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Video Game / Terra Nova: Strike Force Centauri

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Terra Nova: Strike Force Centauri is a 1996 Powered Armor combat Simulation Game developed by Looking Glass Studios. Set on the various planets and moons of the Alpha Centauri star system under colonisation, the game revolves around teams of powered armor pilots, led by Player Character Nikola ap Io, being deployed against pirate forces that threaten the safety and prosperity of outlying settlements. However, a greater threat is on the horizon...

A fansite of the game can be found here.

This is one of the games re-released by Nightdive Studios in The New '10s. It can be found on [1] and Steam: [2]

Not to be confused with the television series Terra Nova.


Tropes seen in the game:

  • A.I. Breaker: The game's enemies cannot readily handle the simple tactic of circle-strafing around them.
  • All There in the Manual: There's an extensive amount of Back Story accessible through the in-game terminal between missions, detailing the rise of the Hegemony, the exodus of the Jovian colonists from the Solar system and the various Clans, as well as the environments and native life of Alpha Centauri's inhabited worlds.
  • Ace Pilot: Of a sorts. Graciela "Angel" Gomez, one of the weapons specialists, stands out: her kill count will likely exceed all other AI squaddies and her average accuracy can almost match a competent player. If you can keep her alive through the campaign, she is invaluable in the more difficult later missions.
  • All Planets Are Earthlike: Averted. While NewHope is noted as being very earthlike, there's also the much colder and inclement Thatcher, and Saara, which is essentially uninhabitable.
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  • Anyone Can Die: Zig-zagged. The teammates who appear in cutscenes have Plot Armor, and only one dies as a result of a scripted event, with two other teammates leaving in cutscenes, Walker and Ashford. All other squad members are fair game and tactical foresight is required to ensure their survival.
  • Arm Cannon: PBA weapons are mounted in the armor's wrists. Scout suits can have one in each arm, the other suits two, with some weapons taking up two slots or being restricted to the Heavy suit specifically.
  • Attack Drone: The game likes to throw groups of these at you to distract you from more serious threats. Friendly drones are limited to spying and Action Bomb duty.
  • Call Sign: The team roster on your terminal shows that each character has one, but none of them are ever used in cutscenes or in-game. At least one character is noted as hating hers: Cassandra "Siren" Mylonas, who suffered a throat injury at the hands of the pirates and has a prosthetic larynx.
  • Call a Smeerp a "Rabbit": Native life on Centauri's worlds is described as being roughly analogous to Earth's, and they are referred to as whatever they most resemble.
  • Drop Pod: The game's powered armor doubles as one during the final descent phase of the deployment at the start of each mission.
  • Jack of All Stats: The Standard PBA Suit, seen on the cover art and many cutscenes. It's more durable and can carry more weapons then the Scout Suit, while being more mobile and having longer-ranged sensors then the Heavy Suit. Unless you specifically need the Scout Suit for the sensor range, the Standard Suit suffices for much of the earlier missions.
  • Fish out of Temporal Water: Maggie is this. She was one of the original Jovian colonists who left the system over two hundred years before the game's events, but her ship went off course and she was stuck as a Human Popsicle for most of that time. Biologically, she's still 31. Thankfully her husband and children were stuck with her and presumably also did not age.
  • Full Motion Video: The live-action cutscenes. (However, interior backdrops or animated cutscenes of vehicles, exteriors, etc. are CGI.) Rather infamously, Looking Glass Studios invested quite a lot into making these (since they were all the rage in mid-1990s games), but the financial losses from this and Terra Nova sales underperforming led to long-term financial issues for the developer.
  • Fun with Acronyms: Aside from "PBA" below, there's also SFC, short for Strike Force Centauri, used by squad members when referring to the group as a whole.
  • Gameplay Ally Immortality: Averted, whether they actually can die depends on Plot Armor, but your allies can always be knocked out of the current mission.
