[Angels Fall First] Combined Arms 2.0

Price as of Writing: $17.99

Angels Fall First is a 64 Player Multiplayer First Person Shooter developed by Strangely Interactive Ltd. Strangely Interactive is the same team that developed the other mods set in the Angels Fall First universe. There are 2 factions in the AFF universe, the United League and the Antarean Empire. There are currently 9 distinct vehicles for each faction, 4 ground vehicles and 5 space vehicles. The ground vehicles are a buggy, a tank, an APC, and a gunship. The space vehicles are a fighter, a bomber, an interceptor, an assault fighter, and a dropship that boards enemy capital ships.367270_2015-12-01_00001 There are also over 75 pieces of equipment and weapons, many of which are faction specific. There are 3 types of armor that affect your movement, Light, Medium, and Heavy. Each faction also has 4 capital ships, a battleship, a corvette, a destroyer, and a frigate.

AFF does not use a standard loadout unlock system. Every piece of equipment is unlocked at the beginning, but you must spend combat, command, and/or support points on them. You gain these points by completing objectives in multiplayer game, there is singleplayer/offline mode, but you do not gain points in it.367270_2015-12-01_00012 The gun combat is very straightforward and you have to lead targets with some weapons.

The matches either take place in space or on the ground in one of 2 modes on 6 maps. The modes are objective completion, which is an offense/defense mode, and territory capture, similar to Battlefield’s “Conquest” mode. There are 4 ground maps and 2 space maps. 367270_2015-12-01_00004 One space map takes place around a station cluster while the other takes place in an asteroid field. There is a destroyed city ground map, a desert fortress, a mining facility, and a military distribution depot. Each team has multiple squads and one commander, the commander gives orders to the squad leaders, who pass it on to the squad members. In space, once a breach opens up in a large capital ship, you can take a dropship and board it, allowing you to fight it on the inside. If you destroy the engine core, you have ~45 seconds to escape before it overloads and you blow up. In an unusual twist for games like this, it has bots, much like the Battlefront series.  The bots are actually very intelligent and it is very hard to tell the difference between a bot and a player. 367270_2015-12-01_00006

The developers host numerous official servers and there are a few unofficial servers that are also reliable. You can also host servers yourself, depending on your specs and network speed. Although the game does not have a huge player base, it is a fairly dedicated playerbase. The art style is very well thought out, leaning heavily towards a realistic gritty look, but still remaining colorful on some maps. There are some optimization issues on weaker systems, but for the most part, it is playable. Every model looks high quality and very distinct between factions, except for player models. 367270_2015-12-01_00005It can be difficult to differentiate between faction soldiers. The weapons have unique sounds to them, so you always know what is firing, but they do sound somewhat weak, which is reflected damage wise in some of them.

Strangely Interactive does not maintain a roadmap, that I have seen, but they do release semi-regular updates and they will respond to your suggestions and bug reports. They also have been very responsive to fixing bug reports. There were sever optimization issues at launch, but that was quickly fixed within the first two weeks and they recently fixed an issue that prevented loadouts from being edited or loaded in the menu.

 

Graphics: 8/10

The models are great and the textures work very well with the chosen art style.

Gameplay: 8/10

The gameplay is very solid and the boarding mechanics work very well. There can sometimes be progress stagnation, but that is usually because of evenly matched teams.

AI: 9/10

The AI in AFF is some of the best multiplayer bot AI I have ever seen, much better than Battlefront 2’s Bot AI.

Content: 6/10

There are a lot of weapons, which are mostly balanced, but there are not many maps and the combat on the maps can become very predictable because there is no randomization.

Setting: 7/10

AFF has a very solid sci-fi setting and the factions are very distinctive.

Audio: 6/10

The vehicles sound find and fit their vehicle, but the weapons sounds sound light and sometimes don’t fit their power.

Promise: 5/10

The developers are active on the steam forums and they do have a semi regular update schedule, but they do not maintain a roadmap, which can harm peoples trust in the future of a project. The dates for the last 4 updates are 11/17/15, 10/27/15, 10/13/15, and 10/07/15.

Total: 7/10

I believe that AFF has a bright future, given that they fix all the outstanding issues that can put off new buyers. The bots are especially promising.

 

OS Windows
Single Player Partial
Competitive Multiplayer Yes (up to 32v32)
Co-Op No
Price $17.99
Rating on Steam 76%

Disclaimers: I DID NOT receive a key from the developers. This review is based on the build published on 11/17/15.

