Z (pronounced Zed) is a 1996 Real-Time Strategy game by Bitmap Brothers set in a galaxy far far away where a perpetual war is taking place between two different Interplanetary Empires of sentient biped Robots; the heroic red MegaCom Corporation and the dastardy blue TransGlobal Empires. We follow the story of Commander Zod and his two transport pilots Brad and Allan as they travel across 20 levels on five different worlds; blowing things up, knocking back rocket fuel and taking down names.
A Windows 95 version named Z95 was released soon after, to make the game more compatible with new operating systems. It also included 15 additional levels and some gameplay balance tweaks.
In 2001 a sequel was made; Z: Steel Soldiers which followed the story of Zod (now a lowly Captain) being in charge of one side of a neutral zone on a distant planet. Currently the two forces are under a ceasefire and the possibility for a more permanent peace is also certain. Zod however enters the neutral zone after his men having shot down an aircraft, on it he finds a new secret weapon and uncovers a massive plot of the blues to wipe out major strategic red bases all at once during the peace talks.
An open source Fan Remake of the original game, called The Zod Engine, is also available.
In no way related to the 1969 French political film Z, but it's a easy mistake to make.
This game contains examples of:
- Abandoned Area: Battlefields are littered with abandoned factories, vehicles and grenades. Also, the last world is a decaying industrial complex.
- A.I. Breaker: Since stationary gun turrets continuously rotate clockwise, and the AI never manually orders them to lock on a target, a human player can simply station a tank just outside the enemy gun's range, wait for it to face the other direction, then attack and retreat before they turn around to return fire.
- Artificial Brilliance: The computer-controlled opponent in Z was considered challenging and impressive for its time. It doesn't merely follow a preset strategy, but adapts and reacts to the human player's actions.
- Artificial Stupidity: Partly an in-game mechanic in Z, as the five robot types are given varied levels of intelligence, which affects their tactical behaviour.
- Special mention goes to the Tough robots, with the lowest intelligence rating of 3, that have little sense of self-preservance, and won't stop shooting even if their target changes position.
- Since robots are coded to automatically capture flags and hardware, they will ignore any surroundings and more often than not run straight into an enemy guard turret's line of fire.
- When about to get struck by a missile, the unit AI would attempt to avoid it by running at a random direction, which could result in the unit rushing into the path of the missile and getting obliterated. Units would sometimes react to incoming fire too late, such as after getting hit by artillery they would retreat a bit, giving the defending artillery even more time to destroy the attacker.
- Balance Buff: Z95 buffed some units to make them more viable:
- Grunts got increased intelligence.
- There were now three Toughs per unit instead of two.
- Medium tanks got a slightly increased range.
- The Missile Gun's rate of fire became far better.
- The Howitzer got increased hit points.
- Blood Knight: Zod, in the second game, laments on the upcoming peace treaty, since it means he and the boys will no longer be seeing action.
- The Captain: Zod, in the second game.
- Color-Coded Armies: Red Vs Blue. The multi-player modes include additional colors.
- Critical Existence Failure: Mostly played straight, although heavily damaged vehicles move and fire slower, and factories will have an increased production time.
- Damage Is Fire
- Dodge the Bullet: Cannon projectiles and thrown grenades are so slow that a properly maneuvered jeep can evade them for enough time to shoot the enemy or tank driver with faster, low-caliber bullets. AI takes advantage of this.
- Easy Level Trick
- A well known one in Level 16 - Light Brigade. The player and CPU forts are very close together, only separated by a short, broken bridge. The strategy is to wait for all enemies to leave the perimeter of their fort, bring in a construction crane to fix the bridge, and rush all your units in.
- Flash of Pain: Any unit taking a hit will flash white briefly.
- Geo Effects: Water allows infantry to pass (if lucky enough not to be eaten by a crocodile or a swamp monster), vehicles need a bridge, which can be damaged (and repaired with a crane). Rocks and ice walls can be blown up.
- Luck-Based Mission: The gameplay in Z has many unpredictable factors, and two battles rarely play the same.
- Mighty Glacier: The Mobile Missile Launcher has the most powerful weapon in the game and very thick armour, but is slow-moving and slow to produce. Z95 nerfed its armour somewhat, though.
- Nerf: Z95 reduced the hit points of the Heavy tank and especially of the Mobile Missile Launcher.
- Non-Fatal Explosions: Averted in that exploding tanks sometimes shoot their turrets into the air. A falling turret can destroy another tank, which can lead to chain reactions.
- Not Playing Fair With Resources: In the original game, whenever a computer player captures a factory, the second unit produced there will be ready much quicker than normal. A skilled human player can use this to his advantage, though - let the computer player build a unit, then capture the territory before the second unit is complete.
- The computer player also starts with slightly more units as the player progresses in the single player campaign (this can make a big difference, as it allows it to capture more territories at the beginning).
- From the second planet on, the computer player will begin each level with significantly stronger fort guns, presumably to help defend against early game rushes.
- One-Letter Title
- "The Reason You Suck" Speech/You Bastard!: If you fail the mission by losing your territories and letting the enemy destroy your base, your entire army insults you and blames you for these reasons.
- Ridiculously Human Robots: They walk, they talk, they get drunk on rocket fuel. Oh and they also use computers with keyboards and drive around in tanks.
- Single-Biome Planet: Five of them: Desert, Volcanic, Arctic, Jungle, and City.
- Stuff Blowing Up: This is how you win the game. Either you bombard the opponent's fort from outside with grenades, shells and missiles, or you send a single unit inside it. Anyway, it blows up.
- Updated Re-release: The game and its sequel eventually saw ports to the portable market in 2011, 2014, and 2015, with a new difficulty setting and hints and tips at loading screens, which themselves got ported back to the PC.
- Variable Mix: Music is more intense during combat and even more so when combat happens close to headquarters.
- You Require More Vespene Gas: Averted in Z, where factories do not need supplies, only time (which decreases when you conquer more territory). Steel Soldiers switched to using credits, which are similarly earned by simply holding more territory.