Nut Load. Mini reviews of games old and new. No fuss. No spoilers. Occasional shock face.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Front Mission 4 (2004)

Genre: Turn-based Strategy | Players: 1 | Developer: Square Enix Product Development Division 6

An assault is undertaken on a series of German military bases by an unknown and powerful wanzer force that all but cripples the German military's capabilities. As quickly as they appeared, they disappear into the night. The collective European allied nations known as the European Community (E.C.) send in the Durandal, a team of pilots and researchers specializing in wanzer combat including new recruit and protagonist Elsa Elaine, to help with the investigation and uncover who is behind the attack. Meanwhile, a half a world away, Venezuela declares independence from the United Continental States (U.C.S.) and is now embroiled in a conflict between UCS troops and the state army forces. 2nd protagonist UCS sergeant Darril Traubel and his 3-man wanzer squad are slacking off on their rear guard duties as usual when a state army plane is shot down and they are the first to the crash. The plane's only cargo is a crate filled with gold; the funds embezzled by the corrupt Venezuelan governor from the people. Darril and the squad, unhappy with their career trajectories decide to steal the gold, go AWOL and make plans to abscond with the cash out of the country which proves much more difficult than expected.

Gameplay takes place on some rather large battlefields with possibly daunting tactical depth. There are many stats to be aware of for both the pilots and the wanzers and also how they interact with each other. There are prebuilt wanzer models for players who don't get off on all that number crunching, but deep customization is the only way to get the most out of your units. There are AP points that dictate how many actions a pilot can take in a turn, EP that can be spent to learn skills and boost stats and Link points that can be assigned to friendly pilots so they can act in tandem providing they have enough AP and are in range.

Weapons are in 1 of 3 categories of Melee, Ranged and Long Range. Melee weapons only hit once and can only be used adjacent to an enemy, but only cost 1 AP. Ranged weapons cost more AP to use and are limited by ammo and accuracy, but hit multiple wanzer parts. Long Range weapons have huge attack range and power, but cost large amouns of AP to use, have very limited ammo, and are extremely heavy so only large, slow wanzers can carry them. There are also 3 different types of armor; Impact, Piercing and Fire. Only 1 type can be used at a time (at first), but if it is the counter to the enemies' weapon then damage will be cut by a third. There are also support abilities with new backpacks that can be used to carry items, inflict status ailments, extend missile range and call in air support. Using all of these factors in tandem along with optimizing wanzer parts will let players tear through the opposition. The only problem with it besides its daunting depth is it isn't entirely necessary until later in the plot because of enemy A.I. that is pretty unchallenging. Enemies don't often work together, leaving damaged easy kills to attack another pilot that they have a fixation on and also not using Links effectively, often being linked with a unit on the other side of the map. Although once enemies figure that out later, it is a whole different ballgame.

The graphics are pretty, though bland. Colors are washed out and lots of textures are flat and uninteresting which might at least be in theme with a mech game I suppose. The cinematics are top notch as is expected from Squeenix. There isn't a whole lot of replayability. You can start a new game with all your EP and money from a previous game, but only the hardcore will care to use that boost to try different setups and unlock all the hidden Simulator battles which are the only way of grinding.
For those who like it, incredible depth of tactics and a suspenseful political plot with some decent voice acting outweighs the easy difficulty curve and serviceable, but bland visuals.

Buyer's Guide:
Available for the PS2.

4 Everything explodes out of 5

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