Videogame / Reunion

Reunion (published in North America as Merit's Galactic Reunion) is a 1994 cross-genre 4X strategy in real time created by Hungarian company Amnesty Design, (now Digital Reality, better known for Imperium Galactica and Haegemonia: Legions of Iron). It combined gameplay elements from multiple contemporary strategy games with a rather deep plot. Like another plot-heavy cross-genre strategy in real time from 1994 — Alien Legacy — it wasn't very successful.

By the middle of the 21st century Earth ecology was in such a bad shape, that only drastic measures could save degrading biosphere. UN member states agreed to forfeit self-determination and work together to survive. Resisting corporations were dissolved and had all their property commandeered. Armed resistance of population was swiftly suppressed. And it worked. By 2109 holes in ozone layer started to get smaller and by the 26th century all humanitarian and ecological problems were eliminated. Weapons were abolished and Earth became conflict-free.

But in 2616 a strange uprising began. People were becoming hostile and overthrowing the establishment seemingly for no reason. After a brief but bloody conflict rebels seized control of Earth. The last order of the old regime was the emergency departure of the interstellar colony mission to the recently discovered habitable planet.

The colony ship suffered damage from an asteroid field en route and its engines exploded from deceleration upon arrival. The crew escaped in life pods, but most did not make it.

300 years later the colony New Earth is finally stable, free from conflict and disease and ready to start exploring space. The goal is to find Old Earth and reunite.

The game is fondly remembered for its bold attempt to combine Master of Orion, Dune II, SimCity, Star Control 2 and a bit of Adventure Game, as well as for its lengthy intro.

Provides examples of:

  • All There in the Manual: The manual starts in the late 20th century and mentions the ecological disaster that led to unification of Earth. The game intro starts with early 22nd century. Also the manual gives short biographies of your commanders.
  • And Man Grew Proud: The intro. Except there wasn't much pride. Humans created a Utopia, and then it suddenly ended.
  • Artificial Stupidity: Enemies never attack your colonies, only New Earth. Furthemore, they won't move fleets to cover their undefended homeworld. For example, after you win the battle in space, but lose on the surface.
  • Art Shift: The intro starts with a black-and-white lineart slideshow, narrated with a thick accent. Then it switches to animated scene of rebels storming a space station, obviously inspired by Star Wars. After they seize the station, the intro returns to narrated slideshow.
  • Bag of Holding: When Erans ask you to help them evacuate, you can carry the population of their planet in a single Galleon.
  • Bad-Guy Bar: There's one in your Command Centre of all places. You can hire a spy, a bounty hunter, a pirate and so on. Rather mild version — all those people (and aliens) seem to go there only to offer their services to you.
  • Big Red Devil: Lisonians look like that with their red skin, horns and bad attitude. They force the League to declare a war on you, because they don't like how fast you develop.
  • Bio-Augmentation/Mutants: Earthling portrait has purple skin, green lips and no head hair. There are two flat circular nubs on the frontal boss. Possibly a result of being ruled by a telepathic alien for 3 centuries, but their unusual look is never mentioned anywhere else.
  • Boring, but Practical:
    • The best transport is Trade Ship, 2nd tire of transports. You do need a Galleon for interstellar flights, but attaching a fleet of Trade Ships is cheaper than building another Galleon.
    • Most battles are fought with twin laser guns and missiles (2nd and 3rd tire). Single laser cannons are weak, and plasma guns appear too late to make much difference and can only be installed on capital ships.
    • Most space battles are won by a big fleet of Starfighters, 2nd tire of military ships. Hunters carry fewer lasers and no missiles and have lower hit points. Capital ships are expensive and require a lot of micromanagement to build.
    • The easiest tactics for the last ground battle is fielding several ranks of missile launchers. (That's 45 per rank.) You trade 1 for 1 when attacked by launchers, but destroy everything else from a safe distance.
  • Brainwashed and Crazy: Earth is secretly ruled by a mind-controlling alien.
