I've always thought that Fallout Tactics got an unfairly bad rap. Yes, it had its balance and structure issues, but it had an interesting combat engine. I'd like to think that Dustwind's developers agree, as their game bears more than a passing resemblance. Fraser Brown took a look at it while it was in early access, and found an intriguing web of systems, sadly under-populated. With the release of the full version yesterday that seems less of an issue, as it now includes solo squad command (real-time with pause style) and a bevy of co-op modes, user-made solo missions and bots.
At its core, Dustwind still seems to be a multiplayer-focused game. You assemble your characters using a point-buy system, with extended play opening up more equipment and character options. While more of a gimmick than anything (at least according to Fraser's early review), you can even create a dog character, capable of doing most things, although obviously not able to wield guns. Unlike earlier versions, you can play entirely solo in missions featuring mutant and robot enemies, controlling a full squad by yourself.
As with Fallout Tactics, vehicles are also part of the strategic blend. Creators are free to include muscle cars, trucks, buggies and other such post-apocalyptic hardware in their maps, fully driveable. Some of the larger vehicles are even armed. Dustwind's developers (the rather unimaginatively named Dustwind Studios) reckon that larger missions may take upwards of an hour to complete, so presumably having a vehicle for traversal will help in those marathon runs.
Even if its multiplayer scene fizzles out (and I hope it doesn't), having a full editor with Steam Workshop sharing should help extend Dustwind's shelf life. It looks easy to use, and allows you to create scenarios for any mode, plus custom rule-sets. While I'd love to see some kind of campaign structure, even if just as an optional way of stringing together user-made missions, there's something to be said for one-shot missions, especially regarding balance. That, and I've got enough sprawling RPGs on my plate to last me half a lifetime.
Dustwind is out now on Steam for £11.19/€14.39/$14.39.