  • Elites Are More Glamorous: Strike Force Centauri is made up of the best operatives in the system. We never actually see the regular forces.
  • I Have Your Wife: Margaret "Drifter" McCulloch, one of the team's recon specialists, has a husband and children missing, held hostage by pirates for much of the narrative. They are rescued towards the end of the campaign, though no further mention is made of them. The last time we see Maggie, she is in high spirits.
  • A Mech by Any Other Name: Well, not exactly a typical mech, but the combat suits are referred to as "PBAs" (an acronym for "Powered Battle Armor").
  • The Mole: You learn early on that SFC has one, leaking information to the Hegemony. Who it is isn't revealed until much later: Simon "Trash Can" Ashford. He takes out his Villain Card in the following cutscene.
  • Nepotism: Sarah "Thirteen" Walker is given a Field Promotion to squad commander, ahead of Nikola, following the poisoning death of Arlen MacPherson. The fact that her mother is on the Centauri Council has absolutely nothing to do with this. However, unlike most examples of this trope, she proves up to the job.
  • Multinational Team: Strike Force Centauri is made up of operatives from the various Centauri clans' individual strike forces. The clans are explicitly described as coming from various Earth ethnic backgrounds.
  • Outrun the Fireball: Deliberately averted. In the final mission, you are tasked with placing an experimental explosive charge to level a Centauri station occupied by the Hegemony. However, the detonator is in the hands of your commander and doesn't detonate until the cutscene afterwards.
  • Powered Armor: The game revolves around you piloting a fairly bulky but sophisticated military-grade combat model.
  • Red Herring: The bartender at SFC's base often lets slip things that few people in the entire system would know, much less a bartender, making you think he might be The Mole, if a bad one. He is actually a former Hegemony space pilot who deserted and came to Centauri, and means well. This proves to be a Chekhov's Gun when the security codes in his fighter, hidden on Thatcher, are used to infiltrate a Heg base near the end of the game.
  • Rocket-Tag Gameplay: Both your team and your enemies are Glass Cannons, and battles resolve very quickly. Most missions can be completed in less then ten minutes, and some under five. The game was initially designed to be slower and more deliberate, and was changed near the end of development because of concerns that it wouldn't be fun.
  • Scenery Porn: Despite the age of the game, the developers did their best to offer relatively realistically generated and life-like landscapes, with highly varying environments. The draw distance alone is impressive for 1996, and even the particle effects are decent for the period.
  • Stuff Blowing Up: Often, thanks to various ordinance launchers in your loadout options. Enemies and buildings alike tend to suffer Critical Existence Failure upon running out of health and go boom.
  • Sibling Rivalry: Between Nikola ap Io and his older brother Brandt, who has been on the squad longer but is outranked by Nik.
  • Simulation Game: Of a soldier piloting powered armor and engaging in tactical combat on a fairly huge battlefield with plenty of varying terrain.
  • Slow Laser: Averted by most of the energy weapons, including the actual laser, but played straight by the "Multipulsar" weapon, which fires a shotgun-esque spread of five red bolts.
  • Sprite/Polygon Mix: Friendly and enemy PBAs are rendered as sprites, while tanks and buildings are polygons.
  • Super Soldier: Though the normal PBAs used by the Hegemony are inferior to yours, they make up for it with their Cyborg clone soldiers, conditioned to feel no fear or hesitation. These are the most dangerous infantry you will face in the game, though they are still vulnerable to the same tactics you used against the lowly pirates.
  • The Quiet One: Gaspard "Gags" Girraud, one of the team's electronics specialists. He speaks in a terse monotone, and whenever he says he has a bad feeling, the team listens, because he's always right. It helps that he has a neural implant that allows him to read people's minds through physical contact.
  • The Squad: You generally don't fight alone, but as the leader of a team of 2-4 powered armor pilots.
    • Also the subject of the toast which is the last line of the game:
      "To the squad!"
      "THE SQUAD!"
  • The War of Earthly Aggression: The meat of the plot.