  • Chekhov's Gun: The intro and manual mention the starship Explorer 1, that was destroyed in 2589. You find the wreckage and some clues around 2930.
  • The Computer Is a Cheating Bastard: The mouse interface does not allow to quickly give orders during surface battles. The computer-controlled units have no such problem.
  • Copy Protection: Simple, yet devious, manual check. There's typical "Type password from the bottom of page XX". The passwords are easy to copy and the check is easy to break. But later the player has to answer a quiz, requiring information from the manual. They appear about halfway through the game.
  • Cue the Sun: Inverted for losing the game, doubling as Book Ends. The intro ends with the governor candidates posing in front of New Earth buildings on a bright sunny day. The outro ends with the same buildings burning, then the sun sets, and the picture fades to black.
  • Cutscene Incompetence: When Morgruls eliminate Jaanosians, Morgruls' fleet consists of only 5 Hunters, while Jaanosians have several times as many Hunters as well as heavier ships up to Cruisers. Even if you destroy this Morgruls fleet, it still destroys Jaanosians a few hours later. But if you attack Jaanosians, they easily defeat you.
  • Cyborg: MACH — killed in a battle against domestic terrorists and resurrected as half-machine. Kyle Douglas comes close — severely wounded during war games and replaced parts of his body with electronics. The practice is common, Michael James having no implants indicates lack of battle experience. Subverted by Sapphire Fox — what looks like a plastic scull is her prototype "thought recorder" she wears.
  • Dialogue Tree: Trees are usually simple, but wrong choices in dialogues with aliens can easily make the game unwinnable. Usually it's obvious.
  • Distant Prologue: The intro covers from 22nd to early 27th centuries. The game proper starts in 30th.
  • Downer Beginning: Earth suddenly becoming a Crapsack World.
  • Game-Breaking Bug:
    • In the floppy version memory occasionally got corrupted. This could manifest in such things as a ridiculously large enemy fleet, like 150 Morgrul Destroyers, when you have only 5. Or in money and ores randomly disappearing.
    • If mining stations ran unattended too long and hit the storage capacity limit, unloading ore may become impossible. Worse, if the transport already has some ore, pressing the transfer button may transfer the cargo to the planet. This one sometimes manifests in the CD version too.
  • Gameplay and Story Segregation: The game is particularly sloppy with that.
    • Colony sizes, in a big way. Initially your colony of around 20 000 represents a planet with population in hundreds of thousands. Then alien planets with population in billions (or many millions) are represented as colonies with a single building.
    • After you evacuate all humans and Erans from Antares, you can still see the people in the doomed colonies.
    • League races surrender after you defeat Lisonians. Even if you defeated the rest of the League long ago.
    • People in the bar keep giving you the same information long after it got outdated.
    • Earthlings are referred to as "aliens" in many generated messages.
    • Ground battle mechanics makes aircraft for all intents and purposes a ground unit, albeit the fastest.
    • You are not allowed to research some artefacts you found or bought, until the plot gives you the corresponding invention. Justified for hyperdrive (your scientists needed to think what could it be), but not for the pirate's trophies.
    • You can intercept signals from League and Earth and send a pirate there long before you discover those star systems. Apparently, the pirate knows the coordinates, but never thought to sell them to you.
  • Green Aesop: Backstory in the manual.
  • The Greys:
    • Syronians, with their pale skin, huge brain, big black eyes, secrecy and telepathy. A renegade Syronian mind-controls Earth.
    • Jaanosians look like that too, but lack other Greys' traits. Although sattelites sent to any of Jade moons do get mysteriously destroyed as long as Jaanosians control Jade.
    • When you finally find Earthlings, they have no head hair and purple skin.
  • Guide Dang It!: The plot is linear and rarely allows to stray far from the designated route. This usually means failing to meet some conditions for various Timed Missions.
    • In some playthroughs a window of opportunity may be very short. See Luck-Based Mission below.
    • Didn't find Jaanosians before Morgruls destroyed them? No chance to get weapons. You lose.
