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Video Game / Perimeter

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Perimeter is a Science Fiction Real-Time Strategy Game created by K-D Lab and released by Codemasters in 2004. An Expansion Pack, Emperor's Testament, was released by Paradox Interactive in 2006; a sequel, Perimeter II: New Earth, came out in 2009.

Perimeter had a number of notable gimmicks that make it stand out - the first being deformable terrain. In fact, Terraforming the land was a key part of anyone's essential strategies in the game, essentially becoming the Lumber resource in addition to a huge number of other tactical purposes. In addition, all of your buildings were linked by an Energy Grid. This grid powered buildings in a small radius, but its biggest boon was activating the titular Perimeter shield, an impenetrable defence shield that blocked any attacks for a short period of time. The final big gimmick was that there were basically three units - Soldiers, Officers and Technicians who shoot enemies, prevent enemies from attacking and healing your units respectively - but these units could be used to morph into more powerful forms.

The story is also unique for a Real Time Strategy game - A group of humans known as Spirits foresaw the destruction of Earth due to the ravages of our time, which lead to them discovering the Psychosphere - a realm of Human thought and imagination that also acts as a way to reach new worlds. As such, they build the keys to saving Humanity - the Frames - enormous City Ships housing the entire remaining population of the Human Race, and the Portals - which are used to travel the Sphere.

However, all does not go to according to the plan. Eventually a rebellion on one of the frames violently overthrows the Spirits governing one of the Frames. These Rebels call themselves the Harkbackhood, and start proceeding back down the paths already created by the passing of the Frames. Eventually however, a third group is introduced, intent on creating a Cybernetic Empire within the Sphere itself.

Perimeter provides examples of the following tropes:

