Better Stately Than Never: ParaWorld

PC •

As the axe fell on the RTS after the turn of the century, and we all realised that the late Nineties RTS arms race had an unfavourable signal-to-noise ratio (sideward glance to this current battle royale malarkey), a name rang out in the wilderness. Spieleentwicklungskombinat. But if a dinosaur roars and nobody hears it, is it really there? Behold, the enigmatic ParaWorld.

ParaWorld lumbered into release in 2006, to a relatively warm reception. It wasnt changing up the economy-based RTS formula, sitting along the likes of Liquid Entertainment’s Battle Realms in adding their own twists and flavours to what Westwood and Ensemble codified years prior. What made ParaWorld special was its theme. Big old prehistoric factions in prehistoric landscapes, astride beasts stretching from the Mesozoic to the Pleistocene. If you were — and hopefully remain — a megafauna fan, it was a vintage year just for this persuasion.

The game still holds up in that quaint, awkward polygon RTS way. Limited zoom, absence of camera niceties, conservative unit count and pathing issues aside, the game has a heart that seemingly isn’t very well served a decade on. It’s a potentially cloying proposition, but I miss this kind of outlandish premise. Gigantic clashes of triceratops-mounted ballistas, battle mammoths, Allosaurs and Brachiosaurs. Spiked fortifications, herbivores grazing on the plains, the gentle tap-tap of stone axes felling trees. Heck, even the slightly unsightly haze that keep the primordial tech from blowing its draw distance gives off a comfortable Lost World vibe.

These old games might have made a small comeback in concept — the Empires Apart of recent release — but with the tech these days, I wish Spieleentwicklungskombinat had kept its powder dry for a decade further. Just thinking of the scrumptious assets modern systems could support, the level of detail and visual flair that is now reserved seemingly solely for Moba rosters gives one a half-mongrel and a case of the weeps, respectively.

The worst part? After languishing on Gamersgate for years, it was de-listed after the IP was scooped up by Ubisoft. Fingers crossed for some enterprising Frenchman to figure Jurassic World and ParaWorld a tight mindshare fit, but held breath in this regard could be extremely fatal. Best bet is to snag a physical copy or sail the Tortugan seas.

Another mark against the name of digital releases, because much like the beasts of ParaWorld, we see grandeur become mere shadow against the endless march of time. And business.

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Notable Replies

  1. Sounds awesome to me!

    I absolutely love RTSs, but in a relaxed pace, not in the clicks-per-second sense. My roommates and I played more games of Brood Wars than I could ever count, but also loved Total Annihilation and Age of Mythology.

  2. I played a ton of TA in the early 2000s with a buddy of mine. I think I won one game, on a metal map where I rushed him before he was ready.

  3. My friends and I generally preferred large army end games in our RTSs. I remember how absurd TA could get with bombers flying all over the map, nukes being launched left and right...ah, the good old days.

    I think it worked because all of my friends tended to play RTSs at the same pace. We weren’t concerned about maxing our click per second, but by building up armies and maybe out-thinking the others. Sure, we made some early moves (I tended to try and wall their bases in with turrets as the Protoss sometimes), but out RTS games would usually take quite a long time - even Broodwars. Heck, I remember a game is Star Wars Galactic Battlegrounds that may have taken 3+ hours. I think we played the Regicide mode and I may have had a dozen castles by end-game.

    It may not have been the “right” way to play, but we all much rather would have had a massive army battle royals than rush our way to victory. And to this day I will still play my RTSs that way; no analyzing pro strategies or timings or clicks or any of the stuff that, for me, saps the fun from the genre.

  4. TA had a lot of fun moments. A favorite strategy was to find an opposing commander building metal extractors with inadequate security, then swoop in with whatever that game called the carryall things, grab him and fly him into his own air defenses, which would blow up the carryall and the commander along with it, causing that massive explosion and usually putting a big hole in the defensive line.

  5. Hilarious! I’ve never tried that.

  6. If the enemy commander was not to be had, your own would do in a pinch. Needless to say we usually didn't play the mode where commander death was the end of the game.

  7. Thanks for regaling the gallery with these tales, @Kolbex and @Mirefox. Definitely agree that the min-max/build order science is great for the APM fiends, but man, it destroys friendly bouts. Co-op comp-stomps not so much. Much later in the piece, SupCom2 was the height of the friendly comp-stomp. Incredible matches, hugely exciting stuff. Gets a bit of a bad rap, that game, but I love its pace and character - the latter of which was missing from OG SupCom and certainly missing in those boring Planetary Annihilation/Ashes of the Singularity games.

    Other forgotten games...stuff like Submarine Titans, Metal Fatigue and SunAge.

  8. Mid-2000s, the global SunAge multiplayer population was myself, my friend, the developer (one of those incredible one man feats) and a small clutch of Polish players, the likes of which we never were able to play with due to their outdated versions.

    Great game, felt like a spiritual KKND successor.

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