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Video Game / Dark Colony

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Dark Colony is a 1997 Real-Time Strategy game for Windows PCs, developed by GameTek and published by Strategic Simulations, Inc. Set on a terraformed Mars in 2137, it focuses on the conflict between humans and aliens for domination of the planet.

The backstory is your usual fare. Earth slowly runs out of resources, so plans are drafted to expand to the nearest viable planet — Mars. When a new energy source, Petra-7, is discovered beneath the red crust, Earth's major corporations scramble to colonize the planet. The largest of these are Pan Luma Industries, Aerogen Corporation, and Stratus Enterprises, which become the de facto rulers of the planet. To better support human life, Mars is terraformed, giving birth to vast deserts, lush jungles, and plenty of wildlife.

All is well until the aliens show up. The Taar are a dying race that needs a new world. Mars fits, though first they have to get rid of the human presence. The campaign can be played from either view point and ends with the same result — total extermination of the opposing side on Mars.


It has since become freely available as an abandonware.

This game provides examples of the following tropes:

  • 11th-Hour Superpower: In penultimate mission of each campaign, you obtain an alien artifact (Esgaard if you're playing as a human or Portalis is you're playing as an alien) so powerful that it hopelessly outmatches anything that your enemy may throw against you. To give a small summary — it's airborne, making it invulnerable to most unit types (only a few can shoot aerial targets), it one-hits every unit (sans armoured ones — turrets and assault units — which are killed in two shots), it has a very high rate of fire, range on par with that of sniper units and on top of that, it has lot of health. All you need to do is to send it straight against enemy bases and expect the final mission to be a cakewalk.
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  • Aliens Are Bastards: Taar definitely count. Not only they try to conquer the planet that humans have just recently terraformed and colonized — not even considering the possibility of peaceful coexistence — but are utterly cruel and remorseless, torturing and dismembering their enemies and siccing genetically designed monsters on them, especially the Scythe Demons, which just love to rip their victims apart piece by piece. Then again, humans are no better.
  • Allegedly Free Game: The freeware version lacks both cutscenes and music.
  • Archaeological Arms Race: When both sides realize that Mars was once inhabited, they rush to reclaim what artifacts they can find. These range from the utterly hilarious butcher's automaton (used to prepare meat apparently, now useful as a weapon of mass destruction that randomly moves around the battlefield cutting everything down) to an ancient war machine that can easily win the war on its own. And it does.
  • Armor Is Useless: Human infantry unit, the Trooper, wears a protective suit while alien infantry unit, Gray warrior, is completely naked. Despite that, they both have the exact same amount of health. This is handwaved in that Gray is apparently protected by some sort of "poly-organic skin".
  • Attack Drone: All units in human arsenal — sans the Trooper and S.A.R.G.E. cyborg — are various types of robots which are either driven by their own A.I. or remotely controlled.
  • Authority Equals Asskicking: The playable commander for each side is a battle hardened veteran, much stronger than other infantry units and capable of calling down reinforcements/airstrikes.
  • Awesome, but Impractical: Some of the alien artifacts that can be obtained in temples are this.
    • Kaox, when deployed, divides into multiple copies of itself which rapidly roam across the battlefield and cut down everything in their path instantly. Trouble is, they all move completely randomly and there is no way to predict where they will go, nor control them once deployed. Therefore, whether you're lucky or not, Kaox can mow down multiple enemy units (besides the one you targetted) or none at all. If you're unlucky, it can even kill your own troops purely by accident.
    • Tektaara works by giving you permanent control over local wildlife nearby, which can then be used to scout the area or even attack the enemy. There are two problems with this, however. Firstly, neutral critters are usually spread over large area and Tektaara's influence zone is limited — which means that you are able to mind-control only a few of them at once. Secondly, they are pretty weak in combat and more useful for recon than anything else. And even then, dedicated scout units for each faction (Osprey and Ortu) are much better at the latter job, being airborne and all.
  • Badass Baritone: Played straight with human commander, who has a deep, raspy voice to underscore his status as a legitimate badass. Inverted with alien commander, who speaks in squeaky, high-pitched voice, but is no less of a badass.