    • Didn't send a sloop to Jaanosian planet? Again no weapons.
    • Missed your chance to get advanced fighters, lasers and tanks in Phoenix and Merak systems? Fight with the basic fighters and APCs.
    • Not enough energon to buy tanks? Fight with APCs.
    • Received S.O.S., but can't find the planet? Maybe you need an observatory in this system.
    • Built a colony on a radioactive planet and your people are dying? Looks like they are doomed.
    • Executed a pirate? Satisfying, but you missed a chance to finish this war quickly.
    • It's possible to capture aircraft, but never get allowed to research it.
    • Never built a colony with observatory at Antares? No aircraft.
    • Did not save Erans? No aircraft. Don't say they didn't warn you when they cursed you.
    • Did not ask an Eran to help you at the right time? No aircraft.
    • Picked a wrong League member to subvert? No aircraft.
  • Insectoid Aliens: Morgruls. At least their heads look like that. More so for Undorlings. Ironically, they are each other's biggest enemies.
  • Keystone Army:
    • When you capture an alien homeworld, it becomes your colony, and the rest of their colonies and fleets disappear.
    • Same for you — if you lose New Earth, the game is over, despite all other colonies and fleets.
    • When you defeat Lisonians, the rest of the League surrenders.
  • Klaatu Barada Nikto: A planet in Amnesty system is named Klaatoo (sic) after the New Earth scientist, who discovered it. When you discover its two moons, they are named Barada and Nikto. The manual mentions that Klaatoo likes to watch old SF movies. Probably he suggested the moon names. And even his name may be a pseudonym inspired by his favourite film.
  • Luck-Based Mission: Discovery of planets is partially random. Some of those planets are plot-relevant. Every ship travelling in the star system and every observatory on your colonies in that system has a small chance of detecting planets every day.
    • You may discover Jade right from the start or many months later, which affects the time you get for research.
    • You may discover Phoenix 1 on your first carriers' trip to Phoenix, or you may need to colonize Phoenix 2 twice, since the first colony may die before you research radiation shield, and wait a few years. This sidequest allows to undermine Morgruls-Kalls alliance — Kalls would join you when you attack Morgruls' homeworld, providing ground vehicles . Some players believe it is not worth the effort.
  • The Main Characters Do Everything: The required amount of micromanagement is probably the biggest players' complaint.
    • Manually ferrying minerals in your single cargo fleet to the only place that builds ships may be the worst of it.
    • Capital ships — Destroyers and Cruisers — can only be built on space stations. Space stations are expensive. It is not allowed to order to build more ships than there are space stations on New Earth. Probably just one. In other words, every time a new destroyer is built, the governor has to issue an order to build one more destroyer. Having extra space stations does not accelerate building.
  • Mle Trois: New Earth against Morgruls-Kalls alliance against the League.
  • Obvious Beta: While bugs aren't that obvious, there are a lot of hints of what the game could have been.
    • See Game-Breaking Bug. Especially jarring in the floppy version, where memory gets corrupted randomly. Mining stations too full to give ore were another trouble.
    • Skipping the intro has a small (several percent) chance to crash the game.
    • Bar scenes always display the protagonist as male.
    • NPCs in the bar have a lot of unused potential. Studying the game resources reveals sprites for characters that never appear.
    • There are Druedians in the bar right from the start. They are aliens, they don't originate from New Earth, yet everybody ignores them.
    • You can research and build colony buildings that would be useful for ground battles, like Ion Cannon. But ground battles are fought on a separate screen where the colony doesn't appear.
    • See Artificial Stupidity. You can do a lot to protect your other colonies, but never need it, since enemies target only New Earth.
    • Some events look like stubs that could have become alternative plot routes, but were never implemented. For example, translator research is triggered by first contact with any aliens. Except that you can only meet Jaanosians or Morgruls and you die a few hours after meeting Morgruls.
    • All cases of Gameplay and Story Segregation could be caused by this. For example, when people stay in the evacuated colony right until it is destroyed by supernova.
