Shock Tactics is XCOM's Aggressive, Hyperactive Sibling

Shock Tactics is XCOM's Aggressive, Hyperactive Sibling

This game may look familiar, but the developer is hoping a few changes will draw fans in.

Based on screenshots of Shock Tactics, a number of strategy fans probably think it looks a lot like Firaxis' XCOM reboot. German developer Point Blank Games does not hide the inspiration behind their title, pointing to XCOM and the classic Jagged Alliance games as a starting point. They know strategy fans have a taste for XCOM and they're hoping that a few changes will create a new flavor that stands alongside it.

Shock Tactics plays just like XCOM, but with less downtime in combat. Enemies already know you're there from the beginning, reinforcements are on the clock as soon as you start, and it's all about reacting as quickly as possible. Shock Tactics is a blitzkrieg all the time, aimed more towards offensive play than a measured, steady encroachment. Skills get you in the fight faster, the weapons are bigger, and both sides can go down quick.

What I played felt like XCOM, prioritizing cover and and hedging hit percentages with every attack, just a little faster. One change I did enjoy in Shock Tactics over XCOM/XCOM 2 is the multiple dice rolls for consecutive fire. Using an assault rifle in XCOM 2 calls up a single dice roll that covers every shot, whereas Shock Tactics rolls your hit chance once for each shot taken. It changes the strategy of skill use from XCOM, favoring multi-hit weapons and skills a bit more.

Point Blank Games is also hoping to expand the game outside of combat. Shock Tactics features a procedurally-generated world map, with strike zones to take down and resources to find. The player's squad is not only attempting to free itself from the Imperial Consortium, they're also trying to stake a claim on a vast, untamed planet. Finding alien technology is key to advancing your squad and improving your base, but you have to be careful about running into Consortium soldiers since supplies are limited.

Like XCOM and XCOM 2, Shock Tactics has a base-building mechanic, but here the base is actually a physical map. You have to decide where your base additions and improvements go because enemy invasions take place on the same map. You have to defend base structures from attack; if your power generator is too open for example, that'll be one of the first things your opponent will raze to the ground. If the combat game is all about attacking fast and hard, the exploration and base-building is more about careful planning.

Point Blank is cognizant of repeated, frequent invasions becoming rather tedious at times in previous XCOM games, so they're trying to keep it within reason. They know constant defense isn't fun and want players to stay on offense. It's about moving forward, not turtling to protect your base.

What impressed me about Shock Tactics is that it looks like it could stand near XCOM, but the game is the work of two developers for around nine months with an additional six added to team some months back. Development has gotten to the point that intrepid indies can put together some impressive work in a short period time. Hopefully, the game does enough differently that it stands out from the game it's inspired by. XCOM 2 exists, but more strategy is always welcome.

Shock Tactics is coming out Fall 2016 for PC, Mac, and Linux.

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Mike Williams

Reviews Editor

M.H. Williams is new to the journalism game, but he's been a gamer since the NES first graced American shores. Third-person action-adventure games are his personal poison: Uncharted, Infamous, and Assassin's Creed just to name a few. If you see him around a convention, he's not hard to spot: Black guy, glasses, and a tie.

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