Z, pronounced ZED (urgh), is sometimes called Z: Origins, other times just Zee. I guess they added the “origins” part just so you could Google this game!
So, the game revolved around a war between Red robots and Blue Robots, and your team (Red) are Commanded by Commander/General Zod, it isn’t clear what his actual name is, as they inconsistently call him either.
Wait… are “Reds” America? Is this a subtle/political message???
Unlike other Real Time Strategy games of the time, you don’t build your own base. Instead, you capture strategic points on a map (flags), which give you access to a variety of buildings (Tankmaker/troopmaker/radar), and rather than having a build queue, each building simply has a time until the next unit is created.
So, there is no resource management, you simply make a choice on time. Do you wait 1 minute for turd troops who die instantly, or 3 minutes for laser troops which POON all before it? 2 minutes for a light tank, or 5 for a heavy? Basically, what you do here is choose the longest timeframe option, and that EQUALS WIN (apart from last level).
Each level adds more units, but the majority really are useless (Grunts, APC, the crappy default car/tank).
At the start of each level, you start with some troops, and your base. You then have to go out and capture the neutral flags. The enemy AI always starts with the ones next to its base. So all you need to do to win is run straight for the middle, take the main factory in the level, then send troops back to the closer bases to capture.
Along the way you find neutral tanks, gun placements. These are handy, and within 2 minutes you usually have a decent enough army to fend off the same generic enemy attacks.
The AI is DUMB. Like all 90’s RTS games, the enemy will send the same attack over and over again. “Oh, you beat our 2 grunts and a tank! Quick, send two more grunts and a tank, it might work this time!!!” So, assuming you beat the first attack, you will win. The enemy will also build defensive placements, don’t bother. Just build tanks. Tanks, Tanks, and Tanks, And since you have to, build whatever the strongest robot type is
Even on harder settings, it is simple. Click the middle, destroy first attack. WIN (20 minutes later).
The path finding is infuriating too. For example, all buildings face down. This means, all tanks exit out the bottom (tee hee), as you are always going up, the tanks/men try to run through the building. Meaning, they get stuck, and just sit there. On longer levels, you will constantly find your reinforcements stuck on some narrow bridge, or inside your factories.
It doesn’t matter that much, as you are usually winning, but it is annoying to discover a pile up of 2-3 tanks stuck in the garage doors. You can unstick them easily, by telling them to go left or right, it is just annoying they can’t do it themselves.
There are also a few bugs with path finding routes. While a nice feature is destructible terrain, ie you blow shit up in the way, the things you can’t blow up (water/caverns) just get in the way, your tanks will not go round, they’ll go as the crow flies, and sit, at the edge or the water and just wait.
Other gamey type stuff?
Errrm, the humour is “dated”. It is all bad 90’s surfer clichesall round. Somebody finds it funny, I had to skip all the FMVs after I saw the first few.
This is the first video in the game…youtube
I’ll let you decide if I am being fair.
The graphics are ok, nothing to shout about. They were a little simplified at the time, so they hold up relatively well now.
Z isn’t a bad game, but it isn’t especially fun to play, you feel like you’re going through the motions and it is the benchmark for AVERAGE.
If you hold fond memories of the game, play it, but it the grand scheme of things, you can safely ignore it. Play it on a very rainy day if you have too. But if you want to play a RTS from the mid 90’s, go play Command and Conquer or Total Annihilation to see a better example of mid 90s RTS.
Pros: It’ll pass 7 hours… Graphics ain’t too bad.
Cons: Bland, easy, no strategy to it, each level is essentially the same
Back in the day
Z was praised for its accessibility and its destructable terrain, but issues were noted with the AI.
However Z did review well scoring reviews in the 80s despite “citing its short length, lack of multiplayer, and comparatively shallow gameplay”