Welcome to Novo Slava, the year is 2127, and war has once again broke out in the Front Mission universe, having Nova Slava invaded by enemy forces, both human and mechanical. Your perspective is played out with three different protagonists, with different objectives, but the same end goals. You will switch between the three protagonists, Mikhail, Leonid, and Olga. Each learning about their past, and their involvement in this war, as they discover dark secrets as to why this sudden invasion happened, what the purpose of it is, and how they might play a part in it.
The game starts you off in the shoes of Mikhail Shuvalov, a Staff Sergeant, and Wanzer Pilot in the defending army, Ruthenia. Immediately off the bat, you're thrown into some core mechanics of this game. Stealth, and crafting. The game has you moving forward, picking up loot you find off of bodies, be it ammo, wire, adhesives, or empty cans for later use, all meanwhile avoiding the enemy as they very clearly outgun you for the time being. This becomes a stable in the gameplay as you will most likely always be outgunned, out-manned, and out-meched. Your sources of firepower will start off as a Handgun, melee based weaponry you find on the floor, slowly evolving into Shotguns, Assault Rifles, Grenades, an entire arsenal, which still doesn't work out all that well damage-wise. As you play through the game, you'll be given side-quests in the form of escort missions. These make sense story-wise, as it's escorting civilians to shelters so they're safe from the war, but game-play wise, becomes a chore, very quick. You escort them to a designated shelter, even though there's 3-4 on the map, and you have the option to 'Choose Destination', but it's stuck on the one they go to. You have to tell them to Wait, and Move, while clearing out enemies and/or making sure it's safe to go forward. The enemies will detect the civilian way before they usually detect you stealth-wise, resulting in annoying gunfights while the enemy will literally pile up on the civilian, all meanwhile the civilian with the same 2 voice actors screams at you to help. All civilians have different voice actors upon initial talking, but once you escort them, the female and male have the same stock dialogue lines used up, with voice actors different to what you previously heard.. Not only ruining immersion, but becoming very annoying, very quick. "You call this helping me?!" "AHHHHH!" This will be the death of your sanity, as there are roughly 30 civilians in the entire game, sometimes 3-5 per mission.
The stealth in this game is heavily emphasized, it's what they want you to do, and it's what they want the game to be. You have 3 protagonists to play as, each with a slightly.. Different playstyle, but not as much as you'd like. Mikhail - He'll pilots the occasional Wanzer, not often. Leonid - He can wield a sledgehammer, a bigger melee weapon.. Maybe pilot like 2 Wanzers? Olga - She has a stun gun.. Maybe pilots one Wanzer near the end.. The game tries to make each character seem unique in their own playstyle, but this doesn't come off too well, ultimately resulting in you being stealth no matter what. The idea of stealth in this game is to watch enemy patterns, see where they move, and keep an eye on your map. This is shown off a little bit in Chapter 01 with Mikhail, but even more so in Chapter 02 with Olga, the police officer of the story. She is probably the most stealth oriented of the two, as she's not a Pilot, or built to stack sledgehammers or weapons. Some areas are high with enemy alert, meaning tanks, mechs, and just a lot more enemies. Some are safe, which means 1-2 foot soldiers. This gives you the ability to decide your route, which isn't as free as you'd like, as a lot of paths are blocked off by debris to make you stick to the linear objective path. The enemy is both blind, but wields super-sight. You can take down an enemy with melee with next to another enemy, and he won't hear or see it to the corner of his vision, but.. There will also be other points where one enemy will die, and the ENTIRE invading army comes down upon you. No shots fired, no yells, no noise.. They just suddenly know of your presence, and come after you. Resulting in you fleeing and waiting 20 minutes, using up ALL your ammo and craft-able offensive gadgets, or just dying. The Stealth is not polished at all in this game, and it's the worst part.. As that's what the game is.
