I’ve blown about 14 hours on this game. Considering I got it from the most recent Indie Royale bundle for about four bucks, I’d say it’s a pretty good deal. But no matter how inexpensive it was, it still needs to be good. Would I recommend Nuclear Dawn to you fine folks? Get ready to find out.
I’m always a fan of big, open-field warfare games. Battlefield, Tribes, all that good stuff makes me happy, but it gets tiring seeing the same modern military-themed, generic game over and over. Thankfully, Nuclear Dawn is anything but generic. The game takes place after the globally devastating Nuclear Dawn, an event that wiped out civilization as we know it. The six maps look appropriately destroyed and ruined, set in locations such as a Tokyo-looking city and the wartorn streets of London. I could go on, but nobody wants to hear me gush about how well the game looks and sounds. Let’s just say that it definitely hits the mark.
The gameplay is pretty basic, as far as FPSes go. You have four classes, each with at least two kits that can be changed in a customization menu before you spawn. The classes act like you’d expect them to. The heavy guys take forever to burn down and hit like a truck, while support can repair and heal buildings and soldiers to keep everything in tip-top shape. Each class has their own unique mechanic, too. In order to hunt down stealthed or hidden enemies, Assaults can activate their thermal visors. Exos, the Heavy of Nuclear Dawn, can lock down their suits to become living turrets, gaining increased accuracy for sniping far away enemies.
But I wouldn’t have killed over a half-day on this game without something special, would I? Of course not. The biggest draw to this game is the Commander role. Chosen at random (with priority given to those who completed the single player training mode) at the beginning of each game, the Commander is your biggest asset. Having a good Commander means you’ll dominate. Having a bad one means either a loss or a really early mutiny vote to demote him.
The Commander, unlike FPS soldiers, views the battle from inside the Command Bunker, the ‘main base’ of the game. This view takes a top-down perspective, much like an RTS. The Commander can give orders, construct buildings, and even help out his soldiers with artillery strikes and AoE healing. Commanders can also research upgrades for field troops and unlock their final, kits to give the team more siege power. I haven’t played Commander myself, outside the training missions, so I can’t comment on any of the specifics. If you’re wondering why, it’s because I flat-out don’t trust myself.
Despite my praise, it’s not a perfect game by any stretch of the imagination. There are a few niggling little things that bother me, such as being a bit hard to make out your own cursor in the minimap during all the chaos and being stuck inside a spawn point if your Commander places it poorly. Granted, those are the only real complaints I have, and they can be solved pretty easily.
All in all, Nuclear Dawn is probably the best FPS I’ve seen in a long time. The addition of Commander along with how well it’s implemented makes it crazy fun. The game only has a single mode at the moment, in which you storm the enemy base and destroy their Bunker, but the fact that your base is never the same in two different games gives it amazing replay value. If you’re looking for a good, relatively inexpensive shooter and either miss the days of Battlefield 2’s Commander or wish you could feel more useful, definitely pick this up.