[PULSAR: Lost Colony] The 5 Hour Mission

Price as of Writing: $25.00

PULSAR: Lost Colony is a 5 Player Coop First Person Starship Bridge Simulator developed by Leafy Games. There are 5 roles, Captain, Pilot, Weapons Officer, Chief Engineer, and Science Officer. Everyone can do everyone else’s job, excluding the captain’s job, but with lesser ability. This allows for groups of 2-4 people to fully control a ship. The game also has AI, which allows a player to play alone with an AI crew or a small group to fill the rest of their crew slots. The captain has the ability to control the priorities of the AI crew members. The AI is one of the weakest parts of the game, being very limited in their scopes. I usually set the pilot priorities to man weapons turrets and repair systems while I pilot the ship. The Science Officer is not that helpful, but they sometimes use programs, but beyond that not much else. The weapons officer does not fire rockets, but is fairly well-built. The Engineer has trouble managing the heat sometimes, but is otherwise also well-built. 252870_2015-12-01_00007The pathing for all AI can start to break during combat, leading them to shoot at doors and run against walls. As it stands, only the captain can plot Warp Jumps or access the ship stores.

PULSAR also allows you to board enemy ships, capture enemy ships, beam down to planets and stations, and use cyber-warfare against the enemies. When beaming down to planets with hostile atmospheres and ships with destroyed life support, there are Exo-Suits that protect you from the environment. 252870_2015-12-01_00009The Captain can give orders to the AI, plot jumps, and buy from space stores. The Pilot pilots the ship and lines up jumps. The Weapons Officer can fire missiles, the main gun, secondary guns, and nukes. The Chief Engineer controls the warp core, controls core temperature, controls power management, puts out fires, and repairs damaged systems. The Science Officer controls the shields, deploys viruses, activates anti-viruses, uses boosts, and does sector scans. After battles and other successful events, you will gain experience that you can spend to level up your character, which are several class specific skills.

There are close to a hundred different modules that you can attach and use for your ship, including rail guns, armor, jump drives, computer programs, and other ship essentials. There are currently 5 starter ships, ranging from a small frigates to heavy warships. 252870_2015-12-01_00004Most of the story content is not in the game yet, but there are a few missions to keep you sated or you could just take your ship and go exploring.   The gameplay mainly consists of you and your crew battling enemies, running around the ship repairing systems & putting out fires, beaming down to planets, and upgrading the ship to match your enemies, which appear to scale with your experience. 252870_2015-12-01_00006The art style of the game is nice and flow well, but there are issues with bad textures and the character models are not that great.

The game is not amazingly optimized, but it should work for most systems. It is available on Windows, OSX, and Linux. The gameplay can get repetitive if you are not interested in the game, but it is mostly about the shared experiences with your crew rather than gameplay elements. The game is set in a sprawling galaxy that has 2 main warring factions, the W.D. Corporation and the Colonial Union. There are also infected sectors which have noxious clouds that damage your ship. The audio can be a bit tinny and there are issues with it “breaking” and looping, but the sounds themselves work well and don’t feel out of place.

The developers have a roadmap on their site and they are somewhat active, releasing video devlogs and updates every few weeks. PULSAR uses a cloud gaming service called Photon Cloud, which sometimes has network issues, but the developers want to use their own system, which would allow for LAN play as well.

 

Graphics: 6/10

The ship models are great and the general textures are good enough, but there are some texture stretching and player model issues that need to be addressed

Gameplay: 7/10

The gameplay is still being worked on, but the core systems are there and can provide a fun enough experience for a group of friends. The Multiplayer service, Photon Cloud, can sometimes have outages, but they are working towards their own system later down the line.

AI: 4/10

The enemy ship AI is very good, leading to great space battles, but AI crew logic still needs a lot of work.

Content: 8/10

There is a fair amount to explore and a lot of upgrades to add to your ships. This allows you to create memorable stories with your friends.

Setting: 5/10

The setting for the galaxy is well thought out, but without the core story, it feels empty and without context.

Audio: 6/10

There are abundant audio issues that need to be addressed soon, but besides that, the sounds fit the atmosphere.

Promise: 7/10

Although Leafy Games does maintain a roadmap & devlog, their update schedule is somewhat slower than others. The dates for the last 5 updates are 10/28/15, 10/23/15, 10/21/15, 09/30/15, and 09/26/15.

Total: 6/10

I personally love PULSAR: Lost Colony, but I can easily see how these issues could put people off. I have had fun with my friends, but it can get difficult and it is missing core story components.

