by Sergio Brinkhuis
previewed on PC
Not quite XCOM
While 2K Games is working on an appreciated but wildly misguided attempt to revive the XCOM franchise (the franchise was called UFO in Europe) in the form of a First Person Shooter, MMO giant Gamigo is slaving away at something far closer to the spirit of the original games. A true sequel then? Not quite, but if you liked XCOM’s gameplay, you’ll probably enjoy UFO Online.
Much like the original XCOM games, UFO Online: Fight for Earth presents a future Earth that has welcomed alien visitors to it for the promise of trading its resources for alien technology. Not everybody believes in the peaceful nature of the visitors though, and three factions rise up to stand against what they see as the biggest threat humanity has ever encountered.
The player joins one of these three factions and is given a base from where he can lead a small team of mercenaries. Yep, you read that right. Rather than hiring squaddies, you’ll be paying mercenaries to fight the good fight for you and they have different roles to boot. Depending on your needs, you can hire snipers, scouts, medics, grenadiers and soldiers.
The base itself consists of four departments, including a barracks and a workshop. It can be upgraded to increase the number of mercenaries it houses, improve its medical facilities, conduct research or unlock new machines in the workshop. Crafting is an important part of UFO Online and while the workshop itself was not ready to be demonstrated, we were promised that you could not only create weapons there, but also produce ammo and devise new items as well.
While still at the base, weapons, armor and other items can be assigned to individual mercenaries. Hovering over an item will reveal its stats and here Gamigo has brought some small but noticeable innovations to the genre. Not only will you be able to see the damage a weapon does, but also how effective it will be at what distance. A knife, for instance, is only for close range but a sniper rifle is barely usable as a club when an enemy stands right up against you. Another innovation is adding ‘aggro’ and noise levels to weapons. A high aggro level on a weapon increases the chance of drawing an enemy towards you after using it. This provides a certain amount of control over who enemies will target, for example by giving your medic a weapon with a low aggro level and your tank one that turns enemy stir crazy. Noise levels serve a similar purpose, where a knife probably won’t betray you but an assault rifle is a dead giveaway for your position.
Line of sight
The money required paying for wages and base upgrades is earned through missions that pop up on the overall map. Mission environments, objects and characters all look somewhat similar to UFO: Aftermath, which means a departure from the cartoony graphics of the original games, allowing for a grittier feel. Turns are played out as you would expect from a turn-based strategy title: you give commands to your squad members and battle commences as the enemy comes into view.
Most mercenaries will have a 90 degree field of vision. Scouts are experts at spotting enemies and therefore have a field of vision of 180 degrees, which is bound to be a useful feature in the field. One feature, that I am quite excited about, is that aliens entering a merc’s line of sight can be partially tracked beyond sight. I say partially because only a ‘shadow’ of the alien can be seen in what would be the most likely end point for the alien, if it had followed its perceived track. As it is only an assumption, the alien may yet surprise you when you try to get closer.
You’re not alone
As mentioned at the beginning of this article, Gamigo is primarily an MMO company, so it was paramount for them to find a way to translate the game’s turn-based mechanics into something that could be used by multiple players at the same time. In co-op mode, four players can team up to fight aliens, whilst PvP battles come in Hold the Fort, Death Match and Capture the Flag flavors and don’t include aliens. Here, teams of mercenaries just fight each other.
Another multiplayer component comes from the game’s faction system. A successfully finished mission will add to your faction’s score in a region. The cumulative score determines the dominating faction which in turn awards buffs or resources from the region.
The UFO name is perhaps a little out of place in this game, but I have to admit I’m very excited about this game. It may not be the next XCOM, but it offers an experience that fans of the XCOM games have been craving for since Terror from the Deep.