Review: Antisquad (PC)

antisquadcover

Antisquad
Publisher: BulkyPix/InsGames
Developer: Plug In Digital
Genre: Turn-Based Strategy
Release Date: 02/20/2014

Once again, we’re here to talk about an iOS game that’s been brought over to PC. However, Antisquad is a rare crossover that actually makes more sense on PC than it does for mobile devices. This is a full fledged turn-based strategy game that seems like it should have been on PC from the very beginning. It’s no surprise that it was brought over. However, as we’ll see, this solid game has a few unsavory hold overs from its iOS beginnings.

The Antisquad is a paramilitary group that takes the tough missions that no self-respecting country can admit to doing. They go behind enemy lines and do what needs to be done to keep us safe. They’re also a wise-cracking group of characters made up of various disciplines and backgrounds. Yep. They’re basically the A-Team. That’s all right though. These guys have just enough personality to make it worthwhile to bother reading the things they say at the start of each mission.

antisquad1The story itself isn’t all that exciting. It’s almost fluff really. It’s basically about evil dudes doing evil things because they’re evil. So you’ll square off against a Mexican drug cartel, a mad scientist, and a group of pillaging pirates. There are three chapters in the game, not counting the tutorial, and each houses a series of missions that pertain to one plot line. This is a sensible setup, given the more casual nature of this game. Players hungry for a more enthralling story should look elsewhere. Those who are OK with just some set dressing will get a kick out of it.

The presentation is not one of the game’s strong points, but it does OK. The graphics are of a cartoon style and help sell the goofy nature of the game’s protagonists. Animations are a bit wonky throughout, and the enemy designs get far too repetitive. There is even some questionable designs here, as those Mexican gangsters have “burrito” tattooed on their chests. While the game is tongue in cheek, I don’t think it’s enough to justify something like that. The style saves the game from looking bad though. A less than impressive technical acumen is saved by the feeling that you’re playing a brightly colored Sunday paper comic strip.

The music is quite enjoyable to be honest. It has a wonderful campy and bombastic feel that would fit right at home with any 80’s action movie or TV show. It serves as pretty decent background music as you’re sending your troops to take out scores of enemies. The effects are simple and to the point, but get the job done. I’m surprised there wasn’t any voice acting in this game, as solid voices to go with the goofy characters could have helped take it over the top. Overall though, the presentation is acceptable, thanks to the style overcoming the technical limitations.

In a nutshell, Antisquad is a simple turn-based strategy game where you pick a squad of three and work your your way through various missions. Characters come in pre-defined classes, can be upgraded, and can form different combinations in the field.

antisquad2This game uses the action point system. Each unit has a certain number of action points that can be used to move, attack, or use special abilities. You can perform any of this actions at any time and in any order provided you have the points to do so. Attacking doesn’t end your turn, and you’re not limited to one attack per turn. This means you can move, attack, move again, and attack again if you have the points. This system allows for some unique situations and strategies, and helped set the game apart.

Antisquad gives the players every tool imaginable to succeed. You can see the whole field, you can check out an enemies’ every stat, you can see line of sight, you can see firing range, and it even tells you how much energy you’ll have after a completed action. On top of that, moves can’t miss. Everything hits its intended target. This means that failure is totally on the player. All of this is handled by simple point-and-click controls that are easy to learn thanks to a handy tutorial.

