Large maps, infantry-based combat, and four classes to choose from, Dice sure worked fast on Battlefield 4. Wait, this isn't a Battlefield game? I was wondering where the tanks went. Nuclear Dawn is InterWave Studios' take on a first-person shooter with a mix of Real Time Strategy. Four classes with their own benefits are pitted against one another in online multiplayer – no single player mode is available. One player on each team will assume the role of the 'RTS Commander' who will assist their team by building structures to aid the units on the ground and to expand their team's presence over the map.
Taking place towards the very end of World War III, the world is split between two factions; The Empire and The Consortium of Free States. The Empire is your standard evil dictatorship, its symbol consisting of a black hammer inside of a red star, and consisting of a masssive mind-controlled population. The leader, Jiang Di Zhai, is determined to rid the world of China's former enemies. On the other side of the spectrum is The Consortium of Free States (The United States, United Kingdom, Germnay, France, Italy, Denmark, Norway, and Finland) who goes head to head against The Empire with superior training and superior weaponry. Despite peace treaties having been signed after nearly wiping out half of the global population, both factions continue in low-scale war, fighting for individual territories.
Gameplay is fairly simple, as most First Person Shooters tend to be. If you are infantry, then your objectives are to capture points, blow up enemy structures, and kill anybody with the nerve to wear a different uniform than yourself. While playing infantry, you have four classes to choose from:
Assault has the choice of an automatic rifle, a grenade launcher pending a base upgrade, and a sniper rifle. The assault rifle has little to no recoil and can kill enemies very easily, the grenade launcher is mediocre all around by taking about 3 hits to kill an enemy and deals small damage to structures, and the sniper rifle is a joke compared to the assault rifle. The primary role that assaults have are to kill enemy infantry and to detect stealth units with a form of heat vision that they are able to toggle on and off.
Exos are able to use a minigun and, depending on which side they are on, a rocket launcher or rail gun after an upgrade. They have the special ability of locking down their suit to the ground to become, as the game puts it, a living turret. During this form, they cannot move and can only turn a certain amount, while having pefect accuracy. This makes them effective at destroying buildings or suppressing enemies, at the cost of their movement, but to be honest, they move so slowly in the first place that being rooted to the ground doesn't feel much different.
Stealth is an extremely fragile class that can choose a pair of knives for backstabbing enemies, much like the Spy of TF2, a sniper rifle which is generally useless like the Assault's sniper, and a 'sabotage kit' which is so incredibly useless that there is not even a stub for it on the game's official Wiki. The role of the Stealth is to disrupt infantry, though that is difficult when most players use assault and constantly check for stealth units. The best use for them is to either harass with the sniper class or try to assassinate the enemy Commander to disrupt base expansion. Be prepared for frustration if you wish to play this class effectively.
Support chooses between an Engineer kit with a shotgun, drill, and EMP grenades; a Medic kit which provides poison grenades and a medkit to heal allies; or the BBQ kit to take a flamethrower along with poison and frag grenades. Not entirely sure where that last one comes in as support but just roll with it. Their support role varies based on the kit they have chosen, healing teammates, healing and disabling structures, or.... flamethrowing.
For the Commander role, one builds structures using resources gained from controlling points on the map to support infantry and expand your team's base outwards. Ever played Starcraft? If so, then you are probably a bit overqualified. There is no unit production, just building structures to upgrade your team for siege kits, build suppliers to heal and give your teammates ammo, expand your control over the map, and build rocket turrets to blow up anything that comes anywhere near them with their three consecutive rocket bursts that will decimate even an Exo. Base expansion is vital for this game. Using a forward spawn point, you can allow your team to spawn farther up on the map closer towards control points or your enemy's base. It is even possible to build right beside your enemy's base provided you expand your power grid far enough, and it is generally how your team will win. You are also given commander abilities to poison an area, blow up an area, or heal your teammates, though they are very expensive and will more than likely result in a mutiny vote by your team to kick you out of the big chair and give somebody else a shot.
Graphics are decent for an indie game. The environments are well done, though some models look a little strange at times for some buildings or for player arms; however, some parts do look out of place, such as vehicles that are a completely different color from anything else in the map so they wind up clashing. Textures look very good on weapons and some buildings, though not all as many look almost completely flat like a simple base color was applied. Without any towers or players around, it looks almost like a Half-Life 1 mod.
What is this, Combat Arms?
The biggest issue I have with this game is the fact that they took a game type like Battlefield's where the outcome is meant to be decided through sheer teamwork and skill, but then they made both teams different. Not different in large ways, but different enough for there to be some imbalance. The base building is different; first of all, where one faction's buildings may allow them to expand faster or even cost less than the other faction's. There is also the issue of different weapon functions. Where the Consortium has a faster-firing assault rifle with more ammunition, the Empire's holds a slightly smaller amount of ammunition but has far more power. The biggest issue of them all, is the difference between the Exo's siege weapons. The Consortium has a rocket launcher with slower-moving rockets with splash damage and a firing arc, whereas the Empire has a rail gun with a very accurate instant shot and a faster firing rate that gives it a clear advantage over the rocket launcher against both structures and infantry.
Bet you wish you chose Empire now
Another issue is that the weapons you have at level 1 are the weapons you will have at level 60. You do not unlock any new weapons whatsoever, only attachments like armor piercing rounds, a silencer, or a scope, which gives leveling very little sense of accomplishment. I could understand going this route for balance reasons, but they have already unbalanced the game by putting in the faction differences between weapons and base building; they might as well have tried to keep the game interesting by rewarding long-term play with weapon unlocks.
Overall, Nuclear Dawn initially feels like a tankless, jetless Battlefield 2142 clone. While the RTS element is vital to the game and fairly unique, it does not do enough to counteract the very limited weapon selection, useless weapon kits, unnecessary leveling system, unbalanced team differences, limited graphics, and no story-telling whatsoever. For only being able to play Multiplayer and having to rely on the current 100 people that still play the game, the $20 pricetag simply is not good enough. If you already own any Battlefield game, stick to that and take your money elsewhere.