Afterlight is much more in X-COM's style then it's predecessors. You lead a small group, no more than twenty at most and only seven in the tactical missions, to defend the planet...which happens to be Mars. The elements of the game most closely resemble Apocalypse, with a split soldier/scientist/tech personnel system, but there is one noteable absence: interceptions. Enemies do not arrive by air typically in Afterlight, and even if they did conducting major repairs on your lone aircraft isn't possible, so it's much too valuable to risk that way. Whereas Aftermath was short on actual need for tactics, Afterlight will respond reasonably well to your efforts to play it as if it were really a squad-based game. In dealing with the heavier enemies things can feel a bit Napeoleonic (how many squad-based games are there where you form a firing line that often?) but splitting up into fireteams of two or three for an X-COM style sweep is both quite possible without dying horribly and even frequently useful. Afterlight offers things the other games did not. Cenega layed off the ridiculous weapons selection for this game, opting instead for an X-COM-like simplicity and the possiblity of two tiers of upgrades and a few different ammo types, allowing customization to the task without much sorting through a mountain of guns. You can also command aliens for the first time, your old Reticulan foes or even "true" Martians. And you can build your own robotic drones to offer your troops heavy support in the field; not as impressive as X-COM's tanks or SWS since they don't stand up to fire well, but just as powerfully armed. You can also recover damaged Martian drones from the field and eventually repair them, though your own offer greater versatility and protection. As if in answer to the prayers of the beleagured commanders of all the X-COM games, there are night missions...and real honest to god night-vision or thermal imaging gear for your troops, letting you fight in darkness with confidence for the first time. There is a variety of sensors to detect your foes with as well, letting you track them by anything from their metal weapons to their scent. All in all, Afterlight is a worthy successor to Apocalypse or the other games of the X-COM series, and I highly recommend it.
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