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ARMA Tactics

By Mokman12-11-2013
Bis18marck70 (editor)
Toast (editor)
ARMA Tactics

The Defence

Bohemia Interactive
Bohemia Interactive
Indie, Strategy
Release Date:

The Prosecution

Intel Core 2 Duo 2.2 GHz
AMD Athlon 64 X2 4600+
Nvidia GeForce 7600
AMD Radeon X1600
1 GB
750 MB

The Case

So, ARMA. Undoubtedly one of the more unique offerings available to the PC crowd, the series that has won as many hearts as it has driven mad. With insanely detailed controls, mind-bogglingly realistic physics, and general insanity mixed in with hyper-realistic military simulation, it isn't even a surprise that it's being used as the basis for many military simulators worldwide. Now, turn your minds to a different sort of beast - XCOM. Or to be more general, any isometric tactical game. Now imagine the two of those married together in an unholy union. Done? What you have now, this strange, terrifying creature, called ARMA Tactics. Combining the intense tactical complexity of ARMA with the brain-tickling satisfaction of turn-based isometric strategy - a good idea or train-wreck in waiting?

The Trial

The first thing you realize is that you're definitely playing an ARMA game, albeit one with slightly more story than you would be used to. In fact, there's a substantial amount of story to be found within the game, what with the classic scenario of a new guy in the squad being played out quite well, without the forced drama of many current-generation shooters. However, the sheer difficulty of landing shots and the pressing nature of the fog of war, really does bring out two aspects present within both the aforementioned series and genre. Adding to that is the glacial rate at which your people move about the map, picking off enemies as they move down the street.

The inclusion of pop-up XP and damage counters is both interesting and jarring.

The inclusion of pop-up XP and damage counters is both interesting and jarring.

Yet in true ARMA fashion, it is difficult to get angry at the game for its pace, not when it sets up incredibly tense moments where you would find yourself just short of reaching the next bit of cover, stranding you in the middle of a road covered by two heavy machine-guns.

Unfortunately, this brings me to one problem I have with the game. There is an obvious incongruous lack of lethality in comparison to both ARMA and general isometric turn-based games, especially ones such as XCOM. A puzzling choice that detracts from the theme and mood of the game, it leads to some unwanted results such as a total loss in immersion when one of your troops is able to eat a whole machine gun clip and still soldier on in the fight, albeit at red health - perhaps they would have been much better served to place in at least limb-crippling features found within ARMA, which would have somewhat alleviated the problem. Otherwise, this smacks of a lack of confidence in the gamers by developers, unwilling to believe that they would have been able to handle a brutal level of difficulty - which as fans of either aspect that makes up ARMA Tactics would have been. Ultimately though, the gameplay is still a fun romp, one that definitely has its moments and is able to stand alongside other isometric turn-based tactical games without much shame.

Yet there is another aspect that ARMA Tactics surprisingly manages to emulate - the RPG element of the game. As with many, if not most isometric tactical turn-based games, the RPG elements that carry on over between maps are absolutely vital to the continuing enjoyment of the game, ensuring that it doesn't grow stale. This then is present within ARMA Tactics, albeit to a lesser extent than say, XCOM games, but it remains a surprisingly pleasant addition. My complaint is that there are too little weapons to look forward to, and while the unlockable guns are fun, such as the sniper and the shotgun changing the way you would play, they aren't enough to keep the game fresh. Still, the buying of much-needed goods with limited resources adds a layer of depth to the game, forcing players to make vital choices between grenades or med-kits.

Few things feel more satisfying than seeing your squad in a perfectly tactical position.

Few things feel more satisfying than seeing your squad in a perfectly tactical position.

Now, as for the visuals, I was going into this game fully expecting sub-par graphics at best, with uninspired visual designs. And while the choice of setting, the Middle East, pretty much forced the latter, the former was surprisingly not what I expected. Instead, the graphics were more than decent for a game of this stature and price point, and the environments were pretty atmospherically proficient, with excellent lighting blending in with the fog of war mechanics. Little details bring out the love put into the character models, while small objects litter the maps, bringing them to life. The audio is decent, with realistic-sounding gunfire marking the matter of most import within the game, and explosions rocking the map every once in a while. The effects could have been done better though, as grenade explosions as well as melee kills were dull affairs, rather than the exciting events they should have been.

However, there was one huge misstep that the game made, one that it struggles continuously to recover from. That is an incredibly lousy UI and floaty controls, utilizing the horrible choice of movement circles added to drag-and-click in order to move troops about. Accusations may be laid at the feet of the casual tablet scene for forcing such an impractical and clunky control system onto a perfectly decent game, potentially ruining it for those without the patience to control an isometric turn-based strategy game without a proper grid.

