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Written by  :  Elliott Wu (44)
Written on  :  Dec 01, 2009
Rating  :  3.83 Stars3.83 Stars3.83 Stars3.83 Stars3.83 Stars

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Summary

Epic sociopolitical struggle + customizable mechs = AWESOME

The Good

*SPOILER ALERT*

to talk about what I like, I first have to talk a bit about the game's structure first.

The FM series revolves around the political struggles between nations and the war that follows, and but from the perspective of a single soldier. FM1 is the first game of the series and pretty much serves as the prologue of what it is to follow.

From the get go, FM is just a well put together turn-based strategy game. Is it deep? well, not really. It's actually a pretty light strategy game. While seemingly quite complex at first, the variables and conventions shown are actually quite intuitive and fairly easy to pick up. And really, as far as the fun factor goes, it's pretty good at providing some light fun.

But that's not really what makes this game good. After all, there are plenty of flash games out there that can provide a similar level of strategic depth.

So why do I like it?

- Customizable Mechs:

In this game, you get to pick the parts you want to use to build your mechs. (or "wanzers" as they call it in this game) They broke it down to left/right arm, legs, body, backpack, weapons, shoulder weapons, and CPU. Fairly simple, yes, but surprisingly flexible and can each part has it's own clear aesthetics. The end result is that you can essentially create your own mech to fit your own personal style.

Now, like I said, the game play is not THAT in depth, so obviously there is a limit to how viable the rule of aesthetics can go. (at some point, you're going to want to optimize for performance over style) But the fact that they attempted this as far back as 1995? awesome.

- In a lot of games, the narrative often feels tacked on and any narrative scenes in between the actual game play feels like it's completely and utterly divorced from the game you're actually playing. (i.e. many FF FMV sequences) FM does not fall into this trap, and it manages to segue between the narrative and game play seamlessly. That is, the narrative actually DRIVES the game play pretty well here.

- The scope of the narrative and how well the game designers managed to intertwine this with the personal struggle of the main character himself.

From the introduction alone, you can tell that the game is about the unfolding of a conspiracy and that things are never as they seem. But as the story unfolds, you can start seeing the clearly conflicting social values at work here. that is, Royd, the character they provided for the players to identify with, is never quite sure if he's on the right side of the conflict until pretty much near the end, where he has chosen to take on the role of a terrorist with absolute conviction that he is in the right. And yet, at the same time, we as the viewer now start to wonder, is his decision to become a terrorist really morally justifiable?

Clearly, this is a question that the FM series wants to continuously pose to us throughout the game. (To the point that you can even play as a soldier on the opposing side of the conflict to gain another perspective) Later on in the FM series, you get to even play as soldiers from the supposedly "evil" nation of the first FM game, further showing the conflicting moral quandary of war.

By the end of the series, while you feel relieved for Royd's personal vindication and personal growth, you also now have this strange feeling inside of you that Royd's action might not have ultimately been the best one. (though he might have been a spiritually honest and honorable in his actions, he might also have been just another catalyst to a greater conflict)

And for a game to be able to bring a player to ask these questions is a good thing.

The Bad

Well, not all build types are equally viable. What do I mean? allow me to elaborate a bit on the basic combat system.

In this game, skills are separated into 4 groups: melee, close, range, and dodge.

dodge is a universally useful skill, and everyone improves on it by being attacked.

The other three you improve by just using them a lot. The problem is, the three attacking skills are not all on equal footing in terms of viability.

Melee, while powerful in the beginning, become all but useless at the end while short attacks become so incredibly powerful later on that it would be folly to not have most of your units focus on it. (to really get the most out of your short specialists, give them a machine gun, and use the "duel" skill to target specific body parts to instantly blow away any enemy body part of your choice)

And since both of these are not limited by ammunition, you often find that melee just an incredibly inferior way to fight.

While not about to break the game, it does hurt the strategic depth a little.

The Bottom Line

FM is a turn based RPG about the war taking place in the near future between super nations through the eyes of the mech piloting grunt and how these individuals deal with the moral quandary that war brings.