Tempest Citadel is an addictive game that feels like the lovechild of X-COM and a 4X game without ever being pulled so far in either direction that it comes across as derivative. After realizing that the mission you were sent off to complete was in fact a fabrication to send you off on an even more perilous and uncertain mission, you’re handed a small group of characters and tasked with getting to the bottom of what’s happening on the planet you ended up on. You’re also given several additional characters who are still in cryosleep, which provides the opportunity to swap people in and out as needed. Eventually you obtain resources and expand so that more workers can be active at once, but that’s really only the tip of the iceberg.
Here, have a tutorial
Starting a game like this with so many moving parts is always initially uncomfortable, but the tutorial tells you what to do and gives you a good head start. There’s a fairly heavy emphasis on Combat, which plays out in an RTS style, but it’s also automatic (by default—you can micromanage if you’re so inclined) and player-friendly. That’s not to say that it’s easy, though, because enemies become increasingly strong and you need to research new tech to keep up. This is where the X-COM vibe comes from; characters even level up and unlock perks that can be selected to better them.
Jobs and injuries
All characters have one of five jobs: soldier, scavenger, engineer, researcher, or medic. I’m assuming that having engineers and researchers around automatically makes inventing and crafting new weapons and armor easier, but it’s still something that I’m very much figuring out. Soldiers and scavengers, on the other hand, are fairly straightforward, with the former being good in combat and the latter making it easier to bring back more resources (you only get a certain amount of time to scavenge, with each area you explore costing a certain number of minutes). Medics are also fairly straightforward, but they’re arguably the most important. Basically, bringing a medic into combat with you allows anyone’s wounds to be healed somewhat by using a “medic point” after combat. This reduces the amount of time it takes for wounds to heal, and you appear to be given one point per medic present.
Something that wasn’t immediately obvious is that characters don’t live and die by their HP in combat; it’s possible for them to lose all of their health and fall in combat, only to end up receiving a light wound. Don’t let that trick you into thinking that combat carries no consequence, though—one of my soldiers suddenly couldn’t be placed into my preferred 6-person combat party, and it wasn’t until later that I realized that his leg had been crippled. This rendered him unusable, though it appears that later research will allow body augmentation that could heal him. For now, though, there was no choice but to freeze him and wake up a replacement.
That’s barely scratching the surface
There’s so much complexity here that it’s difficult to find words that do justice to Tempest Citadel’s gameplay. It doesn’t help that I haven’t figured out how everything works quite yet, but I’m definitely becoming much more comfortable. The video above picks up where the tutorial video left off, and the big difference is that I started proactively attacking enemy faction outposts rather than waiting idly for research and engineering to work their magic. I also encountered my first total loss in combat at 43:03, which forces you to restart from the last checkpoint. Revenge came at 55:19, though, when I came back and tried again after changing the squad’s composition.
While I’m bombarding everyone with timestamps, be sure to listen for the electric guitar synth (it plays frequently, but the first time in the video above is at 4:10) in the post-battle music. It’s close enough to the old X-Men animated series intro to hit me right in the childhood every time combat wraps up. Love it. Oh, and the visuals are great, too. All units have their own unique name and portrait, and the game runs surprisingly well even on aging hardware like my own. Everything here is great.
Some closing thoughts
Speaking of greatness, when was the last time you played a game that had a button that opened up its save file location? I’ve played hundreds upon hundreds of games, and this is the only example I can recall. This is an absurdly helpful and rare feature.
Right now the only negative I can think of is that the squad tactics menu (which is great; you can separate characters into different squads and give each squad their own approach) appears to have some text mixed up at the moment. When you go to select which enemies the squad prioritizes attacking, the name and description text seems mixed up. For example, the “proximity” target priority text states that it causes squad members to attack the enemy who has been damaged the most, while the “strong” target priority text says that they’ll attack the smallest threat. Having to dig this deeply to find something to criticize speaks to how enjoyable Tempest Citadel is.
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