The game features different endings for the 3 main protagonists. You can get the worst ending, or the best endings. Meaning you save no-one, act like a jerk to everyone, and ruin it all. Or, you save everyone, treat everyone nicely, despite how much you may hate them, and save it all. This comes into play with Dialogue choices that you can make, most of them impacting if survivors will let you escort them for side quests, or if main characters will trust you and go along with you. This works for the most part, but in some cases, it's like the game forgets to let you have a choice.. There was one scene where I could choose to sympathize with someone, or tell him I didn't care. I chose the option "I understand you", for my character to say, word by word, "I understand you.. Actually, no I don't. I don't understand what you're going through". Which is literally the exact opposite of the option I picked. This made the survivor not come along with me, not only voiding a trophy, but also a key point needed for an ending. The game will auto-save upon such interactions, meaning if you didn't save at a manual save point before hand... You're out of luck.
The occasional redeeming feature for this game was Wanzer piloting. Throughout the game, you would occasionally pilot a Wanzer, the Mechs in this universe. These moments weren't anything special, or mind-blowing, but the fact of them is what made it redeeming. You spend the entire game being weak, out-numbered, and running for your life on many, many occasions. So the brief moments you acquire a Wanzer, and pilot it... It's liberating, it's free. You stop being the chicken, you stop being the mouse, and you become the predator. You can gun down 10-20 enemy foot soldiers around the area of the Wanzer like they're dust, to then battle the enemy Wanzers. Hailing bullets and explosions on them until they blow up into nothing, quite literally.. The damage portion of enemies, and objects around you soon ruined this immersion. You dash through a street of cars, and the cars all fling into the air. They're undamaged, and fly into the air like a soccer ball, or a tennis ball. To then just vanish, like they've exploded, but there's no explosion animation, no sound effect.. Just gone. This is the same for enemy Wanzers. A poof of smoke, and gone. The quick, overpowered feeling of finally being able to battle the enemy on even footing, and winning, is ruined by bad rendering, bad graphics, and all-round bad design.. Making one of the most redeeming parts of the campaign, just a bit sore.
All in all, this game is very average, it's nothing special. I doubt it'll be remembered, and I'm sure it will go cheap in no time. It has great moments, and a lot of points that almost made it a good game for me, for it to fall flat on said points. It has a great story, and a design to it, too. 3 protagonists who don't know each other, but all have a part in this war, and uncovering the truth behind it. Giving you a sort of mystery in your action-stealth-oriented game. There's an ingame rival screen that adds to this and gives you lore on characters, and their backgrounds/connection to others. (In spoiler tag below, spoilers)
The story is unfortunately one of the few reasons I played this game through to the end. It seemed like a lot of the gameplay was not polished, or thought through. When piloting a giant mech, and going through cars, and other things. They fling into the air, undamaged, then just vanish. No explosion, no debris.. The same for enemy mechs, there's a poof of smoke, and they're gone.. Into the air, which I mentioned above, but wanted to emphasize on how saddening it was once more. The audio mix in this game is terrible, too. There are points where two characters will be revealing secrets, telling you the core elements of the plot and the war, but they'll be speaking so softly and quietly, with music so loud, that you'd need subtitles to even keep track of the conversation. The spoken dialogue in this game is also the worst part. It's clear this game was originally in Japanese, but ONLY has an English audio setting in the West. This isn't always a problem for games, but it is for this one. The lips are ridiculously out of sync, the voice actors barely put in enough effort for certain moments, and once again, the audio mix is completely out of whack. Taking you out of what would otherwise be an immersive story. The list of issues goes on and on, from rendering problems, recycled voice actors way too often, bodies disappearing so you can't loot them for ammo, which is the key element of gameplay, making your job harder. Way too many escort side-missions, and way too many main missions for something that could have been neatly, and nicely put into 10 missions, not 14.PROS -
- Wanzer Piloting is fun. Makes you feel overpowered with otherwise weak characters.
- Storyline/plotline is well-done. Action blended with mystery, done quite well.
- Character Diagram feature, showing you the connections and backgrounds of all the key characters.CONS -
- Horrible rendering issues.
- Dialogue choices, but the game forcing answers out of you either way.
- Too many enemies for a stealth game. You'll kill close to 800-900 by the end of the game.
- Sub-par voice acting, ruining the intense moments, and your immersion.
- Ridiculous difficulty spike, even on easiest difficulty setting.
- Useless weapons. You'll find a ton of ammo for guns, but it takes a ton more ammo to kill anything.
- Too many minor bugs. From disappearing loot, to invisible enemies, and enemies stuck in objects.
- Poor animations, graphical errors, and sound design on many occasions. Ruining immersion.