Genre: Turn-based Strategy
Developer: Zed Two
Release Date: May 4, 2004
If you’re the type of guy that would love to get into series like Fire Emblem or Disgaea/La Pucelle but you can’t seem to get used to all of the inherent “braininess” of those types of games, Zed Two has developed a game just for you. The U.K. based developer has taken the basic concepts of console strategy RPGs and thrown them through an action/platform based filter, which ended up spitting out Future Tactics: The Uprising, an extremely creative concept that is barred down by obviously low production values and a somewhat flawed sense of design on Zed Two’s part. With a bit more time spent in development polishing and streamlining, I’m convinced Future Tactics could have been something special instead of being the rough, uncharming, yet unique little thing it is.
Future Tactics: The Uprising is the (uninspired) story of a rag tag group of people fighting to stay alive in the not-so-distant apocalyptic future. The Creatures, the main antagonists, appeared mysteriously during some horrible incident that no one seems to remember. They spend their time wreaking havoc on the scattered few groups of humans left on the earth. Our hero, Low, is fighting to avenge the death of his Father, the aptly-named Father. Meaning, you have to kill a massive horde of Creatures.
As you have probably surmised on your own, the story is trite and filled with one too many overly literal monikers to be taken seriously. As I’m sure you’ll be thankful for, every time the before-mission cutscene starts up, you can literally fast-forward it. Why you can’t simply skip it is beyond me (just Zed Two trying to break the norm in as many ways as possible?), but this works just fine. It would be more appropriate to use this function during the opposite teams turn, though.
After the game is finished giving you it’s drawn out reasons as to why you’ll be wiping out as many of the freakish Creatures as possible, you’ll be thrown straight into battle. The battles are turn based, going from team to team (not character to character). This is the expected formula, but the way these actions are carried out is what makes Future Tactics so unique. At the start of your turn you’ll decide which character to use first, making sure to plan your attacks so that each character is in the best possible position at the end of your turn. You don’t have to select any of the actions in any specific order, which maximizes how strategy can be put into play.
There are two different modes of attack. Selecting a projectile-type attack cues up an aiming reticule on the screen. This reticule is somewhat difficult to aim perfectly, and with good cause: instead of using straight character stats applied to a mathematical formula as with most strategy RPGs, the strength of the attack is decided by how skilled the player him or herself is. Once the reticule is set, scrolling vertical and horizontal axes appear in succession, and the closer to the center of the target the vertex ends up being, the closer to 100% strength the attack is. Other factors further add to the surprising depth of this system, such as being able to power up shots from certain weapons by properly timing a button press, and being able to make two attacks per turn. A missile-type attack doesn’t require a line of sight aiming process, only requiring that the character is within range of his or her targets. A multi-ringed target appears over a map of the area. You have to stop a moving ripple in a ring containing an enemy, then align a reticule on the target to complete the attack.
Movement is not grid-based as is the norm in this genre, but is handled by a ring of green dots marking the boundaries as to how far a character can move. Characters are moved not in a point-and-click fashion, but completely manually, as in Sega’s Shining Force, except with more precise control, akin to that of a simple platformer. These controls are a bit shoddy, but since you don’t have any limits on time, most mistakes you make can be rectified easily enough.
Once you’re done with the attack and movement phases, you can choose whether to rest, defend, or heal. Rest simply leaves your character to his or her devices, not doing much of anything. Defend is fairly self-explanatory, except it can only be used once, then it must be recharged with a resting phase for the next turn. Heal also does exactly what it says, and must be recharged just as Defend requires.
The enemy turns are where things get a little dull. Everything about Future Tactics seems to be about making strategy RPGs more fun and fast-paced, but there’s nothing fun about watching the Creatures slowly move about the playing field, the shoddy in-game camera doing its poorest to follow the action. Still, some interesting ideas are put into play here. All Creatures have some form of telepathy. If they have a line of sight with each other and your characters, they can actively trade information as to your characters’ whereabouts. This would have been dangerous due to the strength of the Creatures, especially in numbers, but their A.I. leaves a lot to be desired. They usually charge for your characters, not doing much to protect themselves. Having three Creatures run into one spot, say, right next to something explosive, happens far too often, making the game much easier than it needs to be in some situations. Because of this, a session of Future Tactics is apt to boil down to leading a gaggle of Creatures into an especially vulnerable spot, waiting far too long for their turn to finish itself, then killing them.
For all the good, completely innovative ideas in place that Future Tactics has, the lack of polish brings the game down to the average level of its uncreative peers. As the above paragraph mentions, the game is often too easy because of its own innovations, as they aren’t streamlined enough to really work as they should. Other times, the game is far too difficult, overwhelmingly so, as there are simply too many enemies to deal with. Also, while the game is aimed at a less brainy crowd than most strategy RPGs, its controls are anything but intuitive, and will take some time to get used to anyway. And it’s not even really that deep in the first place. Overall, Future Tactics is a bland, unpolished piece of work that could have achieved much more with similar concepts but a different design ethic. Fish it out of the bargain bin just for the sake of trying something that feels new.
Score : 6.8/10