Nuclear Dawn Review [UPDATED]
A mashup that doesn’t pay off.
There have been a splutter of games in recent years that have tried to marry particular genres together in the attempt to create something new and spectacular. Sadly, these hybrids often miss the mark completely and result in fizzing out into the digital ether. Nuclear Dawn is an upcoming game that attempts to fuse the FPS and RTS genres together to create a supposedly memorable game. Unfortunately it doesn’t do either genre any good and ends up being a rather haphazard game to play.
Having played this in Beta, the story isn’t much to go on – you choose to side with either the Consortium or the Empire (no, not the Empire from Star Wars) and are thrown into a post-apocalyptic battleground to survive. You choose from one of four classes; Assault, Stealth, Support, and Exo, which are all fairly standard to any FPS game. Where the game differs from the traditional FPS is with the inclusion of the Commander role.
The Commander is picked at random from a list of players that have ‘applied’ to be the team’s Commander. If chosen, their game view switches to a traditional top-down RTS view, where they can reinforce their team’s base, call in units, and build defensive structures. You can also unlock technologies to improve your team’s attack and defense, and the game is over when the enemy bunker has been destroyed. Both Commander and team have to work together in each round, as the team members need to venture out and capture the many supply points scattered around the map.
While on paper it may sound wonderful, the gameplay is much different. The FPS side of the game feels a bit left out compared to the current slew of FPS games available. The shooting seems a bit awkward at times, and in the few matches that I played I was almost immediately overpowered by annoying snipers or ‘run and gun’ assault troops, which really made the experience frustrating, even for a beta. The RTS element had good intentions, but again ends up being a rather lonely affair while your team mates run around and put bullets into everything that moves. It’s also a bit unfair the Exo class has stupidly powerful weaponry available, and though the move slowly they can easily rip a team to shreds.
It’s easy to see why the game doesn’t feel quite there yet – it’s built around the Source engine and feels just like an overzealous mod. The graphics aren’t impressive and the environments feature the same bleak post-apocalypse garb we’ve seen all too many times before. I applaud the developers for trying to make this work, but I honestly don’t see many players spending too much of their time trying it out.
Update: This review was originally published on September 20th and was based on beta code that was sent to us for a review. Following on comments on the review and a patch that was released before the game went public, I have replayed the game to evaluate how it has improved from the beta.
The first noticeable change is that the graphics are much smoother now, and gunplay doesn’t judder as it did before. The class system still could use a bit of tweaking, as players that wielded machine guns and rocket launchers could often only be taken down by surprise or by a sniper. Tutorials are now also available, though these are just videos that can be accessed from the main menu and cause the game’s background music to break abruptly while the video plays. At the heart of the game your Commander is still king, and clearly holds most of the power in the game. But while the game seems to make it a point that the Commander and teammates need to communicate to win, this was rarely the case in most of the matches I played. In one match the Commander was just shouting out “They’re flanking us from the East!” which made no sense as there’s no way to tell what direction that is. In another match our Commander decided to take a little mini-vacation, so the game glaringly pointed out ‘YOUR TEAM IS WITHOUT A COMMANDER’. In yet another match, the enemy Commander decided that building rocket launchers at every turn was a great way to shred us to pieces, so that battle was swiftly lost. But on the occasions where you have a good Commander in your midst, you can rely on their strategic thinking to help you out of a few tight spots. The game will provide you with a decent amount of entertainment, but if you end up having a crap Commander, there’s no shame in Mutiny.