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Review by: Bob Mandel
Published: December 30, 1999
Sometimes, even veteran gamers, after many years of playing everything in sight, can be thoroughly fooled by first impressions. When I received Tanktics in the mail, it seemed to have everything going for it: The developer is DMA Design, creator of the fun Lemmings and Wild Metal Country; the visuals and sound effects are cute beyond words; and the animation is full of whimsy. However, once I began to experience the title at length, my impressions changed.
The accurate subtitle of Tanktics is “A strategy game in sheep’s clothing.” While there is an element of humor attempted, there is also considerable truth to that statement. Fundamentally, this is a classic real-time strategy offering with an emphasis on military combat. While not much of a storyline is provided, the basic idea is that you need to create an army of tanks and instruct them to defend your base and attack those of the enemy. This type of release normally appeals to a more sophisticated crowd, the ones who like to make complex tactical decisions regarding their next move. Yet the audio and visual effects appear to target the novice player or even younger audiences, who usually cannot handle most challenges in conventional RTS titles, let alone the nearly insuperable obstacles posed here. Thus, there is an inherent warped signal, or disguised intent, in the focus of this effort.
In Tanktics, you move through four environments, or campaigns, including Stone Age, Medieval, Modern, and Future. Unfortunately, the gameplay in each is virtually identical, even though the visuals differ and the over 25 weapons change as you move forward in time. There are six scenarios within each era that follow familiar patterns. You never have a choice of the scenario or era you play until you complete them in succession, as you start out having access only to the first Stone Age scenario with the rest locked. Given that many players will never grind through all the levels in each world, this restricts the ability to enjoy the whole range of settings.
Tanktics blends the real-time strategy genre with the construction simulation genre. The gameplay requires you to construct tanks piece by piece rather than access them fully assembled. You must tell them when and where to enter a level, command them to destroy Receivers–equipment needed to direct enemy tanks–and, at the end of each world, have them bring an enemy Transmitter back to your base. You do the construction using a magnet that drops pieces onto the tanks; since everything must be done in a particular order, it is quite easy to make major mistakes, especially accidentally pulling the heads off tanks during play. One of the major deficiencies from a construction standpoint is that you cannot add new weapons to existing tanks after they fight for a while, so if you get hit and lose your firepower, you have to start from scratch all over again.
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