UFO: Aftershock Second Preview

by on 26th Sep 2005

UFO: Aftershock Hands-On Impression

Last week a few friends and I got to take a look at the current version of UFO: Aftershock. At this point it was only a few days away from the gold master - the final code that the developer sends to the publisher – and, if approved, this is the version of the game that will be released.

Anyway, we came to the ALTAR offices, and Martin Klima – Aftershock’s Lead Designer - started showing us the game. It was a debug version however, so things were moving slowly. We were shown the tutorial mission(s), how the strategic game played and a normal tactical mission.

The Intro

When he had taken us through the most important features of the game we got to play around with the latest preview build. It was very recent, and the one they were currently testing with. We fired it up and got to watch the very impressive intro. Thought it’s still not Blizzard quality, the intro was very good. It explains a little of the back story and then ends with your Laputa (a flying, high-tech island) being destroyed and your escape shuttle landing on another one.

The Tutorial

Once on the new Laputa, the tutorial starts. You get out of the shuttle and meet another man. He explains to you what he knows of the situation, and provides you with a weapon. Then you start working your way through the new Laputa, which obviously is still inhabited by Reticulans (the main alien foe). After some fairly tough introduction missions you take control of the Reticulan Laputa, and are introduced to the second part of the game - the strategic interface.

The Strategic Game

In the Laputa control room you can see the earth in all it's glory. There is an indicator showing the Laputa's position in the earth’s atmosphere, and the reach of the Laputa's landing capsule. Where you position the Laputa will have a great impact on the game, as it takes quite a bit of time to move it. There is no way you'll be able to get to every mission, so where do you focus your activity?

From the control room you can access the manufacturing, research, diplomacy and base maintenance screens. You decide which buildings each base should contain, which technologies to research first, which equipment is the most important to manufacture and if you should demand tribute or send gifts to your diplomatic relations. There are also many other menus available from the control room.

After looking at the control room for a while it became clear that information overload may become a problem. There are icons for resources, areas on the globe and quite a few other things. Aftermath and X-COM players will probably get into it soon enough, but if newbies will cope is another question entirely. The tutorials are much better than the ones Aftermath had, but I am not sure they are good enough. And again, some of the tutorials contain a lot of information.

That being said, it is easy to spot the improvements. There IS base management for one, and you can queue research and manufacture items. You meet several other factions, and can do quite a few things to improve or weaken your relations to them. You have several types of resources, and you have to choose carefully where to spend them. Combined with several other small changes I didn't mention I think there is no doubt that the strategic aspects of the game will be a lot more interesting. Most core players agreed that these features were missing and ALTAR have done a lot to please these people.

The Resources

As you start taking areas on earth - either by conquering them or by being allowed to build bases in friendly factions’ territories - you start to collect resources. To make use of the resources however, you need to connect the areas with railway tracks. The upkeep for these tracks are quite high, so you have to carefully choose the most important location to get resources from initially. One resource area may for instance only be one railway track away, while another one is two. In this case it makes better economical sense to build a railway track to the first one.

While you are in the control room a lot of missions will be made available to you. Other factions will ask your help or attack you, and you will have to attack areas for resources. Cultists may attack your railway tracks or bases, and you will have to collect alien specimens for research.

The Tactical Missions

The first mission was answering a distress call from a human settlement on earth. They were being attacked by the Transgenants (mutants), and were in sore need of assistance. As you initiate the mission you get to see a mini map and choose where you want your capsule to land. Depending on the mission there may be many or few spots, but in this case there were three. After picking one in the corner of the map the mission started.

The four soldiers entered the map inside the capsule. I moved them carefully just outside, but didn't immediately spot any Transgenants. So I moved my team along some railway track with a large train on them, and soon met the first enemy. All four soldiers were ordered to fire, and it went down quickly. Piece of cake I thought, and moved on. Coming around the front of the train however, I got to learn that I had only met the scout. Four Transgenants started attacking my soldiers, and one of the guys was hit so hard he stumbled and fell.

Getting over the initial shock I got the others into crouching or prone positions and fired back. As with the previous tutorial missions it became clear that crouch (and prone) REALLY matters this time around. If you keep your soldiers in a standing position and are anything but superior in numbers and guns you'll be shot to shit. The cover also seemed more effective this time, and those are both very good signs. After getting into to proper positions I managed to down three of the Transgenant attackers, while the fourth one did the sensible thing and ran away. I chased him down beside another train and, rounding it more carefully this time, I found out he was waiting with a buddy.

We exchanged some salvoes, and my troops soon managed to kill off his buddy. Again, he did the sensible thing and ran, so I chased after him again. This time however he had no more allies and ran out of the mission zone. The Transgenant attack had been halted, and I was victorious. The local humans were very thankful, and I had my first ally and territory to build a base in.

The Tactical Changes

During the mission I noticed several changes from Aftermath. First of all my soldier was sent to the ground by a VERY hard impact. He wasn't killed, and he got up again, but I lost valuable attack time that way. Very nice touch!

In addition no one was immediately dead when they went to the ground. They were stunned from damage, and if you didn't finish them they would possibly get back up. That left some tough choices in my first encounter with four Transgenants. Do I chase after the last one with only a few soldiers and leave the others to finish the kills? What if there are more Transgenants in ambush? Do I chase after with all my soldiers and thus take the risk of the other enemies that weren't already dead getting up again? Do I let the fleeing Transgenant get away, and then pick up the trail again when the other ones are finished off?

The Nuisances

I didn't get to play around with the game as much as I would have liked. ALTAR were already late with the gold master, and we couldn't take up any more of their time than we did. There are so many improvements in the game it's impossible to mention them all, but there are a several things ALTAR didn't develop as well as I had hoped. With the game being so much more complex this time I fear that the tutorials are still not good enough.

