#155 Laser Squad

Posted: 6th November 2019 by Jeroen in Games
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823rd played so far

Genre: Strategy
Platform: Various
Year of Release: 1988
Developer: Target Games
Publisher: Blade Software

I’ve grouped the original Rebelstar and Laser Squad together – fairly primitive seeming tactical games that haven’t quite reached the deep mechanics UFO: Enemy Unknown brings to the genre. They look like interesting puzzle boxes, if a bit difficult to figure out without a manual. I’ll need to see how well I’ll be able to figure this one out.

Our Thoughts

It’s hard for me not to compare this game to Rebelstar, as this feels like the evolution of that. You’re still going out in a larger squad, completing a mission that isn’t explained well in the game itself. Laser Squad pulls it off a lot better though, and setting it up as a midway point between Rebelstar and X-Com, giving you more information and a better looking game than the former, but not having the polish and information the latter has. I played the PC port, which probably helped with that anyway.

On the other hand,t he game has me feeling somewhat annoyed from the start. You start by buying the equipment for the crew The UI for this is slow and frustrating and since there are no presets , you have to go through the slog every time. Even worse is when you need specific equipment, like grenades, but don’t bring them with you because you didn’t know. It means going back and restarting the process from scratch – not exactly the most fun thing to do. It makes for a frustrating start and having some handholding here would have made a big difference for everything that followed.

When in the game, it works quite well – you move around, can ready shots or fire when you get an opportunity. A lot of it seems to be setting up waiting for others to come into view. I never quite pulled this off, in part because of one big issue. When learning a game like this, especially when in turn based mode, you spend quite a bit of time figuring out what you can do – how far can you walk, can you get around this corner, all that sort of stuff. The best games do this with an undo option, but at the very least you don’t get charged until you actually do it. Not in Laser Squad – several times I lost my AP because I couldn’t do something, but the game charged me anyway. It’s possible the messaging here wasn’t the clearest, but I do blame the game for not being that straight forward.

Final Thoughts

As a stepping stone, Laser Squad feels like an interesting game to play. The turn based strategy features didn’t come out of nowhere, and the X-Com series, even if it didn’t directly draw on this, were influenced by the same ideas this game has. At the same time, the UI is obtuse and it’s all a bit too big and complicated, while the open missions never give you a time to build to it. It might not have been as easy to add to the game, but this is too hardcore for the casual player to enjoy.