First Impressions on Affected Zone Tactics
TBD Overall Score
Good graphics, fun and steady gameplay, multiple classes, high levels of strategy
Single game mode, linear customization, not enough commander map ping options
Last week we got the chance to try out the US/European beta for IDC Games’ team based strategy Affected Zone Tactics, a turn based tactical shooter where players control mercenaries across a myriad of different near-future urban warzones in point capture battles. The MMO has already been a big hit in Russia and now it’s over on our shores giving us the chance to spend some hours in it to see what it’s all about.
Affected Zone Tactics transports players to a foreign land, similar to our own, but found on no map, all manner of settlers, corporations and more unsavoury types travel through the tesla portal, the only way to travel to this new world. Players control mercenaries in a bid to gather a powerful foreign resource and…. you know what, let’s skip the story line, the game is by no means an RPG and other than a few lines of text the backstory and lore has very little relevance, influence or identity in the game. Affected Zone Tactics is about outsmarting your rivals in team based PVP co-op, and where the story is lacking (albeit that’s not an issue) the strategy element of the game shines brightly.
There are multiple mercenary classes in the game, with an initial three to choose from and extras to unlock as you level up your main character, each mercenary can be equipped with a variety of items and players earn research XP to level up various trees and unlock the next tier of gear. Each tech line improves your primary weapon, sidearm, armor and grenades, unfortunately you have to progress through each upgrade in order and there’s no branching variation (kind of similar to World of Tanks research progression) so there’s very little customization between players.
We spent most of our early gameplay as a Grenadier, long ranged area attacks that could be fired over walls and buildings, giving you command over the battlefield to an extent. The game taught us the basics of combat in the tutorial, such as how to shoot, taking cover behind objects where colour indicators show the level of cover they provide, concealment, movement and more. However, there were still a lot of subtle nuances about the game that weren’t as obvious and we had to simply pick stuff up as we went, but overall it’s a fairly easy game to grasp.
Each merc that you control has two action points to spend per turn, different actions have a different cost such as healing, firing, reloading, moving, etc. and each player takes it in turns to move around the map capping the multiple points that increase your score; first team to reach the final score total wins.
So how did we find it? In all honesty our first games were really frustrating. We’d opted for the Grenadier so, unlike other classes, we were more the type to keep at a distance and not get into the fray too much, this left the task of capping the points (which all you had to do was mover over a rather large circle) to the faster/more well-armored players. The early games were small maps, 4 v 4 with 3 points to capture; both teams start with a point and essentially have to fight over the middle one. Capture the middle point and you’re getting more points each turn and so that’s how you win. It’s that simple, anyone can figure it out.
Well apparently not.
The number of times we would have the point cappers sitting on the outside of the point instead of moving onto it during their turn was ridiculous, sure you will become exposed, but practically everyone could cap a point and come back safely, but so many people played stupidly safe. Even when the other team had capped the middle point we had team members make no effort to try and take it back turn after turn as the enemies’ score creeped ever upward. Our efforts to tell people to cap it in Team Chat constantly fell on deaf ears; it was annoying how often our team was devoid of common sense (and the enemy team equally when ours did manage to cap mid first).
As we levelled up we unlocked a second mercenary slot, and from here on things changed. We could now go into battle with two mercs under our control if we wished; it was still the same number of mercs per side, but sometimes with one or more players controlling more mercs. Here we recruited our new NPC “Adam”, an Assault Submachine Gunner with extra movement and health, and we spent a lot of our research points on equipping Adam with some better armor. He had one role; get in, get the point, get out. He wouldn’t be sticking around to fight, he needed to be able to take hits and survive. Meanwhile our Grenadier picked up the Commander role, which we were prompted to do practically every game and gave us a variety of map pings to nearby players to try and get them to hold a point, capture a point, or target a specific enemy.
At this stage our maps had now grown in size, much larger with five available points a much higher score target to reach, our strategy was always to push middle hard and defend it, having someone cap our closest capture points then try and push heavily onto the enemy, past the mid capture point and force them to defend. Meanwhile Adam was running to pick up the least defended of the enemy teams two capture points and so we would snowball them into a victory; it was great to have more control over the battle, especially when players were following up on pings, and our strategy worked pretty consistently.
The maps themselves are pretty diverse, ranging from army camps to abandoned derelict streets, and though we started to get familiar with the best places to position on the maps, it did feel like comebacks were quite hard; perhaps more due to our level and players lacking in experience. The more games we played the clearer it became that experience meant people knew the importance of capturing and flipping points and so made so much more of a difference.
Unfortunately whilst the maps are pretty different, the game mode is always the same and for us this is where it suffers a little; there’s so much more potential with having different game modes that you see in traditional FPS games (Capture Flag, Protect the VIP, Bomb Plant, etc.) that constant point capture gets a little bit old. The game feels extremely fun when working as a team, but extremely frustrating when players play way too defensively and get nothing done, particularly due to the seemingly mixed language barriers players need to overcome (though we had selected an English server we think non-English speaking people go to it due to the low population of some of the other country servers). The game is worth a try, a lot of fun, and if you have a bunch of buddies willing to play as well then it’s definitely up there insofar as strategy games go.