There are so many ways a war can turn; just one mission can make a difference.
A trilogy of space combat games by Psygnosis
for the PlayStation
; the original Colony Wars
told of an epic civil war between two factions of humanity, the Earth Empire and their Colonial Navy against the secessionist League of Free Worlds. The player steps into the role of an anonymous League pilot during what will turn out to be the final phase of the war one way or another, as the technologically inferior League fights to throw off the oppressive Empire. Unusually for a game with Multiple Endings
, the canon ending isn't the best one; the League is able to push the Empire all the way back to Sol, but is unable to take the home-system and instead seals it off, condemning what remains of the Empire to civil war over the tiny scraps of resources left.
The second game, Vengeance,
takes place one-hundred years later. The player now controls Mertens, one of many pilots united by the charismatic leader Kron under a new Navy hell-bent on re-building the portal device
needed to establish interstellar travel outside of Sol and take vengeance on the League. It's not quite that simple, and the game's subtitle turns out to have a Double Meaning
The third game, Red Sun,
takes place concurrently with Vengeance
and follows Valdemar, a worker on a mining colony far removed from the re-newed conflict. One night, a mysterious man known as "the general" appears to him in his dreams, recruiting him, whether Valdemar likes it or not, to fight a more alien threat to civilization than the Navy and League's seemingly endless conflict. Red Sun
ends before showing a resolution to the conflict of Vengeance,
so there is no canon ending.
This series contains examples of...
- Ace Pilot: The Widowmaker
- Artificial Gravity: A close look at the Navy ships of the Vengeance timeframe will show you how much they've fallen back in technology despite rebuilding into a cohesive force; their ships have rotating sections to provide gravity, and Mertens, along with his friends, can be seen floating about their quarters in one cutscene. Even the original League didn't need to build their ships like this.
- All There in the Manual: A large amount of backstory for Red Sun (and by extension the other two games in the trilogy) can be found in the form of an incomplete wiki on the official site.
- The Battlestar: Technically every capital ship since they all launch fighters and all have ship-to-ship weapons, but mostly Dreadnoughts on both sides, Navy Titans, and the Super Titan.
- Beam Spam: Ships would constantly fire beams at each other, but to avoid breaking the mission scripting, beams didn't do actual damage to anything except the player.
- Big Brother: The Watch.
- Book Ends: The first act of the first game is titled "A new threat". The very last ending is named "A new threat?". Subverted; it turns out the latter bookend isn't canon.
- Civil Warcraft: In one of the branches of the original, a group of disgruntled League pilots break away and form a group called "The Faction", which allies with the Navy.
- Cool Ship: Mostly in-universe:
- The Dark Angel fighter was first used by the League to pull off a Big Damn Heroes moment. It's actually an average performer, but its history and distinctive look make it an important symbol.
- The Hydra bomber proved so effective against Navy ships that the designer had to go into hiding because he was in danger of being assassinated by Navy loyalists as retribution wherever he went.
- The Eclipse stealth fighter; it's very clear from the ship database that the Navy has at least a resource advantage if not an outright technology advantage during the original colony wars, as their ships are always a little bigger and a little better armed. Despite this, the Eclipse is fielded by the League and the Navy has no equivalent.
- Curb-Stomp Battle: If the player fails enough to get the worst ending in either the first game or Vengeance, the League/Navy is soundly defeated. It's much more brutal in the second game, where the Navy is defeated almost as soon as they emerge from Sol, the League plans to destroy the entire system to prevent another recovery and uprising in the future like what happened when Sol was just cut off from the Portal Network,and Kron goes through with a plan to destroy the system first to take as many as he can with him.
- Cutting Off The Branches: The first game's plot would vary wildly depending on player performance; three of the five endings had satisfactory outcomes, the other two saw the League defeated. It's possible to be locked out of all but the 'worst' of the good endings very early on, and the page quote would appear on the chapter-selection screen unless the player had a perfect run. In Vengeance, there is only one story path with bad endings depending on what part of the path the player fails on, but there are "doing poorly" branches to the path that will put you back on track if you succeed on them. Red Sun has a completely linear plot.
- Do Well, but Not Perfect: Due to the nature of the branching storyline system, unlocking new branches can requires deliberately failing otherwise easy missions.
- Earth That Was: As far as the Empire is concerned, the colonies exist to feed resources back to the wealthy on Earth, who apparently still live there as little more than a status symbol. In the final mission of the first game, the League takes on the largest ship the Navy has in the vicinity of Earth; the entire planet is a sickly brown.
- Enemy Mine: Some time after Red Sun takes place, the League and Navy run afoul of a hostile alien species (different from any of the three of that appear in Red Sun) and call a truce to face the threat. When Kron insists that the Navy must continue fighting the League, most of the Navy deserts him.
- The Epic: The first game. The story takes place over the last stretch of the League's war for independence, and the entire League knows it, though they're all faceless. The narrator is very emotional about key events, and he also sounds so much like James Earl Jones that many people who played the game when it was new still don't know it wasn't actually him.
- Escape Pod: Some missions require rescuing friendly escape pods, some require destroying the enemy's.
