In UFO: Afterlight, you command a small team of scientists and technicians to convert Mars into a new Earth. This part is called the Strategic game. When running into hostilities, you command soldiers to accomplish missions, such as retrieveing artifacts for research. This part is called the Tactical game. The game alternates between this two modes, both have great depth and are tightly interlocked.
What this game is:
- Complex and challenging strategic and tactical planning, with a big research tree.
- RPG elements including world history, cultures, plot events, and moral choices. Unique portrait, story, and voice for everyone, not just soldiers, plus level up and skill training.
- Flexible tactical game with mines, robots, homing missiles, silencers, light swords, buzzsaws crossbows, psionics, even smell absorber. All practical.
- Dramatic stages: Dimension gate activating in the middle of mission. Descend into a hollow star. Jedi duel in hi-tech enemy base.
Even the "usual" Mars scenery changes with terraformation.
What this game is NOT:
- Easy and quick: Requires lot of learning and thinking. One game = over hundred missions.
- Ironman: Expect save and load. A lot.
- XCOM/Aftermath: You need to micro manage and bound with a small team, guiding every action of each researcher and technician.
- Supported: Cannot sell production to buy more researcher. No reinforcement from Earth. And no new patch, either.
- RPG: The moral choices do not affect much, and there is only one simple ending. Only one character event if no one dies. No small talks.
- Good graphic: Afterlight was finished in 2007. It was just ok at that time. Small text that nobody can enlarge.
The game requires at least a two button mouse with scroll wheel, or a two button mouse with keyboard to play. Having keyboard and three button mouse with scroll wheel is recommended.
The latest patch, v1.07, has lots of fixes and is strongly advised for non-steam installs.
Before you can start a game, you need to create a profile, which determine the difficulty and has independent game options and save games. Profile cannot be switched in-game, but when a new profile is deleted the old one can be resumed after restarting the game.
The game runs in real time in both modes, instead of turn-based, but you can pause the game and change order at your own pace. You can also save and load the game at any time during both strategic and tactical modes. There is no limit on number of save games.
Although the game has a manual , it is pretty short and advise you to refer to in-game tutorials, which is arguably more detailed.
The Strategic game happens on Mars, and you need to allocate your time, people, and resources into training, research, production, or improves your base and territories.
- Home Base: You have one home base on Mars, and it will be your only base throughout the game.
- Vehicle: You have three vehicles for ventures out of the base.
- Territory: You can claim or conquer Mars lands as your territories, mainly for the resources.
- Resource: You need strategic resources to undergo strategic activities, and to maintain the base.
- Character: You only commands a few soldiers, technicians, and scientists, but they are the best.
- Training: Characters can be improved with trainings, sometime even gaining new skills.
- Research: Research not only gives you new technologies, but also insight into the history of Mars and its inhabitants.
- Production: You can produce your own equipment, which is good because not all of them can be looted.
- Construction: You can construct buildings in the base and stations in claimed territories to make the best use of them.
- Diplomacy: As the game progress, you will run into various factions and can participate limited diplomacy with them.
Mars is a dangerous place and, as the tutorial mission shows, has it share of hostilities. The Tactical Game happens when your soldiers enter a mission, and take place in various 3D tactical map of fixed scope.
You can bring up to 7 soldiers each time, and can issue and queue commends for them, either individually or as a team. Like life, all combat actions takes time to complete, and friendly fires is always a threat.
- Soldier: Only soldiers can be equipped and enter tactical missions.
- Weapon: There are guns, sure, but also chainsaws and rocket launchers.
- Suit: Suits not only protect you from bullets, but also protects you from the harsh environment of Mars.
- Device: Various tools and consumables can help you get the edge in tactical combat.
- Alien: When you form aliance with alien factions, or accomplish rescue missions, you may acquire alien soldiers.
- Drone: Unlike soldiers, drones do not need spacesuits, and damage can be repaired in no time.
- Mission: There is a wild variety of missions. Usually you need to disable all hostilities, but sometimes you need to run.