REVIEW: Rebelstar: Tactical Command

Rebelstar-Tactical-Command

Possibly related to the ZX Spectrum Rebelstar games developed by Julian Gallop (who apparently worked on this), Rebelstar: Tactical Command is a squad-based tactical game in the vein of X-Com, Jagged Alliance, Sabre Team, etc., but on a Gameboy scale. The small maps, limited variety of weapons, and simplified AI will under whelm fans of the more robust PC members of the genre, but Rebelstar isn’t so bad. All the basic mechanics are in tact: fog of war, destructible terrain, a weight-based inventory system, and an overwatch command where unspent action points can be used defensively during your opponent’s turn. Plus, there are some unique touches, including a morale system and RPG skills and statistics.

But, while all the parts are right, Rebelstar feels lacking. The AI is never aggressive, nor do they utilize the destructible terrain—the challenge arises from their placement and number, not their maneuvering. There is little difference between the enemy units aside from their weapons. And with rudimentary map design, the whole thing feels like squad-based lite. Beyond that, the RPG elements clutter up the experience more than help. There are few skills, and none are that interesting. For instance, stealth affects how well you dodge, rather than having an actual stealth-like effect. And the psionic abilities, while powerful, come late in the game and are a tremendous skill point sinkhole. Also, there are too many characters and it’s annoying jumping between different marines as they come and go in the story. I’d rather develop a single unchanging squad, but that could be preference.

All of those are pretty minor complaints. Rebelstar’s biggest pitfall is its sluggish pace. Firing and moving eat up action points quickly, encouraging defensive play. Frequently you’ll be battling at long range from behind heavy cover and the intensity suffers. If the enemies were cleverer about destroying cover and flanking, or if the weapons were more powerful or accurate, all would be well. That being said, nothing is seriously wrong with Rebelstar. It just needs refining. It’s the only games of its type for GBA and unsnobbish fans of the genre should enjoy it.

For the record: my favorite squad-based tactical game is probably Payback Time 2 for the PC—a cool freeware game with lots nice features like a shop, RPG statistics, and a map editor. Runner up: Warhammer 40k: Squad Command for its superb map design and relentless AI.

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