It is based on Jeff Wayne's Musical Version of The War of the Worlds — which is itself based on H. G. Wells' novel The War of the Worlds.
The player chooses to play as either the defending Humans or the invading Martians. It was unusual at the time, as instead of having pre-set missions, battles only take place when one sides' forces are sent to a sector occupied by the other. Unit building and the inter-sector movement of forces is done between battles, making the game one of only a few completely non-linear RTS titles ever. In this respect, it is somewhat similar to the computer game North & South.
The game is set in Great Britain and starts in the late 19th century. The map of Britain (the "War map") is divided into approximately 30 sectors. Each sector held by the players forces can be examined in detail in a separate "Battle map". The player can set up unit and structure building tasks and queues here. Time only passes on the War map. Research tasks are set on the War map as well.
Unlike most RTS computer games, units typically consist of multiple vehicles, except for highly specialised or utility units. The Martians use large vehicles with powerful weapons, which can take a lot of damage. The Humans have smaller, weaker vehicles, but have more per unit, quicker build times and also control more sectors on the war map at the start of the game. The humans rely mostly on mobile artillery, WWI-style tanks, and ironclad warships. Playing on the Martian side, players can expect to be attacked by more than a hundred human vehicles in a single battle, on some occasions. The Humans can build water units, such as Ironclads, which can devastate Martian defences, while requiring the Martian ground forces to wade out into the ocean to retaliate. The Martians can build a number of extremely specialised vehicles, varying from the Mind-reading and -manipulating Xeno-Telepath, to the Tempest, an extremely powerful machine that carries two heavy Heat-Rays and black smoke canister launcher.
Resource usage is different from the trend of the time. There are no gathering units that manually gather resources, and the resources are not used to build or purchase units. Instead, each sector has three resources (steel, oil and coal for the Humans and heavy elements, copper and Human blood for the Martians), in certain levels of abundance. Players can build facilities that will extract these resources at a certain rate. Each unit and manufacturing or repair facility in the game uses certain amounts of the resources depending on the resource type (Martian buildings don't need to feed on human blood, for example, while units do), and the action currently being performed. These resources are drawn from the sector the building or unit is in, and the sectors directly surrounding it. Deficiencies in resources will result in decreased efficiency, and increased time for unit/structure building and repairs.
Although it is single player only, a semi-functional form of multiplayer appears to be accessible, with some registry modification.
Jeff Wayne himself produced the musical arrangements for the game, consisting of 45 minutes of material from Jeff Wayne's Musical Version of The War of the Worlds re-scored and remixed in a newer electronica style with techno beats. The games menu features a music player.
The remixes consist of the following:
- The Eve of the War (two different versions)
- Horsell Common
- The Fighting Machine
- The Red Weed
- The Spirit of Man
- Brave New World
- Dead London (PC version only)
It was one of the earlier RTS games to use 3D models instead of sprites for units. The game also features 3D terrain, which can be used strategically. The game suffered from significant performance problems initially, mainly due to the sheer number of vehicles on screen (often thanks to the Humans) as well as the fact there is no 3D hardware support. However, modern computers should have no trouble running it.
Third Person Shooter version
A video game company (at the same year) published a third person shooter version of Jeff Wayne's War of the Worlds but did not get much publicity[ even though it was published by the same publisher (GT Interactive). The version is a third person shooter where as only the human mission is playable. ]
Unlike the RTS version, the TPS version has pre-set mission totaling 15 missions and the player will be controlling 20 different WWI style military vehicles with additional abilities to control martian weaponry.
- Jeff Wayne's The War of the Worlds official site