RAD Soldiers falls a bit short of being a truly ‘rad’ tactical experience
Strap on your helmet, soldier, we’re going to war! In RAD Soldiers, players are put in command of a tiny unit of recruits: to instruct them in battle, and lead the team on to victory in the Mysterious McGuffin Rockets war. The turn-based tactical action gameplay lends itself to some exciting confrontations and challenging standoffs, but a lack of heart and compelling multiplayer component prevent this title from firing on all cylinders.
A brief, effective tutorial sets the stage for the RAD Soldiers rules of war. Each level is divided on a grid of smaller squares, where you must delegate between positioning your recruits and commanding them to fire. The closer you can get to the enemy, the more damage points you will perform. Each of your soldiers has a limited amount of energy they can use in each turn though, whether moving in for the kill, ducking for cover, or firing their weapon. This is where the real strategy of RAD Soldiers kicks in: “If I stay put, can I take out that soldier on my next turn? Or is my health too low that I should probably retreat?” It’s a fantastic system that is simple to learn, but difficult to master.
Although the game looks and plays great, RAD Soldiers is a little lacking in its level design. Each of the different battle locations, from “Market” to “Bridge” to “City Center,” are so similar in visuals and layout that they tend to blend into one another in forgettable patterns and muddy colors. The characters also lack heart and personality, and are only there for their secondary special actions, such as throwing a frag grenade or dropping a health crate.
Despite the odd attempts at having quirky names like “Hipster Dave” or “Textbook Kate,” your squad members will feel more like pieces on a chess board, rather than living soldiers with their own character traits and idiosyncrasies. Luckily the menu designs are top-notch, and the touch screen controls are nearly flawless in execution. You pinch the screen to zoom in on your soldiers, or zoom out for a wider view of the frontline. Rotating the battlefield is also a cinch, by holding one finger on the screen and swiping in a circular motion with another, and it feels incredibly satisfying to do so.
The single player challenges are split between custom squad and fixed squad scenarios, which pit you up against an enemy team with varying abilities and playing styles. Each challenge is based around a primary objective like “Defend the rocket for 5 turns,” but they will almost always come down to who eliminates the other team first. Most players will be able to complete the easy challenges without too much trouble, but unless you’re willing to pay for better guns and additional recruits, you’ll be at an incredible disadvantage as you move into the medium and hard challenge tiers. The game uses a stingy ratio between the amount of coins you can earn from completing missions and the shelf price of items in the store. Rewards for leveling up are also so underwhelming (usually just a single RAD Buck), that their effects are barely felt until you rack up quite a few of them.
The multiplayer component lets you battle a friend online or face a random opponent from across the globe. Surprisingly, RAD Soldiers uses a “play at your own pace” model for its brand of competitive gameplay. After you submit your turn, you’re free to start another game or tackle some more single player challenges while you wait for your opponent to move (think Draw Something or Words with Friends). But by the time your opponent does make their move, it’s easy to forget whatever strategy you were using and it slows the game’s pace to a slow burn, rather than a fast-paced warzone.
At the end of the day, RAD Soldiers still offers smooth tactical action for the wartime enthusiast, and the turn-based gameplay functions on a high level of strategy and fun. But the game’s lack of inventiveness in level design fails to make the experience stand out from other tactical war games on the market.