  • Billions of Buttons: Invoked by in-game menus, briefings and debriefings. They are literally packed with various smaller screens, icons and other gizmos which serve no other purpose than to look cool.
  • Blue Is Heroic: Averted. The fact that this game has no downright heroic factions aside, Stratus' main color is blue — and they end up betraying other two human corporation. And pay dearly for that betrayal.
  • The Cavalry Arrives Late: In the fourth mission of human campaign ("Island Assault"), dropships dispatched by allied Stratus corporation arrive with reinforcements... only after you have already destroyed alien base, making it utterly pointless.
    • In the fifth mission ("Darkest Hour"), this trope gets overlapped with Cavalry Betrayal when not only Stratus forces intervene after you've destroyed Taar base, but they decide to turn on you at this moment and drop their reinforcements within your own perimeter.
  • Chicken Walker: Human assault unit, Reaper, is a bipedal combat walker with back-jointed legs and digitigrade feet.
  • Cigar Chomper: Every S.A.R.G.E. cyborg comes equipped with ever-smoking cigar stuck in his mouth. Begs to wonder if they were specifically designed this way.
  • Civil Warcraft: Stratus betrays other two human corporations and allies with Taar at some point, but this is played out differently in each campaign.
    • In alien campaign, Stratus Commander Tick is captured by the Greys, brainwashed and forced to work for them. For some reason, not only do the rest of Stratus turn on Pan Luma with no objections, they remain enemies even after Tick shakes off the mind control and later dies.
    • Human campaign, on the other hand, implies that they were planning on backstabbing Pan Luma from the start — as in mission five ("Darkest Hour") they turn on their former allies only after they've already destroyed what they believed was Taar main base of operations (thus, aliens were supposedly no longer a threat). When that backfired, they apparently struck Enemy Mine alliance with Greys, assuming that such betrayal will not be forgiven by their erstwhile partners.
      Trooper: I thought this war was supposed to be against the aliens.
  • Command & Conquer Economy: As usual for Real-Time Strategies of that time, the entire economy of both faction revolves around gathering a single resource (Petra-7), which is then converted into money (raw energy in-universe), which is in turn spent by player on base structures and military units.
  • Conspiracy Kitchen Sink: Remember all those stories about a flying saucer which supposedly crashed near Roswell? Well, according to this game, it actually happened. Specifically, the saucer in question was a part of recon group tasked with searching for habitable planets that Taar could colonize. Other ships that arrived to Earth survived and their crews remained in hiding near Roswell, until the rest of the Taar fleet arrived to solar system.
    • We may visit the famed Area 51 military base for ourselves (during tutorial and a few campaign missions) and find out that not only it does serve as a research facility where experiments on extra-terrestrials and their technology are being conducted, but also as a boot camp for soldiers fighting against aliens on Mars.
    • Not to mention aliens themselves, who really do look like little gray people with big, black eyes and really do travel via spaceships that resemble flying saucers.
  • Construct Additional Pylons: Notably averted. Apart from general unit cap determined by the game's engine, there are no additional requirements that you have to meet in order to expand your army. All you need to worry about is having enough money to afford it.
  • Cosmetically Different Sides: Units and buildings differ in appearance and the kind of weapon they use. Tactical niches, hit points, damage output, and nearly all of the special abilities are identical.
    • The two actual differences are Commanders' special abilities (humans call down reinforcements, aliens airstrikes) and vision. Humans see and shoot farther at daytime, the Taar during the night.
    • There are also some small differences in stats of certain units on both sides, but they are always balanced out by respective advantages or disadvantages in other areas. For example, human Reaper can attack its targets from small (single square) distance — unlike its alien counterpart, Scythe Demon, which can only attack in melee — at the cost of slightly smaller rate or fire. Human S.A.R.G.E. cyborg fires visibly more rapidly than its alien Gorrem counterpart, but at the cost of lower damage per shot.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: The final mission is this regardless of what side you choose, thanks to the Esgaard / Portalis.
