UFO: Aftermath. Altar Games (2003) PC

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ufo_aftermath_cover

UFO: Aftermath started off  “The Dreamland Chronicles: Freedom Ridge” by Mythos Games, but was eventually abandoned. It is an homage to X-Com, and is partly based on the abandoned X-Com: Genesis. It is *NOT* officially related to UFO: Enemy Unknown (X-Com: UFO Defense).

Story

In 2004, a UFO approaches earth. It proceeds to release large spore clouds which soon darkened the skies. This period is known as the “Twilight“.

This goop starts raining down on to Earth, and kills all living life by smothering it, this was known as the “Nightfall“.

All the Earths governments are wussies and refuse to do anything, and instead buried themselves in bunkers, and once they emerge the Earth has gone to shit, the Reticulans are attacking, Mutants (transgenetics) have overrun the surface, and a weird thing called Biomass is running rampant.

There are two endings, one where you accept the offer of a Reticulan Alliance, board the Laputa and move onto the sequel UFO: Aftershock. Or, you can choose to fight on, eventually discovering the secret behind the Reticulans, going to the Moon and destroying them.

biomass

Gameplay

Taking it’s influence from X-Com and adding a little modern gameplay, Aftermath is a “Real Time Strategy – Squad Tactics game“, so it plays like a semi-turn based game. Actions can be queued up (while paused) similar to Knights of the Old Republic, but the action will primarily take place in real time.

Like X-Com, you switch between a world map/overview where you conduct research, and accept your missions. As well as a Tactical combat mode using full 3D models presented on an almost Isometric style grid.

One of the differences between UFO and the X-Coms is the RPG elements thrown in. In Aftermath your troops gain experience in combat. This is used to train troops in 7 areas; Snipers (+ Marksmanship), Solider (+ Handguns), Grenadier (+ Launcher), Psionic (+ Psi Power), Scout (+ Stealth), Medic (+ Medical), and Science, which does nothing. These training regimes don’t make your person able to use equipment, it just makes associated stats better.

That's an actual enemy. A Car Crab.

That’s an actual enemy. A Car Crab.

Difficulty

Holy shit Aftermath can be hard. Don’t get attached to your troops, as you will lose a lot of them. There are so many ways for them to die, and so many possibilities for mass-wiping. Various enemies use splash damage, so a well aimed rocket, or a suicide bomber will fuck you and your level 15 men. Even at much higher levels your men are still susceptible to a hammering, so there is no going easy.

You can’t recruit troops as and when you want either, so you can’t stockpile 4 squads of 10 troops like in X-Com. Lose all 7 men on a mission, and you might be given 1 or 2 men back so you’re punished for your own incompetence. You never feel like you need to pray to RNGesus as all mistakes are obvious, but it means building the perfect team for the final assault is next to impossible.

A tally of DEATH!

A tally of DEATH!

Other than that? Jesus WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON!!! There are so many missions going on at any time, and the priority order isn’t the most accurate. It is hectic as hell, and means you will constantly be gaining and losing territory. This isn’t bad, as your supposed to be on the back foot, but you never really gain a stronghold. It means you can’t turtle up, and then faceroll. You take Moscow, they’ll take Paris, You defend Berlin? Fuck it, they attack London. You’re ALWAYS getting attacked, if they see you only have one military base in an area they will endlessly attack it to try and set you back.

The AI can be cheesed a little through kiting, but the enemies will tend to focus on people they think they can kill, not the idiot running around as a distraction unlike in Aftershock.

Other than that, the final Moon assault mission is a little too difficult. You’re on an alien ship type level on the moon, tight corners, small spaces. And most of the enemies have mind control and rocket launchers. You get spammed with rockets and it is difficult to survive. If you do, you get to a room at the end filled with enemies that are immune to conventional weaponry. You can only take 7 troops, each will need 2 medikits, explosives to destroy the targets, sniper rifles for the moon section, heavy armour for the base part, and plasma weaponery for the Myrmecols. This makes your troops weigh more than your momma, and means they are susceptible to Area Effect attacks.

aftermathfinalroom

Research

I like the research pathway in Aftermath. You have three base types (more later). One for Military, where you launch fighter jets to intercept UFOs and launch manned missions. Research, where you conduct research, and Engineering, where you build weapons.

Have 3 bases, and you can have 1 of each. Have 10, you can have more of each. This allows for fast travel (between Military bases) allowing you to teleport across the world, and quicker Research and Development. It is a simple system, but it balances out very nicely offering strategy, but can be hard to manage when you’re constantly losing territory.

Bugs

There are a couple that bother me:

  • Spinning Globe. I don’t know what causes this, but the world map will sometimes start spinning out of control. I usually have to accept a mission just to stop it. (Still present on Patch 1.4)
  • Inventory switching. Top Tip: Do this slowly… If you tell your person to switch to a medipack, then tell them to move they will cancel the item switch. It is annoying. You start to get used to it, but fuck it is annoying when you run up and heal an enemy…
Squad management is a little clunky. Image pillfered from GameBillet

Squad management is a little clunky.
Image pilfered from GameBillet

Conclusion

I played Aftershock first, so I thought Aftermath would be a worse version of the sequel. I actually prefer this one of the two. The graphics are more rudimentary, and it can be a little difficult to see things when on tight city maps. and like Fallout 2 the ending is very hard and off putting. Here you just have to accept the punishment, and just hope the RNGesus is smiling upon ye. In Aftershock you start to faceroll after 5 missions and have to carry on for another 55 hours. Here, you can never let up in a 25 hour playthrough. You need to plan every step like you did in X-Com as one wrong move is punished.

The mission variety isn’t the best, but the quicker nature of the fights makes the game flow. There are very few “bug hunt” / kill EVERYTHING missions, so it means when your inevitably having your arse handed to you, you always feel like you can bounce back, even when you’re down to your last base in the Azures with Biomass circling you!.

Pros: Hard as fucking hell, troops die a lot

Cons: Hard as fucking hell, troops die a lot, fighterjets are useless

78%

Back in the Day

UFO: Aftermath received “middling” reviews and hold a 71% rating on GameRankings. The game was critisied for missing features found in X-Com, it’s poor pathfinding and the inventory bugs.

Endgame splash screen

Endgame splash screen

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