Rebelstar: Tactical Command E3 2005 Preshow Hands-On

We travel to the year 2117 with a work-in-progress version of Codo's turn-based strategy game for the GBA.

During a recent pre-E3 press event hosted by Namco we had an opportunity to get hands-on with a two-level demo of Rebelstar: Tactical Command. Currently in development at Codo Games, whose credits include Laser Squad Nemesis and the X-Com series, Rebelstar: Tactical Command is a turn-based strategy game in which you'll attempt to save Earth from the evil Arelian Empire in the year 2117. The game is played in destructible, isometric grid-based environments, and although the visuals definitely lean toward being cute rather than realistic, the strategic gameplay on offer promises to be anything but simplistic.

Your enemies are much more dangerous than they look.

The first of the two levels available at Namco's event was a training mission in which you'll assume the role of Jorel, a new recruit in humanity's rebel forces. The training mission required us to explore a small map and eliminate four or five enemies without getting Jorel killed, which was made challenging by the fact that Rebelstar uses a true line-of-sight system, meaning you can only see enemies that your characters would be able to see. To complete the training successfully we had to familiarize ourselves with Rebelstar's action-points system and with the many different ways that those points can be spent during a typical turn. Actions available to each of your characters will include moving in and rotating to face in any of eight directions, using weapons, and, if you have enough points left at the end of your turn, going into an "overwatch" mode that will have your guys attack any enemies coming into view on sight. Even using a weapon can involve making some big decisions, because when firing a rifle, for example, you'll have to decide whether to fire a single shot or a burst (the latter will do more damage but cost more action points) and whether to carefully take aim or "snap" your shot (the latter will cost fewer action points but is less accurate). We also made a point of trying to have Jorel end every turn next to an object that would afford him some cover if he were spotted by an enemy, such as a wall, a barrel, or vegetation.

The second level we got to play was set in a similar locale to the first, with plenty of small buildings to explore and open spaces to negotiate. Our enemies on this level included Arelian soldiers (who look a lot like aliens commonly referred to as "grays") and a large flying saucer. It was fortunate for us, then, that Jorel was joined by two other rebel soldiers for the duration of the mission, complementing his rifle with a minigun and a sniper rifle respectively. The enemy soldiers demonstrated a good level of intelligence as our battle with them progressed, and it was good to see that they were clearly playing by the same rules that we were; that is, they weren't aware of our characters' locations until they actually came into view.

The line-of-sight system allows you to see only what your soldiers can.

As we progressed through the lengthy and challenging mission, our characters gained enough experience to level up role-playing-game style on more than one occasion. The skills and attributes varied slightly for each character, but they generally included stuff like courage, dexterity, strength, leadership, and perception, which would increase automatically with each level. Leveling up also awarded us points that we could spend on improving specialized skills, such as close combat, rifles, handguns, computers, and medical.

The two Rebelstar: Tactical Command missions that we played were taken from the game's story-driven campaign mode, which will be augmented with skirmish, multiplayer hotseat, and multiplayer link modes in the finished game. We can also confirm that your arsenal in the game will include plenty of weapons that we didn't get to see in the two-level demo, such as grenades, rocket launchers, laser rifles, and flamethrowers. We look forward to bringing you more information on Rebelstar: Tactical Command when we report live from the E3 show floor.

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