  • All Your Base Are Belong to Us: One of the victory contitions for skirmish/multiplayer is to capture the enemy's buildings. If you can cause a break in your enemy’s energy network, any of their Energy Cores that become disconnected can be co-opted into your own power grid, provided you have a working Energy Core sufficiently close by.
  • All There in the Manual: The old P-files had a lot more lore about the world of Perimeter, which is never mentioned in the game itself. Including why Earth was abandoned: Psycosphere, and thus Scourge, had began to pour into Earth itself, making it too dangerous for humans to inhabit. Spirits then took over the Frames and creates pseudo-religious facist orders in order to limit humans emotions and make Scourge more manageable
  • Ambiguously Human: The Spirits look like humans, and it’s left ambiguous as to whether they’re some sort of alien, or a group of humans with high mental capabilities.
  • Ancient Conspiracy: Subverted, the "conspiracy" actually does benefit mankind in the long run. The Exodus symbol is the Freemason angle-ruler-and-compass.
  • Arbitrary Headcount Limit: You can only have as many squads as you have Command Centres (5 maximum), as well as 5 Brigadiers and/or Buildmasters in any combination.
  • Arm Cannon: Basic soldiers have two-a triple-barreled rocket launcher, and a minigun.
  • Black-and-Gray Morality: The Exodus and Harkbackhood make up the Grey areas of morality, with the Exodus wanting to reach the end of the chain of worlds and the Harkbackhood wanting to go back to Earth, with both factions doing some rather shady things to each other as the story progresses. The Empire forms the Black area of morality, with wanting to convert everyone into Cyborgs and all.
  • Bug War: Many missions pit you against solely the Scourge.
  • Cast from Hit Points: The Piercer disrupts the surface and damages itself when on the move. After travelling a certain distance, it is destroyed.
  • Color-Coded Armies: In the campaign, the Exodus is blue, the Harkbackhood is green and the Empire is red by default.
  • Construct Additional Pylons:
    • Energy Cores generate energy, vital for constructing buildings, forming combat units, and powering defences, and power up nearby buildings. No building, other than the Frame itself, can function outside the influence of Energy Cores. Linking them is the primary method of claiming territory.
    • Basic units are grouped as squads, and only one squad is initially available for control, with more unlocked by building Command Centres.
  • Cosmetically Different Sides: Downplayed. Every faction has the same units except for four advanced unique ones unlocked by faction-specific labs, and some factions can't use certain shared units.
  • Covers Always Lie: On the cover, the Perimeter Shield comes out of the Frame's core. In gameplay, it's generated by Energy Cores, and doesn't cover the Frame at all.
  • Cutscene Power to the Max: Cinematics are the only place you’ll see the basic Soldiers kicking ass.
  • Cybernetics Eat Your Soul: The Exodus stance towards the Empire. The Emperor seeks to remove all human emotions by turning everyone into cyborgs and slaves to his will, therefore removing the source of Scourge.
  • Deflector Shields: The emponymous Perimeter. It's invincible, and anything that touches it takes massive damage. However, it's extremely energy intensive.
  • Dig Attack:
    • Building stability, frame landing, energy gathering — all require perfectly flattened areas, so...
    • "Scummer" units have a say. They burrow and slowly travel underground leaving upset soil on the surface, at the very least diverting the attention of enemy terraformers to repair the "zero layer." They also can dive under the active barrier and transform into tanks once inside. Few units can attack underground.
    • Let an explosive one-shot bulky-drill-like ultimate unit of Empire faction activate near the base cluster and there's no chance for any structure to be left standing. It becomes invincible, then burrows, then proceeds to leave a moderately long line of erupting mini-volcanoes, dealing both direct and terrain damage.
  • Drill Tank: Subterranean units:
    • Diggers and Scummers attack by causing distortions in the above terrain, warping building foundations. This is (somehow) done with a laser. They are the only unit able to bypass the Perimeter Shield, by digging underneath it. There are also subterranean missile batteries to defend against them.
    • The Extirpator is an artillery vehicle that fires drill missiles.
    • The Empire has the Piercer, which digs into the ground, and explodes segments of its body in a line. Used correctly, it's unstoppable.
  • Dual Mode Unit: The Frame is home to five construction units, which can be either builders (Buildmasters) or terraformers (Brigadiers). These units can be swapped out throughout the game as the need for quicker building or faster land reformation comes about, but there are never more than five available in whichever combination is best at a given time.
  • Earth That Was: Earth has been abandoned, with humans escaping into the Psychosphere lead by Spirits. Very early in the campaign, a faction called Harkback emerges and seeks to return to the Earth.
  • Eldritch Location: The Psychosphere is a weird place that manifests things based on the subconscious minds of people. The levels can vary from normal lands to a giant fish, a pizza, or an illuminated page of The Bible.
  • The Empire: One of the factions. Their goal is to turn everyone into cyborgs and create a new cybernetic empire within the chain of worlds, rather than seek out the end or beginning of the chain.
  • Energy Economy: Even the combat units channel energy before they can make next shot.
  • Faction Calculus: Harkback (Powerhouse), Exodus (Balanced) and Empire (Subversive).
  • Floating Continent: Human communities live in flying cities called Frames.
  • Fusion Dance: Basic units, when combined in certain ratios, have the ability to morph into much more powerful units.
  • Giant Flyer: Scourge Dragons can fly and are big compared to your units.
  • Giant Spider: One of the forms that the Scourge takes. They are the easiest form to deal with, but come in large numbers.
