The war is over. Almost everything you’ve known is gone, but all is not lost. There are a select few like you who have survived and are willing to rise from what’s left to strike back. As a field commander in the tattered military of the Morphid army you’ll lead a handful of brave Heroes to battle behind the New Order’s lines in hopes of vengeance and a better tomorrow.
Project Aftermath is a self-described ‘Arcade RTS,’ and while its arcade influence is clearly noted, the title also borrows heavily from some other genres. During each mission you’ll command up to four Heroes, with each Hero having their own stable of as many as eight troopers. Having a pre-determined amount of units at the beginning of the mission gives the game a distinct tactical strategy game feel. In the early goings you’ll be able to throw your Hero and his squad into most fights with little chance of repercussion but as the game progresses you’ll have to consider your approach a bit more carefully.
The biggest difference that sets Project Aftermath apart from other tactical strategy games, such as the Commandos series, is its reliance on different weapon types. Heroes can carry two separate weapons and it’ll usually be wise to equip them with both a ranged and melee type. Weapons are further divided into four different colors, blue, green, yellow and red, which represent different attack types including energy and biological. Borrowing from the tried and true elemental weapon formula from many RPGs, each color works well against a different specific color. Furthermore, some colors are more susceptible to ranged attacks versus melee.
If the immediate weapon selection isn’t enough, between missions you have the opportunity to research new weapons, as well as armor, field effects and augmentations. Field effects are essentially special abilities that your Hero can trigger during a mission, which have a range of effects including temporary stat boosts for a squad or even commandeering enemy units. Augmentations on the other hand give a permanent boost to a Hero and his team once equipped.
Another feature that really separates Project Aftermath from its RTS brethren is its approach to resource management. Pre-mission and mid-mission you’ll be managing what the game lovingly refers to as ‘Goop.’ As you load up your Heroes, equip stronger weapons, assign them more troopers or even remove a Hero, it uses Goop. Take less Heroes or equipment and you start the mission with more Goop, take more and you’ll start with less. Mid-mission you’ll accumulate Goop for completing objectives, killing enemies and finding the occasional stray Goop container. However, while you’re gathering it, you’ll also be spending it by resurrecting fallen Heroes or activating your field effects.
The amount of Goop you use or don’t use is where the arcade side of the game comes into play. Although your ultimate goal is the successful completion of all primary objectives within a certain mission, you’ll also be graded and receive a score based on your overall performance. Based on your outcomes you’ll be awarded medals, plus you’ll also be able to gun for the games 92 built-in achievements. If high-scores, medals and achievements aren’t enough to boost Project Aftermath’s replayability, it also has 20 challenge scenarios to further supplement the campaign.
Over the course of the campaign you’ll lead your Heroes across various maps, eliminating key New Order personnel, retrieving vital intelligence and blowing up various installations. Although there is a reasonable variety in the different objectives, they all essentially boil down to claiming various areas across the map. You’ll first move in and eliminate enemy troops, capture the nearest obelisk, which grants you the ability to operate nearby doors, thus allowing your Heroes to open the next path and shut off the nearest spawn points for the New Order.
The main disappointment of Project Aftermath is the campaign’s length and overall difficulty. The campaign only consists of 10 missions and most can easily be completed in well under 20 minutes. As an ‘Arcade RTS’ the mission length is forgivable since it encourages multiple playthroughs, but the game could certainly stand for some stiffer enemy resistance and greater player penalties. The problem isn’t even that your Heroes won’t die, because they will, and if you aren’t careful they’ll die extremely quickly when left unattended. The real problem is that resurrecting them incurs very little penalty. Resurrection does require Goop, but once you’ve waded knee deep into a mission you’ll have more than enough to resurrect multiple times, with Goop to spare.
Borrowing elements from a number of genres turns out to be Project Aftermath’s greatest strength. It rolls its tactical and RPG features into one very digestible and unique strategy package. The only genre it doesn’t quite incorporate as well is the arcade style. It does succeed in creating a lot of compelling content to encourage a lot of short burst strategy gaming like an arcade title but it doesn’t quite deliver the difficulty necessary to coax you into replaying the short missions for that higher medal or next achievement.