Other small things that could be very annoying in the long run are little interface issues. When you have a laser pistol in one hand and a medikit in the other, you can't just click the medikit to use it - you have to go into the inventory and switch hands! This was complained about in Aftermath and should definitely have been fixed in Aftershock. Also, when you are in the research and manufacture screens you can't double click and item to get it into the queue - you have to highlight it and click the add button.

The Stages of Impressions

Starting the game was very exciting. The intro is very neat, and I had a good feeling. Playing the tutorial missions was a mixed pleasure however. I played the second lowest difficulty and was shot to pieces. I also had trouble remembering things like how to rotate the camera, and the tutorial didn't tell me. I think this may have been because parts of it were turned off, but I am not sure. Then, after getting into the control room and starting the actual game my excitement rose again. The missions were still challenging, but noting the improvements in using crouch, having men stunned and so on was great! After playing the game for an hour I very much felt like playing more!

The Conclusion

Judging from my overall experiences I'd say that this will probably be a very good game for the core gamers. People who liked Aftermath, or fondly remember X-COM, may have a real treat on their hands. Aftermath was good, but Aftershock could end up great!

For newbies and casual gamers however, it might be a different story altogether. I don't think the game will grab them quickly enough, and thus never turn them into fans. Then again, this game weren't made for casual gamers, and I thus think ALTAR and Cenega made the right choice.

Aftershock is a much more advanced and complicated game now, and the core gamers may potentially love it. I would need a lot more time to come to a proper conclusion however, so judge not the game based on my comments. As for the nuisances I mentioned, ALTAR will have a little time before the game is released to improve stuff, so maybe one of the first patches will deal with them. Depends on the feedback I guess.

 

Add Comment Comments

Space Voyager\
17 Nov 2009 - 1:39pm
Space Voyager
Yes, it is great! Welcome, Broken Arrow 7.

How did you come by Aftershock this late?
Guest_Broken Arrow 7_*\
13 Nov 2009 - 3:06pm
Guest_Broken Arrow 7_*
The game is simply AWESOME!
Stefan100\
1 Oct 2005 - 9:27pm
Stefan100
Good. Everyone its now online! :D
Pete\
1 Oct 2005 - 6:50pm
Pete
Curse my fst typing :D It's now online :D
Stefan100\
1 Oct 2005 - 4:45pm
Stefan100
So, it's not online now.  :D
Pete\
1 Oct 2005 - 4:36pm
Pete
Okay, I don't want to clog up the news on the front page witha nother "It's now online" post, so "It's not online" is going here.

HEad over to the newsletter section and enjoy :D
Pete\
1 Oct 2005 - 4:19pm
Pete
Will put it up right now :D
Slaughter\
1 Oct 2005 - 12:46pm
Slaughter
Will it be online soon Pete? I need to send links to the news sites before I get drunk tonight :D
Fighter2a\
30 Sep 2005 - 10:49pm
Fighter2a

Pete, on 30th September 2005, 2:29pm, said:

Hehe, most of Aftermath and Aftershock is all about weapons tables, equipment tables, stats and databases. Easiest way to organise the data.

I believe Silent Storm is mcuh the same. In fact, pretty much any game (strategy-based at least) revolved around tables like the ones you see in those screens :D

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>


Darn I have to wait until tomarrow.
Pete\
30 Sep 2005 - 8:29pm
Pete
Hehe, most of Aftermath and Aftershock is all about weapons tables, equipment tables, stats and databases. Easiest way to organise the data.

I believe Silent Storm is mcuh the same. In fact, pretty much any game (strategy-based at least) revolved around tables like the ones you see in those screens :D
Rezed\
30 Sep 2005 - 8:22pm
Rezed
you mean the wargots? At the begginign( after watching the gameplay movie) i thought it was some kind of wepon producer like HK :D

Also, i noticed one thing, that those Wargots have to be realy big. In one of the screenshots(don't remember wich one) we can see a soldier with the grenade launcher(it looks almoust identicaly with the one from the movie), and to say the least it's BIG!

About these design pictures...Are they'r in Excel? :D
Pete\
30 Sep 2005 - 6:23pm
Pete
Whoops - that's just a file where I've been viewing the thumbnails on my machine. I'll take it out and reupload.

The screens will possibly be useful to modders to see how some things work and see how different this game is from previous games. It also introduced the new aliens (I almost missed them looking at those screens :D).
Stefan100\
30 Sep 2005 - 6:20pm
Stefan100
Really good newsletter guys. Great work! As you say Rezed, its sad that its the last one, but now I can wait some time before asking about more news. :D

Congratulations winners, sadly none of them were me. :D

This media file wasn't that good. I don't understand a thing about those design pictures! One of them The "Thumbs" file cant be opened!
Pete\
30 Sep 2005 - 6:18pm
Pete
Hehe, it's the last with teh neat chat and sounds and so on at the beginning, but not the last newsletter we'll ever send :D
Rezed\
30 Sep 2005 - 6:10pm
Rezed
Congratulations to the lucky winners :D
It's a pitty that it's the last one :) So much info,so much news, I want more ! :D

Nice report form altar,Slaughter :)

Now i'm looking foward to the game even mooooore :]
Pete\
30 Sep 2005 - 5:59pm
Pete
Whoops! So much for copy and paste :D
Slaughter\
30 Sep 2005 - 5:04pm
Slaughter
Is now online? Sent you mean...

 

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Game Card

UFO Aftershock Box
Developer: ALTAR Interactive
Publisher: Tri Synergy
Released:2005

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