Well, the board game has gone digital, and now we do not have to drive for miles and miles to get to the closest gaming shop and wade through six feet of nerddom just to hope that we aren't teamed up with players who really give the hobby a stereotypical bad name. Now we can digitally join up with fellow game geeks and have it out across worlds that fit in our browser.
I was able to take a bit of a tour through UFO Online over the last week. So what did I find? Click past the cut and I'll let you know.
Even though I understand how testing works, I couldn't help but become frustrated with some of the lag, missing artwork, sluggish UI response and general unfinished appearance of the game. I really wanted to play this game as it would be on release day. I want to see the smooth art and style that the Unity engine can make within a browser environment, and I knew that a week in a game that has so many issues (for obvious reasons) would not really be enough to really warrant a full preview.
Still, I soldiered on. When I was able to get into a single-player mission or a PvP match, I had a lot of fun. What's so great about UFO Online, other than the previously mentioned board game-like qualities of it, is the way the game allows players to take their time. While in my base area, I was able to heal my squad members using a wonderful timed healing mode (one that I could speed up with virtual cash) or outfit them with new skills, weapons, and crafted items. I could plan out the strengths and tweak the weaknesses of my tiny army, and I could ask the chat for advice. Skill planning in particular was a bit odd but refreshing. Your tiny heroes earn skill points that can be placed into a pyramid of abilities. It's a chance to tweak your characters even more, and I fully expect exhaustive guides that show just how perfect they can be.
The UI was simple and conveyed how to do most of the things needed to run a state-of-the-art killing crew. Even though many of the tutorial popups were in German, I was able to drag and drop my way to success. Want to repair a weapon? Drag and drop it and hit repair. Want to heal your little dude? Drag and drop him and click heal. Want to join a mission? Go to the map, click on either "PvE" or "PvP" in the selected area, and join the match.
The presence of other factions and the world map, complete with areas to fight over, gave the game not only its "MMOness" but also its depth. Sure, I could play single-player matches and learn the title (and that was a lot of fun, trust me), but I could also jump in and help defend my side's territory. I had to look out for alien NPCs and for other players as well.
Sadly, the game I played was not as smooth as I had hoped and definitely has a way to go before being ready for public consumption. I need to play this game some more, but I am starting to feel as though I am spoiling it a bit. I'll leave it to the brave testers to straighten things out for a while, but as soon as it is ready, I will be the first one on the front lines. After all, those aliens won't kill themselves!
- Runs in a browser
- Looks fantastic
- Turn limits are variable and long
- Easy to understand but remains deep
- Old-school gameplay
- Flash and Unity might not be the best choice for performance
- Camera controls are a bit limited
- PvE can get repetitive
- Territory control might become aggravating