  • Dying Race: As noted above, the Taar were brought to the edge of extinction after their homeworld became uninhabitable and now everything that is left of their civilization is travelling via fleet of flying saucers and searching for a new home.
  • Enemy Mine: After backstabbing Pan Luma and Aerogen, Stratus briefly forms an alliance with the Taar in order to fight its former partners. This ends badly for them in both scenarios. In human campaign, they are utterly demolished along with Taar by Pan Luma in retaliation. In alien campaign, they are aided by Taar when their main base is under attack from two other corporations, but once the battle is over and aliens get what they need, they turn on the Stratus and kill them off anyway.
    • Also applies to three human corporations which were undoubtedly competitors in the past, but now must fight together against the alien threat.
  • Eyeless Face: Some monsters bred by the Taar — like Scythe Demon or Ortu — have no visible eyes.
  • The Faceless: A particularly dark example. Although humans are one of two major factions in Dark Colony, not once in the game — not even during the cinematics — you get to actually see a human face. The only units in their arsenal which are human beings (i.e. not robots or cyborgs), the Troopers, are always wearing helmets with visors and breathing masks which completely conceal their faces. They never ever take them off. It only serves to dehumanize them and emphasize their ruthlessness in the conflict.
  • Fantastic Racism: In spades. Both fighting sides absolutely despise each other, show no mercy in combat and actually seem to take sadistic pleasure from watching their foes die and prolonging their suffering. Taar perceive Earthlings as primitive, filthy and pitiful race deserving nothing more than utter contempt, while humans in turn see the "Grays" as freaks and vermin and use various racial insults regarding them, like "little buggers".
  • Fun with Acronyms: Human sniper unit, the S.A.R.G.E. cyborg. It is never explained what does it stand for.
  • Glass Cannon: Fittingly, the artillery unit (human Barrager and alien Atril) and sniper unit (human S.A.R.G.E. and alien Gorrem) for each faction have a long range and can deal a lot of punishment, but they are not very good at taking it.
  • Gorn: And tons of it. Both human and Taar troops can be shot, cut down, blown up, torn apart, and otherwise killed while spewing litres of blood everywhere. A special nod goes to human troopers, whose dying screams are deliciously well rendered. Oh, and let's not forget plenty of rendered cutscenes which delight themselves in showing off the brutality of the Martian war, including depictions of severed, rotting heads mounted on spikes, piles of freshly killed corpses in front of their killer, and more. The intro shows off a trooper exploding a Taar's head apart.
  • The Grays: Played straight, though the alien skin is more white than gray.
  • Green Rocks: Petra-7, which is the main (and only) resource in the game itself and one of main reasons why both humans and aliens want to have Mars for themselves so badly.
  • Half the Man He Used to Be: Happens to Gray warriors a few times in game cinematics. During one such instance, two humans soldiers are watching an alien crawling towards his gun and make a playful bet on whether he manages to grab the rifle. He doesn't.
    Trooper: All right, you win. But I'm only paying you half.
  • Hero of Another Story: Aerogen Corporation. They play only secondary role towards Pan Luma Industries in the main war effort. It is also implied they are decimated by Taar halfway through the human campaign (since they never appear as your allies again following "Shattered Front" mission), rendering them unable to continue the war. However, they are the main protagonists in Council Wars mission pack and wage their own war against aliens on a different front, equally crucial to the outcome of the entire conflict.
  • Humanity Is Infectious: A rare dark example. During alien campaign, when members of the Taar core faction ask their kin hiding near Roswell for aid in capturing Commander Tick, the latter ones demand something in return. Your Mission Control suggests that they've spent too much time among humans and already adopted some of their traits, such as greed.
  • Humans Are Bastards: You would think that in a game about a war between humans and aliens, the former ones would be the heroic figures, fighting valiantly and honorably against evil invaders? Well, you would be dead wrong. Humans in this game rival their foes in cruelty, have an equal penchant to kill them slowly and painfully and often take visible, sadistic pleasure from it.
