Starship Troopers: Terran Command Review

June 21, 2022
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I’m doing my part

Can we just take a moment to appreciate how fantastic the original Starship Troopers movie is? Say what you will about the book, or the two sequels to the 1997 movie, but the original film is one of the best pieces of media ever created. It has it all; gratuitous nudity, a campy story, a war that’s uncannily similar to recent conflicts in the Middle East, and most importantly, an anti-dystopian message. At the time, it was brushed off as “yet another action movie”, but looking back on it now, it’s objectively one of mankind’s greatest accomplishments that put Elon Musk’s rockets to shame. Yet, there’s never been a game adaptation of it…until now. And golly gee willikers was the wait worth it, because Starship Troopers: Terran Command is bloody phenomenal. 

Well, technically, it’s a real time strategy game in the same vein as Company of Heroes. Like that title, or any warsim that’s been released in the past couple of decades, each one of the game’s two dozen-odd missions aren’t exactly rocket science; you start levels with a few squads of the Alliance’s most disposable soon-to-be citizens, direct them to clear out enemies, spawn in more infantry by using resource points, and at the end of every segment there’s some sort of unique objective that involves killing a lot of bugs. There’s a wide variety of soldier types to play around with, the missions themselves are varied, and there’s even a good amount of strategic depth to the orders you issue your troopers. 

Which means that, at its core, Starship Troopers: Terran Command is about as good of a strategy game as anyone can hope for. While it doesn’t necessarily reinvent the genre’s wheel, it’s still an amazing experience from a purely gameplay perspective. Killing swarms of bugs, macro-managing your troops and strategizing your way through diverse and well-built environments is as fun as it gets. There isn’t a whole lot in the gameplay that non-fans of the genre will enjoy, but because it’s going to be a hot minute before Company of Heroes 3 launches, that’s more than okay for anyone who’s remotely interested in real time strategy. 

These are the rules. Everybody fights, nobody quits. If you don't do your job I'll kill you myself. Welcome to the Roughnecks!

However, while the gameplay doesn’t do many things that can’t be found elsewhere — although to be clear, that gameplay still makes it one of the best entries into the oft-mentioned RTS genre —, the same can’t be said for everything else in the title. Chief among those things is, of course, the atmosphere and story of the game. The narrative takes place in the bug war from the first Starship Troopers film, and while there are a handful of missions that are directly copied from scenes in that movie (#Klendathu never forget), the rest are battles that were never depicted on the big screen. 

These missions, then, are absolutely fantastic from a story perspective. They, and the game overall, nail the over-the-top but weirdly human aspects of the film/book. The title’s characters, underlying themes and overarching plot are just a smidge away from being as great as its source material, and considering how lacklustre those things are in titles like Wargame: Red Dragon, that helps the title stand apart from its competitors. 

Have we all forgotten that Starship Troopers predicted FOX News and CNN?

This is probably a good place to mention that, for as fantastic as the game is, it is missing one key feature: multiplayer. While that isn’t a huge problem, especially if you lack strategically minded friends, it’s worth noting especially because, at launch, there also isn’t a skirmish mode to play around with. The main campaign is fairly lengthy, with it taking north of ten hours to complete, but once you’re done with that, there isn’t a whole lot to do besides bump up the difficulty and squash more bugs in a new save. 

But honestly, that’s not a huge problem because the campaign, and game as a whole, is fantastic from a technical perspective. Starship Troopers: Terran Command looks, sounds and runs great, even by regular gaming standards. There’s an ample amount of gore and tired-sounding narrators, too, which ensure that playing the title feels exactly like, well, playing a video game adaptation of an over-the-top action movie that has some very important messages hidden behind its violence. 

Actually, it’s a not an ugly planet, the textures look really good

So considering how amazing that movie was, that means Starship Troopers: Terran Command is an experience to behold at the bare minimum. Its gameplay is just as good as the best titles in the real time strategy genre, but unlike those games, it has a sense of atmosphere and a story that set it apart from most of the other games in the industry. If you’re not a fan of Starship Troopers (which I will heavily judge you for, because the movie is too damn good), you probably won’t enjoy this specific title all that much. But if you have at least a passing interest to know more about the world, characters and cost of conflict, then you owe it to yourself to do your part and experience the game. Besides, what’s the worst that can happen, I mean c’mon you ape, do you want to live forever? 

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Starship Troopers: Terran Command doesn’t reinvite the RTS genre, but it’s so steeped in its fantastic source material and great gameplay elements that it manages to be one of the best games to release in years. 
Derek Johnson

Somebody once told me the world was going to roll me, and they were right. I love games that let me take good-looking screenshots and ones that make me depressed, so long as the game doesn't overstay its welcome.