Fast paced real time strategy means you have to think on your feet, be proactive as well as reactive and be prepared for anything. First Strike: Final Hour fulfils all of this criteria and much more, creating an experience that instils the player with power, dangerous, frightening power. Control over nuclear weaponry is no small thing, being able to drop bombs anywhere you see fit, however that comes with a price to pay, being the target on your back.
Simply in theory, you command one of the biggest superpowers of the world, be it the USA, Russia or even North Korea, use your tactical wits to balance the fine line between war and peace. Playing one of two ways usually, either making the first moves in your nuclear conquest or staying on the defensive in hopes not to antagonise anyone else. Attack or defense, fight or flight if you will. The ultimate goal at the end is to be the last one standing. When that happens oh is it satisfying, knowing you’ve overcome all the odds and come out clean on the other side, dependent on how long you’ve been sat down playing I guess.
Missile Command on the Atari had a basic concept of what this game has now turned out to be, defending against incoming missiles, whereas in First Strike you can be the one firing missiles at others. You have a 3D perspective of the world, you can rotate it around to get the view you need. The world of course has its continents and countries, these countries act as zones that can be expanding into to become another base for your weapons of mass destruction.
Choosing a country in your possession gives you some options, build a missile of whichever type, debuild, research, expand and attack. If an enemy missile is heading over the country or targeting said country you also have the option to defend by firing a missile up to destroy the incoming bomb before it hits the mark. Each area has a soft-cap on how many missiles you can build, this can be increased through research, your forced to think, what do I need more? With more experience I was finding a cool sweet spot of having a reserve of defense missile at all times in every country and then stocking up on the ICBM’s, which can be monstrous in a group.
Researching can benefit you in numerous ways, gain better recon intel, get new nuclear technology, faster expansion and build times etc. The choice is in your hands, you aren’t forced one way or another. When I play a game I sometimes love freedom to just go and do what I want, probably make some mistakes but that’s how you learn to then better your next game.
First Strike may be the name of the game but it’s also the name of one of the key gameplay features, this feature allows all countries you own to shoot one of their ICBM’s all at the same time at a targeted area of your choosing. The result is devastating, you can destroy multiple countries at once and can effectively turn the tide extremely in your favour. Be careful though because once a missile is launched the country is on a cooldown which makes you open to attack and in particular open to an enemy First Strike. You can combat this by ensuring some countries are defensive only, ready to protect the surrounding areas when your opponent’s turn their eye to you. There’s consequences to your actions and frequently I would find myself launch a First Strike only for the enemy to retaliate with theirs seconds later, and they only used it after I did which made me feel like a bit of a knob, but all is fair in love and war.
It features a clean UI and aesthetic, looking basic by design but more importantly it’s functional. You can see everything that’s going on, whatever you need is on the screen or literally a click away. There isn’t a lot going on, you see the world, you can watch missiles launch from an area and its flight path, along with the result of its landing. Visually, that’s all there is to it.
The ambient music of the game is typical of a space adventure and discovery type scenario which almost doesn’t fit, you are not fighting in space, but the view of earth is from space as you command your superpower, so it’s catch 22. Very dull and uninspiring, the background music loops over and over, the ticking noise does assist in creating a sense of urgency which is needed. The best part of the sound design is the sound effects that play when missiles are incoming and first strikes are activated. When any other nation launches a first strike, an ominous tone is played which to be honest fills me with fear each time it sounded. Where is it going to strike? Is it even going to target me? (Explicit deleted)!
GAME DESIGN & INNOVATION: 8/10
Overall First Strike is a fun game you can jump into when you want to blow stuff up but in a more tactical and strategic matter. There is no story mode, just a simple narrative of choosing a superpower to become and go take over the world. Gameplay is fun and rewarding, building up your army of countries, amassing weapon after weapon and then unleashing it where you see fit. Research makes the experience faster and deadlier, allowing for more ways to play.
OVERALL: 6.9/10 – AVERAGE
Reviewed by Rhys Baldwin.
(Disclaimer: CONQUEST received a review copy of First Strike: Final Hour on PC, however this does not in any way affect the scoring of a game or our thoughts on the game itself. We believe in total honesty and being transparent with you.)