Looking Glass Classic Terra Nova Now Available On GOG

Wherever and whenever Looking Glass Studios are mentioned, I light a candle and consider playing through the first two Thief games again. Before the flame has died, I can usually be found somewhere in the vicinity banging on about Terra Nova: Strike Force Centauri, the first-person squad-based tactical action game that I like to refer to as ‘the forgotten Looking Glass classic’.

GOG have just added the game to their catalogue (£3.99) and the excitement in my twitter timeline suggests people hadn’t forgotten Terra Nova at all – it was just really hard to get hold of. I haven’t played it since 1998 or thereabouts but, good lord, I adored it.

The variety and impact of the weapons! Lasers felt as if they were streaking hot death across the screen, searing into armour and through to the flesh beneath. Turrets and tanks rocked the screen and obliterated squad members as they scrambled for cover. Missions were fraught with tension and Looking Glass managed to make the powered armour of your characters feel simultaneously like an empowering piece of kit and a claustrophobic death trap.

If it holds up even half as well as Thief and Ultima Underworld, I’ll be delighted. Even if not, it’s a piece of my own gaming past that I’m eager to revisit.

Oh, and the forgotten Looking Glass classic is actually British Open Championship Golf.

48 Comments

  1. Kempston Wiggler says:

    I’m lucky enough to have found a copy on ebay a few years back. It’s brilliant. :

    I just wish playing Looking Glass games didn’t make me cry for Looking Glass every time.

    • phlebas says:

      I picked up a second hand copy years ago and never actually managed to get it to run on my computer. Looking forward to trying the GOG version with the original manual in hand!

      • Mr_Blastman says:

        Be aware the original version, at least, has a seriously bad bug with Dosbox that prevents the multipulsar from doing any damage. It just… goes through people.

        Here’s a video I recorded a year ago, see for yourself at around 7:25

        link to twitch.tv

        Not sure what causes it but it does it in all versions, including the special ones like SVN-Daum.

        The music is really awesome, though. :) Especially on real hardware like a Roland SC-55.

    • jj2112 says:

      Yeah I know how you feel. I still remember the first time I soared over the landscape in my armor. Even their “lesser” games like Flight Unlimited 2 and 3 are testament to their brilliance.

  2. Premium User Badge

    DollarOfReactivity says:

    Wow, didn’t think I’d see that title ever again. Only had the demo back in the day, but played it to death and loved it. I always figured it was an obscure tech-demo kind of thing that was long forgotten.

    Now they just need to add Iron Helix….

    • Alien426 says:

      It’s one of those games where I played the demo over and over. But I also got the game and loved it.

      I still remember that when you (accidentally) shoot the dropship, the pilot replies “Like hell I’ll go pick you up, you traitor!”.

  3. Ethaor says:

    Awsome, I still got the CD somewhere, but I could never get the sound to work on any Windows. Hopefully GoG got it working.

    • cpt_freakout says:

      I never like sounding like a fanboy, but if it’s out on GOG it means it’s completely functional, so go get it! :)

  4. GallonOfAlan says:

    Overlooked at the time and way ahead of its time.

  5. Eight Rooks says:

    It really was an awesome little game, cheesy FMV and all, though IIRC it was a little too easy to win most missions by spamming auto-turrets everywhere. So many auto-turrets. I think that was the first game where I realised what it was to “break” something in this way.

  6. Spacewalk says:

    Ohmygodohmygodohmygog!

  7. Ross Angus says:

    Does this game use voxels, or did I dream that?

    • Jekhar says:

      It did, but only for the distant landscape iirc. Up close it switched to traditional texture mapped terrain to avoid the blockiness.

  8. Premium User Badge

    Oakreef says:

    oh yes I was actually planning on trying to track down a disc copy of this to play, this will be a lot easier

  9. The Sombrero Kid says:

    OMG this is amazing Terra Nova is the most under appreciated LGS game by far, I loved it so much, I’ve had a fantasy of picking up the rights and making a sequel for so long.

  10. KillahMate says:

    This game is amazing – the keyboard/mouse interface design and systems available to the player at the time seemed like a glimpse into the future of gaming. People mention Thief as a cult classic, but honestly at this point it’s long since become a straight-up regular Classic. Terra Nova is the one that never got its due.

    RPS, how about a nice retrospective article? People deserve to know.

    • KillahMate says:

      Side note: proclaiming that you ‘bang on’ about Terra Nova is less convincing when you back it up with a tag link that leads to 1) this article, and 2) a short post from 1999 mentioning how you should write something about the game at some point :-)

      • fuggles says:

        Conversely in my posts on this site I frequently bang on about it and would love to write a retrospective. Originally it was a serious military sim but as this struggled to become fun then it scramble into something scifi.

        It supports head tracking and according to the cd case, the multiplayer patch is coming soon. Funny it is so often forgotten as it buried looking glass.

        Easily one of the best games ever. Let me write it!

