SCIENCE FICTION has not really had its fair share of role playing/strategy games. Basically up until now there has been Breach and Laser Squad. This is a shame since it is a field of great scope for imagination. The deficieny has been slightly redressed now with the long awaited update from Omnitrend, Breach 2. The game is set, as were Breach and the Universe series, in the world of a post-Earth Empire, with rival factions of liberated colonists in constant battles for supremacy.
The central philosophy of combat in this system revolves around a squad leader. He or she, well, leads the squad. If the squad leader is killed during a mission then, even if all objectives have been achieve, the mission has failed. Therefore the natural reaction is to protect the leader, surrounding that unit with a mobile armour of more expendable marines. This is generally not a good idea. In order for squad leaders to improve in all abilities and become a general super-hero, they have to practise. That means getting wet during a water landing, getting exhausted on a cross-country assault and getting shot at just about everywhere. Depending on the amount done during a successful mission the leader may improve on some abilities, and when all talents are showing an improvement there could be a promotion in it.
Aside from just shooting people with deadly accuracy, a sound knowledge of some technical equipment - the detector and the crack unit - is required.
A detector is a hand-held gadget which will disclose the presence of enemy forces in your local area. It takes some skill to operate, and since having a go takes up most of a complete movement round it would be nice to have more than a 15 percent chance of success.
The crack unit can interface to enemy computer equipment and give you a detailed map of the entire combat area - well, sometimes. To begin with you have about a one in seven chance of getting it right, but somehow this does not seem to tally with all the wasted time I spent at the beginning of each game.
The path to officerhood is quite tough. You must show an improvement acriss the board. Some of the scenarios do not offer much opportunity to practice your skills in the use of strange gizmos, so you cannot really concentrate on doing your favourite scenario over and over.
Play is very similar to Laser Squad, and if you have that product it is questionable whether the extra expense of buying this one is worth it just for a change of graphics.
Once again this is a strategy game, but not a realistic one. A system which involves two sides taking it in turns to move their units will never encompass the true horror and difficulty of squad-level hand to hand combat, but some would argue it is as close as you can get.
If you are after realism perhaps you should be looking at Dragon Force, but if a startlingly playable and in some places very taxing strategy game is what you are after then this is the one.