Review of Maelstrom by Daniel Zaharopol (from Mobygames)
A little-known game by a company known to make poor games, yet surprisingly cool
Maelstrom is a difficult game to review, because so few people have ever heard of it (although it's frequently mistaken with a Macintosh game of the same name). It's a strategy game, with a dual-personality as an adventure game. In fact, there is a lot of cool "adventuring" in the sense of exploration, with many interesting places to send your ships to explore, and many colorful characters to interact with. This part of the game is fascinating, with a real sci-fi feel to it that works spectacularly. The weapons that you can use to arm your ship, for example, are beautifully designed by people with great imaginations - I've never seen such creative armaments that really made sense, like a liquid nitrogen gun (freeze the hull off), a missile designed to penetrate the hull and release toxins, a space spore, or straight-forward guns. Research is done excellently, and the feel of the "technology" is truly immersive (which is probably helped along by the fact that they had such amazing people working on the project as Syd Mead and Don Bluth). Your planet also has a staff that you interact with, getting reports from them personally, and, once, rescuing one of them from a kidnapping. The game also meshes an economy with battle strategy very well, and it had Rebellion's space combat system seven years before Rebellion did. It's a game that I've been able to replay multiple times, not because of stunning graphics or non-linearity, but instead because it has such an interesting plot and is always so refreshing to play.
The game is very buggy. Although there is a patch available, it doesn't fix the faulty save-game feature and the easy methods to improperly assign crew. Sometimes the research model falters, and you have the same "innovations" several times. Finally, there isn't that much interactivity with the characters - beyond speaking with your actions, there are only two conversation options: yes and no.
The Bottom Line
Updated - and with the bugs removed - this game could be one of the best games of the year. Unfortunately, it has a few flaws, and is really tough to find. Still, the game itself is well worth a try - I had a great time playing through it with a friend. The creativity is astounding!
BACK TO REVIEWS.