  • Gravity Barrier: There's a negative terrain terraforming mode, which allows you to dig trenches that ground units can't cross without getting destroyed.
  • Horde of Alien Locusts: The Scourge are a vast array of alien beings that the Spirits think to be the physical manifestation of people's nightmares, generally wreaking havoc wherever they go.
  • Hostile Terraforming: Out-and-out weaponized. Exodus attacks are often indirect, damaging the landscape rather than directly attacking units. Rather than a constant all-out assault, you can undermine it with a few cracks in the ground, and then leave it to gradually fall apart. The Exodus' superweapon, the Scum Disruptor, creates a volcano wherever it's targeted, and Scum Splitters create a localized earthquake.
  • Invisibility Cloak: The Empire Unseen cloaks the presence of nearby allied units, rendering them invisible to enemies.
  • Lightning Gun: All units unlocked by the Electro Laboratory (exclusive to Emperor's Testament) attack enemies by discharging electricity at them.
  • Lost in Translation: A bizzare example. Around 90% of original plot was cut in English version, including player character identity, Sequel Hook for expansion, and Harkbackhood scourge symbiosis
  • Made of Indestructium/Nigh-Invulnerability: Frames requre a lot to bring down. Nuclear missiles do scratch damage to them. Everything else may as well be spitwads. Frames also have a Healing Factor. However, they degenerate quickly when cut off from their power supply.
  • Mecha-Mooks
  • The Medic: Technicians are basic unarmed units that heal nearby units.
  • Mook Maker: All Harkback-exclusive units attack by emitting waves of Scourge at enemy positions.
  • Nanomachines: Every unit is made up of a swarm of nanomachines, and require a certain ammount of the three basic units-soldiers, officers, and technicians- to form into more powerful units.
  • Neutrals, Critters, and Creeps: The Scourge fit quite nicely in the Creep category. Unreasonably hostile to all factions with one faction using tamed/enslaved creeps. Heck, there's even a reason they hate everyone-they're WH40K-style demons!
  • Nuclear Option: The Empire superweapon is a nuclear missile.
  • Nuclear Weapons Taboo: The Ballistic Missile Silo is obviously a nuke. It fires a big, fat missile at long range, must be manually targeted, and creates a huge Mushroom Cloud.
  • Ominous Floating Castle: The Frames, for a given value of "ominous" that is...
  • Our Demons Are Different: The Scourge, thought to be manifestations of human evils/ nightmares.
  • Our Dragons Are Different: In this case, a very powerful form of Scourge that can destroy your buildings even if you have Perimeter on. It can also tank entire fleet worth of missile aircraft.
  • Power Nullifier: The basic Officer has the ability to suppress enemy fire, including nanomorphed units, though the number of officers in the attacking group must match the number of officers in the nanomorphed unit for this to be effective.
  • Ray Gun: Laser weapons are of the "instant travel, visible beam" type.
  • Ridiculously Fast Construction: Massive bases can be built in minutes, though all structures are made out of energy.
  • Sand Worm: Scourge Sharks operate this way, jumping in and out of the terrain as if it was water, leading deformaties (that destroy your buildings). During a mission to save inhabitants of Ark-9 a literal worm appears to hinder your attempts.
  • Sequel Hook: First game ends in one. Both Exodus and Harkback achieve their goals, reaching the last world in the chain and returning to the root worlds respectfully. Final cutscene has Exodus frame entering what appears to be a pre-historic Earth. Few seconds later, Harkback frame also appears. A swarm of Scourge then proceed to launch an attack at the Exodus frame and the cutscene ends
  • Science Fantasy: You lead super-advanced, Shapeshifting robotic soldiers fighting demons on alien worlds. Mankind is led by benevolent Physical Gods, and resides in nearly indestructable flying cities. Faster-Than-Light Travel is achieved by sending things through the noosphere.
  • Siege Engines: Units unlocked by the Bomb Laboratory (Mortar, Wargon, Bombie, Scum Twister and Scum Thrower) usually have long range and are especially good at bombarding enemy buildings.
  • Terraform: Building anything requires bringing the land up or down into a flat plateau. In the sequel, the two remaining factions either desertify or flood their terrain.
  • Terrain Sculpting: One of the key mechanics of the game. You need to use Brigadiers to raise or flatten terrain to the appropriate altitude so buildings can be placed on them. If the terrain is damaged by specialised weapons, buildings on it will also periodically take damage as well until the terrain is restored to normal.
  • Threatening Shark: Scourge Sharks, that act more like Sand Worms. They are also extremely fast, meaning you are often better raising the Perimeter than hoping that your defenses can fight them back.
  • Tornado Move: The Scum Twister generates a charged whirlwind attack inflicting damage upon all nearby airborne units.
  • Vampiric Draining: The Leech connects to an enemy Energy Core and drains power.
  • Villain Protagonist: The Empire Legate, the player character during missions where you play as the Empire.
  • Worker Unit: Brigadiers terraform the surface so buildings can be placed on them by Buildmasters. These two units also serve to restore the ground and repair buildings, respectively.
  • Your Mind Makes It Real: The Scourge manifestations are said to be Psychosphere reaction to human thoughts. Lore ("P-files") claims first experiences with the phenomenon to have been disastrous. The fact that factions have drastic ways of keeping reins on frame residents' would make you think the scourge encounters over the course of the game are worlds' reaction to traces of human thought. The scale is still a threat often.
  • Zerg Rush: Scourge are fond of this. The Harkbackhood's superweapon summons swarms of Scourge to attack enemy positions. Also, considering the AI's fondness for turtling, you'll probably end up doing this too.