Once upon a time, an alien artifact was discovered on Earth. It appeared to be a portal of some kind, and robots sent through it were able to return from the other side. But when a fateful rat named Russell was shunted through, the portal activated, teleporting not only itself but a fair chunk of Terra's surface to its home planet, Morgana Prime. There the human survivors discovered abandoned robotic soldiers which could be controlled by telepathy. Instead of, say, trying to get home, they immediately divided into factions and started fighting. And that's where the Excuse Plot ends and gameplay begins.
Despite being labeled with the "MMORTS" genre, Shattered Galaxy is actually more "Real Time Tactics", in that you don't have a base: you don't need to Construct Additional Pylons or manage your Command & Conquer Economy. Instead, all you have is a Digital Avatar and 20 points to use in your Point Build System, which mostly determines which soldiers you can control and how well you equip them. You can take small squads of soldiers (6 to 12) into battle and fight the other side, but blindly exterminating the enemy is not the only way to win, nor the most important one. Embedded into every map are several discs of Applied Phlebotinum called "Points of Contention", or PoCs. If your side captures enough of them, you win. As such, most gameplay and unit design revolves around capturing or defending PoCs, and it is much more possible to Leeroy Jenkins in this game than it is in most RTS titles.
The game features a persistent world consisting of 88 sectors, three of which are capitol cities for the three factions on each server. You fight on each map to claim it for your faction or defend it from desecrators. Large battles can consist of about 30 people per side.
This game provides examples of the following tropes:
- After the End
- Allegedly Free Game: non-paying members get reduced Experience Points. Past about Level 35, this can reduce leveling to a standstill. Non-payers also can't reincarnate or purchase "Gold" weapons.
- Arbitrary Headcount Limit: Handwaved as being part of the limitations of the drug humans take to make themselves telepathic.
- Critical Encumbrance Failure: units have three maximums determining the gear you can equip them with: Weight, Space and Complexity. That last is controlled by the computer you equip them with, which itself takes up Weight.
- Death is Cheap: your units can get "wrecked" in battle, but they're never permanently destroyed and can be repaired practically for free. In fact, the only way to permanently lose a soldier is to delete it yourself.
- Invisibility Cloak: Ghasts, Shades, Imps, Wraiths, Falcons, Manticores, Trebuchets... It's probably easier to list the units which can't equip them. However, they are only so useful, because cloaked units use the lensing distortion... and can still be moused-over. And if you can mouseover it, you can shoot it.
- Laser Blade: Ghasts.
- Macross Missile Massacre: Manticores. (Spectres and Hydras too, but 'Cores are the unit you most often see in the Anti-Air role.)
- Nuke 'em: a specialty of Spectres.
- Point Build System: there are four stats in the game:
- Tactics: Raises your Arbitrary Headcount Limit. It also used to control how many players your faction could deploy in a single battle, during which time it was the God Stat; today, that function is controlled by Power Levels. Nonetheless, SG values quantity over quality, so everyone is expected to put points in Tactics. (Plus, you gain levels when your units do, so if you have more units... It's not One Stat to Rule Them All anymore, but it's still important.)
- Clout: Screw the Rules, I Have Money!. Raises the speed at which you can upgrade your units to stronger versions. Results in Stone Wall units that are good at capturing PoCs.
- Education: lets you put better weapons and equipment on your units. Results in Fragile Speedster units which are best at defending PoCs.
- Mechanical Aptitude: makes you a Gadgeteer Genius who can cram more Weight onto your units. The Dump Stat of the game; no one has ever maxed MA. Made even worse by the fact that MA only increases your units' Weight tolerance; Space stays the same.
- Power Levels: the new way the game decides how many players can fight in a single battle. Once each side's Power Levels get above a certain amount, nobody else can join.
- Psychic Powers
- Separate, but Identical
- Tactical Rock–Paper–Scissors: most weapons shoot air units or ground units but not both (and the rare ones that do, have decreased damage for that reason). Crippling Overspecialization is the result, but the player base puts up with it because, like in most MMOs, efficiency is king.
- Timed Mission: All battles have a time limit of 16 minutes (formerly 20), after which a stalemate is declared and the defender wins by default. This is also handwaved as being part of the telepathy drug.
- What Happened To The Rat: they never found Russell.
- We Have Reserves: averted in beta versions of the game: you chose a squad, went in, and were ejected from battle if they died or if you retreated them through your spawn point, forcing you to wait 30 seconds before re-applying and hope nobody else stole your spot in the meantime. Nowadays, you stay in and simply get to re-deploy your new squad in 30 seconds.
- You Require More Vespene Gas: beta versions of the game had Money and four Lumber-style resources (sulfur, silicon, uranium and ore) which were consumed when buying EQ or upgrading your units. Today the only thing that costs any money is unit repair; however, Uranium is used as "premium money" for "Gold weapons", powered-up Palette Swaps of existing guns. You don't have to buy it with real money, but you get a lot less of it if you're not a payer (and, as mentioned before, also can't spend it).