  • Hypocrite: As noted above, Taar perceive greed as an innate human trait. Never mind that one of the major causes of the whole conflict is their own unwillingness to share planet Mars and its riches with humanity. What makes it more jarring is that humans had put a lot of work, money and resources into turning the eponymous colony into a habitable world, while Taar didn't lift a finger to help them and just watched the whole thing from hiding... but they are still utterly convinced that they have more rights to Mars than humans do, just because "we are superior". And now, a whole race of guys full of lust to have everything for themselves and themselves only — even if they did nothing to earn it — have a nerve to call greed a "human ideology". Hypocrisy? In spades.
  • Imperial Stormtrooper Marksmanship Academy: In game cinematics, both human troopers and Gray warriors fire many, many shots, but most of the time, they just keep missing. Even when their enemies are literally just standing straight in the open.
  • Kill 'Em All: The main goal for either side of the conflict is total and complete extermination of the opposing faction on Mars.
  • Kinetic Weapons Are Just Better: The entire human arsenal relies on them. For example, their basic infantry weapon is a pulse rifle, ejecting titanium shells via electro-magnetic field at mach nine velocity.
  • The Medic: The human Medi-Craft and alien Zisp are textbook examples.
  • Mega-Corp: All three human factions in the game — Pan Luma Industries, Aerogen Corporation and Stratus Enterprises (the red, teal and blue ones, respectively) — are private corporations which are so powerful and wealthy that they lead the colonization and terraforming of Mars, using the most advanced technology available and even have their own, private armed forces.
  • Men Are the Expendable Gender: Throughout the game there are no human women on Mars (we can't be sure about the Taar). Unless they all have suspiciously male voices, only men die on Mars. By the dozen.
  • Mercy Kill: Nope. Whenever a human or alien faces a wounded soldier of opposing force, one thing he won't do for sure is putting an end to his misery. Special mention goes to a cinematic where a Gray warrior, with lower half of his body missing, desperately tries to crawl to his rifle lying nearby. Two human troopers present, instead of finishing him off, just stand there and watch him suffer, even making a bet whether he manages to get to his gun.
  • Mini-Mecha: Reaper, the "heavy assault mechanized robot" as in-game encyclopedia describes it, is a bipedal combat walker armed with 10-milimetre (or 25-milimetre, according to game manual) automatic cannon.
  • N.G.O. Superpower: All three human corporations, but especially Pan Luma Industries, which takes the brunt of fighting. They field armies which are powerful enough to wage an all-out war against alien civilization (what's left of it, at any rate) and apparently, all humanity's hopes lay on them.
  • Nicknaming the Enemy: The actual name of alien species is "Taar", but they are called "The Grays" in-game. Aside from that, human soldiers give them derogatory slang names like "bulbheads" or "little buggers".
  • Non-Entity General: Notably averted. You do have an in-game avatar in each campaign, who even earns various awards and promotions if you do well. As a game unit, he uses the same sprite as basic infantry of his respective faction, but is much tougher than them, sports a unique HUD icon indicating his rank, has different voice and his own set of in-game quotes. If his health drops to zero, he isn't killed, but mortally wounded, and a medical dropship arrives to pick him up — unless the given mission objectives specifically state that he must survive.
  • Not in This for Your Revolution: In the fifth mission of alien campaign ("Roswell Revisited") you have to cooperate with Taar splinter faction which had spent the last few decades in hiding near Roswell on Earth. After so many years of isolation, they are unwilling to help their brethren gratuitously and demand payment for their aid.
  • One-Man Army: The ultimate artifacts in both campaigns (Esgaard and Portalis) can literally win the entire war for you. See 11th-Hour Superpower entry for more details.
  • Organic Technology: Everything the Taar use is organic, from the cloned troopers, through burrowing turrets (guess where the gun comes out from), to their buildings. The sole exception is their flying saucer(s).
  • Pillar of Light: When Solaris is deployed, its Wave-Motion Gun takes this form.
  • The Power of the Sun: One of alien artifacts that player may acquire — the aptly-named Solaris — works by focusing solar energy into a single, destructive beam that obliterates anything that stands in its way. As powerful as it is, it was originally used for mere demolition.
