Over the years we humans have slowly claimed planet Earth for ourselves. Pieces of land have been fought for and defended. The population is now increasing at an extreme dangerous rate and soon there won't be enough room left for the masses.
Where can the human race go from here? Up is one answer. Up into space where we will discover and colonise old and new planets. But what is someone is out there already? The answer is simple... we fight.
This whole scenario can be lived and played out in K240, Gremlin's sequel to their award winning and critically acclaimed "god" game, Utopia.
The Terran Empire governs a vast area of space. Over 1,000 worlds have been inhabited and are home to countless billions of humans, as well as a minor population of alien races discovered during the great expansion in the 23rd Century.
A large imperial company called Tetracorp started out in 2221 manufacturing scout ships and sensory equipment for the Imperial fleet. Its assets grew and it soon realised the potential of space exploration and mining.
It began developing new techniques for extracting and transporting rare ores mined in the depths of space,which were so successful that by the year 2280 it had grown to own and fill the entire industrial world of Barnard Five.
By the middle of the 24th century it had cornered the market in mining franchises. It offered packages to anyone with the ambition to take over one of the asteroid fields, known as fragmented sectors, being discovered every year on the frontier of the Empire.
In the year 2380, Sector K240 was made available for colonisation by Tetracorp. K240 is one of the fragmented sectors and occupies a cube of space 50 light years across. As a Tetracorp franchise holder, you have claimed a section of K240 and are ready to begin your mining operations in the asteroid fields.
How many goodly creatures are there here! How beateous mankind is! O brave new world, that has such people in't
The Tempest, William Shakespeare
There are thousands of Asteroid, composed of rock and iron, orbiting the Sun. Most lie in a belt between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter, and are thought to be fragments left over from the formation of the solar system.
About 100,000 may exist, but their total mass is only a few hundredths of the mass of the Moon. Asteroids of note include Ceres, the largest known asteroid )9,400km in diameter) and Vesta, which is the brightest as seen from Earth.
The first asteroid was discovered by the Italian astronomer Guiseppe Piazzi at the Palermo Observatory, Sicily, on new years day in 1801.
Trying to find a game to compare to K240 is quite hard. You could in effect call it a "god" game and compare it to Sim City, but that's not set in space. I suppose it would be stupid of me to compare it to its predecessor, Utopia, but the gameplay does differ slightly.
Utopia was reviewed way back in November 1991 and received a stupendous score of 93 per cent and a bright and shiny Gamer Gold award. The game is pitched in-between Populous and Sim City, fighting an opponent while you attempt to develop a viable city with all its attendant problems of taxation, population control and crime.
K240 is different in the sense that you have to build up a colony and simply destroy your opponent to win the game.
K240 is a fairly sparse in the sonics department. There are several bleeps and bloops occurring every so often to keep your ears active. The best sounds are the smatterings of female sampled speech, which are triggered when an event occurs.
The only moment where the sound goes into overdrive is when you fight against your alien opponent, and World War III explodes across your speakers. But as with the graphics, K240 doesn't really require unbelievable sound effects due to its nature - although a few more effects might not have gone amiss.
The type of game that K240 is doesn't really demand state-of-the-art graphics and to be honest it works a lot better with basic sprites and backgrounds.
There are two main screens which you flick between when playing. The first is the main asteroid view screen. When you begin the game you are presented with a 3D representation of your asteroid, showing rocky terrain and the sole building in your colony.
As you start to build your colony up, scaffolding will appear and eventually, depending on the size of what you're building, will turn into structures. These structures are all presented in a basic colour scheme, but any futurist would be proud of the actual shape of the construction.
Your colony looks rather pale and flat when compared to that of your alien opponents who tend to have much more extravagant constructions, but that's not really important when you're obsessed with completely destroying them in the first place.
The second view is the asteroid field screen which provides you with a map of all the asteroids. The map, at first, is predominantly grey. Somewhere on the screen will be your asteroid and around it will be a black circle. This circle is "known" space and as you progress and explore, the grey map will gradually turn black.
This is a damn fine space strategy game and a lot better than its predecessor, Utopia. The controls and buttons don't take long to learn and before you know it you're transported to a world of asteroids, mining, space battles and destruction.
OK, so it might not have spectacular graphics or sound, but it has it where it counts and that is in the gameplay and addiction departments. At first it all seems too easy, but after you've captured a couple of asteroids you'll need all your brainpower to cope with the forthcoming problems and events.
I'm finding it really hard to fault K240, but I suppose if you play enough it will eventually get a bit unvaried. This will take a long time to happen because the later aliens are incredibly tough and will demand a lot of experience to beat.
Gremlin's space strategy is a truly engrossing game that will keep you awake until the early hours and I heartily recommend it as this month's game to get your mitts on.