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Tactics Forever Review

Tactics Forever is an AI-driven space shooter game developed by Projector Games and digitally distributed on the PC platform by Indiecity. Projector Games have been known in the past for two things: creating the controversial Minecraft-esque (albeit not a proven imitation in any form) game Fortresscraft, which has taken its place as one of the top selling titles on the Xbox Live Indie Games Marketplace, and creating games bearing no remote resemblance to Minecraft that fail to sell in significant numbers. Tactics Forever is a game in the latter category. Perhaps it will sell more if/when it is released on XBLIG, but I’m doubtful this untouched gem will get exposure, hence part of the reason I’m here. That, and I got a free copy because I asked to review it.


While this won’t come as a surprise to anyone purchasing Indie games on Xbox Live, on Indiecity you should know beforehand you won’t be able to play this game offline as it has no single-player support. Why? Because it’s a multiplayer game, and a very casual one at that.


A screenshot of a simplistic ship consisting of engines and blasters.

A ship made out of engines. Oh God Why.


What’s that you say? You’re in MLG? Too bad, this game isn’t for you. When you start the game, you’ll have no other options other than to build your first ship, which must consist of the following: An engine, and a weapon. That’s it. Really. You know this is exploitable as you can build ships out of engines and then just stick weapons to the engines (because engines are cheaper than hull pieces) creating really cheap behemoths that spam mass-driver projectiles at you. I have no problem with this, but most of them just seem to collapse under the weight of the physics, which looks kind of ugly. For the people who put actual effort into their ships though, you can see some amazing mechanics going on.


Image of my ship fighting an equally powerful ship.

What happens when an unstoppable force meets an immovable object?



Take mine for example, It’s called Moronstar (a satirical take on a medieval flail weapon called a morningstar) that perpetually spins in one direction that effectively serves a number of functions. It employs missile launchers as its main weapons because they have the biggest delay (because the ship turns) and it’s main feature is well… turning. It never changes it’s X/Y position, it absorbs the damage equally from all sides from enemy ships and if it splits apart, the missiles continue to fire upon the enemy ships. It’s a really great formula that seems to work perfectly until I stop watching it battle with other ships.


Which brings me onto my next point. To earn XP (experience points) in this game you have to fight other ships, and spectate other people’s ships fighting each other. When you level up, you get access to a larger variety of parts to add to your ship. Eventually earning enough experience points (or having friends play the game, whichever comes first) will unlock additional slots to build more ships, and you will get a bigger budget to build your ships as you sequentially gain access to more slots. There’s some really clever stuff involved with how your ships’ battle stats rank too, as battles are not simulated on a central server, rather, it gets passed around between users, so people playing the game actually pit your ship against others, automatically generating statistics for when you next play the game. (Disclaimer; at least, that’s as far as I understand the system).


Image of the current design interface for Tactics Forever.

The Design Interface


And as for the user influence over the game’s mechanics, it mainly depends on ship design prior to battles. There are many factors to consider when constructing a ship but just for the sake of being concise I will just detail how the ship’s AI works (to the best of my ability). Here, in the design screen you can set the ship’s AI to adapt according to it’s circumstances. If for example, you choose to construct many small drones to compliment the core ship you can set the core ship to flee and the drones will focus on the enemy ship. This design however has pros and cons. The pros are that because of the way the AI is currently designed, all ships will only target the enemy core, which means game over for either player if the respective core is destroyed, however in the aforementioned design the drones won’t be vulnerable to enemy attacks. The cons are that it means a weaker core ship. Another AI scenario is that you can send a ship equipped with sawblades towards an enemy to cripple vital weapon systems, then you can have the ship flee after the initial attack when it starts taking damage, adjusting it’s strategy to fire rear-mounted missile launchers instead.


The concept of AI-driven controls are innovative, and that works well with this game for many reasons I previously explained. It rewards the player with tactical planning (denoted by the “Tactics” in Tactics Forever) instead of being physically reliant on a player’s circumstantial active participation (skill, or the ability to mash buttons is what I’m trying to say here). However, AI-driven controls have been integral in many games in the past, more-so in independent projects and less-so in mainstream products (because the latter are more reliant on wider appeal and more financially successful formulas than creativity and technological innovations), and one game that springs to mind is the flash game series “Bot Arena”, created by Luke Hailey.


A screenshot of the flash game Bot Arena 3, created by Luke Hailey for GameGecko.com

Bot Arena 3, in all it’s simplistic glory.



I played Luke’s game a few years back when flash games were still cool, and while not as fun as Tactics Forever, it was at the very least free. Like Tactics Forever it was AI-driven and the main difference is that the AI was influenced during a battle as opposed to beforehand. However, Bot Arena never went as far as Tactics Forever did in it’s mechanics and physics as the robots consisted of solely a chassis (a base), a plating (armour), and a complimenting component (weapons or repair tools). Tactics Forever is far more intricate in that respect as it boasts hull pieces, engines, various melee and projectile weapons, shield systems and more. Fun Fact: The sawblades were created out of a necessity to make the game not feel like robot wars when ships would violently ram each other with no significant effect. My conclusion: sawblades are awesome but it still feels like robot wars when I set up sawblades attached to thrust engines to slam into other people’s ships for an unfair advantage.


A feature that this game has as a digitally distributed product is that it has a lot of post-release development. As of March 10th the game has no background music and uses a lot of placeholder content, much of it being improved with time, so whether you choose to buy it now or later doesn’t matter, but if you do buy it, you WILL have a say on the future content that gets introduced to the product. So buy it now instead of later. I recommend this game for casual gamers and I think it’s a good game for all audiences. The game offers a great sandbox element to experiment with the game’s physics and I think that with more social interaction and developments, this game stands to offer a rewarding experience for those who play it. I give this game a score of:


Tactics Forever: 8/10


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