    • ansionnach says:

      So many games back then pointed to a future that never materialised. Then XBox happened and everyone seems to want nothing but games that are trying their best to be like mindless blockbuster films. Whatever the cause, exciting games that challenged the player with complex systems and emergent gameplay were left by the wayside. I still mainly play old games I didn’t quite get around to back then. It’s not just nostalgia, they were far better than the dross people drool over these days. If I want to watch a mindless action film I’ll go to the cinema!

      • disorder says:

        I think, it’s come around somewhat recently (2012+) that there are some quality, complex games but yeah. for a long time an asphyxiating amount of the development cash not spent on advertising went into the so many identikit me-too’s that all looked and felt the same even when they weren’t in the same engine (+1 never played any far cry/battlefield at all). All that still exists of course. But the other stuff has some oxygen once again whereas for some time, it really didn’t seem to.

        I’d have to admit though, sometimes I play new mods in old games (or old dosboxes) because I’m too lazy/preoccupied to learn the minutiae of new rules (x-com say) which isn’t really fair. But in a lot of cases, it’s just not interesting enough either. Which is.

        As for movies, to me Mass Effect made a good movie (youtube). Better than it did a game.

        • ansionnach says:

          I’ve played and enjoyed Far Cry Blood Dragon, Modern Warfare 2, Mass Effect 2 and Battlefield 1942. Other than Mass Effect they were the only game I played in that series (including the pre-MW Call of Duty games). Really liked Mass Effect 2’s music and atmosphere. The gameplay on Insanity is really challenging so I enjoyed that as well. It blends so much sci-fi that I couldn’t help but like it. As much as I like the game, seeing others copy everything from it (conversation wheels in Fallout 4) is bloody annoying. To me it’s one of the reasons why ME3, DA2 and probably Inquisition (if I was to bother) were disappointments: it was as if they thought they’d bottled some magic ME2 formula and they thought they were repeatedly going to sell us the same bloody thing. Not that there wasn’t shameless copying back in the day, but more unique and interesting games were being made as well. Maybe it’s similar to how Hollywood has gotten dumber too: there are far too many comic book-based films being made. It’s all about playing it safe with the moneymen acting like actuaries. Didn’t even like comics as a child (other than Calvin and Hobbes – maybe Marvel should buy that and turn it into a completely irony-free mindless explosion-fest?).

    • loldrums says:

      Reminds me of EarthSiege. I love old games like that but they’re so hard to go back to.

  11. Gravy100 says:

    yeeesss!

  12. kahki says:

    This is the best gaming news in a while for me, I actually gasped out loud when I read the title. Anyone who appreciates Looking Glass-style game design should seriously just try Terra Nova out if they haven’t already. Gameplay-wise it’s completely different from System Shock or Thief, but feels just as player-driven and immersive. Definitely one of my all-time favourites. I think it uses a modified engine from System Shock 1?

  13. elvis71 says:

    Oooh Terra Nova … i loved it back in 96 and still do. Looking Glass was ahead of their time as with many other of their designs and ideas. To bad that Terra Nova was one of the reasons leading to Looking Glasses demise due to the poor sales figures.

    Nice to see it getting some love :)

  14. aircool says:

    I can remember the arm mounted rail guns, and the extremely useful drones, but not much else as it was a long time ago.

  15. MrThingy says:

    This was my favourite strolling simulator, thought the landscape was beautiful. “Screw the mission, chief, I’m going off-piste…”

  16. disorder says:

    The church of Looking Glass is the nearest thing I’ve experienced to religion.

    I think it was down to the way they built atmosphere, and worlds that made some internal sense that you wanted to know more about. That’s Terra Nova too – possibly the only AI squad-based game (freespace and it’s alpha two-through four generic redshirts included) that didn’t make me infuriated with the stupidity of my so-called professional boat anchor companions. They even felt somewhat like they were part of the story.

    And the story itself is quite grand sci fi, with a sinister, even in my memory a growing oppressive atmosphere that they tell with ‘merely’ some exposition, on-mission plot turns and grandly foreboding music. It amazes me that this (and system shock, thief) could be pulled off with so few levers.

    And at the core it is a tactical action game that felt a lot more open than other games of its time (pre-tribes). I’m not sure why it didn’t do commercially better than it did, but I do know that now (post-tribes), the control mechanism would drive me crazy and yet, what would you expect from driving a bipedal tank. I didn’t install a mouse & keyboard to drive my car, or its onboard lasers. Perhaps I should try.

  17. melancholicthug says:

    Oh man, i’m ashamed to say i pirated it after PCG gushed all over it back ’02/03 i think, as it was impossible to buy it anywhere in my country. Never finished it, though. Good to know now i’ll be able to get it legally.

  18. XisLoose says:

    Anybody knows who’s actually getting the money from the purchases (GOG aside of course) ?

  19. The_invalid says:

    FUCK! YESSSSS! This is awesome news! Had a copy of this from when I was way too young and absolutely adored it. So glad I can finally own a copy of this wonderful game.

