The year 2004 isn’t exactly the year I would browse back to for some modern eye-candy and epic gaming. EVE-Online had just come out the year before, Age of Empires 3 had yet a year to go, and Unreal Tournament, for all practical purposes, was just getting good. For the most part, graphics (according to today’s standards) were pretty putrid. Yet, somehow, a game broke the mold to bring us space as we had truly never seen it before: Nexus – The Jupiter Incident, was born.
The story begins with a rather well-made and properly acted cinematic. Minor and, quite frankly, non-essential pieces of the main character’s past seem to be omitted. However, the general gist of the introduction is he is important – a captain. From then on true cinematic’s are quite limited, but don’t let that deter you, the storyline audio cast has everything you would expect from a top-notch game.
Nexus: TJI is designed primarily to take the player through a complex single player campaign – though multiplayer is added in as well as limited player-designed skirmishes using the skirmish tool. As one who primarily plays games in skirmish mode and less the campaign, it was slightly disappointing to discover. However, after completing the majority of the campaign, I can say with confidence that the storyline is engaging enough to be immensely more worth the price. Contrary to most space simulators, the storyline is refreshingly new and complex even in today’s crowded genre. As mentioned before, the audio is flawless – I am half convinced they received auditions from Area 51. Humor, sarcasm, tension, and a vast collection of human emotions deliciously cover the dialogue between humans, various aliens, and even AI “pets” [“with a fully-integrated personality”].
As a “tactical” space simulator, there are clear differences between Nexus: TJI and similar games – for instance: EVE-Online. One not familiar with the dynamics can easily become frustrated when the enemy ships don’t blow up after a million volleys or the fact that travel is vector-based and not ASWD. Before each mission, one is allowed to configure their ship for specific purposes and roles or to upgrade to more efficient modules. Each module has a specific type and role. For instance: a weapon which is tactical has a different purpose than a destructive weapon. If one is anything like me, they wish to find the biggest-baddest weapon in the game, put 10 of them on the ship, and watch everything melt away in a big ball of fire. Nexus: TJI takes a vastly different and more complex approach (honestly, a welcome change to play style). Specific modules such as shields, weapons, life support, engines, and various other menacing devices are target-able to maximize tactical advantage (and by “tactical advantage”, I mean one’s complete odds of winning the battle). One might desire to take out the enemies’ shields before chewing through it’s much softer hull on conventional ships. Or one might decide to take out a vastly superior weapon before it blows their fleet to smithereens. This tactically based dynamic adds a bit more complexity to what could appear, wrongly, as a mindless space slug-fest in gameplay videos.
While one is desperately trying to bust up the enemies’ shields, they cannot avoid the beautiful palette of colors Nexus: TJI so artfully displays. In reality, space appears dull to the naked eye, but rather than adopting a Starwraith-esk (yet realistic) salt and pepper look to the environment, Nexus: TJI teems with colors and volumetric textures adding icing to the beauty of combat. The colors and effects continue to inspire with the various weapons and explosions. In fact, it is easy to see that not only is Nexus:TJI one of the more complex and engaging games, it is also one of the most visually stunning. However, there are drawbacks. Unfortunately, due to the fact that the game is 8 years old, the display and resolution settings do not include such monitors as those that run 1080p. There are workarounds for those daring enough to tap into the registry – but the resolution was high enough to at least enjoy without such risky changes.
As was mentioned several times prior, the soundtrack, dialogue, and effects in terms of audio are remarkable. Though the drone of lasers can, at times, be somewhat bothersome after hours of listening, the moderate array of weaponry gives the player at least some choice. Explosions sound authentic, voices (as mentioned prior) are acted near perfectly (even with situational ambiance such as alarms), and a dynamic soundtrack accompanies every mission changing seamlessly based on environmental conditions. It’s the perfect audio to accompany beautiful graphics.
Among all the great features Nexus: TJI has to offer, there is one drawback. However, its severity is entirely based on ones play-style. As stated before, Nexus: TJI was built primarily as a single-player game. It appears that multiplayer and skirmish were less of a priority. As such, replay-ability is somewhat limited once one finishes the campaign. The good news is that the campaign is extremely long and complex. So while replay-ability appears to be diminished, the first round of the campaign might be enough to satisfy one’s desires in space at least until they can pick up the sequel.
Nexus: The Jupiter Incident might be 14 years old, but the originality of storyline, beautiful graphics and exceptional audio make it a great game for any space monkey! Most importantly, is also friendly to younger players with an ESRB rating of T and no language to mention. Apart from the assumed violence of space combat, most will be comfortable with the exciting content.