K240 on the Amiga was a well-loved, classic game of real-time galactic discovery, colonization and strategic combat, where you battled alien races for control of mineral-rich asteroids in a region of deep space. The game’s forerunner was the also excellent but much more limited ‘Utopia’ (also by Gremlin Games), but K240 added heaps more playability and loads more options and excitement. K240 had graphics that might at best be called functional, or nice, but that shortcoming didn’t matter since the game’s real appeal was its straightforward and easily used game engine, its gripping play and its addictiveness.
The sound also helped add a whole lot of space atmosphere to the package which was great when playing late at night as a youngster!
The basic unit of game play was the asteroid, of which there were a number dotted randomly around the game map. Apart from the first one you started on, the other habitable asteroids, plus any rocks occupied by the as yet unknown enemy remained hidden until you detected them by exploration, or via your asteroid’s scanning radar. On asteroids, ensuring adequate food, energy, water and air for your colonists grew populations. These resources were secured by building the correct structures to supply the population’s demand. Each asteroid had a different amount of mineral wealth, and both the type and
amount of ore available on each asteroid was variable. Once extracted by the vast mining complexes that you could build, the ore could be sold once a month to Earth, by loading it on to a transported that arrived from good old Terra once a month. Not all ore could be sold off though since much was also required for the construction of different spacecraft and other military hardware. Certain ores, such as the mysterious nexus, could fetch a very pretty price on sale back to Earth, but these rare elements were also the ‘ingredients’ for some of the more destructive missiles that you could build. There was a keen balance therefore between sale and hoarding of the ores and minerals present in your asteroids (A nice touch in the game is that the presence of these cash crop, volatile minerals inside the bed rock of am asteroid will also raise the background radioactivity of the planet, thereby making it harder for you to sustain). Any newly discovered asteroids in the game map could be prospected for their mineral wealth by sending scout ships from asteroids already owned.
Aside from the necessary but entertainingly pacifist day-to-day of colony upkeep and mining, the great feature of K240 was attack and defense. You could build fleets of craft and customize their fitting with air-to-air (space-to-space?!) weapons or ground bombardment load outs, or a mixture of the two. That way you were effectively building fighter (for your colony defense), or attack (enemy asteroid destruction) fleets, each with a different strategic role to play. The other means of offensive force projection was rocketry. You can build underground silos of missiles to fling against the bases of your non-human foe. There is nothing better than watching a whole stick of missiles disgorge from the heart of your asteroid and speed through space on the way to create a firestorm, rock-eating virus, debilitating stasis or even destructive electrical lightning storm over an alien asteroid. Of course…such an act of aggression might trigger that hornet’s nest which you just stirred up to launch a retaliatory strike right at your home asteroid…that is if there isn’t a missile swarm already on its way.
There are a number of different alien species who you can battle against, and each has its own traits and characters, such as preference for warfare by fleets, or missiles, or varying levels of aggression, and this lends nice variety to games, even if you soon get used to what race will try what attack stunt. Familiarity with the opposition’s broad tactics doesn’t really hurt you, and certainly doesn’t impair the fun. When you launch spying scout missions against enemy asteroids, or have spy satellites orbiting them, you can see scenes of the alien lands and you can see that each species has its own building architecture and ship design.
The last aspect is that many advantageous technologies can be purchased from the folks back on Earth…for a price. The blueprints to these devices are delivered when the transporter arrives from Terra for the export of minerals too as mentioned. The inventions available range from military benefits, to better life on the asteroids. One fixes the gravity field, locking nearby mobile asteroids in place, another offers a missile defense shield. One stops your colonists getting sick from space viruses, another extends the range of your radars. All good fun, but which ones can you afford, or do you need?
I wholly recommend this great game. Old fashioned, but absolutely nothing wrong with it at all!
Look for ‘Fragile Allegiance’, the up-gunned PC version of K240, which is also available here at Classic PC Games.