UFO: Afterlight Preview (PC)

Fight for dominance of Mars for it to become mankind’s new home, and keep back the extinction of the species.  No pressure, alright?

Piece by piece, conquer Mars People management

UFO Afterlight combines strategic and tactical modes of gameplay, both are played out in real-time and can be paused or sped up at any time.  Those that hate or fear the “End Turn” button can rest easy.

Visually the game’s okay, no stunner, they choose a more comical approach to character models which really helps to make mechanics friendlier.  There is a large amount to be doing in this game from people management, their placement in the base, base management, planet management, equipment and production, research, diplomacy, overview statistics etc.

All this information in the beginning can feel intimidating, tutorial text boxes help you understand what things do but for a new player it can still feel like you’re drowning in information.  That’s the problem with games that try to offer so much and that’s only the strategic mode.

Staying with strategic mode, you’ll see Mars as a 3D representation with your territories made clear and their adjacent zones.  When the game isn’t paused time will flow past in hours, so everything to be produced or researched is always measured easily by hours and minutes.  That doesn’t mean you should just sit back and expect nothing to happen, you can be attacked or allies/neutrals could be securing more zones for themselves.

Squad management New factions gradually appear

You control a small number of colonists who are supported by the base and its accommodations.  They have different skill sets depending on their profession such as a scientist or soldier for example.  Soldiers will be your grunts who’ll be undertaking dangerous missions, though it could be a good idea to send a long a scientist who has medical training.

Building a probe within zones let you take control of them and they may also hold some resources to be mined.  As you gain access to more types of materials you’ll be able to then use them for production.  You will need to be produce weapons and their corresponding ammunition such as bullets or batteries for laser based guns.

I think the pause feature will prove to be the greatest asset otherwise you might find yourself overrun or simply outgunned.  There are several critical things that can end your game, you destroy all offending factions’ bases, you lose your base or the colonists die from thirst as their water supply is cut off.

After some time has progressed in the story Mars will slowly become more and more terraformed, making the planet less hazardous.  Some areas may become inaccessible as they flood from new seas; ultimately you want a new snazzier Earth.

Tactical mode is also handled without turns; though the amount the game pauses during the tutorial you wouldn’t think it.  You can control the characters equipment and everything during a mission; you may even be able to pickup some new better gear.  You order your people about and you can view a list of their “plans” which is the collection of orders you’ve assigned them.  Considering this is a real-time tactical game I don’t understand the need for so many options during a mission for single characters, mostly move and attack suffice.

Combat is easy, much like moving about the areas you right click on an enemy and they’ll engage them.  You get three types of damage from weapons, permanent, mild and stun which opens up different tactics you can use against foes.

The environments are detailed well and the camera is fully controllable so you can zoom and rotate at any time.  On the HUD you’re also given viewable layers of the zone to select to try and keep things simple, whether this will work I don’t know.

Outfit your team Home away from home

The premise certainly looks interesting, though it may prove far too much for the casual strategy gamer out there to bother with.  Past the surface it seems more intent on just providing a screen juggle-fest than any real tangible gameplay.  It’s scheduled for release in early February and I doubt UFO Afterlight will be warranting its full RRP of 29.99.

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