We've seen plenty of postapocalyptic nuclear-strike games in the past, but 1C's upcoming role-playing game, Nuclear Union, takes a slightly different approach than most. The story begins during the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962, with the majority of the narrative and gameplay taking place in an alternate, modern-day Soviet Union.
Rather than pit the player against warring factions and tribes, Nuclear Union is rooted in a world where the Soviet government and the underlying infrastructure have survived an attack from the United States and have reemerged from their underground bunkers. Their primary goals are to rebuild and survive in the harsh landscape of their new capital, Pobedograd.
1C hails from Moscow, the approximate real-world location of the fictional Pobedograd. That, in addition to their plans to incorporate prototype Soviet weaponry, should bolster their approach to a pseudo-authentic alternate history. Weapon upgrades are in the works, but unfortunately, Nuclear Union is in such an early state that there wasn't any combat on display during 1C's Gamescom demo, let alone weapon customization.
The main character, a nameless Soviet officer, may be accompanied by up to two party members. You'll have the power to decide whom to dismiss or accept into your ranks, according to the FAQ on the Nuclear Union website. There's also mention of moral choices and branching paths, though it's noted that the protagonist shall forever remain on the side of "good." When we asked 1C about the identity of the antagonist, they were quick to play the "we can't reveal further details" card. Interestingly, based on prior comments relating to the unknown status of the US government or its citizens, it's safe to assume the forces of "evil" will have origins within the surviving members of the U.S.S.R.
The most interesting element during the demo was the appearance of physical anomalies, Nuclear Union's version of environmental puzzles. The impact of a nuclear attack doesn't just destroy life and mangle buildings; such a profound expulsion of energy also disturbs the forces of nature, creating pockets in space with their own gravitational fields. They don't pose a direct threat to the player, and are completely optional, but resolving anomalies rewards you with items and special abilities. By manipulating objects orbiting the core of an anomaly, you can neutralize its gravitational field and gain access to the prize within. Just make sure you watch your back while doing so, lest you risk attack from the hordes of mutants roaming the land.
Most of the enemies in Nuclear Union are hulking, bipedal beasts, but there's no shortage of freakishly sized spiders and other real-world creatures lurking about. The story will lend itself to face-offs against other Soviet survivors, but 1C was unable to elaborate on this at the show.
With so many details and features still in the dark, it's too early to accurately delve into Nuclear Union's combat and story, arguably the two most important elements of any RPG. The footage and info provided by 1C recall elements from the Fallout and S.T.A.L.K.E.R. series, but the survival of the Soviet Union is an unconventional and welcome twist in a subgenre rife with cliches. 1C's current plan is to ship Nuclear Union for PCs sometime in 2013, with the possibility of console releases down the road.