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Turn-Based Squad-Shooter ‘Shock Tactics’ Channels the Original X-Com

Shock Tactics channels the spirit of much-loved squad-shooter X-Com, with the twist that mankind is the hostile invading force.

What is it with alien races and massive, abandoned artefacts? You’d think that if you were going to leave your advanced and ludicrously hazardous technology kicking around a planet, you’d make it a bit smaller. Maybe make your doomsday weapon the size of a tennis ball, so that it’d at least have a chance of being lost down a hole, but no. I can only conclude that there’s some kind of intergalactic “mine’s bigger than yours” contest going on.

Shock Tactics begins with the discovery of just such an alien item. In a break from the norm, this turn-based squad shooter casts you as the “alien” invaders, a group of gun-toting human explorers who stumble across an alien monolith and, harnessing it as energy source, decide to build their base around it. Naturally, various other parties are interested in getting their hands on the alien tech, leading to a variety of firefights, both around the monolith and further afield.

Shock Tactics is clearly inspired by classic shoot-em-up X-Com: Enemy Unknown and, like that game, pitches you against a variety of human, humanoid and utterly alien foes. Though while Shock Tactics adopts X-Com’s isometric view, its aesthetics are far more impressive than its nineties inspiration; the game nails the look and feel of a truly “alien” world. Controls are straightforward enough, the game helpfully using green and blue “zones” to illustrate the distance you can move with, and without having enough action points to shoot afterwards.

The multicoloured, pock-marked landscapes provide plenty of cover for your team, since a bullet or laser blast in the face tends to ruin their day. Your squad’s fortunes can also be bolstered by your base-building decisions; though during my playthrough, Shock Tactics never subjected me to the standard Real-Time Strategy resource-gathering. unit-building rigmarole. The truth is that I never felt the need to load my soldiers into tanks or other vehicles, despite the numerous foes they faced. Because, and this remains the biggest reservation I have about the game, your foes are not the sharpest tools in the box.

Granted, you wouldn’t expect a alien snail to be able to outflank you in a firefight but even Shock Tactics’ human foes apparently hail from the planet Dunceulon 47. The “space pirates” I encountered not only failed to make use of cover but also chose to ignore a squad member who was right next to them, and instead fire at one much further away. Nor could this be down to game’s Early Access status, since it’s a full release Also, the game features some odd design choices; for example, you can only shoot once per round. This means that if two enemies end up next to one soldier, you don’t have the ability to take them both out, even if you’ve got enough action points.

I left Shock Tactics feeling that it does have potential and at times it stirred up the fond memories that X-Com: Enemy Unknown and similar turn-based squad shooters hold for me. Though it would benefit from a little work, particularly where the AI’s concerned. If you want to meet new alien species and shoot them in the face you can check out Shock Tactics, now available on Steam.

Weekend Editor // Chris has been gaming since the days of the Acorn Electron, which was allegedly purchased to 'help him with his homework'. You can probably guess how well that went. He’ll tackle most genres – football titles aside – though he has a taste for games that that are post-apocalyptic, horror-oriented or thought provoking in nature.