Review: First Strike: Final Hour02 Jun 2017 2
Review: First Strike: Final Hour
Released 31 May 2017
Up until the 90's, the world went to sleep and rose in morning with the fear of becoming a handful of radioactive ash at any moment. The situation has improved since, and the spectre of nuclear war does not hang over our heads from day to day. Yet here comes a game that wants to teach us that nuking the world to cinder would be a bad thing. Here's First Strike Final Hour.
Plot? We don't need no stinking plot. The nuclear bomb exists, and the world can't wait to blast itself to ashes. You get to choose one of several factions – USA, Western Europe, Israel, Brazil, Australia. North Korea and so on – that you will attempt to lead to victory and triumph over the radioactive wastes. That's it. Time to open up some canned sunshine!
So you have your faction. It may have one or more regions, a starting arsenal of cruise and balistic missiles (usually IRBMs), and certain advances in the research tree. That basically it as far as differences between them go. The combination of those factors determines the innitial difficulty of your playthough. For each region can only be doing a single thing at one time: building missile stocks (up to the limit), recovering after a missle launch, expanding into neighboring regions and doing research. Having more regions allows you to do more stuff at the same time. Poor single-region Best Korea!
Cruise missiles can be used to attack, but also to defend against enemy warheads. Ballistic missiles are attack-only. You don't start with ICBMs, but your research tree will eventually take you there as well as MIRV’ing your IRBMs to give them late-game functionality. You have to choose between attack and defense, as a region goes into cool down even after defensive cruise missile launches.
Trying to shoot missiles off one by one is tiresome, so the game has something that is called FIRST STRIKE capability. This unleashes all of the missiles that are in range of the area of the map your targeting – with some scattering, it allows you to wipe out entire regions at once. First Strikes are harder to defend against – and they invite other factions to launch a strike against you, too, since you won't be able to defend yourself. Remember, the regions that launched missiles are on cool down! This is less important when you’re attacking something half the globe (read: outisde cruise missile range) away, since you can have several regions devoted just to defense. However, when you’re nuking your neighbor, even cruise missiles will join in the party, which is not great.
Another way to stave off nuclear disaster/all out war is to engage in diplomacy. This is done by going into the diplomacy screen starting talks with an another nation – however, the world still acts while you’re in talks. Time doesn’t stop for most menus, though there is one research branch that facilitates that, too. There’s nothing much to diplomacy – you only get that one option – and you can still break up with your allies by shooting down their missiles or attacking their lands. You won’t get a notification or indiciation on that – the only two clues will be the missiles heading towards your lands and the lack of a ribbon that joins your capitals on the map.
Betraying your allies is inevitable, not only because of accidental missile intercepts – before you research missile path prediction, you’ll be shooting down everything that flies near – but because the game doesn’t allow for an allied victory. You have to be the last nation standing, having conquered a radioactive wasteland (nuke an enemy region enough and it will become netural and thus capturable). Yet even then you will get a cheeky “You won?” sign.
That is because First Strike Final Hour is a lifeless wanabee DEFCON for smart phones and now Steam. You can see that the creators are clearly aiming for the anti-nuke message in the game, since they’re really not that subtle about it. The game removes fiddly stuff that would have uncomfortable to control on a touchscreen, like subs, boats, planes and manual placement of missile sites. It introduces some new things in the shape of regional expansion, research and super weapons… but none of them really add much to the topic of “nuclear war is bad, ok?”
DEFCON was wonderful in the way how cold and calculating it was. There was the palpable tension of going through the stages of DEFCON, trying to outwit your oponent. There we the death counts coming from the counter-value targeting of cities; FSFH also has those same reports, but they feel incidental rather than poignant. Since the game drags on an on – you can start rebuilding your stocks of bombs immediately after the post-launch cooldown expires and regions are never permanently destroyed – you don’t get the feel that the world is a blasted wasteland. Sure, the regions might be discolored, but as far as you’re concerned, all of them are 100% capable of waging war.
First Strike Final Hour is a lame attempt to reinvent DEFCON. It lacks the subtle touch of the previous game, the nerve-wracking buildup, and finality of that DEFCON 1 exchange. Instead, it turns nuclear war into this long, boring slog through the conquest of the world. There’s really no reason to choose this title over the the age-old gem.