 

OS Windows, Mac Linux
Single Player Yes
Competitive Multiplayer No
Co-Op Yes (2-5)
Price $24.99
Rating on Steam 95%

Disclaimers: I DID NOT receive a key from the developers. This review is based on the build published on 10/28/15.

[Epsilon] Bringing Non-Lethal Back to Gaming

Price as of Writing: $7.99

Epsilon is a squad based tactical FPS from Serellan LLC, the developers of the infamous Takedown: Red Saber tactical FPS. They are back and they seem to have learned their lesson, bringing with them the great early access Tactical FPS, Epsilon. Epsilon is still in its infancy, with only 2 missions, one set in an office building lobby and another set in a subway+lobby+basement. For those 2 missions, there are 2 game modes; Elimination, where you neutralize all the enemies, and Story Mode, where you complete objectives. There are currently 9 weapons in the game, 5 primary weapons and 4 secondary weapons. There are 3 variants of a basic carbine, which can all attach red dot sights and silencers. There is also a shotgun and an SMG, which can also attach a red dot sight. TA grenade launcher is available as a sidearm that is unable to receive any upgrades. There are 2 fully automatic standard pistols, which are based off the Glock G-19/G-18 designs. Each of those can receive a silencer and an extended magazine. This is where it gets interesting; there is a 3rd pistol, identical to the rest, but it has an orange slide. This pistol fires special taser rounds, which cause enemies to surrender.300760_2015-12-01_00005Although it cannot receive any attachments, it gives us a glimpse of the non-lethal combat of future updates.

It is possible to get the enemies to surrender with normal guns, mainly by leg shots, arm shots, startling them (unconfirmed), and shooting their guns, but it is less successful and killing them nets you a lower score. If you do not secure the surrendered enemies quick enough, they will return to fighting you. The AI is still very much a work in progress; your allies will regularly take strange and long paths, sometimes walking around a facility to get to the other end of a hall. The enemy AI is more passive than active, they will only engage you once they see you and you can shoot people right in front of them without them flinching. The squad control mechanics are solid, albeit rudimentary, and mainly consist of telling them to move to a specific location, telling them to hold, and telling them to fall in. You can tell them to clear rooms, but you have to open the door for them.

Speaking of doors, you have the option of using a opti-snake300760_2015-12-01_00006 to see under doors. You can also hack locked doors open or breach them with a charge. Unlocked doors allow you to open them incrementally, providing you cover and a clean shot. Finally, we have an interesting mechanic, but, ultimately, the weakest in the game. Before each mission, you get access to the local camera network, which allows you to mark the enemies that300760_2015-12-01_00002 you can see with the cameras on your map. You can also plan squad waypoints, but they do not currently work well and are more hassle than they are worth.  The mission planning system needs a lot of work and, after the first few times, it feels like a chore.

300760_2015-12-01_00001 The game itself is actually well optimized for higher end machines, but I do not know about lower end machines. The art style is a cell shaded futuristic look which performs nicely and sets it apart from other hardcore Tactical FPS games. The models are well made, aside from some minor issues here and there.

 

Graphics: 8/10

The visuals mesh well with the models and they set it apart from other Tactical FPS games.

Gameplay: 7/10

The gameplay is solid, but lacking in areas. Some areas, specifically the mission planning, need a lot of work.

AI: 7/10

The AI, while it still needs work, is solid for your allies. The enemies are not quite as responsive though and need much more work.

Content: 2/10

The content itself is pretty barren. With only 2 missions, 2 game modes, and 9 weapons, there is not a lot of content currently available, but the interface does list several things that are to come, including co-op.

Setting: 8/10

The semi-futuristic setting and art style are a good break away from the gritty, realistic, SWAT/Rainbow 6 type Tactical FPS that we are used to.

Audio: 6/10

The sounds for the guns sound a bit light and hollow. The AI sounds very rigid and will repeat the same lines over and over.

Promise: 9/10

The developers actively maintain a Trello board that shows you what is in the pipeline for future updates and they are very active with the community. The dates for the last 4 updates are 11/19/15, 10/26/15, 10/21/15, and 10/07/15.

Total: 7/10

Epsilon is a very promising Tactical -FPS that has some issues with content, AI, and audio, however, the currently available content is well put together and the developers are very active and public about the future course of the project.

OS Windows
Single Player Yes
Competitive Multiplayer No
Co-Op No
Price $7.99
Rating on Steam 83%

Disclaimers: I DID NOT receive a key from the developers. This review is based on the build published on 10/25/15.