Saturday, December 04, 2010

Metal Brigade Tactics Review

Metal Brigade Tactics, developed and published by Busking Software.
The Good: Interesting use of artillery, tactical weapon counters, battery use prevents stalemates, unit customization, pilots unlock skills and level up with experience, skirmish map editor
The Not So Good: Weapon counters not clearly indicated, repetitive tactics, no online multiplayer or PBEM
What say you? This robotic strategy game offers simple tactics with robust troop customization options: 6/8

Robots are cool. So cool, in fact, that it seems like I get a robot-related game to review every other month. This particular robot-related game to review is named Metal Brigade Tactics, and as you can probably guess from the title, it has nothing to do with rubber giraffes in any way. Instead, it’s a turn-based tactical strategy game where you outfit giant fighting robots and lead them to victory against other giant fighting robots. After plentiful cries for coverage, let’s delve into the future of mechanized warfare.

Both the graphics and the sound of Metal Brigade Tactics are very, very simple. The game is run in a window at a low resolution, and the maps consist of relatively plain square textures that represent the game world. This, of course, makes it easy to create custom maps, but it doesn’t make for a visually stimulating game. There are unimpressive combat animations (red numbers just display damage) and defeated robots instantly crumble into a pile of rubble. I guess there’s a reason the entire installation is 12 MB in size. The few sound effects are recycled and repetitive, while the background music is utilized only during the main menu. There is not much to write about the graphics and sound because there is simply not much to write about.

Metal Brigade Tactics has you leading a team of robots (called “Vertical Armor”) against the enemy; you can tell they are evil because they are colored red. The campaign features nineteen missions presented in a non-linear manner, giving you the ability to temporarily skip tough missions and come back to them after you’ve purchase better weapons. Most missions involve reaching an objective location and/or defeating all of the units on the map. A tutorial is included in the first three levels, and trying the game on a higher difficulty setting gives you a cash bonus to purchase better equipment and additional vehicles and weapons. After you are finished with the campaign, Metal Brigade Tactics features a skirmish mode where you can engage the AI on any of the campaign maps. You can also create your own maps using the in-game editor to further expand the game. While Metal Brigade Tactics lacks online and play by e-mail multiplayer options (the latter being a requirement for turn-based games, in my opinion), you can play skirmish games against another human on the same computing machine. Overall, Metal Brigade Tactics has a decent roster of features.

As with most robot-related games, Metal Brigade Tactics features a good amount of customization options available to aspiring pilots of the hulking beasts. There are thirteen vertical armor units to choose from, divided into light, medium, and heavy classes; they feature varied hit points, armor, dodge chance, movement range, and battery capacity. There are also a plethora of weapons, although they always fall into three categories (rapid fire, explosive, and single shot), a limitation that is a bit disappointing. The individual weapons have slight differences in damage, range, battery use, ammunition use, and weight, producing minor changes in performance. You can also equip your robot with several accessories that increase the ammunition or battery capacity, add movement, or increase attack ratings. While Metal Brigade Tactics does feature a good number of parts to swap out, their tactical differences are minor.

It’s not just the robot that matters, but the person piloting the craft. Through combat, pilots gain experience that will grant various bonuses to their craft. There are two basic upgrades that can be made: piloting (which increases movement) and weaponry (which increases weaponry…surprise!). You can create a pilot who moves fast, or one that delivers the pain, or a mixture of both: the choice is yours. In addition, pilots will become more adept at the weapons their robot uses over time, increasing the pain they can deal later in the campaign. Pilots will also unlock new abilities, increasing movement or attack ratings permanently. Matching up pilots with appropriate robots is important to continued success, and Metal Brigade Tactics features some nice role-playing features as you customize and improve your robots and pilots.

Metal Brigade Tactics features a simple rock-paper-scissors method to modify combat damage: rapid fire beats explosive, which beats single shot, which beats rapid fire. While this is really straightforward, the interface provides no assistance remembering the order; I had to keep the “tips” text file open in the background to keep the progression straight. Since each robot is only equipped with two weapons, you can’t counter everything, so it’s important to move as a team and group robots together with complimentary allies. Defending units will also fire back (assuming they survive your initial attack), so there is some strategy regarding which weapons to leave active at the end of your turn. The general strategy is to place units with the correct counters in the front. Metal Brigade Tactics allows you to see combat results before you commit an attack, and also undo any accidental moves you might have made: nice. Another interesting aspect of Metal Brigade Tactics is the use of artillery: you aim before the enemy moves, so they have a change to move or avoid your attack. This allows you to defend or screen off sections of the map. It’s very cool and easily the most attractive part of the game’s mechanics. Since each unit also has limited ammunition and battery power, the game will always have an end as units that are outnumbered will eventually run out of offensive power and succumb to the ultimate fate. Unfortunately, the simple tactics become pretty repetitive after a while; most of the interesting decisions in Metal Brigade Tactics involve choosing the weapons and upgrades before the match even begins. If you have an expert at each weapon type, you can take on any threat. The AI is decent but not spectacular, and once you figure out the magic counter triangle and scout the currently equipped weapons of the enemy, success becomes almost trivial.

Metal Brigade Tactics offers decent metal brigade tactics thanks to artillery spotting and weapon counters. Blanketing areas with artillery shells that will land at the end of the turn restricts enemy movement in interesting ways. Also, specific weapons receive an attack bonus against other types, although Metal Brigade Tactics could be a lot clearer in highlighting these relationships in-game. There is extensive robot customization, allowing you to purchase and swap hulls, weapons, and items to change and improve performance. Pilots also gain bonuses and additional abilities with combat experience, and correctly matching a pilot to a robot can produce devastating results. The campaign feature almost twenty missions where you will engage AI robots, and higher difficulty levels will earn cash bonuses. There are also skirmish matches against the AI on any of the campaign maps, or anything you can create using the editor. Metal Brigade Tactics could benefit from online play or play by e-mail, but at least it features hot seat action on the same computer. While the tactics become relatively trivial after a couple of games and the AI doesn’t put up too much of a fight, there is some good gaming to be had for $10.