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Z (pronounced Zed) is a 1996 real-time strategy computer game by the Bitmap Brothers. It is about two armies of robots (red and blue) battling to conquer different planets. A sequel, Z: Steel Soldiers, was published in 2001. Z was re-released on Steam in 2014 as a mobile-orientated port of the original.

Difference between versions

There are few differences between the Z DOS version and the Z 95 version. Most of all Z 95 was made much more compatible with Windows 95 which was becoming more and more popular. Also some more levels were added to the so-called Expansion Kit. The Z DOS version has an interface for loading the game as its first step. In Z 95 the interface is still there but modified and is just a normal interface using APIs of Windows 95 without an eyecandy button. Z Dos version is much slower, which affects the game play, whereas the Z 95 version improves the speed and lets the game feel like a real time strategy field.

Atmosphere

The game is filled with personal, somewhat humorous touches. If a mission is failed, the central unit tells the player: "you will fail, you are a dummy". When a robot has nothing to do, they begin to relax in the sun, play cards, smoke cigars, hunt rabbits, penguin (in the Arctic area), and other animals in the fields. The robots' attitude and expressions are very human.

Worlds

Combat takes place on several planets, with 4 missions on each. When one is successfully captured, a space ship transports the robot army to another. Worlds are divided into the following types:

  • Desert: a dry, open and scarcely vegetated environment, in which units have trouble moving around freely. The player encounters rivers and islands as they progress through the battles on this planet. Some territories are controlled by flags on islands.
  • Volcanic: a much more hostile environment with intense heat and constant eruptions. Lava flows are an impassable barrier.
  • Arctic: a frozen world of snow and ice spanned by glacial rock formations. The frozen lakes and glaciers often make it difficult for units to find a way through. One level has a central wall which blocks any access to the leftmost and rightmost territories.
  • Jungle: a verdant world of menacing swamplands and impenetrable chasms. Crocodiles in the swamps lash out at robots hanging around the mud.
  • City: a decaying industrial complex where danger lurks around every corner. Sewer monsters ambush robots moving across polluted water.

Logistics

The supply logistics are simpler than the system used in traditional RTS games, such as the Command & Conquer series: the more territories are owned (flags held), the faster the factories work and the more factories are available. Once a unit type is selected, production repeats automatically until a different unit type is selected.

The logistics issues centre more around getting forces to where they are required, as vehicles cannot cross water and even robots cannot cross lava.

Units

Main article see Z/Walkthrough

Which unit types can be produced depends on the building type (Robot or Vehicle factory), building level (number of stars displayed on the building) and game level. Fixed guns can be produced at either type of factory, while the Fort can produce all types of units, only limited by the game level. Higher level units are slower to produce.

Game AI

The AI controlling each unit's reaction to commands is not very complex, so robots frequently walk directly into enemy fire. Units make this mistake whether they are controlled by a human or a computer player.

The AI controlling the CPU uses multiple strategies. Though usually the CPU deploys its starting units in a specific way, it sometimes uses different tactics, and the CPU responds to different circumstances in different ways; no two games are identical in Z. The AI is quite aggressive, attempting to overthrow the player before he can get his production on the way, using fast, powerful attacks as well as sneak attacks. The computer is more powerful in the beginning of a battle, since the second unit it produces in every of its factories takes half time to produce (all other units take full time to produce, though).

The AI is not very efficient at managing its units though; it often leaves certain territories poorly defended, and often spreads its forces rather thinly across the battlefield. Usually, if the player manages to hold off the CPU's first attack waves, the CPU can't successfully take enough territories back to turn the tide in its favour.

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