- False Flag Operation: Early in Red Sun, the Navy attacks Marjorie's Kitchen in stolen League ships to give themselves some moral high-ground. Diva, who works for the League, knows there are no League forces anywhere near Marjorie's Kitchen, so she and Valdemar quickly deduce what's going on.
- Foreshadowing: Anyone who plays Vengeance after the first game will realize something is wrong when Mertens describes the League as "jealous terrorists" in his opening narration.
- Forever War: The original colony wars lasted a really long time. The end was very sudden to the point where the narrator mentions that he never dreamed of being around to see the League reach Sol.
- Fisher Kingdom: The Draco system, where the two suns cause crews to grow close bonds or hate each other depending on which sun their ship is closer to. The narrator mentions believing this to be an exaggerated tall tale from crews that had previously seen action in Draco, until seeing it for himself.
- Golden Ending: Perhaps to avoid Cutting Off The Branches, only the most time-consuming and successful story branch in Vengeance concludes with a "good" ending, with all the others branches ending unambiguously poorly.
- Informed Ability:
- The manual of Vengeance states that your wingmate Klein is depressive and that he might break down during intense moments. Neither of these two aspects are apparent during the actual game. If anything, he dies only because the Widowmaker genuinely outflies him.
- Mertins, Becks and Klein are also described as extremely close in the manual. Mertins barely has a reaction when he kills Becks, and has none at all to Klein's death or avenging him against the Widowmaker.
- Kangaroo Court: In one of the bad endings for Vengeance, Mertins is put through one of these. Not by the League, but by his own side, as The Watch is taking over the Navy.
- Kill Sat: Strike cannons, giant energy guns with a small cockpit attached to one side and an engine on the back. Frequently used to even the odds in capital ship engagements, and one functions as a traditional Kil Sat to destroy a land-based research outpost.
- Living Ship: The Red Sun initially looks like a normal, if expensive and powerful, capital ship. Then it starts growing, until the original hull looks like nothing more than a too-small shell over a mass of tentacles.
- Missile Lock On
- No Celebrities Were Harmed: Red Sun contains an extremely blatant caricature of Bill Gates. The alien crew of the Red Sun politely ask him to let them eat the population of the space station he runs. When he refuses based solely on the fact that there's nothing in it for him, they kill him and do it anyway.
- Older Than They Look: Hinted at in the games, spelled out on the old website; the lifespan of humans has increased greatly. In the first game's fluff database, the information suggests that the League has existed and has been fighting the Empire for centuries, with the history of the war described in "phases." Despite this, the narrator lives to see the end of the war, but describes himself as "very young" before it started. Kron is a more blatant case, as it's spelled out that he fought in the original war's final battle and Sol is sealed off for a century before he rebuilds the Navy and breaks out, but he looks thirty.
- Our Wormholes Are Different: Interstellar travel relies on "battle platforms," massive space stations built at the edge of a system that contain the machinery needed to open a portal, or "warp hole" to another system. The League wins their independence by fighting the Colonial Navy back to Sol and destroying the battle platform, sealing the system off from the colonies. It seems to be a Portal Network in the first game, but in Vengeance, the new Sol platform opens a warp hole straight to what the Navy believes is the League's home system.
- POW Camp: In the worst and second-worst endings for Vengeance, we see Mertins end up in different ones after the Navy is soundly defeated. Neither of them look like the League is terribly concerned about treating their prisoners well. In the worst ending, Kron gets to skip the camps entirely and is tortured in public, although you're not likely to have any sympathy for him if you see this ending after you've already seen the better ones.
- Screw the War, We're Partying: When Valdemar destroys the Red Sun, he narrates that it seems insignificant because, though mass-extinction is averted, the League and Navy are still shooting at each other. Then we find out that everyone else knows exactly what he did and how important it was, as he turns to enjoy the parade being thrown in his honor.
- Self Plagiarism: In between Vengeance and Red Sun, Psygnosis released a very similar game titled Blast Radius.
- Space Flecks: Not the first, but one of the most visually pleasing implementations.
- Space Friction: Fighters can turn on a dime, but stop almost completely when the engine is let off.
- Space Opera
- Stealth in Space: The Eclipse fighter is invisible to enemies so long as its moving. All ships seem to have cloaking devices, but can't shoot while cloaked.
- Video Game Cruelty Potential: The bad endings certainly are. Among the good endings involves overthrowing The Empire, blowing up the Big Bad's giant not-a-Star-Destroyer and returning to Earth, as well as rooting out Les Collaborateurs, bankrupting the Imperial Navy and winning independence in exchange for helping the repair efforts on Earth. Or, alternately, sealing off Earth from the rest of the universe, leaving the inhabitants to starve slowly or kill untold numbers in a bloody civil war. That last one is canon.
- Voice with an Internet Connection: Drake, the mysterious person in Vengeance who helps Mertens throughout the war. Who he is, or why he's helping Mertens is never addressed.
- Weapon of Mass Destruction: The Red Sun is built by hungry aliens who plan on using it to eat all life; before the final battle to bring it down, the General tells Valdemar that if he doesn't succeed, the fully-grown ship will use the energy of the nearest warp hole to reproduce and send its offspring to every corner of the galaxy.
- What the Hell, Player?: If you fire on your allies enough times, you get called a traitor and your ship self-destructs, ending the mission, though strangely not the campaign.