Nomads is one of the most spectacular looking PC games currently in the pipeline, set in a shattered world of precarious rocky islands floating amongst the clouds. Falling somewhere between Jules Verne and Laputa, it's certainly an eye-catching setting. But what about the game behind those gorgeous visuals?
Little Fluffy Clouds
Featuring a mixture of action, strategy and role-playing elements, Nomads puts you in control of your own lump of gravity-defying rock on which you can build a wide range of factories, power plants and defensive emplacements. And while you can only control one flying island at a time, you will be able to trade up to larger models as the game progresses and you require more real estate. You can also move your entire island to a new location, effectively using it as a vast aircraft carrier or battleship, supporting your more conventional forces. Around 40 vehicles should be available to the player, ranging from primitive looking biplanes and zeppelins to more fanciful flying machines, and you can switch between your units at will, taking hands-on control of individual planes or turrets to lead an attack or fight off raiders. It's not all about bizarre steampunk vehicles either. As a "wizard engineer" you can also make like Superman and fly through the cloudy skies under your own power, allowing you to interact with characters on other islands, sneak past enemy defences and steal a choice piece of technology, or to recover an "artefact".
The Sky At Night
Artefacts form the basis of the construction system, acting as blueprints but having a finite number of charges. If a building is destroyed it will leave behind the appropriate artefact, which can then be stolen or recovered and used to reassemble the building. You can also choose to dismantle your own facilities and store them as artefacts, which is sure to be useful given the limited space available on your island and the bewildering array of buildings on offer throughout the game. Meanwhile players can indulge in a little landscaping to customise their island and its plant life, then save the whole thing to disc for future reference or to use in multiplayer battles. All of this is powered by developer Radon's own homebrew graphics engine, and we are happy to report that it looks even more stunning in action than it does in the stationary screenshots. Everything is lovingly animated, from grass and trees swaying in the breeze and smoke curling up from a factory chimney to the spinning blades of the wind turbines scattered throughout your realm. Throw in some impressive skies and cloud effects along with dynamic lighting, a full day and night cycle and variable weather conditions, and the result is little short of stunning. It's going to be quite a job to make the gameplay match the graphics, but judging from what we have seen of it so far, Radon appear to be on the right track. Their aim is to make a game which is complex but easy to get to grips with, offering depth without sacrificing fun. If they succeed, Nomads could be one of the surprise hits of next year, with both PC and Xbox versions expected some time in the second half of 2002.