The tactical simulation has gotten a lot of attention since X-Com introduced its particular brand of gameplay. Some games in the genre emphasize coordinating a team, others have you playing by yourself with “intelligent” teammates, and still others focus on you as a lone operative. To my mind, the feature that makes a game “tactical” and not just “action is planning, and UFO Aftermath preserves at least that feature. In fact, planning is probably the easiest thing to do in the tactical game, but other features are a little disappointing.I was rabid about X-Com, to the point that I started thinking of the real world in terms of movement points and avoiding ambushes. Sorry, I was young. Really, though, the game was quite immersive. Playing on both the large and small scales of the alien conflict was a good time, and it seemed like the management level was just right in both games. Aftermath attempts the same feat (strategic and tactical games in one package) with some success but not enough.The research and development paths are confusing. I don’t mind a detailed or extensive research tree, but it’s hard to tell what projects will lead to what improvements. More importantly, there are times when you think you’ve got the prerequisites for a research project but no. This happened to me more than once. R&D take a really long time unless you dedicate significant resources to them. It’s a balancing act. Since there’s no money (for reasons you’ll read elsewhere), resources are are not bought and sold. Rather they are accumulated.Speaking of resource allocation, you cannot improve your research speed without capturing a new base. A base can only perform one function, so there’s no adding labs or manufacturing capability. As you secure more bases, this is less of a headache, but I would have enjoyed some customization. The bases are quite large, and without a level editing tool of some sort, constructing a base from scratch would have been a chore in UFOA. No, the only way to get a new base is to capture an existing facility. I suppose this makes sense in the post-apocalyptic context. Luckily the base-capture missions aren’t that hard or rare. Aliens can capture your bases too. Base defense missions are perhaps the best test of your overall strategy as you don’t have much warning and you may be caught shorthanded.Other than base defense, UFOA allows you to choose which missions you want to undertake, and which can be dealt with by others. That’s right, you’re not the only humans with guns in the alien-infested future. The game allows you to delegate some missions if you like. Injuries, training periods, and attrition make this necessary at times, but you don’t want to sit out too much. A successful mission in (say) Canada increases your influence there and makes it easier for other forces to defeat the alien threat on their own. Ignore an area for too long and the aliens make their move. It’s a clever little device.Your soldiers also have a lot of devices because developer Altar has included tons of guns. They deserve credit for making the guns different from each other and for allowing you to customize your troops enough for the differences to matter. Armor also has a variety of statistics related to the many different types of damage modeled in the combat system. While one armor may protect well against “hard” damage, it may be weak versus fire, or it may be extremely heavy, leaving your character vulnerable in other ways. I applaud this complexity, but it’s hard to plan for it in your troops’ weapon loadout. Before entering a mission, you have no information about the opposing force. A scout report before each mission would allow the player to equip soldiers appropriately.Troop skill development occurs on the battlefield and in the classroom, with base attributes that affect derived attributes. For example, strength and willpower both affect hit points. Willpower and perception determine marksmanship skill. Soldiers can also undergo training to improve their abilities beyond the basic levels, and this is essential for an effective squad. Also they can’t die in the field. Their voice acting also cannot be improved, which is a great pity. At least the aliens don’t talk. That’s a point in their favor, but wait till you hear what they did…When the game begins, alien spores from the sky have wiped out much of earth’s life. You enter the game after this phase of the attack is over. In epic fashion, the game begins “in the middle of things.” As the story progresses, the true nature of the alien threat is revealed blah blah blah. Honestly, I’ve given up on compelling stories in computer games, especially since Black Isle Studios is no more. If a game has a great story, terrific, but sticking to old sci-fi standards doesn’t especially bother me in a game like this. I wanted a great deal to love this game. X-Com, after all, owned me. UFOA throws few surprises your way, resulting in monotony. After a while, even the highly detailed outdoor settings and my pride in my troops weren’t enough. The game is good, but with a little more depth and clarity it could have achieved greatness.
Founder and Editor of PC Invasion. Veteran PC gamer of over 22 years.