Quite a few tactical turn-based strategy games have cropped up over the recent years, but none has matched the brilliance of Jagged Alliance. All attempts to resurrect or recreate the legendary series fell flat.
However, if you look away from the traditional retail market and turn your eye to the world of online game, you will see that there is a demand for this kind of gameplay. Unfortunately, a lot of people who would enjoy playing a strategy game online, are turned off by the stigma of free-to-play. Well, their loss. So why should they try getting into tactical MMO games and which one is the best starting point?
Right in the head
An excellent 3D engine separates Lost Sector from the rest of its ilk. Whereas games like Total Influence sport 15 years old visuals circa Fallout Tactics, here you can enjoy nice visuals, rotate the camera and zoom to your heart’s content. And you don’t need a high-powered rig for that.
Sleek picture is not the only advantage of having a 3D engine. Besides multi-storied buildings, it allows for a very advanced visibility system.
All weapons have spread, i.e., a chance for a bullet to hit exactly where you aim. Lost Sector features a pretty realistic ballistics system and calculates each hit separately. By default, you automatically shoot at your target’s body. If your enemy stands behind a car, 50-60% of his body is obstructed, so you’ll have to switch to a first-person mode and aim manually (at your target’s head, for example) to negate the effects of the cover. You’ll probably miss anyway if you shoot with a machine gun, but it’s a key feature for snipers and for those who wants to avoid getting headshot. So why not use manual aim all the time? It’s OK if you play a single-player mission, but when you are out there with other players (in PvE or PvP), you have limited time to make a turn.
All in all, Lost Sector has deep combat mechanics, even despite a few obvious simplifications. You can’t go prone or strafe from a corner, and there are no sectors of vision, so you have full 360 degrees view all the time. On the other hand, firearms have minimum range (get any closer to your target, and you’ll get a penalty to accuracy) and maximum effective distance (it changes the amount of damage you deal). When selecting a weapon, notice the type of ammo it uses, whether it is effective against armor or flesh. Weight of equipment affects mobility of your characters. The more stuff you carry, the more action points you spend to do anything.
Blue Barrett +15
Lost Sector takes place in the year 2035, in a fictional US town of Broxton, which was evacuated after a new Civil War had torn the country apart. This premise sounds cool, but in reality, the plot here is just to tick off a checkbox, and to explain some of the more futuristic equipment.
All the action is laid out on the map of Broxton where all quests, main and side activities, are marked. Also, there are three ‘safe havens’ or hubs, where players can rest and socialize: the factory, the police station and the Resistance HQ located down in the subway (you unlock access to these locations as you level up). In other words, Lost Sector has a typical MMO structure with familiar tropes such as auction, clans, unique/rare items, crafting and sharpening.
The difference is that here, you play not just one character, but a whole squad of them; each developed and equipped in unique ways. You can control up to 3 characters simultaneously, although there are 4 classes available: assault, heavy trooper (specializes in machine guns and shields), recon/sniper, and support (medic, engineer and grenadier wrapped in one class). Class selections happens when you hit level 5, so don’t have to make this important decision right away.
The real meat of Lost Sector is not its attempt at a single-player campaign, but in cooperative missions and PvP combat. In these modes, you are usually limited with two or even just one playable character. It’s even better as it allows for tighter control over your team.
A typical raid takes 40-60 minutes from beginning to end. At first, you have to deal with a crowd of regular enemies, then it’s boss fight time, and these encounters can be quite challenging. AI enemies not only deal lots of damage and have a very thick skin; they also have some tactical smarts. They are a little bit too aggressive, though, as they always rush in rather than wait in defense.
On the other hand, in PvP, there is a good incentive to go out on offensive instead of camping. A sudden death timer counts down turns if you and your opponent have yet to encounter each other. To cancel the countdown, you have to go out and explore the map.
Multiplayer battles are very intense, with both teams trying to out-manoeuvre each other, employing lots of cool gadgets such as UAVs and automatic cameras, throwing different kinds of grenades, and injecting themselves with stim-packs. It is much more dynamic and fun than the multiplayer in XCOM: Enemy Unknown.
To further hook you up, the developers hold daily events with special rules (though there are enough regular battles with unique victory conditions), and clan members have even more stuff to do. It is amazing how a small Russian development team manages to keep this awesome level of support.
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More active players and more frequent content updates would be a major boon to Lost Sector and its fans. My hope is that it will happen when the game finally hits Steam, soars in popularity and reaches commercial success.
P.S. Monetization is one of most important aspects of free-to-play games. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to evaluate it from a regular player’s point of view as I was using a provided press account. With that said, there is no paywall or exclusive paid features in Lost Sector. Should you decide to spend some real money, you can accelerate your leveling up process, buy some weapons and armor paint. You’re free to resell these items for in-game currency, by the way.