It is so easy, how could it be wrong? All you have to do is push a button. One little button, to send a 25 megaton nuclear warhead rocketing to the other side of the globe. And you can do it again, and again, and again. Unfortunately, so can the rest of the world. Welcome to the beginning of the end.
First Strike: Final Hour puts players in charge of a nation on planet Earth. Your goal? To be the last nation standing after the bombs start flying. And they start flying almost straight away.
Players have a small number of tools on hand to help them. Each nation is made up of a number of territories. These territories can be selected and offensive or defensive armaments can be built. Players also have access to an upgrade tree, researched through territories, which eventually unlock two powerful super weapons. Territories can also be used to acquire unclaimed neighbouring areas, expanding the player’s nation.
Each time a territory is ordered to perform a task it becomes unavailable for a short period. Some orders, like building defensive Cruise missiles, are quick to fulfil. While others, like researching upgrades, can take considerably more time. This makes the challenge of First Strike: Final Hour is not just attacking, but managing how and when the player utilises a territory.
Territories are given orders by clicking on them, and selecting an option from an icon-based radial menu. There are also a number of nation power buttons at the bottom of the screen, where the player can launch their super weapons or order a First Strike. Careful when utilising the First Strike manoeuvre, it leaves the player nation completely exposed to attacks.
There are 12 nations to choose from, and players can increase or decrease the opposing number of nations in a game. Each nation has a difficulty level attached. Nations with an ‘Easy’ rating, such as USA, start with more territories and pre-built armaments. Nations with ‘Hard’ or even ‘Impossible’ ratings, such as North Korea, start with only one or two territories and no armaments. The game only has three nations available initially, and more can be unlocked by winning games.
First Strike: Final Hour is a very straight forward game. The player is required to make snap decision about when and what to use their territories for, and quickly enact them. This game play is well supported by the controls, with territory orders only two clicks away. Speed and dexterity count for something in this game, as orders can be given as fast as the player can select them.
Players aren’t required to manage resources, infrastructure or anything like that. The only currency is time, and the players will spend all theirs launching missiles and occasionally researching or capturing territory. It isn’t a complex system, but it can be a lot of fun once you get to grips with it.
Problems do rear their head in the execution. While the icon based menu is a great idea, especially for the frantic pace of game play, many of the icons have a very similar design. It can be quite easy to accidentally build an offensive ISBM instead of the intended defensive Cruise missile. Not so bad during the calm, but a frustration when dozens of warheads are bearing down on your nation.
Some areas of the globe are tightly packed with numerous small territories. This can play havoc with both selecting and targeting. Also, due to the nature of how the territories are divided up (essentially along the same geo-political national lines as real-world Earth) discerning which armament stockpile icons correspond with which territory can be perplexing. Not to mention the complete absence of territories in the South Pacific Ocean, which makes a huge portion of the play area dead space.
Lastly, First Strike: Final Hour seems like it was made for multiplayer, with its frantic and uncomplicated game play. Unfortunately, multiplayer options are nowhere to be seen. While the argument could be made that features, such as the time slowdown which occurs when menus are selected, wouldn’t work, these aren’t core fundamentals of the game. It seems that it could be adapted for a multiplayer space. As it stands with only single player, the game play can get quite repetitive after a few hours, especially with the very one-note AI running the opposing nations.
First Strike: Final Hour takes a very straight forward premise and manages to create an energetic and fun game with it. Excellent interface and mechanic decisions are marred by frustrating territory selection and a diminishing replayability. Players who like making simple, quick decisions, and who have a fast mouse hand, will find First Strike: Final Hour immensely attractive. Other players will find the first few levels intriguing, but are probably unlikely to return in the long run.
First Strike Final Hour is developed and published by Blindflug Studios. It is available now on Steam.
Reviewed On: PC
Review System: nVidiaN9600C, G1 Sniper M7 S1151, 16GB RAM
Playtime: 6 hours