Maelstrom - Explosive unit-by-unit reconnaissance

Swirling together a post-apocalyptic worldwide conflict between the surviving "haves" and "have-nots" of Earth with some cranky alien squatters makes for a confusing mix of combatants. As every Real-time Strategy fan worth his weight in dirt-farming knows, the key to victory is a keen knowledge of his units and their abilities. Fortunately we're here to help by bringing you the skinny on the three warring factions of Maelstrom, the forthcoming terrain-altering RTS from KDV Games and Codemasters. From the high-tech yet scarce Ascension units to the motley-crewed Remnant raiders, we explain the key features of the majority of opposing forces, and also reveal the alien secrets of the bio-morphing Hai-Genti, perpetrators of all this mud-slinging in the first place.

Above: The Ascension's Legionary and Crusader units are in blue

Legionary: These sleek, armored ground-pounders carry the equivalent of "an unlicensed nuclear accelerator on their backs" (just don't cross the streams) to fuel their advanced hand-held lasers. They form the backbone of the Ascension's infantry and with further upgrades become a fairly autonomous fighting force in their own right.

Crusader: Strap a ridiculously high-powered laser cannon onto a transforming mecha-tank and the Ascension have themselves one helluva combat platform (Optimus Prime eat your heart out). But that versatility and power comes at a cost. These bad boys are expensive - so don't expect to see too many of them on the battlefield simultaneously.

Ice Hammer: As disappointing as it may be, these strange soldiers aren't carrying around icy cold kegs of Budweiser. Instead they're porting handheld cryogenic projectile weapons primarily designed to freeze enemy water obstacles (lakes or rivers) put in place by their alien foes, the Hai-Genti. No complete Ascension army should be without one.

Phantom: The development of the Phantom probably went something like this, "Hey, you got your bomber in my armored mech battle-walker!", "No, you got your battle-walker in my heavy-duty bomber!", and then somebody told them to stop acting like a commercial for Reese's Peanut Butter Cups. As a transforming tank and bomber, the Phantom dishes out the pain in the form of electro-blasts from either ground or air and is effective against both infantry and mechanized units.

Strato-Lightning Satellite - Thor: Like the mythological Norse god it's named for, this powerful space-based weapon smites enemy mechanized units with a focused lightning strike. This provides the same effect as an intensely-charged EMP pulse- it renders opposing vehicles powerless without harming friendly troops. Some Ascension forces have taken to calling this the "naughty or nice gun."

Sat Strike - Apollo: The Apollo represents the culmination of Ascension technology into a massively destructively orbital weapons platform. This doom-bringer beams down a gigantic laser capable of destroying huge swaths of land and/or units. And you thought the government was just spying on your thoughts.