No army would ever employ me as a commander. I’m far too lazy. I like to click things and assume everyone knows what to do. As a gamer, this is normal and even expected. But as an actual army commander, this is a major fail that would signal inevitable defeat. Much like the game development industry. If a developer makes little-to-no effort to anticipate the end result of their efforts, their business is doomed to the same inevitable defeat.
Sadly, I fear 3000ad may be taking this approach with their early 2014 sci-fi strategy PC game; Line of Defense Tactics: Tactical Advantage. I want to stress first and foremost that is a computer game. It has been released on Steam and targeted toward that most demanding and sophisticated of gamers; the PC gamer community. PC gamers are treated to stellar graphics and gameplay in sci-fi titles such as Mechwarrior, Planetside 2 or Starcraft 2. So to release a sci-fi game on the PC is a bold move considering the current games that have already enticed millions of players.
But this was NOT intended for PC gamers. I didn’t know this until after I played a few hours and began doing a little research on the game and the developer. Line of Defense Tactics was originally designed and released as a mobile game for iOS and Android. Then it made sense to me: the reason I had such a bad experience playing this game is due to the fact that I was laboring under the delusion that this was meant for the PC.
This game reeks of mobile game design; simplistic models, poor 3D rendering, stock sound effects, over sized buttons and options, even the writing and voice acting lacked originality and character. Some lines were read almost monotone. And the characters moving through the hallway were so badly animated that they seem to run in place.
Normally, I don’t judge a game too harsly on graphics and presentation when the developer is independent or obviously unskilled. But in this case, I feel compelled to due to the fact that the game they released for FREE on mobile devices is the same game that is for sale at $25 in Steam. The EXACT SAME game. No interface updates, no graphical improvements, no effort whatsoever was made to adapt this mobile game for inclusion in the Steam community.
Consider the classic puzzle game Tetris. When Tetris was released on the old consoles like Genesis and NES, it made sense. But over the years, game makers tried to bring the same game to XBox and computers and were surprised when modern gamers shunned such titles for Gears of War or Need for Speed. It’s a different market with a different class of gamer. What worked before simply will not work here.
So, since the developers seem to think that the PC platform is equal in nature to the mobile platform, I have decided not to consider the indie aspect of this game and instead review it as a normal big name game. And cue the death march.
As mentioned before, animations and models are overly crude. The 3d model for a space station can actually be seen as part of the 3d model of a major space ship. And when they appear on screen together, not only is it obvious that simply 3d shapes were overused, but when the two objects get close, they pass right through each other. The human characters are no more creative as they are standard solder figures which could easily be downloaded as a ‘pre-created’ model and then given ever-so-slight adjustments to make them different from one another. Even the interface fails to detect that I am clicking on an area outside of the map when options pop up to move my character.
The game has almost no replay value as every level as a specific objective that must be achieved in the same way. There is no diversity in approaches nor layouts so there is not much you can do different from the last several times you played. And even if you wanted to go back and replay a level to try something different, you can’t. Once you complete a mission, it is locked. There is no way to replay a previously played level unless you reset the game from the main menu.
And the game play itself brings nothing new to the genre. Tactical deployment was done much better in even the classic XCom games. Combat was done much better in other strategy games made even ten years ago. And character customization is nothing more than equipping weapons, items and skills… which sounds much more diverse than it actually is. For example, some critical skills like piloting and medic are already pre-installed in certain characters making their selection in the customization options moot. The sounds and music are bland and even familiar. The sound of reloading weapons is the same sound for every reload action in almost every mobile game I have ever played.
If I could give one word of advice to the developers, it is this: Pick a platform and stick with it. LoCT is a good game on the Android and I quite enjoy it during car rides on waiting at the doctor’s office. But when I am in my armchair commander role, I want much more from my game than easy menus and quick actions. Especially if I am expected to pay $25 for something I play for free while visiting my dentist. This assumption of the PC game community is just unforgivable.