    • Big cargo ships can be equipped with weapons, but cannot use them. Even if you build Privateers, all pirating is done by a pirate you hire.
    • Colonies have to build various production facilities, but the only place that builds ships, ground combat units, mining robots and such is New Earth.
    • Theme Naming only applies to planets and moons in the Amnesty system. The rest just get boring numbers.
    • No way to automate shuttling of ores.
    • Ground combat controls are rather awkward.
    • In early 1990s Copy Protection was present in floppy versions of most games, but normally got removed from CD versions. Yet, CD version of Reunion does ask for passwords.
  • Opening Narration: Very long (over 10 minutes), starts with lineart slideshow, switches to animation of rebels taking over an orbital station, then more of slideshow.
  • Pixel Hunting: Most commands are available via icons in the top panel (similar to the panel in Sierra VGA adventures), but it is possible to give commands by clicking objects in your command centre and in a ship's cockpit. The latter doesn't have corresponding icons for every command. Fortunately, a text appears in the status bar when you hover the mouse cursor over something clickable.
  • Purely Aesthetic Gender: At the start you choose to play as a man or a woman. This only changes several sprites.
  • Real-Time Strategy: Clock never stops ticking. You can accelerate it, but not pause. While the game separates construction of ground buildings from ground battles, the ground combat with APCs, tanks, rocket launchers and aircraft looks a lot like in Dune II. Space battles are fully computer-controlled, though.
  • Really 700 Years Old: MACH became a cyborg after being killed by terrorists on Old Earth over 300 years ago. Either that, or idyllic New Earth had some domestic terrorism in its recent past, and it got suppressed without trace.
  • Science Fiction Writers Have No Sense Of Scale: Possibly a case of Gameplay and Story Segregation, see above.
  • Simulation Game: The colony building screen looks a lot like SimCity. Taxation, people morale and population inflow/outflow also work similarly. However, there is no traffic and no crime.
  • Space Opera
  • Spiritual Successor: The good ending promised Reunion II in early 1995, but it never happened. Instead another real-time 4X game with a plot was made — Imperium Galactica — which abandoned some ideas, but expanded others.
  • Standard Sci-Fi Army: The fleet has no troop transports or dropships or anything like that. Every fleet battle group may simply carry any number of ground vehicles, but the question "how" is never addressed. The units somewhat remind of Dune II. All ground units are equipped with the same weapons as spaceships, which kind of implies the same size. The battles are simply ranks of units approaching each other while shooting. The available units are:
    • Troop Carrier or "Trooper" (sic) — an APC. Invented for no apparent reason after you beat Morgrul fleet the first time, probably in case their next attack fares better and you'd have to fight them on the surface. Despite the name the soldiers never leave the carrier and it fights with a laser gun.
    • Battle Tank — looks like rhomboid heavy tanks of WW1, without a turret. Design bought from aliens in a Timed Mission. The pictures display a single main gun, but the tank has to be equipped with several lasers.
    • Aircraft. Seems to fly real low, since it cannot fly over any other machines on a battlefield. You may capture some, but won't be allowed to use or study them. Aquiring the design requires some diplomacy.
    • Missile Launcher tank. Glass Cannon because of low hit points and being deployed in really small groups of 5 (compared to 30 for tanks). Has longest range despite using the same missiles as aircraft. Despite its fragility makes all other craft redundant.
  • Standard Sci-Fi Fleet: There are 3 kinds of ships:
    • Sattelite Carrier, the first ship you invent. Its only purpose is safely transporting unmanned orbital probes beyond your moon orbit. Later carriers are upgraded with Warp Drive for free. Still later Spy Sattelites and Spy Ships are invented, which also need carriers. Still later carriers get the job of transporting Solar Sattelites (orbital power plants) to your colonies. Considering that your enemies ignore carriers, they may just as well have stealth capability.
    • Transport ships or "traders". Primarily used to ferry ores from mines and colonies and stuff like robot miners to colonies. There are:
      • Sloop — invented after you research automated mines to drop on other planets, but realize you can't transport it there. Unarmed.
