been playing this game a fair bit since I got it some days ago. For those who don't know, it's the sequel to a rip-off of the old X-Com games.
UFO: Aftermath (the first one) was a pretty awful game. I didn't play the second one (UFO: Aftershock), but it seemed better on paper.
The third one is actually a really fun game that's worth playing in it's own right.
Is it anything like a successor to X-Com? Not at all. The first game was a really confused and muddle sorta clone of these games, except it fell flat in just about every way possible.
Afterlight still comes up short in a few areas, but on the whole, it's moved beyond just trying to imitate X-Com. It's more like a separate little sub-genre they've carved out for themselves.The story so far:
Way back in Aftermath, Earth was invaded by aliens, and after the humans got pwned, some kind of truce was declared, allowing the aliens to terraform (read: turn the planet into toxic goo as part of some experiment or other) the Earth, provided they shipped the surviving humans out to a spacestation or something like that.
Didn't play Aftershock, but apparently, the humans decided to try to reclaim the Earth. Dunno how that turned out.
And now? Well, as the game starts, there seem to be two human groups left. Some people are on an alien-provided spaceship, the rest have been evacuated to Mars (where most are frozen down and waiting for the colony to be able to support more than a handful people)
As the game starts, you've lost contact with the spaceship, and a bunch of old robots have started showing up around Mars, attacking some of your scientists.
On the world map side of the game, Mars is divided into a bunch of regions you can fight for control over. You only have one base, but can claim other regions by building a geological probe or something. Afterwards, you can upgrade the regions with metal/chemical/fuel mines to gather resources for you. There are no flying UFO's to shoot down though. You just decide to take one of the always plentiful missions available, outfit a squad of soldiers, and send your ufo there (yeah, the aliens gave you one, which is all you've got to get around at a decent speed).
The resources gained from these regions are needed to build new buildings at your base. Also, you have this huuueg aqueduct leading water to your base from the North pole, and which occasionally gets attacked.
Here's where the game deviates from X-Com though. There are several other factions on Mars (I've met 3 so far), and you compete with all of them for control. There's also diplomacy, in that you can request alliances with other factions, or trade land/resources/people with them.
Also, the storyline is a lot tighter than in X-Com. Every unit is unique (with unique name, voice and background bio), and there are *a lot* of storyline events. Either your scientists have researched something that triggers a new bit of the story, or your soldiers have stumbled across a new faction or accidentally activated a hyperspace gate they found, or you're being contacted by another off-planet faction. Sometimes it makes the game feel almost like it's on rails, but on the whole, it works pretty well, and makes it stand out a bit more from the X-Com games.
Because you're sorta stuck on Mars, you can't just recruit more soldiers. I assume you get more units as the game progresses, but so far, all I've been given are two alien soldiers from my ally, bringing my total head count up to 22 (including scientists and technicians)
Units can have up to two of the three classes (soldier/scientist/technician), and presumably you expected Mars to be empty, because all you have when starting out are 4 soldiers (and another 8 that are also either scientists or technicians.
As for weapons, the only one you're able to manufacture more ammo for is a not very powerful scientific laser. You have a few decent laser rifles given to you by the aliens, a few earth weapons (pistols and an assault rifle), all with only a limited amount of ammo.
Battles are mostly X-Com style. Squad-based with simple objectives (kill all enemies/reach the purdy glowing tiles/pick up an item), and while it's realtime, you can pause at any time to give new orders. Weapons can be fired in different modes (aimed shop, snap shot, burst, aimed burst) which take different amounts of time, and once your soldiers learn the required skills, they can run and crouch and the other standard tricks. Of course, this is on Mars, so your guys are all running around in spacesuits... Easily punctured, lousily armored spacesuits. Each mission takes place in an area with a specific environment hostility rating, which may be higher than what your suits can handle. If that's the case, the suits will break after a while, and your soldiers will start losing health.
Also if you get shot, there's a chance your suit will break.
Of course the suits can get upgraded later on, but in the beginning, they're pretty miserable.
Being so short-staffed and badly equipped at the beginning adds its own challenges though. Instead of running around shooting almost harmless enemies (because it's the early game, and enemies have to be easy), you shoot almost harmless enemies while still having to be careful not to get hit too much (because your suits will break), and trying to conserve ammo (because you don't know when you'll be able to make more)
Units gain skills in a completely level-based manner. You get an amount of XP for a fight, and occasionally you will level up, allowing you to raise a stat by one point. For each level you also get a training point, which can be used to train new skills, giving them new abilities (such as being able to crouch in a spacesuit), or just improving existing ones (raise hitpoints or improve aim).
A similar system works for technicians and scientists although they don't have stats (unless they're also soldiers). They still level up, and can spend their training points on a different set of new abilities.
The stat-based levelling is pretty silly (because it allows you to specialize every soldier for anything you like, regardless of what they start out being good at, and because it makes all your soldiers end up pretty similar), and a system where their stats went up through actual use (shoot a lot to get better aim, run around to gain speed and so on, like in X-Com) would probably have been better.
But the training part of it is pretty neat, actually, as it allows you to customize your soldiers with unique traits and abilities.
The most annoying thing about the game, really, is the voice acting. Or the voices, anyway. Not sure if it can be called acting. Most of them sound like they're intentionally trying to sound like some kind of parody (fake accents, screeching old granny voices and so on. Awful stuff.)
But in general, it's a surpringly fun game, inspired by X-Com, but with enough twists on its own to avoid being "just a clone". Definitely worth playing.