  20. KungFuMassa says:

    Coming out of lurk mode on this one. I first discovered this game purely by chance.

    I was 14 and didn’t have any bus tokens to get home from school. I had MONEY, yes, but not exact change which is required for buses in Toronto, Canada. I went to school in a heavily ethnic area — all ethnicities, to be exact. So I went to a local strip mall to get change. On my way out I happened across a store selling random gadgetry. Interest piqued, I went in to look at the sparkly lights. And, what’s this? VIDEO GAMES?

    The only one I could afford was Terra Nova. And I knew of it from a PC Gamer review, but never ever saw it in my local game stores. I picked it up for about $15 — major bargain.

    Sadly, my machine at the time — a Pentium 133 I believe, with a 1X CDROM — was only partly up to the task. Yes, it could play the game smoothly enough, but I was never able to see any of the videos because my optical drive was pure rubbish. To this day I have only an inkling of the story and how it ended.

    I will never forget this one particular mission near the end. A LOT had to get done simultaneously — you had to rescue a fellow, you had to destroy some sort of convoy of vehicles, etc. And while you COULD split up your squad and tell them to get stuff done, in this particular mission they ended up failing every time. After several days of restarts I eventually reached a trance-like zone where I became this power-armored ninja. Equipped with some sort of Nuke and a laser, I would drop into the map, sprint forward a few seconds and fire a nuke at the VERY POINT the convoy of vehicles was going to be in the next 5 seconds, off in the distance. Then, without looking to see if I was successful (again, this was after several dozen tries — I KNEW this map) I jetpacked over to the rescue site. The trick here was that you were under a timer — the person you were rescuing could be killed if you weren’t fast enough. So I jetpacked in and instantly took the fight to the enemy, looking like Tom Cruise in that recent time repeating movie, whatever it was called. This all happened within the first 30-45 seconds of the level.

    There may have been more objectives on that map but whatever they were I blew through them practically without noticing, I was on such a high for accomplishing what I did.

    Good times.

    • KungFuMassa says:

      Hm, can you not edit your comments? Update because I forgot the reason I mentioned the ethnicity of the area I went to school in: If you wanted curries, shawls, vacuum repairs or very cheap food, there were stores for you. If you wanted a radio, television, whatever, there were stores for you.

      Computers? Computer GAMES? It was a wasteland.

    • ansionnach says:

      Good stuff! Must play it some day. Feel there’s a “something new” gap on the horizon… or do I resume long-unfinished games like Ultima V, Underworld II and probably loads more! When Underworld II is done it’s definitely time for TN as I’ve already played the first System Shock, which was great as well!

  21. claud alexander says:

    What most people here have said. First FPS (“FPS-like”) that had things like terrain, and had you do things like intercepting convoys, laying mines . . It was for me what Deus Ex seems to have been for most everyone else.

  22. OmNomNom says:

    Wow blast from the past. This game was epic

  23. ResonanceCascade says:

    This is definitely worth the second purchase just for the ease of use. It’s kind of a pain in the ass to get the CD-ROM working correctly in DosBox.

  24. Premium User Badge

    Matchstick says:

    For me the real innovation was squad mates. Years before Rainbow 6 / SWAT 3 et al took the whole commandable team members thing mainstream this game gave you control over AI soldiers and expected you to use them tactically to get the job done.

    That blew me away, there weren’t just BOBs that ran around doing their own thing but characters you needed to take care of if you hoped to win

  25. Perjoss says:

    I wonder how long until some of the old Looking Glass developers band together for a System Shock 2 spiritual successor Kickstarter.

  26. Grovester says:

    God, this was a fantastic game. The different choices of armour, the way that battles were utterly chaotic, the stealth, the escort missions that actually made sense, the atmosphere of the place, the landscape. So far ahead of its time that I really don’t think many games have caught up yet. Oh, and your squad members suffered permadeath, so some missions, though you had won them, were definitely losses. You really felt like you were in a genuine warzone and it was your actions that would make the difference.

    To me, it felt like this was what Mike Singleton was grasping for (though not open world, obviously).

    I wish someone would remake this. And not cock it up.

    Oh, it was also the game that pretty much sealed LG’s fate, sadly.

  27. skulgun says:

    I’m thinking hard about buying this, but tell me straight?

    Does it have mouselook, or does it have the same system shock-ultima underworld kludge interface as every LG game prior to Thief?

    • fuggles says:

      It has keyboard movement and mouse targetting.

    • jj2112 says:

      By the way, if you liked System Shock there`s a version of the game now which uses the same control scheme as SS2, mouselook and Tab to change to cursor. I’m planning to replay it someday.

  28. jj2112 says:

    What a great game this is. Well, it was a Looking Glass game, ’nuff said.

  29. EhexT says:

    It so holds up. It’s a Starship Troopers game but with the Troopers from the book. Somebody should do an HD remake – the original has options for VR (obviously not compatible with current VR tech) and Occulus compatibility would be mindblowing.