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     " Might be interesting for fans of the genre... "

      Title: Future Tactics by Crave

      Format: Strategy Role-Playing Game

      Reviewing Monkey: Zimbu

      The Hype: A 3D tactical RPG that forgoes the stat management in favor of action and terrain destruction.

      What This Monkey Thought...

      Graphics: The graphics aren't exactly eye-popping but there have been worse. The character models are colorful but they all lack a certain visual impact. They're all pretty well animated but several characters share the same shooting and walking movements. The environment textures are bland and without much detail and explosions from bombs and gun blasts just leave a quick flash of unimpressive smoke and fire. There's also a delightful sprinkling of slowdowns. 2.5 out of 5

      Sound: During battle, you'll hear two different types of musical themes, one for your party and one for the enemy party. Neither of them is very catchy but they're better than dead silence. Sound effects are run of the mill blaster fire and explosions, nothing to write home about. The voice acting heard in-battle and during cutscenes varies from character to character, with some able to deliver their lines appropriately but others that stumble through most of the game. And only rarely will you be treated to some genuinely funny dialogue. 3 out of 5

      Playability: Different from just about every other game in the strategy RPG genre, FT features no stat management whatsoever. Instead of micro-managing every aspect of your character's performance, you merely gain experience and level up by attacking enemies and gain new skills by collecting upgrade pick-ups hidden on each map. A large circle of green dots determines your range of movement around the map during the turn-based combat, with your characters moving anywhere within this circle in a turn, even on top of buildings with the jump button.
          Once you pick a spot, you can fire your gun. Selecting Attack brings up a scope that you guide over an enemy. Once you have an opponent in your sights, you have to hit X to line up two lines over the target and your gun then fires when the two lines intersected. It's tricky at first but with a little practice, you can achieve headshots almost every turn.
          One of the most striking features of the game is the terrain-destruction system. Explosions from bombs, missiles or lasers leave large smoking craters on the areas where they impact, allowing you to create trenches to hide out in or climb a steep hill. This feature can also be used to demolish trees, bridges and buildings. You can even shoot certain boulders to roll them over enemies. It's good of Crave to make this feature useful in a typical battle and not just a cheap gimmick. 3.5 out of 5

      Multiplayer: Almost entirely unheard of in an RPG, FT features a two player Battle Mode. You can select a map, characters from both sides of the single player game, and different rules and scenarios and then fight it out with a friend. Kind of a shame that there isn't an option for the computer to play against you though. 4 out of 5

      Story and Drama: As you might have guessed, Future Tactics is set in a time ahead of our own. Horrible other-dimensional monsters, creatively named the "Creatures", have taken over the planet, leaving small groups of humans to hide out in the wilderness. You play as Low, a young warrior tired of the Creatures' reign and his rag-tag bunch of freedom fighters. Told through journal entries made by the characters before a battle and cutscenes, the story is painfully predictable and bland. Several of the "shocking" plot points can be caught several levels back and none of the characters, even the mysterious man who ask that they call him "Stranger", are interesting. Whenever a character dies throughout the game, you are more peeved about the upgrades and experience that have been wasted on them instead of actually caring about their passing. It's disappointing to see when the genre is well known for its grand storylines. 1.5 out of 5

      Replayability: New maps and options can be unlocked for Battle Mode by completing 19 different special objectives throughout the game ranging from the "so easy you'll win them without even knowing what you did" to the "so hard you'd have to practice for months to get close". 3.5 out of 5

      The Verdict:

       Tactics is a great example of good intentions and bad execution. While the battle mechanics are intriguing and unique, almost all of the aspects fall flat. Maybe with a more substantial budget and some more dev time, it could have been another excellent entry into the limited tactical RPG genre. As it stands now, it's just barely above average.

      The Good: Innovative gameplay and the inclusion of the seldom-seen RPG multiplayer mode.

      The Bad: A cliched and predictable plotline, hit or miss sound and boring graphics.

      The Overall Ugly: Might be interesting for fans of the genre or someone who wants to be a fan of the genre but hates being up to their nostrils in stats.

      What it's Worth: The 19.99 budget price is fair but you can probably find a copy or two at a used game store for 15.

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