Scotty, I Need More Details!
As we've already covered, there is no real improvement in the graphics engine in SFC2, aside from the refining of ship models and textures, and the addition of damage textures ala Klingon Academy. Most of the improvement comes in the way of additions to the features, more control over existing features, or changing how a feature is used.
The most frequent and fervent of all complaints of SFC1 was the hideous player AI. Yes, your wingmates made even Tribbles look intelligent. They would smash right into planets or asteroids, they'd go and get themselves killed in battle after you retreated, and there wasn't much of anything that could be done about it. Fortunately, in SFC2, there is a complete ship-mater interface which allows you to control formation, placement, weapons and sensors settings of your opponent, and capture and defend orders. And this time around, the AI is actually intelligent enough to do what you tell it to.
In terms of other tweaks added to the game, there is an additional change to the way shuttles are handled. Your ship may have a pre-determined compliment of shuttles, but you can convert your administrative shuttles to any type of shuttle you need, be it sensor decoy, assault, suicide, or whatever you need. Certainly this adds to the random tactics your opponent may have up his sleeve.
The most notable improvement of all, though, is the way the single player campaign is handled. The switch from the Metaverse to the Dynaverse is one that has come too late. In the new Dynaverse, you are stationed on a location on the map. Some locations have starbases or planets to repair at, others are free floating space (or nebulas or the like.) The farther you venture from your home planet, the more likely you are to run up against some heavy-hitting foes. Near your home bases you'll have mainly convoy escort and base defense missions, farther away will come larger assault missions. Randomly, when you land on a location, you may be assigned a mission objective that you must either accept or forfeit, a far better system than the "join special forces" campaign structure of SFC1, there is actually coherency to the SFC2 campaign, and it really is addictive.
As a big addition to multiplayer, the Dynaverse II has been added. The Dynaverse II plays just like the single player Dynaverse, except that your opponents (and team mates) are human. This is similar in design to other meta-games out there such as Galactic Wars for Total Annihilation, but on a far larger scale given the intricacy of SFC2. There is just one big problem with the Dynaverse II: it doesn't exist yet! It was supposed to have been built into the game and use Won.net for it's multiplayer (why Interplay would use Havas/Sierra(in the U.S.), one of their largest competitors, for multiplayer is beyond me.) Unfortunately Won.net changed over to Flipside.com as Havas/Sierra re-organized the entire company. So what remained of the Dynaverse II was a nice Flipside login screen that goes nowhere. Fortunately, Interplay has decided to run their own servers for it. So why hasn't the Dynaverse II been released yet? Well, Taldren took the time during the switch-over to implement some new features that didn't make it before release, namely, the release of an open Dynaverse II server. This avoids the problem of "what happens if Interplay stops running the servers?" It's likely that Gamespy or someone will pick up a searching feature for it just like Quake servers. What's really nice about this is that there are literally hundreds of options that can be altered on the server making every server a slightly different game, not to mention the ability for server operators to include new user-created maps, and likely, ships. The first real release of the Dynaverse II is expected about two weeks from the writing of this review.
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