'Alien Arena: Tactical' pre-demo release review
Some of you may remember back in June we did an interview with John 'Irritant' Diamond and the guys working on 'Alien Arena', the fast-paced multiplayer deathmatch. During our conversation, John mention the following:
Quote[…] By large, Alien Arena is a mostly completed project, but we are working on something new called Alien Arena: Tactical. This game is a class based, team oriented mode that is a little slower in most aspects, but probably faster than your typical military-based shooter. It's more complex than games like Team Fortress that involve control points, and as expected, it pits Martians against Humans. Each level has an integrated base with multiple components, subcomponents, and defence systems that all interact with one another. The goal is to destroy the enemy's base, but doing so can involve planting and detonating bombs, other classes deactivating them, and total teamwork to achieve the goal. Some things are made to be a little more realistic (well, as realistic as you can in a world full of Martians and rayguns), and the movement has been changed to be more suitable to this type of game. [...]So after a few months of wait the team is almost ready to release the first alpha demo, and thus far Irritant's description fits the game almost perfectly. Bluntly put, 'Alien Arena: Tactical' is a spinoff of the original title, adapting the already existing deathmatch mechanics towards more objective-oriented gameplay. The goal this time is not to have the highest score (although the kill/death ratio is still counted) yet to use teamwork to destroy the opposing side's base.
Upon joining a server the player is asked to choose between the two factions and three different classes. The Martians and Humans have different weaponry available only to their faction, however the more difficult decision is picking the right character role. This is extremely important because the classes do affect the maximum efficiency of the team: One class carries the bomb, another class detonates it, and the last one is tasked with defusing the enemy's explosives.
Given the required team coordination, destroying the enemy base is not an easy task. Bases are defended by automated guns which will vaporizes any single hostile in a shot or two, and laser defence grids to block off enemy access to the base. There are three targets that need to be demolished before a side can claim victory, and losing each building severely penalises the associated faction.
The 'Power Source' is probably the most vulnerable. Being located almost at the front line, losing it means the opposing team will gain a mobility advantage since all the lasers will shut off, allowing the enemy team a free run towards your base. Unless the team loses their 'Backup Generator', a secondary building, the automated guns will still fire although slowly and less efficiently.
Two of the other important buildings are the 'Main Computer' that controls the friend/foe recognition of the guns, and the 'Ammo Depot' which function should be self-explanatory. AA:Tactical does use the scattered Health and Armour pick-ups around the map mechanic, however because classes can carry only one primary weapon at any time, ammunition could become a problem in a chaotic fray. On the other hand, it's much worse when your own guns shoot you in the back...
Aside from class-based teamplay the game really hasn't deviated much from the original. It's pretty much the same looking game with a few building additions. Although the pacing has been somewhat toned down, veteran players will still be able to exercise their trigger-finger all the same. Personally my biggest gripe with the demo so far is how problematic it is to distinguish your allies from your enemies, and sometimes from the rest of the map as well. Even more so once the shootouts start and sparkly deathrays start flying.
'Alien Arena: Tactical' has good potential – some old ideas with a few new twists. If you ever wanted to fight brains in jars but felt like the original 'Alien Arena' is way too twitchy, you might want to consider giving AA:Tactical a try. According to Victor Balke, their PR guy, if all goes well the alpha demo should be available by the end of this week. It will be free of course, so at least give it a go to see if it's your cup of tea... Martian tea, that is.
Demo download link: http://red.planetarena.org/aquire.html
Note: You can follow the progress via Facebook, (unofficial) Twitter or the Alien Arena IndieDB.