XCOM Beyond Earth: Shock Tactics

Wearing its influences proudly on its sleeve, like impressive military insignia, Shock Tactics [official site] takes turn-based tactical combat to the new frontier.

Shock Tactics is a single player turn-based sci-fi strategy game with tactical combat, exploration, squad management and base building. It is inspired by the space western style of Firefly and tactic games like Jagged Alliance and X-COM.

While each playthrough will take place on a procedurally generated planet, your adversaries aren’t aliens (though they may well be present), you’ll be sticking it to The Man. The Imperial Consortium is the name The Man goes by in this particular future and as a space pioneer, you’ll be fighting against mercenaries to wrest control of the planet and its ancient secrets.

And, yes, it all looks a bit like XCOM, doesn’t it? I’m hoping that the randomisation of the map and the way in which you interact with that map, moving across it as a squad rather than operating from a central base, will lead to something a little different. Not that I’d mind more XCOM in my life but I’m still feasting on XCOM 2 when time allows, and I’d like my diet to be at least a little varied. It might be burgers all the way down, but let’s vary the sauce.

Shock Tactics’ sauce makes several attempts to create a new taste sensation. It’s an exploratory game, in which you’ll hunt for alien artifacts to enhance your squad’s abilities, and the base-building appears to take place on the map itself rather than in a discrete location. It seems you’ll also have named soldiers with specific upgrade trees rather than hordes of new recruits who fall into classes as they earn promotions. That ties in with the Firefly influence, I guess, providing the player with a gang of characters who have their own built-in backgrounds and relationships.

One such is Mavuto ‘Bunker’ Burwin, a frontline bruiser with an AI ‘guardian’ character who assists him in battle. I’ll quote from the devblog at length to give an example of how the characters work, as it seems like a key point of differentiation from XCOM (and perhaps a link back to Jagged Alliance, one of the other stated influences):

The guardian is bound to Bunker in every aspect of the tactical gameplay. He is not under your direct control and follows Bunker wherever he goes. When you give move orders to Bunker, you get a preview where his guardian will move. He will automatically try to find a good defensive cover position in close proximity to Bunker. Since the guardian is rather squishy, forcing him to follow Bunker far out into open spaces is dangerous. Bunker himself can step right into the heat of the battle, as long as his guardian can find cover somewhere nearby. In spite of being an easy kill himself, the guardian supports Bunker when things get rough, making Bunker a fearless warmachine. The only thing that can bring down this calm, massive tank is his guardian friend getting downed. Then Bunker goes completely mad, forgets about mission objectives and only defends his guardian both as a meatshield and an angry artillery until his guardian is back on his feet. The guardian makes Bunker extremely hard to kill, but also gives him a distinct weakness.

Shock Tactics is due late 2016.

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  1. unacom says:

    Well, don´t you take the name “Jagged Alliance” in vain. Y´hear me?

  2. pringles says:

    Tactical reminds me of Breach & Clear quite a bit.

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    Captain Narol says:

    Can be interesting, especially if they develop well the exploration aspect as that would help a lot to make it quite different from XCOM…

    In theory, I find more fun to fight strange aliens than humans, but let’s keep an eye on this one !

  4. Unsheep says:

    I don’t get why being similar to other games is such a serious crime these days. It’s very difficult to create a game today that is not influenced by something else. If we scrutinize all games equally we’d see plenty of obvious influences from other games. Gamers in general today seem too eager to call something a “copy”, based on their own prejudice.

    Ranting aside, as a big fan of isometric combat games Shock Tactics looks like it would be real fun for me. Another game on my watchlist thanks to RPS, great digging.

  5. tifaucz says:

    I’m still on XCOM 2 hangover…

  6. k47 says:

    This looks interesting… Put a bit over 100 hours into XCOM 2 until I could be it in Legendary (so many failed campaigns), and now I’m on a hiatus until more DLC and matured mods come out.

    But how you ended one paragraph and started another means that in my mind this game is now called “Sauce Tactics”

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    garfieldsam says:

    Looks like a more 4X-y XCOM. A 4XCOM if you will.

  8. fearandloathing says:

    A bit irrelevant but I cannot ffs figure out how a mediocre (at best) show like Firefly has been receiving so much acclaim and regarded as the true source of inspiration for anything space related.

    • gwathdring says:

      I thought it was a lot of fun. It’s not something I go to for depth or quality storytelling, but it had a committed cast and a good set design team that brought in lovely flavor.

      Disagree as you will, since when has something being medicore had a darn thing to do with whether or not it inspired someone? As but one of hundreds of possible examples: supposing you liked the idea of what something seemed to be trying to do so you tried to do a better version. Tada! Inspiration from not-perfect origins.

      I don’t see why that’s such a mystery. Perhaps it isn’t a mystery at all, but if you just wanted to say you don’t like Firefly you could just say so.

    • Zenicetus says:

      When people say a sci-fi game has Firefly influence, they usually mean the “Wild West in Space” theme, complete with Dobro music. The Rebel Galaxy game has some riffs on that.

      What made the show good was the characterization and writing, which doesn’t translate well to games. As hardcore sci-fi it was pretty terrible. Any of the individual plots could have been done in a non sci-fi setting, and nothing about space travel or the layout of the solar system (or wherever they were) made much sense. It didn’t matter though, because people liked the characters.

      • mouton says:

        It wasn’t sci-fi at all, lol, it was a space opera through and through. I especially liked how they stumbled upon other ships in deep space. Even Star Wars had more sense of scale.

        A very fun show nonetheless.

  9. TΛPETRVE says:

    [i]Battle Isle: The Andosia War[/i], anyone?

  10. Dinger says:

    Okay, now that the crowd’s moved along, here’s what I see:

    A. Indeed, it looks cool, like the kinda thing I’d enjoy playing.
    B. They’ve got two people listed on their team (a designer and a programmer), and have been showing this thing off at various conventions, included Rezzed. C#/Unity is what they’re up to; I assume their art, animation, and effects are either not yet listed, contracted out, or off-the-shelf. Those two people could also be insane. Not that there’s anything wrong with any of that, mind you.
    C. Now, what I’ve seen is only last August’s website, but what they really could use is a writer who is not also the game’s designer. Pioneer/Imperium/Locust reads a little too much like Browncoat/Alliance/Reaver. There’s nothing wrong with stealing a good idea; that’s how great games are built. A writer’s job is to transform those appropriations into something fresh and appealing. A designer’s job is to make sure that the writer, programmer, and art people contribute to the player’s having fun (passionate creative types can often go off the deep end, after all). Likewise, one of the screen caps has a player bark “S__t! Jakuo is down!” Here’s the thing: I swear like a sailor. Swearing is a verbal act that serves a lot of important purposes in human life; it expresses emotion. Barks also serve many important informative roles. But they’re not the place to get creative, nor to swear. Why? Because they’re automatic expressions of a state, and cannot communicate emotions effectively; they can communicate a bit of personality, but if so, get creative with the swearing. I’d rather hear a straighforward bark than have an arrow to the knee. (Cf. also Shogun 2’s “Shameful Display”; TF2’s hilarious parody of the genre, and so on).
    D. If they’re showing a “pre-alpha” now, how are they going to ship by the end of the year?
    E. Is their secret weapon going to be AI behavior and general pathfinding?