While I was playing this game, something kind of clicked in my brain and forced me to ask the question, why don’t I play more tactical turn-based games? I now realized that I am a huge fan of this genre and need to play more games like this. Game play wise this is a great game, I really enjoyed mapping out my soldiers and trying to find the perfect (or near perfect) spot for them.
There is just something about having the “perfect” turn where everything just goes right. It’s just extremely satisfying feeling to watch your plan unfold and things just go well. The game has a lot of depth so when you’re first starting out, things just seem to go badly. Over time, little by little you learn how to deal with the various obstacles and before you know it, something will click and you’ll just understand the game. For me, it took me about 10 hours before I can confidently say that I started to understand the depth of the game.
Tactical depth is a great way to describe this game. There is a lot going on and there is a lot to learn in order for you to maximize your efficiency. For each turn, you control at most 6 units (you start with 4 but unlock more slots as the game progresses) and each unit has 2 actions. There is variety in each action as well, you can move once then for your second action you can take a shot an enemy, you can chose to hunker down which gives you better defense and evasiveness. You also have the option of going into “Overwatch” which is another defensive option where if an enemy moves, your unit (or units if you put multiple units in overwatch) will fire at the enemy. You can also throw grenades which don’t do as much damage as a shot but they’ll break an enemies shield and they’ll blow up the surrounding area which makes it easier for your other units to fire at the enemy. You also have the option of moving again so you can move twice as far in one turn.
The game has 4 types of units you can use in missions. I do recommend using combinations of them all in missions because each unit type can help in certain situations. There is a grenadier which basically has a grenade gun which allows them to have 2 grenades rather than 1 but also they can shoot grenades further than other units can simply throw them. There is the Sharpshooter which is basically the sniper type and this unit has better aim, can shoot from further away but you have to keep in mind shooting the sniper rifle counts as 2 actions so if your first action is move or reload then the sharpshooter will pull out their pistol which does less damage. There is a Ranger unit and they’re really the flanking unit. They can sneak around enemies, put themselves in a better position and take out enemies from behind. The final unit is the specialist and they have this drone which can be used for 1 of 2 things. The drone can either be used for combat where it will do damage to an enemy but I found that using the drones as a healer was a better way to go. I figured since all of the other units deal damage, it would be nice to have one unit that its primary role would be to heal wounded units.
The game has a somewhat simple leveling up system where units will gain abilities as they rank up. There are 8 total ranks, you start out as a Rookie and rank them up to Colonel. So as units rank up to Colonel they’ll have 7 total abilities and those abilities vary depending on the class. Whats also nice about ranking up the units is, they gain more health and also they’re overall accuracy will improve as well. Having higher accuracy is important because when units miss their shots that is when bad things happen.
So the accuracy is probably the most important game play mechanic and how it works is pretty simple. So lets say there is an enemy on the map, you select your unit and it has a 30% shot accuracy. That’s not a great shot so you want to give your unit a better opportunity to hit its mark. What you would want to do is move that unit closer or a better strategy would be to bring out your Grenadier. Lets say the enemy is perched behind a tree so what you want to do is get that tree out of there so your other 5 units have a better shot. So the Grenadier comes in, shoots its grenade and eliminates the tree. Now you can move your other units closer and it could take that 30% shot accuracy to 90% shot accuracy.
There is a lot of that kind of stuff like that where you just have to play the game and learn by trial and error. I’m not going to go into too much about strategies because I find this game to be very unique where one size does not fit all. Different people are going to swear by different strategies and tactics.
I do want to issue a friendly warning about this game, I don’t really like using the word “hard” to describe this game but it can be punishing. Try to keep in mind, it may be punishing but it’s fair. If a shot is not 100% then it could miss so you could have a turn where 4 units could miss a shot that was 75% or higher. You could say thats not fair but the game does give you the percentages so that’s something you’ll have to learn to deal with. Also don’t be afraid to save scum, its something that I learned that you may have to do at some point.
The reason why it could be important is that if a unit dies then they are dead so if you lost a Colonel then that Colonel is out of your game. I didn’t save scum if I lost one unit but if I lost half then I would go back, restart the mission and try again. A big reason I started to do this is that I had to restart the entire game twice so on my third game, I decided that I would save scum if I lost too many units.
I would love to sit here and praise this game but I do have to talk about a lot of the serious issuing plaguing this game. This maybe more of a nit pick but I still didn’t care for it. Basically the story is, the villains which are aliens have started a project called the Avatar Project. Every few turns the aliens would make progress on the Avatar Project which was a bar that would fill up. Once the bar filled up then you had to go through a story mission and essentially slow down that progress. I didn’t like that because in my third game, I wanted to take things slow and rank up my units before going through the difficult story missions. I don’t like game where its open to do what you want but it does force you to do things before you’re ready.
Now I have to go into the massive issues of this game. First off I do want to point out that I played this game on my PlayStation 4 so it had some massive frame rate issues. It’s not uncommon that in every turn, you encounter frame rate issues in every turn of a mission. That’s just very bad and poor game optimization. Luckily it is a turn-based game so it doesn’t effect the gameplay negatively but it has to be mentioned.
Dips in the frame rate are unpleasant but it usually doesn’t bother me too much but what did bother me was the multiple game crashes that I encountered while playing this game. I would say that this game probably crashed about 15 times in the 40 hours I actually played this game. Luckily the game auto saves after every turn so you just have to load the game back up and at worst replay your last turn. This was definitely annoying but I enjoyed the gameplay enough that I was able to look past this. Where I did get very angry was after I had beaten the final boss in the games final cut scene the game crashed. I had to load the game up and replay that last turn 4 times before the game stopped crashing just so I could get that final trophy saying that I beat the game. With how difficult this game was and how much time I had to put into this game, I really wanted that trophy.
If you’re a fan of turn-based games, I would recommend picking this game up. It’s a solid game that has a lot of depth that takes time to learn but you have to have the patience to deal with games short comings. I know when this game first came out there were some major issues with the PC version but I believe that’s better now and I would say if you can play on that version. If you do end up playing on a console, just keep in mind that its great but very buggy.