|”Chance is the providence of adventurers.”|
|– Napoleon Bonaparte|
Long has been the journey to find wayward adventure amidst the dismal array of other games on the store shelves. Now comes a title that will not define adventure, but it is a wonderful respite along the trodden path. Future Tactics: The Uprising is an interesting amalgamation of RPG, First-Person-Shooter and best of all Turn-Based Strategy. Set in the not-too-distant future, Future Tactics depicts a post-apocalyptic semi-technological society. Nasty blue-green monsters, simply known as Creatures, have overrun the planet. Living life as gun-wielding nomads in the barren wastelands of what was once Earth; our young heroes must outwit and fight these unworldly denizens to survive and uncover the secrets of their planetary occupation.
It’s safe to assume that a majority of gamers will find this game lacking; evident by the fact that it can be found in the cheapest of bargain bins, and subject of many a negative review. However, if you consider the great lack of true turn-based strategy games available today, one can evaluate this game for what it was truly meant to be. If we want story, we’ll buy cinematic adventures. If we want true RPG’s, there are thousands of Diablo knock-offs available. And we barely need to mention the plethora of FPS titles. But we don’t easily come across a turn-based strategy games with a Sci-Fi setting and environments that react to explosions and gunfire. Future Tactics feels like a cross between Fallout and X-COM, yet with a more modern 3D engine.
First, you will want to know what makes this game fun. In a word, strategy, strategy, strategy. There are 19 levels, each with its own 3D landscape. These landscapes turn into battlefields as the story unfolds. One by one, you take control of multiple characters, each with their own weapons, range, and special abilities. Attributes can be improved as the characters gain experience. You can also locate upgrades. A turn consists of deciding if you want to shoot first or move first. The limits of your movement are displayed as a green border, so you know exactly what your range of motion will be for this turn. If you only move a portion of the distance, you can stop, fire, and move again – albeit the limits of your movement are more restricted after you stop and restart. You end your turn by simply resting or entering heal mode. Just make sure you don’t get hurt while in healing mode. The damage will be severe. You can also end your turn by activating a personal energy shield (but use it wisely, because it will take two turns to recharge before you can use it again).
There are only a handful of weapon types and two basic firing methods. Mortar-like weapons use an over-head radar targeting system, centered on your character, sweeping around. You click the button to stop the sweep when it’s pointing at your target, and this will set the direction of your shot. Next, a sonar-type sweep starts, working from the center-outward and you click to set the range of your shot. If your aim and timing are good, the result will be a devastating terrain-altering blast.
Other weapons use a line-of-sight targeting reticule. You start by lining up the reticule over your target. Then a sweeping line crosses across your reticule. When the line is over your enemy, you must click it to stop it from moving. When you set the first line over your target, a second one will start moving across your reticule. You also need to try and stop this line while it is over your target. When you set both of the lines, your weapon fires at the point where the two lines are crossed inside your reticule. The accuracy of your shot and damage dealt are directly related to how good your aim and timing was.
Strategy is an imperative part of every game turn. Switching between overhead camera angles and line-of-sight gives you a very good perspective of the battlefield. There are no time limits so sit back, sip a soda, plan your angle of attack – and more importantly, your route of escape. If you haven’t moved too much at the beginning of your turn, you can shoot at a Creature (or two), then take much-needed cover behind a tree, boulder, old building, or long-abandoned vehicle. Some landscapes are vast, while others are narrow and restricted. Each battlefield offers its own challenges, tactical positions, hidden upgrades and interesting opportunities.
As the game’s title implies, your tactics on the battlefield will determine if, or how many times, you must replay a mission before you can advance the storyline. While most missions can be surmised as “kill or be killed” other missions require you to get to a certain spot on the map or save a structure from destruction. You will spend a great deal of time shooting and taking cover. But creative strategists will find ways to distribute their teams in strategic locations, focus weapon fire to maximize damage, and use a fast-moving player as a decoy to draw fire away from the others.
One of the best features of the game is the destructible and ever-changing landscape. While it may take several direct hits from a Sci-Fi blaster to kill a Creature or your character, your weaponry is devastating with regard to the battlefield. Taking cover behind a mound of rock may save you for a few turns, but eventually, the Creatures will blow it away leaving you high-and-dry. If you can lure a Creature into a blast crater which just happens to be near a boulder or an old vehicle, a fun tactic is to shoot the boulder or vehicle and try to tumble it into their hiding place, causing a great deal of collateral damage. Creatures standing on bridges or near water are easy pickings – just blast the ground underneath them and watch them fall (they can’t swim).
As your characters gain levels and new special abilities, the strategy only gets more complex; and the scenarios get harder. Some characters gain multiple shots per turn, while others gain the ability to heal another player, teleport, reflect shots, zoom, and extend their firing range. As the ratio of swarming Creatures to Humans increases, these upgrades become an invaluable tool in the fight for survival.
Unfortunately, proponents of a well-written storyline, character depth, convincing voice-over, and believable scripts will find this game lacking. Luckily, the use of subtitles makes these problems surmountable, without detracting too much from the tactical enjoyment of the game. When you compare the hours you can spend in one battle, to the minute or two between enjoying the story – these problems seem miniscule.
Other elements of Future Tactics are average for a game of this caliber. You should find the background music above average adding to the mood of the story. The fully animated cut-scenes helped move things along as well. The cartoon-esque graphics are suitable, offering detail with regard to most landscapes but little depth of expression on the part of the characters. The controls were a breeze to learn, and on-screen prompts help you recall how everything works even if you put this game down for a while and come back later.
The lifeblood of a game is its replay ability – and this game may never leave my shelf. While it doesn’t offer an online multiplayer option, it does have a custom-battle head-to-head mode. Select a battlefield, and join a friend in a Human vs. Creature death-match. If you find the Creature AI to be was lacking (and sometimes they do act a bit daft), a human opponent can give you a real challenge. Every time you play, the situation can be vastly different, with random starting locations, random turn sequence and – of course – the destructible landscape; making for limitless alterations.
Most games don’t warrant a sequel, but this game has a lot of potential. If someone were to improve upon what was done here; a truly amazing game could evolve.
Unforgettable Game Moment: Losing repeatedly to my 10-year-old daughter who always insisted on playing the Creatures because, in her words, “…they have powerful weapons and they’re so funny to watch.”
Considering the bargain price of this title, I would put it into the “Must Have” category. Whether you buy it new or used, you’ll get your money’s worth – assuming you like the kind of game I’ve just described.
Final Grade: 80/100