Developer: Zed Two
Release Date: TBA
Here’s something a bit different. It’s turn-based strategy, yes, but it’s not the usual kind of turn-based strategy you see on consoles: it’s set after an unnamed apocalypse in what would appear to be a post-alien-invasion Australia, the gameplay is based around the taking and destruction of hard cover, and any given round resembles nothing so much as an exchange of artillery. Future Tactics is the strategy game where everything explodes.
In the future, civilization has collapsed. Armies of unstoppable monsters simply appeared one day, and now, Earth is a wasteland. Humans lead tenuous and nomadic lives, fighting a constant, losing battle against seemingly immortal enemies. Low, one of these nomads, doesn’t understand why no one fights, or even tries to fight.
One day, when a group of monsters get in his and his father’s way, Low attacks them. In so doing, he starts a sequence of events that’ll bring him, and his sister Pepper, into a ragtag group of would-be rebels, fighting the monsters for the future of humanity.
Future Tactics is sort of like a blend between Ring of Red and Worms, if you can imagine it. At the beginning of your turn, you’ll be able to move your characters with relative freedom, around a map comprised of various obstacles. When you spot a monster, you fire upon it by bringing a targeting reticule to bear. Centering the crosshairs accurately will result in boosts to your damage, especially if you can land a headshot.
This is complicated to some small extent by the fact that everyone in Future Tactics wields high explosives, from Scallion and his “ten-ton gun” to Pepper, who, at the age of twelve, has embraced the role of grenadier. An explosion has a tendency to rearrange the area around itself, so after a couple of exchanges of gunfire, odds are good that the small building that afforded you such excellent protection a moment ago, is now a smoldering ruin.
Future Tactics is a strategy game about, more than anything else, getting the hell out of the way. You spend most of your time here outnumbered, outgunned, and less powerful than even the weakest member of the opposing force. Winning is a matter of staying mobile, taking your shots when you can, and being able to exploit the constantly changing topography.
You have a few options to generate cover for each of the members of your party, from ducking into blast craters to generating a personal force shield. As with so many other strat games, the more your party members kill, the higher-level they’ll get, and with higher levels come additional weapons and capabilities.
The biggest problem Future Tactics has is that those weapons and capabilities aren’t really enough. This may be the hardest strategy game on consoles, simply because your opposition is on an entirely different plane of achievement than you are. It’s rare that they won’t be able to greviously maim, or kill, your party members in one shot, and rarer still that your own retaliatory gunfire will inflict more than a token amount of damage. This even applies if the monster you’re shooting at is the same level as you are; for whatever reason, an artillery shell that can tear the front off of an office building will only mildly inconvenience the monster standing atop it.
Depending on the scenario, the monsters can also be relied upon to have air cover, preplaced snipers, an endless flood of backup, or to have managed to catch you in an open area with no readily available cover. Further, while the AI isn’t completely flawless—this is the first game of its ilk where I’ve seen the CPU actually miss—it’s fully aware of the quirks of the engine it’s found itself in.
Once you’re past the fifth scenario or so, you can comfortably expect your opponents to start using splash damage to their advantage. What would’ve been perfectly solid cover in the first scenario, will be a pile of rubble two rounds into the sixth. Of course, you can do the same thing, but it’s rare that an opponent will even bother with cover. They are, after all, practically immune to your puny human guns.
Future Tactics’s difficulty is also one of the few things it has going for it. It’ll stand out from the herd, if for no other reason than that it’s a turn-based strategy game, but it’s also a bit underdeveloped. The graphics aren’t bad, but they’re somewhat primitive in this day and age; the characters are underanimated, and the backgrounds are less than thrilling. The engine’s solid enough, but the difficulty keeps you from noticing its relative lack of complexity. There’s no way, for example, for the characters to assist each other; while each character carries a healing pack, they can’t use it on each other.
This is a preview, so obviously, these are things that could change--should change—in the final version. If it did, Future Tactics would provide a decent bang for the buck, retailing for twenty dollars and providing over twenty challenging and varied scenarios. There’re never enough TBS games on the stands, of course, and this one’s not bad. It’s just going to be a question of whether the final version fixes its obvious problems.