Line of Defense Tactics – Tactical Advantage Review (PC)
Line of Defense Tactics – Tactical Advantage, developed by 3000AD and released for PC on the 11th Feb, is a Real Time Strategy (RTS) indie game that can be found on steam for $25 when not on sale. Taking place in a Sci-Fi setting, the game is essentially filler for the MMO, Line of Defense, yet to be released and after a rather major delay scheduled to come out at the end of last year (2013), at least if you believe the FAQ on the official page. So with that said, my expectations coming into this game were pretty low and rightly so; Line of Defense Tactics is one of the most sub-average games I’ve played in quite some time. Before I explain why this game makes me regret spending time with it, despite only being an approximate 200MB download, let me describe in a bit more detail what it’s about.
You control a group of four highly trained marines tasked with completing various missions for some reason not really made apparent in the game. Something to do with insurgents taking over your ship and attacking a planet while threatening to blow up earth? I’ll be honest; I really didn’t pay much attention. Throughout the missions expect to be shooting goons, throwing grenades at goons, punching goons and moving between cover. There are different objectives to complete as you go through the game, ranging from moving to point A and disabling a weapon system by killing some goons, moving to point B and killing guys to open a door, and, who could forget, moving to point C to survive for a few minutes while killing some dudes. Now you might be thinking this all sounds a little repetitive but not to fear, there are indeed missions where you fly around in a spaceship and move to point D while killing some baddies. All joking aside, there is very little variation to the gameplay and this ends up making for a rather lacklustre experience. Breaking up the monotony, it is possible to sneak up on enemies by moving slowly, and squad members can be provided with gear, such as grenades, which at least adds a little bit of a tactical aspect to a game that has the word “tatic” featured not once, but twice in its title. Positioning your crew is also important to decreasing the total damage your squad takes, but it’s never made clear exactly how much of a benefit you get from doing so aside from seemingly taking less damage and moving your squad behind cover can at times be a bit of a pain.
Throughout the game you squad gains experience depending on the type of weapon used, in my case this almost always being the gun. I can only assume this increases their damage, as there is no clear indication what this levelling has upon squad members short of a skill number that goes up for either range or melee with each level. There are also weapons, such as machine guns and assault rifles and skills, such as piloting vehicles and using medkits, that can be purchased using CEP points that are provided throughout the game for killing insurgents and completing objectives. As far as I can tell though, none of the gear available for purchase really makes much of a difference short of an extra gear slot and a couple of secondary weapons making for little motivational purpose to unlocking anything short of making the game easier. The first vehicle doesn’t come into play until halfway through the game either and while it does makes things a bit more exciting to have one of your troops walking around in a giant mech, it still failed to add much to my experience of enjoyment within the game. Line of Defense handles like a mobile game and little has been done to optimise it for the PC or make it worth its $25 sticker price. There is, as far as I’m aware, currently no option presented for going back and replaying missions, although to be honest I don’t know if I would really want to. There is also no option presented for difficult level which really limits the number of gamers that would be able to play this, some will find it too difficult while others far too easy. For me personally it was a bit of a mixture depending on the mission with some frustrating highs and mind numbingly simple lows. The difficulty system uses not so much a learning curve but more of a learning wave (up, down, up, down, you get the idea).
The graphics provide for a rather sub-average look even on the highest graphical setting (deemed Fantastic), as you play through many levels of windy Sci-fi themed corridors, which, when zoomed in, reveal lights that look like they have been painted on the walls as well as various cosmetics such as computers and crates that just aren’t that great to look at. Later on in the game there are a few grassy open levels that do break up the monotony of futuristic looking passageways and at least make the game look somewhat presentable, but the game really fails to take advantage of the Sci-fi theme it’s set in (some ice and fire levels could of mixed it up, make up some cool planets!). At the very least the game did automatically adjust to my resolution upon loading it up and it is possible to adjust the resolution and graphical quality by opening the advanced menu, which requires you to load up the game while holding the shift key, an odd way of accessing a menu in itself. But other than this there are no further graphical options, which further contributes to the theory that this game was optimised for the PC only as an afterthought.
Your standard keyboard and mouse set-up will work fine, with WASD or the arrow keys being used to navigate about the level and mouse clicking being used for practically every other action, so there isn’t anything to really fault in this regard. Between the spaceship and combat controls there are about 7 inputs each, which probably gives you an idea of just how simplistic it is. Move, shoot and rotate the camera pretty much sums it up. The only real difference in controls between combat and the spaceship is that the spaceship moves about twice as slowly and has weapons that pretty much home in on everything around you. I was surprised to see that even in a simple game such as this, controls can still be a bit of a pain to deal with, as you end up with your squad pushing each other out of cover and no really way to select two of four units without selecting both member of your squad individually or everyone. Sometimes squad mates will ignore your orders altogether leading to a cheap death. A drag and click option could of really helped reduce the frustration from this, yet again demonstrating a focus on the more touch screen focused devices such as, you guessed it, mobile. The sounds are decent enough but certainly nothing spectacular. Guns make rat-a-tat noises, your soldiers well yell out when they spot an enemy and explosions go off with a boom. The music is also quite good to listen to and fits the theme of the game well enough, however just like the rest of the game it just seems to be missing that level of quality the most PC gamers would come to expect, especially given the price they expect the game to sell at, at least when not on sale.
At this stage there are 16 total missions to complete with a mission taking around 10 minutes to complete if you don’t stuff it up (in later missions, unlikely), making for a campaign with around 3 hours total playtime, if you exclude the one level available for facing endless waves of “insurgents”. If I’m being honest though, I probably got around 2 hours of playtime at about halfway through the game before deciding I had seen enough. I know I’ve done this before but I’ll do it again, games such as Sanctum 2 ($15), Natural Selection 2 ($25) and Pay day 2 ($30, yep, that’s a lot of “2’s”), all of which I have reviewed for this site, sell for about the same price as this game, however they contain about four times the amount of fun with, at the very least, five times the amount of play value (yes I pulled those number out of my ass, but they are probably true). It’s hard to even remotely enjoy this game when there is just so much better available on the market for potentially cheaper. If I had played this on mobile for $5 I certainly would be more forgiving in my review, however I would also prefer to simply download one of the many free apps, such as angry birds, that are just genuinely more enjoyable then this filler of a game.
So in conclusion Line of Defense Tactics – Tactical advantage is a game clearly meant for mobile that has somehow ended up on PC at a rather unreasonable price. The graphics are ok on the fantastic setting but not really that pleasant to look at and the controls are simple to use but can also be quite frustrating. Sound quality could be better but overall does an alright job, however other basic game features such as difficulty settings and the ability to replay missions while going through the campaign have just been missed altogether. While I never played through to the end, the 16 total missions can easily be predicted as only offering players around 3 hours of total game time assuming one never fails, which is extremely short for any game, although an extra 2 hours are likely be added on due to the need of having to repeat failed missions. To the developer’s credit, there is nothing in this game that I would necessarily call broken, but at the end of the day I really didn’t find this game enjoyable to play. One can only hope that Line of Defense Tactics wasn’t made in the hopes of pulling interest towards the MMO, as overall it does not make a good selling point for becoming invested in anything revolving around this series in future. If you want a good RTS or sci-fi themed game, look around, I’m sure you can find something far better than this for around $25 within an hour of browsing online.