The latest release from Blindflug Studios is the PC adaption of the hugely successful mobile game First Strike.
Picture yourself, the leader of one of the great superpowers, America, Russia, Western Europe, China. You can see it before you, your entire country, your neighbours, the seas surrounding you. The world is at peace. Then, tearing through the bright blue skies comes a shadow, a shadow that extends over your lands blotting out the sun, as it gets closer the image becomes clearer; that cloud is not one singular mass, it is a thousand nuclear warheads heading directly for you. Do you strike back?
That is the purpose of First Strike: Final Hour; you are a nuclear superpower, you determine the path your nation takes with regard to armaments, expansion, diplomacy and research and you must play the game in such a way as to be the ‘last man standing’ a phrase that in this game can be all too literal.
Watch the First Strike: Final Hour trailer below:
When I was asked to play this game I was initially reticent; since I first saw the movie Wargames as a child I have been searching for a simulation where I could play the ‘Global Thermonuclear War’ that the supercomputer WOPR (War Operation Plan Response) played, it has been one of the most frustrating searches. I have found nothing that comes close to the way that looked and felt, so when this game had finished downloading I was wary.
I was wrong.
First Strike: Final Hour is an exceptional game, both tactical and suitable for quick play, layered with subtlety but also with enough explosions to keep all players happy. The graphics have a retro feel to them, you have to physically turn the globe floating before you to target other players and to see the impact of your strikes. The gameplay is simple enough requiring only the mouse to play; this simplicity is however deceptive.
As you initially start the game you are given the ability to play as only three superpowers; the USA, Western Europe and North Korea with a rising scale of difficulty. The objective of the game is made more complex by regional relationships and starting status so, for example, during a playthrough with the USA I was almost immediately subjected to an attack from Brazil though fortunately I had enough of a standing nuclear deterrent to quell the attack. However, during my time playing as Western Europe I was subjected to a similar attack from Iran but was unable to mount a sufficient response. In an interview (to be published shortly) with the creator of the game Jeremy Spillmann he informed me that the difficulty and amount of stored weapons was based on the status of the world during 2014. This would seem accurate as you have next to no hope of victory with North Korea unless you are an expert player.
Diplomacy is an interesting addition and difference from the mobile version. The process works by creating non-attack pacts with other nations in order to give yourself more time to complete research, expansion and development of your defences. The issue I had with this was that whilst it was useful to have more time to develop I felt that a defensive pact would have been more helpful and would have created a more realistic theatre of war.
The use of research trees is also key to the game, whilst it can be tempting to simply go for the biggest weapon the AI is intuitive enough to be doing the same; what you have to do is think smart and play smarter. I found that by pursuing defensive technologies I was able to stand a greater chance of winning; with better defences I had more time to research and eventually was able to pick off my enemies one by one.
View some First Strike: Final Hour screenshots in our gallery:
That is another facet of this game, the AI is very intuitive and aggressive. The other superpowers will exploit any and all weaknesses you have to their advantage. They don’t just want to win, they want to annihilate you. The key to countering this is in the expansion process; the further you expand, the more you can progress and the harder it is for your opponents to eliminate you entirely.
Overall, First Strike: Final Hour is a fantastically well designed and inherently playable game with so much to offer both casual players and seasoned tacticians. Playing it I was transported back to the height of the Cold War and played a key role in so many of the movies and TV shows I watched of that time. Final Hour has the right balance between strategy and raw energy but also has a deeper meaning; when I finally won the game and after my initial celebration I saw that once beautiful blue pearl floating in space now charred, glowing and black, the worlds’ population at minimum decimated and most of the land uninhabitable. I realised at that moment that they hadn’t made the unwinnable war winnable, they had just shown how futile it is to even consider that a possibility.
I love this game, but in the immortal words of Joshua; ‘A strange game. The only winning move is not to play. How about a nice game of chess?’
First Strike: Final Hour was reviewed using a digital code supplied by the publisher.
Publisher: Blindflug Studios Developer: Blindflug Studios Release Date: May 31, 2017 Reviewed On: PC/Steam