Saturday Morning Gaming: Troubleshooter
Rating Games Theory:
Like, what’s the best way to rate a game? Anyone who has paid attention to the various controversies on video game sites knows that the scale really only applies to the games that don’t have connections (“oh, this dinky indy game got an 8? It must be pretty good!”) and there is a different scale for The Big Guys (“Doom 3 got an 8.5? Hoo boy. It must be awful.”) and so you have to get really good at reading between the lines.
I, personally, think that the best way to rate a game is to explain the expectations that you need to have going into it. Like, “If you like racing games, this one will please the heck out of you! If you don’t like racing games, this one won’t change your mind” versus “I don’t care if you don’t like racing games. You should try this one. Things blow up.”
I’ve never been tempted to play a Madden game, for example. They look gorgeous! But… meh. It’s football. That said, Cyberball 2072 is a football game that I have dumped more quarters into than any other game. I would recommend Cyberball 2072 to people who don’t particularly enjoy sports games. (Heck, it might even be a way to explain football to people who find the sport opaque. “Remember when you were playing the Denver Flash and you kept using the play called ‘Eclipse’ and it let you pick between giving the ball to the running back or tossing it to one of the wide receivers? That’s what they just did.” “OOOOOH!!!”)
The Strategy Role Playing Game (or SRPG) is one of those genres that I never had much love for until XCom (the new one) came out. That game was one of those rare games that not only appealed to the people who love the genre, but it was one that opened the genre to people who weren’t previously fans of it. Move a squad around a board, pick up cover, shoot at the aliens who are also moving around the board, picking up cover, and shooting at you.
Now I am in a place where I see an SRPG and think “oooh!, that looks awesome!” instead of “oh, another game that may as well be a Madden”.
Which brings me to Troubleshooter. Troubleshooter is for people who loved XCom 2. There. I mean, I don’t want to call it a *CLONE* but if someone else did, I probably wouldn’t argue with them.
So… what’s different? First off, there’s magic in this universe (that said, it’s magic that works exactly like tech did in XCom… what’s the difference between a healing potion and a medkit? What’s the difference between Magic Missile and a sniper shot?).
The setting is different: instead of having a setting of “Alien Invasion”, the setting is more like an exceptionally cheerful Mega City One. You are a “Troubleshooter” (think “Judge Dredd”), you are a specialized police-adjacent crime-fighter in a city that has more crime than any other city on earth. It is your job to pacify these criminals. But while XCom had this “if we don’t fight back against the aliens, the human race is *DOOMED*” grimdark seriousness going on, Troubleshooter is vaguely cheerful. Yay! We’re fighting crime!
So even as you’re, like, “pacifying” people you’ve got this weird optimism thing going on and so the game manages to be darker than XCom by being cheerful about what it’s doing.
Another major change is that XCom had more-or-less interchangeable squad members who had specialized abilities. Every Squaddie Sharpshooter was like every other Squaddie Sharpshooter. You could make different Sharpshooter builds and you could have two exceptionally different Colonel Sharpshooters, but they all followed a similar template. Well, in Troubleshooter, you have individual heroes that are all unique.
Albus is your swordsman, Sion is your mage. Irene is your tank. Anne is your healer. And so on. You will recognize each set of abilities and each archetype as you use each character. Oh, this guy is the Ranger, that guy is the sniper, she’s the heavy, she’s the medic.
Where it is also different is in the story. There is a *LOT* of story. You could summarize XCom pretty simply. “Alien Invasion, we’re fighting back.”
Troubleshooter has a Visual Novel thing going on. There are friendships and relationships and people are haunted by guilt and oh, jeez, they’re still talking. In XCom, you had to worry about your guys getting shot. In Troubleshooter, you have to worry about your guys being sad. You know. In between “pacifying” criminals.
The combat has some additional mechanics… there’s an exhaustion mechanic now and you won’t always be able to attack (similar enough to needing to reload, I guess) and there are some differences between Troubleshooter and XCom insofar as XCom would allow you to move twice (or run) and go 2X distance. Troubleshooter has the first move go X distance and the second move is 60% X. In XCom, you could choose which of your squaddies you wanted to move next. In Troubleshooter, it’s your guy’s turn and you can’t have someone else do something first until you do something (and go to the back of the line).
There’s also an ability to play online, I guess, but I haven’t explored it. I go for the single-player experience… but if you were hoping to go head to head with someone in XCom, Troubleshooter will let you do that.
All that to say, if you loved XCom and you hunger for more XCom, Troubleshooter is a fun game and has enough that is different to feel fresh and enough that is the same that it will scratch your itch in a way that Chimera Squad perfectly failed to. If you liked XCom but wished it was more like a Visual Novel, this game was *MADE* for you.
So… what are you playing?
(Featured image is the menu screen of Troubleshooter. Screenshot taken by the author.)