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Video Game / ZAR

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In the year 2097, the survival of humanity depends on imports of iberium, extracted on distant mineral-rich planets by automated mining systems. When one of these systems goes rogue and starts to fight against its human creators, only one bold man- with a power suit and an array of heavy weaponry- can take down the belligerent AI and restore the shipments of iberium to Earth.

ZAR (the title is an acronym for 'Zone of Artificial Resources') is a first-person shooter developed by russian studio Maddox Games and released for DOS in 1997. The player is tasked with visiting a series of alien planets, destroying a variety of hostile robot fighting vehicles and the infrastructure they protect. The game departs wildly from the conventional wisdom of shooters at the time: Each level is represented by an open, deformable heightmap that can be traversed infinitely in any direction; there are no human or even biological enemies (or allies) whatsoever; and the focus of gameplay is less on finding your way from the 'beginning' to the 'end' of a level and more on using a scarce supply of resources efficiently to clear out all the enemies that are present. Although the enemies themselves are fairly standard sprite graphics, the terrain and rendering systems give the game its own unique look, which can perhaps be best described as 'first-person Total Annihilation'.


ZAR contains examples of:

  • Acid Pool: Some of the planets have naturally occurring ones. Not as damaging as lava, but still dangerous.
  • A.I. Is a Crapshoot: What does a mining AI do as soon as it malfunctions? Starts building mechanical fighting vehicles to attack its human creators, of course.
  • All Deserts Have Cacti: Other than trees, cactuses are the only large plants that appear in the game- mostly on appropriately arid planets.
  • Attack Drone: Some of the enemies (and allies) are this.
  • Blow You Away: One of the available weapons is a tornado launcher, which is exactly what it sounds like and is actually quite effective against stationary enemies.
  • Chicken Walker: A couple types of enemies are this. One variety walks around constantly, the other leaps from place to place.
  • Convection Schmonvection: Although lava causes serious damage on contact, you're fine as long as you don't actually touch it. There are also trees growing within a few meters of lava pools.
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  • Critical Existence Failure
  • Escort Mission: A few levels require you to protect a convoy of unarmed robotic transports as they make their way to a particular destination. The game informs you with a message if any of them die, and if you lose them all the mission ends. Particularly notable given that the concept was almost unknown in FPS games at the time.
  • Essence Drop: Most enemies drop glowing white energy orbs that heal you when picked up.
  • Everything Breaks: Explosions will blast craters into the ground. Notable since this kind of feature was practically unknown in FPS games at the time and was only possible thanks to the game's unique engine.
  • Falling Damage: Fairly dangerous, due to the poor midair movement control and relative lack of available healing.
  • First-Person Ghost
  • First-Person Shooter
  • Frictionless Ice: A few of the ice planets have low-friction terrain, causing you to slide around whenever you move.
  • Gatling Good: The player's machine gun.
  • Gravity Screw: One level comes with unusually low gravity.
  • Grenade Launcher
  • Hit Points: The player normally has up to 100, but can temporarily gain more.
  • Hover Tank: Some of the enemies are this.
  • Jump Physics: You can perform either a normal jump or a super jump. The super jump launches you high enough to take damage on landing, unless you land at a higher elevation or in water.
  • Lava Pit: Shows up on some of the planets.
  • Lethal Lava Land: Some of the planets are this. Even some planets without actual lava lakes still have dangerous mini-volcanoes that spew flying lava bombs.
  • Lightning Gun: A couple of the player's weapons shoot what look like balls of electricity.
  • Made of Explodium: All the enemies (and allies) explode spectacularly when destroyed, and in many cases launch dangerous shrapnel into their vicinity.
  • Man Versus Machine: The game's central conflict. However, the player is aided by their power suit, and on some levels by robotic allies.
  • Master Computer: Your ultimate goal is to destroy the giant central computer controlling all the robot soldiers.
  • Mecha-Mooks: All the enemies are this.
  • Misplaced Vegetation: Some of the volcanic hellscapes have trees growing in them.
  • Mook Maker: Many of the levels have (destructible) robot factories that occasionally pop out new enemies for you to fight. On a few levels there are also friendly ones that create robots to fight on your side.
  • Noisy Robots: Many of the robot enemies (and allies) make distinctive noises as they move around.
  • One-Man Army: The player character.
  • Planet Looters: Seems to be what the humans are doing.
  • Plasma Cannon
  • Powered Armor: The player character seems to be equipped with a bulky mechanical suit.
  • Protection Mission: A few levels require you to guard a statio
  • Sentry Gun: Several types of enemies are this.
  • Shifting Sand Land: You visit a few stereotypically orange desert planets.
  • Single-Biome Planet: Most of the planets are implied to be this.
  • Slippy-Slidey Ice World: You visit some frozen ice planets. A few of them even come with stereotypically low-friction terrain.
  • Space Station: It's indicated that the player is based in one, although it's never actually seen during gameplay.
  • Suicide Attack: Some of the enemy drones do this.
  • The Future: The game is conveniently set exactly 100 years after its release date.
  • Time Bomb: If the mines set by the player aren't triggered by something within about 20 seconds, they explode on their own.
  • Turned Against Their Masters: The evil AI you fight against was originally built by humans to mine iberium.
  • Under the Sea: Some levels take place on ocean planets entirely covered by water.
  • Underwater Base: The rogue AI has a few of these.
  • Unobtainium: The 'iberium' that drives the game's plot.
  • Water Is Air: To the extent that your weapon projectiles (including balls of lightning) seem to be unimpeded by water.
  • Wrap Around: Every level map does this on all edges, seamlessly, allowing you to constantly walk forwards and end up where you started.