the units when they made a decision. �€œToo close!�€? is something an artillery piece might say when its retreating from a battle to get into a better firing position. �€œI don't know whether we'll have enough power for this�€? or �€œNothing to do!�€? are things your construction units may you. The unit path finding is exceptionally intelligent (it uses roads and warp gates when appropriate), though not always obvious when an unit actually made a smarter decision than the player expected and takes a shortcut through the next warp gate.

Value: 9
The game offers a great online service and a well-documented dedicated server that's only an extra 900kb to download if you want to host your own LAN or Internet gaming service. Online ratings are calculated considering individual parameters of the various games �€“ a grand victory you fought over for hours is worth more than a quick game where the opponent gave up early.

Inhuman Games hosts various multi player tournaments and creative competitions such as a screen shot contest. The community is populated with players of all skill levels, and I was able to find a game within five minutes of logging on every time. The server and game programs are very stable, and I haven't experienced lag at all, even in large games. Considering that I was playing via an overseas connection, this is very impressive!

Concept: 9
Trash is full of features that made me think: �€œSomeone who played a lot of RTS games online had a say in these�€?. Individual options can be turned on and off using �€œ/commands�€?, and the chat system has quite a few of these defined. �€œRandom�€? teams are automatically assigned by player skill, not truly at random. Games with uneven teams are automatically exempt from rating calculations.

I also like the spam filter, which politely tells you �€œYou already said that�€? when you repeatedly type �€œGo!�€? or something similar. Many �€œTriple-A�€? games have a less complete online lobby system.

The game itself is cool, full of upgradeable units and tech tree decisions that you don't have to make for yourself, but that you have to agree on with your team mates to make them fully count.

Fun: 8
Battles can be fierce and ever-changing. Weapons can be upgraded infinitely. If you like the level 1 flamer bikes, there's nothing that can stop you from buying a dozen flame damage upgrades to make them the deadliest unit on the battlefield. The mutant and human technologies are versatile enough to amaze when creative players put them to their fullest use.

The mobile field-upgrade principle is great to fuse teams together, giving you a certain responsibility not over your team mates per se, but to their armies as well. And it's really nice to find out your partner has generously upgraded your new Gatling Car squad with Run & Gun and Armour Piercing upgrades while you were busy building a pipeline to his base!

Overall: 9
Trash is everything but. Because of its sheer complexity, it can't be perfect. But what counts is: Trash is really good! With Inhuman Games hosted tournaments, an upcoming map editor and the awesome possibility to have twenty-four players in one lag-free game, Trash is bound to become a treasured gem in many a strategy enthusiast's collection.


By: Moritz Voss
Posted: Saturday November 05, 2005
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