Fight a guerilla war against the robot overlords in the mini-XCOM PC game Bionic Dues
You have fifty days to prepare for an inescapable robot assault.
As far as video game premises go it's hard to get much better than that, and it's that inertia that drives much of the success of Bionic Dues.
The gameplay is already tense, but at all times the tension is further ramped up by the impending doom of the robot assault in this indie strategy game from AI War-creators Arcen Games.
Bionic Dues is a turn-based mech strategy game. As mentioned, it begins with the conceit that the city that you inhabit has been destroyed and you're the only mech pilot left to defend the last vestige of humanity: Mech Headquarters. The robots are coming though, and they're massing their forces for a final assault in 50 days.
The only defense you have is the squad of four mechs that you pilot in each mission. At the beginning of each game you select from a pool of different mech styles to create the group you'll use throughout the campaign. You can choose from types like the close-range “Brawler,” the stealthy “Ninja,” the hacker “Scientist,” and many more with their own unique capabilities.
You can switch between them on the fly, so it's important to create a group that works well together. You then cap off your team by selecting a pilot from a pool of seven choices, each with their own special trait. Throughout the game you'll also have to customize your mechs with gear you loot from locations and enemies, but in classic mech fashion you have to ensure you come in under their wattage limits.
Each day you're able to pick one mission in a location throughout the city, and it will have ramifications on the final battle. You can assault an arms factory to find some great weapon-parts. You can attack one of their manufacturing facilities to decrease the number of mechs they'll have available in the final confrontation. You can go on difficult assassination missions to take out key boss bots. There are many different things you can do, and they all have to figure into your grand strategy for surviving that climactic final day by building up your mechs or tearing down the enemy forces.
That's the overall meta-strategy of the game, and it takes place on a city-overview map where you select your missions and customize your units. Once you're inside one of the missions, the game becomes a fast-paced turn-based strategy game.
Fast, but turn-based
Don't let the “turn-based-strategy” bit scare you off though, the game moves so quickly and easily that it often barely feels turn-based. This isn't Final Fantasy Tactics where a turn takes 5 minutes as you individually move each unit then wait for the enemy to individually move each unit.
Only one of your four mechs is active at any time and you use the WASD keys to move around the grid. You can move in continuous motion, and the enemy will simply move along with you. You can slow down and take your time when you want to, but when you just want to move through the level it's as fast as a 2D action game.
These missions are great fun to think your way through. There are at least half a dozen different weapons at your disposal across your different mechs, each with differing range, fire patterns, and damage output, and you'll have to figure out the best way to dispatch a dungeon full of enemies using all the tools at your disposal.
It seems overly simple at first, but once you get used to swapping between mechs, using the whistle ability to attract enemies as well as the stealth ability to stay hidden you'll find considerable strategic depth. The later stages are devious.
At one point, destroyed enemies begin to blow EMP charges when they're destroyed, disabling the mech you used to kill it for three turns, and if you blow up five enemies with a rocket launcher, that could be 15 turns. It's a wonderful strategic mechanic that forces you to consider that killing-all-the-enemies-at-once might not actually be the best strategy. I'm not exactly sure of the science behind EMP charges that stack, but to be fair, I'm not sure of the science behind warrior mechs and robot-invasions either.
What's wonderful about Bionic Dues is that it manages to combine meta-strategy and micro-strategy. What you choose to do in the over-arching war against the machines affects the tools and upgrades you have to work with in the missions; while success in the larger war can't be achieved without making good decisions in each mission. It's like a fast-paced, mini-XCOM.
It gives weight to each and every mission as you know that every misstep could seriously impact the result of your game. It gives you much more to consider when you start asking yourself whether you should go explore the unseen corner of the level. You might find loot that will help in the rest of the campain, or you might find booby traps and enemies that could cause you to fail the mission or receive fewer rewards.
Bionic Dues is available on PC, Mac, and Linux now for $9.99.