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Ground Control: Dark Conspiracy is a 2000 expansion pack to the real-time tactics video game Ground Control. Developed by Massive Entertainment and High Voltage Software, it was first announced in August 2000 by Sierra Studios. Later in October that year, Sierra further announced that the pack would be included free for new purchases of the original game, the decision having been made to add extra incentive to buying it; existing owners were also entitled and merely needed to apply via online form, also included as a hard copy in specially-marked boxes.
The largest additions are an entirely new faction, the Phoenix Mercenaries, and a 15-mission single-player campaign that expands on the original storyline. Other changes include extra multiplayer maps, a few more units for the existing factions and more terrain types. Also of note are the changes in the full motion video cutscenes; the parent game had all of its pre-rendered in the game engine. In contrast, the expansion's cutscenes were done by Blur Studio.
The campaign begins a few months after the events of the original, with Major Sarah Parker and her comrades looking to get a way off the planet Krig-7b, on which they are stuck. Battling through Order of the New Dawn stragglers and newly-arrived Crayven Corporation forces, the initial missions focus on getting deep space communications working, at the end of which Deacon Jared Stone is apparently killed. Sarah avenges his death, but feels the situation is lost as the comm. array was also destroyed.
Help arrives in the unlikely form of an Order command cruiser that suddenly drops from hyperspace. Its surprise entry enables it to quickly destroy its Crayven counterpart, later dispatching dropships to the planet surface for Sarah and company. The onboard superior, Cardinal Kila Balor, explains the situation. The Order forces on Krig were a splinter faction, the Second Dawn, not following official Order authority.
The Order cannot move against the faction directly, fearing open civil war. Rather, they have devised a plan involving Sarah. By supplying her with untraceable information and finances, she can fight the Second Dawn on their behalf in secret. In return, they tell her pursuing them is the only way she can uncover the truth behind Krig-7b. She accepts and contact is made with the new faction, the Phoenix Mercenaries.
Taking command, the campaign takes them against the Second Dawn, and much later original Order and Crayven forces. When all is said and done, the conspiracy is found to be even deeper than imagined.
The Phoenix Mercenaries
The game manual gives them a brief background and history. They are Crayven outcasts that were relocated to the planet Crim-12, former employees that dissented the corporate structure. The planet had already been mined thoroughly before and was considered worthless in that sense. Left to themselves, the outcasts built a new society using scavenged parts, seized from leftover Order and Crayven holdings.
Others sick of Crayven also joined them, and soon they grew large enough to draw the attention of their original company. Rather than risk hostility, a deal was worked out: Crayven would leave them in peace, and they in turn would take mercenary contracts. The lack of natural resources also led to another peculiarity: they accepted scrap as payment. Under the leadership of a former soldier, they were able to build a rough-looking but effective military.
Within the game, their ground vehicles are hovercar-like (similar to Order ones), characterized by high top speeds and low acceleration. True to their "Phoenix" moniker, a good portion of their inventory consists of incendiary devices, ranging from various plasma-based weaponry to purpose-built vehicles like the Pyro-Dyne flame tank or their white phosphorus artillery units.
Although their units largely parallel their counterparts, their unique ones are of note. For instance, their Plasma Grenadiers are the only infantry equipped with a mortar-like weapon. Their artillery unit also operates differently; Crayven and Order artillery both fire in bursts of three, while theirs fires one at a time. Although not as quick at destruction, the more regulated firing rate allows for faster target changes.
Additionally, they are the only faction with an aircraft choice that can effectively take on both air and ground targets (excluding infantry), the Swarm. Visually, each squad consists of six very tiny aircraft, each individually weak. The Swarm as per its namesake works best when the squads are clustered into large groups, allowing for massive guided missile barrages.