  • Psychic Powers: Gorrem, the Taar sniper unit, has the ability to attack via psychic blasts.
  • "Reason You Suck" Speech: Your Mission Control delivers it to you in nearly every "mission failure" cinematic... which also plays if you just quit the game instead of failing outright. It's as annoying as it sounds.
  • Rewarded as a Traitor Deserves: Commander Tick — and by extension, entire Stratus Enterprises — betrays other two human corporations and sides with the Taar. He is later killed and his remaining forces wiped out once the aliens have no further use of him.
  • Ridiculously Fast Construction: Taken to extreme degree. There is no building time for units and structures in this game — new soldiers, combat machines and beasts of war leave the barracks, factories and hatcheries the moment they are ordered. Possibly justified in case of buildings, which are delivered in whole via dropships.
  • Shout-Out:
  • Sufficiently Advanced Aliens: The alien civilization that used to inhabit Mars long before Earthlings and Taar came there definitely counts. It was so powerful and so advanced that its artifacts, which were just mere tools for mundane tasks like demolition or garbage disposal are now repurposed by fighting sides as weapons of mass destruction. And those artifacts which were actually built for combat (Esgaard and Portalis) are leagues more powerful than anything in either human or Taar arsenal and capable of wiping out their entire armies single-handedly.
  • Terraform: Planet Mars was already subjected to it before the events in the game and in year 2137, when the war starts, is a habitable world with lush flora and rich fauna.
  • The End... Or Is It?: Human campaign ends this way (see Shout-Out entry above). It would appear that humanity won the war of Mars only to be embroiled into another war with another alien civilization in near future.
  • The War Has Just Begun: Taar campaign ends this way. After defeating all human forces on Mars, they use Portalis to create a wormhole between their dying homeworld and Earth, bringing in the bulk of their fleet and launching a full-scale invasion.
  • Too Awesome to Use: Five ancient artifacts that may be acquired by excavating the temples (Solaris, Kaox, Maktor, Lunatek and Tektaara). They are very powerful and may wreak utter havok among hostile forces and turn the tide of battle when used properly, but they are also very rare, quite fragile (if you are not careful, enemy may shoot them down before you deploy them) and worst of all, disposable — they get destroyed instantly once they're used.
  • The Unintelligible: Every unit in the game except Trooper, human commander and S.A.R.G.E. All other units in human arsenal are robots, producing mechanical sounds instead of normal speeches. The Taar, in turn, speak in their own language, so their in-game quotes sound like gibberish, and their army consists of genetically designed monsters which produce various growls, howls, snorts and shrieks.
  • Unrealistic Black Hole: Arguably the most destructive of alien artifacts that player may obtain is Maktor. It temporarily creates an artificial black hole which sucks all nearby units in, killing them instantly — however, it causes absolutely no damage to surrounding environment (including stable, otherwise destructible objects like base buildings or deployed turrets) and simply dissipates once it's done its job. The fun fact? Maktor was originally used for garbage disposal...
  • Worthy Opponent: Averted with vengeance. Both humans and aliens exhibit nothing but total and utter contempt to opposing force and at no point (well, maybe except some rather condescending remarks) show any respect for each other. Even when a specific mission requires you to turn the tide where battle is going wrong, Mission Control will still insult and belittle the enemy... although calling those who are in process of kicking your ass "little buggers" or "hairless apes" does you no favour and only makes you look worse.
  • You Are a Credit to Your Race: A variation of this trope occurs in a cinematic where alien Zisp (a scientist / field medic) who is ordered to mind probe captured human commander, takes a moment to express his amazement on what wonders may be held by such primitive brain. His "regular" comrade present there is not nearly as impressed and basically tells him to just shut up and do his job.
  • You Have Outlived Your Usefulness: The Taar abduct Stratus Commander Tick, mind-probe him to gain intel about ancient artifacts that humans discovered on Mars and brainwash him in order to use the Stratus armed forces against other two human corporations via Enemy Mine alliance. After they're done and see no further use of their temporary allies, they eliminate remaining Stratus forces and have Commander Tick hunted down and killed.