Today there was a burst of excitment surrounding the upcoming Real Time Strategy game Starship Troopers: Terran Command, and since Slitherine was kind enough to send us a press package, I thought I’d take some time to talk about the game, my thoughts on Starship Troopers in general, and show off some screenshots.
Starship Troopers (1959): The Book that Launched 40,000 Power Armour Suits
Robert Heinlein’s Starship Troopers is an important piece of science fiction literature, not least of all for helping to pioneer the concept of space marines, acting as infantry in powered armour, that we all know and love today. It also, like most good science fiction, tried to engage with interesting political and social hypotheticals.
Starship Troopers envisions a world in which participation in government is gated behind civic service. While this can be done through other means, the primary way for individuals to earn their citizenship is through service in the military, and it is clear from the book that there is quite a lot of propagandizing and motivating factors encouraging the youth of the world to seek citizenship this way.
Heinlein does not shy away from discussing his ideas throughout the book. In fact a large chunk of it focuses on the training and education of the protagonist Juan Rico (notably revealed to be Filipino at the end of the book, suggesting that Heinlein’s Federation has abandoned racial and gender prejudice, but that’s another topic) enroute to becoming an infantryman. This talk can get a bit heavy handed, idealistic, and bizarre by modern standards, but it is still presented well.
The war against the Arachnids honestly feels like background noise to Heinlein’s philosophical discourse, though I admit that Starship Troopers does an incredible job of writing believable science fiction military talk.
Starship Troopers (1997): Biting Satire and Biting Bugs
The Paul Verhoeven and Edward Neumeier film, released in 1997, went in quite a different direction. The two read Heinlein’s futuristic military society as overly fascistic and set out to make a parody. They certainly succeeded, potentially moreso than they realized, when Starship Troopers became a hit not just for its biting satire, but also for it’s goofy and over the top depictions of futuristic warfare.
The intent to satirize was certainly dead center though. The film’s opening mirrors shots from 1935’s Triumph of the Will. The overly bombastic way the film represents life in the Mobile Infantry, right alongside the horrors of combat and the brutality of the Terran Federation’s war against the Arachnids, create an impossible clash of tone that…is frankly just perfect.
Michael Ironside, according to a certain widely sourced internet encyclopedia, in a 2014 interview stated he asked Verhoeven, “Why are you doing a right-wing fascist movie?” Verhoeven replied, “If I tell the world that a right-wing, fascist way of doing things doesn’t work, no one will listen to me. So I’m going to make a perfect fascist world: everyone is beautiful, everything is shiny, everything has big guns and fancy ships but it’s only good for killing fucking Bugs!”
Starship Troopers: Terran Command (2021) Would You Like to Know More?
It is the film version of Starship Troopers that Slitherine and developer The Aristocrats are bringing to player’s monitors this year, and it looks to be carrying the spirit of the 1997 film about as well as I could have hoped.
Promising “a genuine Starship Troopers feel” the game brings horrible violence to life as you send boisterous and gung-ho soldiers repeatedly into the meat grinder. It looks like dismemberment (for everyone involved) terrified screams, and all manner of explosions will really get you in the mood to earn your citizenship. Honestly it looks like they’re faithfully bringing the tongue-in-cheek patriotism along for the ride, and I’m glad to see it.
As far as gameplay is concerned, as players are in control of the Terran Federation soldiers, there is an emphasis on holding the line, maneuvering through terrain to best nullify Arachnid advantages, while simultaneously building up your forces to bring the fight to the bugs. There is a full 21 mission single player campaign with an overarching narrative, emergent missions, and a pacing script that should work to keep things fresh.
With missions spanning the infamous attack on Klendathu from the film, to the desert planet Kwalasha, I’m hoping there will be enough varied content to keep the gameplay fresh. As the developers have stated they’re pulling from all of the films in the series (I’ve seen none of the sequels) it sounds like there’s a lot for them to work with. I for one am pretty eager to see how they handle such lopsided forces.
Though there’s no multiplayer, the included skirmish maps will hopefully offer some longevity. These maps include Kill Count, Advanced Skill Tests, and Survival Missions, and I’m personally looking forward to keeping my poor guys and girls alive for as long as I can.