      • Trade Ship — co-operative research effort with aliens. Also unarmed.
      • Privateer — found as a derelict in an optional sidequest. Can equip weapons.
      • And Galleon that has a warp drive that moves the whole trade fleet — invented after carriers study another star systems. Can equip weapons.
    • Real military ships purposed for combat. Can equip various weapons.
      • Hunter — given by aliens for you to fight on their side. Typical weak fighter.
      • Starfighter — ditto, by different aliens. Same as above, but with better weapons.
      • Destroyer — has a warp drive that moves the whole battle group. Found as a derelict in a hard to miss situation. Can only be built in space, but has no problems landing on planets.
      • And Cruiser — somewhat stronger version of the destroyer, acquired after beating a certain enemy. Firepower of 1.5 destroyer for the price of 10. Awesome, but Impractical, except not awesome at all.
  • Take Your Time: Especially jarring, because after several Timed Missions the game becomes this.
    • Your enemies build their fleets much slower than you can build if you have a steady flow of credits from several colonies and enough minerals.
    • League declares a war on you only after your traders or fighters visit any of their planets. You even get warnings to avoid them. Placing spy satellites and spy ships is perfectly OK.
    • Ditto Earthlings.
    • Subverted at the very start. You can wait until your meagre trickle of tax credits amasses enough to hire best advisors many walkthroughs suggest it before expanding your colony or exploring space.note  Yet the time is ticking, and you only have 8 months to meet aliens and invent a translator, and 1 month after that to build a defence fleet.note 
  • Taught by Television: Despite all their credentials all your acclaimed pilots learned in simulators. Military commanders aren't much better — Michael James also has only simulator experience, while Kyle Douglas and MACH only commanded ground forces and have no real experience in space battles. It proves to be enough.
  • Tech Tree: Inventions are triggered by events in the game (e.g. Mining Station by discovery of ore on another planet, Universal Translator after a sloop meets Jaanosians) or, infrequently, by time (e.g. you realize it's a hyperdrive many days after you've bought it). Sometimes you buy or find a mysterious alien object (e.g. buying a hyperdrive or finding Pirate and Destroyer wreckages). After that you have to research it. Many inventions are triggered by drawbacks and requirements that become obvious when research is finished (e.g. Sloop after Mining Station). Each invention has certain requirements in Math, Physics, Electronics and AI — if your science advisor lacks training, the research is stuck halfway. Advisors' stats can be trained, but are ultimately capped. Only Klaatoo's caps allow researching everything.
  • That's No Moon!: Syonians' homeworld and its three satellites look artificial. The type of planet is "Enhanced" for the homeworld and the populated bigger moon and "No" for the umpopulated smaller moons.
  • Theme Naming: Planet names in the Amnesty system. Moons of Klaatoo are Barada and Nikto. Moons of Zeus are from Greek mythology. Most other moons have something to do with astronomy (Kepler, Einstein) or flight and space exploration (Wright, Aldrin, Mariner, Apollo, Venera).
  • Universal Translator: You develop the universal communicator after contacting Jaanosians. One of the easiest inventions. Looks like wrist watch.
  • Voluntary Shapeshifting: Erans can do it. In dialogues an Eran looks like a humanoid with a severe skin disease — bright red, lumpy and swollen. In the bar scene he looks like a giant beetle. This ability will prove useful to undermine League, if you ask the right question at the right time.
  • Warp Drive: All interstellar ships use it.
  • You Require More Vespene Gas: There are 6 resources that can be mined, all necessary for shipbuilding at later stages. Detoxin can only be pumped by derricks at a colony, while the rest can be mined by robotic outposts. Raenium and texon are unavailable on New Earth, although raenium is present on its moon Apollo. Early in the game you have to build as many derricks as your money and reactors allow. Later you spend more and more time ferrying minerals from mining stations and colonies to New Earth.
http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/VideoGame/Reunion