Nuclear Dawn is a Source-based FPS/RTS hybrid, the first commercial project from Dutch indie developer InterWave Studios, aiming to offer the best of both genres without watering down either one. It follows the convention of similar titles including Savage and Natural Selection, which see a team of first-person combatants taking to the field as a strategic commander watches over them, building structures, researching technology, and so on. Such conflict rages between two factions -- the Empire and the Consortium -- in the form of an endless struggle for precious resources in several post-apocalyptic wastelands modeled after real-world locations. The game is available now on Steam for $25, but is it worth the price of admission? Read on and find out!
Being a multiplayer-focused title, the entire game of Nuclear Dawn is currently based around a 32-player skirmish mode called Warfare. Each team is tasked with destroying the otherís command bunker, which is one of the very few structures you start out with. One person applies to become the commander and takes his place in the bunker, while everyone else sets off to acquire resources from the various nodes scattered around the environment. Theyíre distributed evenly across the map and come in three flavors: tertiary, secondary, and primary. Tertiary are the smallest and most plentiful, being quick to capture but providing the least resources. The opposite is true for Primary -- only one of these exists per map, smack dab in the middle, and the struggle over who controls it will make up the majority of each match. Lock it down and you are well on your way to victory.
While the infantry take the fight to the enemy and capture resources, the Commander is tasked with supporting them by raising structures and researching upgrades, making sure to spend the money wisely as it rolls in. His interface functions much like a standard real-time strategy game, with a scrollable overhead camera view and build menu with keyboard hotkeys. The only difference is that the combat units in Nuclear Dawn
is autonomous, though you can still issue orders to squads of players for bonus points. While expanding across the map to provide forward spawn points and resupply stations, itís a good idea to build defenses, as well. Not only can turrets make a big difference on the front line, theyíre also needed at your home base, especially since you are not safe from harm while inside the command bunker (it has no doors).
Both commanders are able to project their power from the relative safety of their ivory towers, beyond the ability to build turrets to fortify positions. Research the proper technology and three command abilities become available, but with a per-use resource cost. These allow you to heal friendly soldiers within a small radius, deploy a barrage of mortar shells, or blanket an area in poisonous gas, all on demand. The birdís eye view with which commanderís view the battlefield is an asset, as well; simply turning it toward the opponentís side of the map will reveal enemy positions and help to determine weaknesses in their defenses.