There are eight different characters that come in five different classes. There’s the sniper, scout, commando, demolitions expert, and heavy gunner. There are three extra characters that form alternative versions of the sniper, scout, and gunner. Each character has their own set of stats. You can see range, damage, armor, health, energy, and movement cost. Each character has two special abilities that can be used on the field. There’s a pretty good diversity here. The scout can move across the map in a turn and fire several shots in a row, but can’t take a hit to save her life. The heavy can deal out loads of damage, but can’t move very far on any given turn. Mixing and matching is the key. For example, you can use the sniper to hit an enemy group from afar. Then, you can use the scout to drop smoke on your guys. The enemy will come running, but will be unable to attack you through the smoke. Then you can use the commando to step out of the smoke, stab a guy through his armor, and pop back into the smoke to end the turn. Another great combo involves using the demo guy’s shotgun to take out the armor of multiple enemies at once, and then using the heavy’s area of effect attack to take them out. With eight very different characters to choose from, there are plenty of different three man squads to make.

antisquad3Let’s talk about the nuances of combat. There’s no cover system, and hitting percentages are nowhere to be found. Enemies come in groups that attack together once you’ve either entered their line of sight or fired a shot their way. While characters have health points, they also have armor. Each point of armor can deflect one attack. No matter how strong the attack is, it will only break one armor. Therefore, it makes sense to drill through armor with a scout, and then take the big shot with a heavy gunner or a sniper. There is no penalty for doing nothing, so you can stay put until your abilities recharge. Enemies don’t have abilities, but do have classes which need to be considered. The heavy gunner might seem dangerous, but the scout will likely be your biggest threat, as he can take out all of your armor in one turn. You can revive fallen allies at the cost of your turn, but this too is on a cool down. Counter attacks also exist in this game. When a character is attacked, they can counter provided the enemy is in range and they have enough energy to use their standard attack. Therefore, it can sometimes be detrimental to attack, as you could end up killing your own guy. There are also boss fights in this game, and they definitely require a strategy to take down. They involve special moves and mechanics that can affect large chunks of the field. These levels are highlights to be sure.

Each mission comes with its own set of objectives and challenges. One mission might task you to simply take out every enemy, while another might have you attempting to destroy a warehouse full of drugs. Some levels are long, requiring you to move across a large battlefield and take out several squads of enemies. Some are short, with just a boss and a few goons to worry about. Despite only having fifteen missions, the game has a decent variety here.

Where the game starts to lose its depth is in the character upgrading. Completing missions and challenges earn you coins. These coins can be spent to upgrade your characters, buy equipment, or purchase items. However, all you can do is improve existing traits. You can’t learn any new moves, or make major modifications. The equipment upgrades are standard across each character as well. You can improve damage or improve range. You can’t say, add a modifier to your gun that causes fire damage or something like that. This lack of customization holds the game back, and helps keep it a more casual experience.

antisquad4There are several issues that are holdovers from the game’s iOS beginnings. For starters, you’ll be prompted to share every little achievement on Facebook. While this is optional, you are given lots of gold for doing this. I find myself earning somewhere between three to five thousand gold per mission by sharing things. This adds up over time, and you’ll find that not sharing will slow down your progress considerably. On iOS devices, this game involved micro-transactions. While they’re not present here, you can still see where they fit in. For example, you used to need to spend rubies to unlock level caps for various stats and abilities. The rubies were something that you could spend real money to get. Now the rubies are gone, so you can spend coins instead. Basically, this means you spend coins to unlock the level cap, and then spend more coins to buy the upgrade. It’s a tad redundant. Still, the game is in pre-release at the moment, so hopefully this will be tweaked eventually.

Completing all of the story missions will only take few hours, provided you get a good team strategy going. However, you’re encouraged to replay levels on various difficulties to get bonus cash. The higher difficulties feature more enemies and tougher enemies. So, if you end up grinding for upgrades, you’ll at least have something to test them out on. There are only fifteen levels at present, so the replay value is quite less than the genre standard. The good news is that this game costs only four dollars. The amount of content is more than worth that paltry sum.

Short Attention Span Summary

Antisquad won’t wow veterans of the genre, but it does offer a solid tactical experience. Creating a squad from a pool of unique characters is fun, as is experimenting with different combinations. The combat system is simple and user-friendly, but still challenging enough so that you need to use solid strategy to win. While some odd issues remain from the game’s run as an iOS title, this is still a solid choice for strategy fans looking for something to hold them over between for substantial titles.

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