Dreamland Chronicles: Freedom Ridge

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2001 Mythos Games

Platforms: PC and Sony PlayStation 2

By the creators of UFO: Enemy Unknown and being led by Julian Gollop, and was a 3D evolution of the previous X-COM strategy games produced by Mythos Games. The press at the time were very excited about the game, and one even felt it could have been one of the greatest turn-based strategy games ever produced.

It was felt to be the most ambitious yet from Mythos, and was to be designed primarily for the PlayStation 2, with a port to the PC taking second place. The game itself was set on earth in the near future, with the Sauran alien race having invaded and killing most of humanity. A few groups have survived and you must control one of the groups called the Terran Liberation Army, to build a fighting force to overthrow the aliens.

The core of the game would be a tactical combat system, with randomly generated environments that were fully interactive – with buildings and vehicles that are completely destructible in a realistic manner. The aim was to create realistic characters in the game who could run, crouch, crawl, jump and all kinds of different moves.

Further below is an archived interview from an October 2000 post by Mark Asher, who had interviewed Julian Gollop for the US Computer Games Magazine and dug up the interview and shared it. It gives a great further insight into the development at the time and what the game was to consist of.

The game would sadly be cancelled in mid-2001, when Mythos could not find a publisher for the game and essentially ran out cash to continue. Rumours suggest in PC Zone magazine that more than £10 million had already been spent on the game at this point. Virgin was originally financing the game, but could no longer do so. A bit of a mess then occurred with Bethesda, who had acquired the rights to publish the game in the US, after Virgin had taken a loan from them.

Bethesda apparently tried to become the sole proprietor of the title, with rumours of replacing Mythos with a cheaper Russian-based team. Virgin then apparently pulled the plug to prevent this, leaving Mythos to try and find another publisher (but failing).

Months later, the game then resurfaced in development under the name of UFO: Freedom Ridge (a working title), and was now transferred over to a Czech-based development team called Altar Interactive. The plan was to make many changes and improvements, and a claim was made that Julian Gollop would be involved (although he denied this to PC Zone). The game would evolve and change and eventually saw release as UFO: Aftershock, but with very little remaining from the original development.

Credits: Ross Sillifant and archive.org for scans, and Mark Asher for his interview with Julian Gollop.

Additional links: Entry and screenshots at Unseen64 and Wikipedia entry on the game.

Magazine scans

Interview with Julian Gollop by Mark Asher for CGW magazine

1. Is Dreamland inspired by X-COM? (I know, a dumb question, but it gives you a chance to talk about Dreamland a bit)

Gollop: Yes it is, although it is fairer to say that Dreamland is just the latest development in the evolution of Mythos Games strategy games. X-Com was itself inspired by our earlier titles such as ‘Laser Squad’ and ‘Rebelstar.’ Dreamland itself is a massive game, with even greater detail and variety than X-Com. The story line is more sophisticated, with a few surprising plot twists along the way.

2. The pausable real-time combat in X-COM Apocalypse worked well. Why are you returning to turn-based combat with Dreamland?

Gollop: It is all to do the feel of the game. Dreamland is set in a grim, post apocalyptic future where the human race is struggling for survival. With just a few soldiers you have to succeed again and again in every tactical situation. The intimate, tense, atmosphere of Dreamland can only be recreated with turn based combat. Additionally, the 3D system we have employed is far more usable, because the player can control characters from a third person view or a first person view, without worrying about losing control of the situation.

3. In X-COM I laughed the first time I saw a cow being dissected by the aliens. What were the aliens doing?

Gollop: That’s a pretty good question, really. It has been known for a long time that cattle have been found strangely mutilated with various bits of the anatomy removed, such as the rectum, or a tongue. Some have blamed the government, but really it is those bug eyed aliens who were just trying to figure out which parts of the cow to eat. They obviously hadn’t found an In-and-out burger.

4. Ever seen a UFO?

Gollop: Yes of course, but my memory was wiped after seeing it.

5. Are there any aliens in X-COM or Dreamland inspired by your mother-in-law?

Gollop: Yes, the ethereals. They turn up when least expected and they can read your mind.

6. X-COM was responsible for more missing gaps in time than any aliens could ever hope to be. What made it special?

Gollop: That is a very difficult question to answer. All we set out to do was create a game which we would like to play ourselves. I think some of the random elements helped, coupled with the interaction between the strategic and tactical levels. We ended up with a game which I did not know how to win – I didn’t know which were the best strategies or tactics, even though I designed all the games systems. That is what makes a good strategy game.

7. Do you still work with your brother at Mythos? What’s that like?

Gollop: I still work with Nick, and together we manage the company. Its OK these days…I am used to the humiliation of been bullied by a younger brother.

8. What is the coolest thing about Dreamland?

Gollop: There are so many cool things, I don’t know where to start. I get a lot of smug satisfaction blowing the head of an alien and playing soccer with it — passing from soldier to soldier — and still being able to meet the mission objectives.

9. Did you ever wonder that if there really are aliens watching us, they might be ticked off by all the computer games that portray them as evil lunkheads?

Gollop: If the aliens were devious enough I am sure that they probably have a hand in promoting these games just to lull us into a false sense of security. Maybe next time we should make a game from the aliens’ point of view, wiping out the selfish, anti-social pests known as humans.

10. What was the deal with that Pillsbury Doughboy-looking giant alien in Apocalypse. Where’s the menace?!?

Gollop: Hmmm… I think you would have to ask the artist about that one. It was supposed to be frightening, but something got forgotten somewhere along the line.

11. I can never spell Apocalypse! Why did you name that game that?

Gollop: We just wanted it to sound like the end of the world was coming, and sometimes while working on the game it certainly felt that way. It is also a real tongue twister for some people — I remember somebody working on the project kept referring to it as Poxylypse. In future we will refrain from too many biblical references in games titles.

12. What’s the secret of designing a good game?

Gollop: Getting the most gameplay for the least amount of effort involved in creating the game. This is something I have not always stuck to, and have consequently paid the price for it.

13. Ever consider doing an updated Laser Squad?

Gollop: Yes, many people have asked for it.

14. If you were a soldier in X-COM or Dreamland, what would your stats be like?

Gollop: Very poor. I wouldn’t recruit myself.

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