Strategy games aren’t exactly popular in the console market, despite the quality of the Command & Conquer, XCOM and Supreme Commander ports on Xbox 360 and PS3. They don’t really sell in the millions and so publishers tend to shy away from spending the money on porting them from PC, whether or not it’s the right call. Porting a mobile game, though? No problems there, it seems.
And so, 3000AD’s Line of Defence Tactics arrives on Xbox One. Your team of four soldiers is usually sent into dangerous situations, behind enemy lines, in order to help turn the tide of galactic battles via the game’s real-time strategy style of gameplay.
The game’s first major problem comes in the form of its controls. Being a port of a mobile game, the developer does not seem to have taken into account the lack of touchscreen controls (even the PC version has this problem) and it just makes the interface awkward and unintuitive, even borderline unfriendly. Instead of changing the controls to suit the new format, 3000AD simply tries to emulate the mobile controls and it plain doesn’t work. You can hold the A button and drag the pointer to where you want your chosen character to move, but most of the time it doesn’t register and you end up opening a useless menu instead. Your best bet is to tap A on the character, or use the d-pad to select specific units, and then tap where you want them to move in the traditional RTS style – only it doesn’t end there, instead opening a radial menu in which you must select the move command. Why not have another button assigned to the radial menu, and allow movement with a simple tap of the A button?
This sets the precedent for the entire game’s control problems. Pressing the Xbox One’s View button pauses the gameplay, allowing you to make decisions without the pressure of dealing with enemy movements as you plan your strategies. Only whenever you give an order while paused, it sets the game in motion again. EVERY. TIME. This renders the pause function pointless, as trying to move a squad of four to specific points requires four separate presses of the pause button. Let’s not forget that each soldier’s movement also means you’ll have to deal with the unnecessary radial menu, just to rub salt into this particular, movement-based, wound.
Tactics, as the title suggests, should be a major part of Line of Defence Tactics. It would be if the level design offered more than linear progression throughout each mission, with its dull maps that offer nothing in the way of fresh ideas or tactical advantage. Maps are mostly made up of corridors and, strange for the space station levels especially, walls apparently made of tracing paper. Line of sight is merely a suggestion here, with the AI spotting each other despite the pesky intrusion of walls or doors. This renders the cover system useless, especially when you’ve set up a standard ‘stacking’ tactic, with your squad taking cover around a doorway, only to find that bullets tear through the paper-thin walls of a space station. Or, even better, your squad decides to ignore their cover altogether and move directly into the line of fire. PSOne games had better AI.
The game does attempt to change things up, with the inclusion of vehicle-based missions. Having taken control of an enemy ship early on, we then pilot said ship to take out enemies orbiting a friendly space station. Is this a fun and intuitive space-combat section? No. No, it is not. The ship moves at a snail’s pace (fair enough, it is a cruiser and not a fighter, after all) and yet you’re bombarded with tiny fighters that can obliterate your shields in seconds. You can target them with swivelling turrets, but these do very little damage, and so you’re really forced to turn and fire with your main cannons or missiles – the latter only useable if you drop your shields, which does at least offer some strategic value to proceedings.
Missions are mercifully brief in Line of Defence Tactics, which makes up for the lack of mid-mission saving and is especially welcome when you inevitably fail an objective (usually through no fault of your own). During one mission I reached the end but, despite the mission parameters never stating it, the mission failed because one of my squad members had been incapacitated and I had no way of reviving them. This is inexcusable design in a game full of similar flaws.
Visually the game is competent at best, with reasonably polished graphics that probably look good on a smaller screen like a phone or tablet. However, the textures look basic and washed out on a TV screen and haven’t been sharpened up to match the higher resolutions of the Xbox One. It’s reminiscent of playing an original Xbox game through the 360’s backwards compatibility feature, with the standard definition textures looking blurry and washed out through the 360’s HDMI output.
With poor presentation, horrendously awkward controls and what feels like a generally lazy approach to porting the game from its mobile beginnings, Line of Defence Tactics is a game that is outperformed by games twenty years older. There is a potentially enjoyable game lying beneath the layers of development issues, but as none of the feedback from the PC version has even been addressed for the console release, it’s highly unlikely that potential will ever be fulfilled.
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