Review: Shock Tactics13 Apr 2017 0
Review: Shock Tactics
Released 11 Apr 2017
Game Corp DX is a horrible game. Why? Because I have played Game Dev Tycoon and GCDX was a just pale, flash game-level imitation of that title. It did not offer anything new that would improve on the formula – nay, it barely managed to recreate some semblance of the formula. And having played X-Com (three levels of the original, both new ones, and, unfortunately, The Bureau), Xenonauts, UFO and probably a few other XCOM clones, I feel a similar disgust for the recently released Shock Tactics.
Unlike most clones, ST doesn't take place on Earth. No, it's set on planet Hephaest (German translators dropped the ball here), a Beyond Earth-like semi-hell hole. As far as I can understand, you take the role of Cap – likely short for captain – who leads the mercenaries guarding the FSP Corporation expedition. Opposing you are the soldiers of Imperial Corporation (while all corporations are evil all the time, the developers felt like they needed to stress the point here), Space Pirates and the local fauna in the form of a spitter.
So you have your dinky little base that houses your crew, with an extremely simplistic base building mechanic (to the point where I went through all four level of medbay upgrades in one go). Everything you do at the base is basically instantaneous – the buildings are built zippy quick, weapons are constructed on the spot and training happens in the blink of an eye. Only your soldiers take some time to heal. The base is also the place to select your six man crew, to give them weapons and armor, to customize their appearance (basically changing the color of the armor) and change their names.
That last part doesn't even work right. You can give soldiers a name, surname and a nickname. So I deleted the first two – I couldn’t muster the care to learn those – and gave everyone a nickname. Surprise! The few menus that feature your soldiers don't list nicknames, so you see empty fields! Meanwhile, while you're in the field, the game will list the full name of the trooper, nickname or no nickname, which is as annoying as it is unhelpful.
The game piles on further indignities with the soldier equipment and classes. Everyone starts with the same gun and weapons aren't class locked. The biggest difference between giving a sniper rifle to a Breacher as opposed to a Sniper is that a Sniper has the Marksman ability (boosts accuracy) that only works with said rifle. That ability, by the way, is the only class ability that you have for 5-8 hours of the game. Marksman also happens to be the only really useful class ability, by the by, since it has no real cool-down and isn't one-use-per-mission (like Breacher's “Honor”). It's also more predictable and consistent, unlike the Heavy's Burst Fire template. That can be hard to use because the game might decide that the enemy isn't on the same plane that the teardrop is used and that the enemy shouldn't be hurt by it. Bullets, how do they work again?
Speaking of the enemy... While they don't use overwatch like you can, the AI is more aware of how broken the engine is and thus can move around the battlefield better. Flanking is important in an XCOM game, and the enemy knows that if they flank your soldier, they'll get a great hit chance, even though your trooper is on top of a tower that’s higher than the shooter and there's half the map and a good chunk of said tower between you. Some of the most hilarious nonsense happened when my base was attacked and I had to man the barricades. For some reason, the mysterious monolith that the base and its generator (but not the plot) is built around was near the barricades. So a soldier flanked my position to fire on my trooper through several meters of solid Plot Device. The same mission featured my Breacher throwing an incendiary grenade on himself (Shock Tactics has some of the most disappointing grenade throwing mechanics) despite the diagram showing that it should go where I want it to go.
Aside from wallhacking, your opponents are completely boring and bereft of character. I don't know who the IC really is and why they're bad (while the FSP is “good”), but their white-clad and much better equipped legions still want to come and kill us all. The first time I heard of them was when I was given free reign of the world map which showed a timer before the IC great fleet arrived. I had questions such as “What is the IC?” and “Is this a 'game over' condition?” They are the main enemy in the game just because they are -- any enemy unit in XCOM is more characterful than this entire faction. You also have the pirates (which are red) and local aliens (which feature even less variety), and that's it.
You have friends as well, though. Most missions give you secondary objectives, which almost always involve rescuing Space Colonists (capitalization is theirs), among them a recruitable soldier who fights alongside you. Allies get their own turn just like you and the opponent, but usually when their turn comes the obviously armed colonists do... nothing. After several battles where colonists got frustratingly shot up by the enemy I realized that they can shoot at the enemy, but only when they're four or fives squares away from them. I have also failed to understand what benefit their survival gives me – thus far, they're only been useful as human shields. This reminds me of the FPS game Legendary where the AI ally bullets were coded not to do damage to the enemy so as not to steal the player’s thunder.
The weapons and armor in the game are pretty bland, sometimes even ugly. One of the end game super special armors is basically a spruced up model of the armor you start with! Visually, the maps are mostly bearable and would fit in well in a much better game. Really, the environments are the only saving grace here. Everything else about the game is a bit sub-part. Even the audio design is pretty shocking – Soldiers are mute, the voice-acting for some of the key characters is a bit dire... even the weapon sound effects are a bit naff.
Shock Tactics is a game that is not in any way welcome. With XCOM 2 still being a thing that's available at near budget prices (and you know – Long War 2), there's no economic reason to choose Shock Tactics over that. There's no gameplay reason, either, as it offers absolutely nothing new over the competition and gives us even less. There's still room for an XCOM game that isn't XCOM, but sadly this isn't even close.