Game Reviews

Hunters: Episode One

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Hunters: Episode One

No matter how advanced civilisation becomes, there will always be a dark element in society out to make a buck.

The interstellar bounty hunters at the heart of turn-based tactics game Hunters: Episode One are no different from the fugitive stalkers that roam our streets: they're after a paycheck, and getting the job done is priority number one. Spaceships, fancy experimental armour, and exotic science hasn't changed human nature one bit.

Nor do they have any effect on the fundamental gameplay of Hunters: Episode One, which has an unusual structure but solid foundations.

Hope for the best, prepare for the worst

The game plays out in missions, each with its own short back story and objective. You might be tasked with escorting a scientist to safety in one mission, then recovering an important relic the next. Along with your primary objective, there's always an optional goal such as avoiding damage or preserving your team's lives.

Defeating enemies and completing mission objectives nets you experience and cash, which you can use to develop your team of bounty hunters. With each level gained, skill points are awarded that can be used to unlock new abilities and strengthen a character's core attributes.

Cash can be applied to weapon and armour upgrades, as well as purchasing new equipment. There's a wide variety of upgrades and unlocks to acquire, ensuring plenty of depth and variety.

Not just talk, but real tactics

Outfitting your hunters with the best available goods is critical to success, particularly given the tough missions. Enemies don't hold back - winning requires cautiousness, rather than bum rush tactics. Unlike other turn-based games that take a breezy approach, Hunters: Episode One forces you to think tactically.

For instance, the fog of war can be crippling. Corners swathed in darkness shelter enemies lying in wait, closed doors keep powerful foes out of sight, and ambushes occur regularly. There are few safe spots and you learn quickly to move as a team, never leaving a single hunter to fend for himself.

Figuring out the best strategy for a given mission and then employing specific tactics to get the job done is challenging and therefore satisfying when you succeed in pulling it off. While it makes Hunters: Episode One tough, it's also the game's primary strength.

Fundamental flaw

The game's primary weakness is an odd structure that limits the number of available missions. New missions are unlocked every 24 hours - in other words, once you complete the initial batch of missions, you have to wait a day before new ones appear. It's an unpleasant restriction and one that seems wholly unnecessary.

Without a campaign or story to speak of, this structure is downright bizarre. If the game was completely free this might be tolerable, but you're asked to shell out cash after reaching level two to continue. There's not even multiplayer to fill in the gap, leaving you without anything to do but wait for tomorrow when you run out of missions.

Hunters: Episode One is an unfortunate example of business getting in the way of gameplay. Instead of desperately toying with the pricing and game structure in an effort to attract interest, developer Rodeo Games ought to put the focus on the solid tactical gameplay and let that be what propels the game to success.

Hunters: Episode One

Despite an odd mission structure, Hunters: Episode One succeeds with solid, in-depth turn-based tactical gameplay