...and then you turn a corner to face six enemy militants toting AK-47s.

...and then you turn a corner to face six enemy militants toting AK-47s.

Lastly, the multiplayer aspect of the game is quite vital, yet it suffers somewhat from having a relatively low amount of players - something that its parent game, ARMA 3, doesn't. This is quite a tragic turn of events then, as the multiplayer is indeed a tense affair, with finger-biting situations being generated constantly as your troops play a lethal game of cat and mouse combined with urban operations, sniping and gunning your way to tactical success.

The Verdict

Ultimately then, ARMA Tactics is not a major offering by the developers, neither is it anything innovative. However, it is definitely of interest to fans of the series and those who wish to experience a marriage of hyper-realistic combat simulators with turn-based tactical gameplay. My main gripe with the game is its sparseness, a shallow nature to the game that definitely doesn't do its parent game any justice whatsoever. As a fun, quick romp through a few missions and as a multiplayer battle of wits between two people though, it does do decently well, able to stand alongside other games of its ilk without looking bad in comparison.

Case Review

  • The Feel: It captures the tense, tactical feeling of ARMA despite using an absolutely separate gameplay system.
  • The Sight: Graphics and visuals are surprisingly good, considering what it could have been.
  • The Sound: Audio is decent, but with a lack of variation and only a few types of sounds to keep players entertained.
  • The Oomph: Effects are pretty dull - when a grenade blast is yawn-inducing, something is wrong.
  • The Depth: Or lack thereof, in this case. Doesn’t do ARMA’s deep gameplay much justice, unfortunately.
Score: 3.5/5
For those who like ARMA and Isometric Turn-Based games.


I was not sure what to think of ARMA Tactics when I first heard of it on PC. It was a game that was initially released on the mobile market, and is a turn-based close combat game. It seems to take the best of the ARMA games series which can only be a good thing. The game is set in a similar style to the older XCOM games, which being a big fan of, made me very happy to give this title some playtime.

When you start the game you have to complete the tutorial. It is done as the intro mission, the combat, and movement explained, before you can carry out the objective. This works well, and helps to understand the fundamentals of the game. When you start the actual game, you take control of a four-man Special Forces team. Each team member starts with enough points to make two moves, before control shifts to the next member. When all four team members have moved, then the turn goes to the enemy who makes his play. Tactics in this game are key and you have a lot of control over the strategy that you want to implement in order to successfully complete the missions and get your squad home safe.

Visually the game is your typical overhead perspective view with no fancy graphics. It is clearly just a port from the mobile version, it looks dated, but it suits this style of game. Unfortunately, as much I like the game, there are a few bad points, which spoil it. The controls seem more suited to a touch screen, as the mouse does not give precise enough control. The cover system does not seem to work great, as often I found myself being shot through a wall when crouching, which ironically defeats the purpose of taking cover. I suppose, particularly in this case, the old saying "you get what you pay for" is true, but I will be sticking to XCOM.

Score: 3/5


To me, Bohemia Interactive represents a niche of gaming that, while often clumsily executed, offers a completely unique perspective on military shooters. The ARMA games illustrate this perfectly. Heavy and sluggish, they return the favor through the one engrossing moment after the next. ARMA Tactics is a spin-off to the ARMA series in almost every conceivable way. It’s no longer a first person military simulator, but instead an isometric, turn based tactics game originally made for tablets, but now ported over to the PC. Cool! I love the classic X-Com and Full Spectrum Warrior games. Having Bohemia turn its attention to the genre can only be good, right?

Well sadly, none of the mechanics that make the ARMA games so great are to be found here. What we have here is an even more dumbed-down and shallow experience than what 2012’s X-Com “reboot”, Enemy Unknown, had to offer. While one shouldn’t expect it to have controllable vehicles or anything like that, at least the realism and lethality that ARMA is known for should be in place. But no. Most any enemy can take multiple hits to the body before going down - which means shootouts between two opponents can take ten turns as they both miss clear shots. The cover system feels pointless, as you can get hit through the thickest walls at really weird angles. The game’s pacing is frustratingly slow. Yes, even for an ARMA game. Your soldiers can only move a couple of meters, and that drains both of their action points for that turn, leaving them vulnerable to enemy fire. The result is that missions can up to 100 or even more turns, which is just ridiculous. To top it off, the visuals are simply unacceptable, even for such a cheap game. Full Spectrum Warrior looks about as good as this, and it was released nine years ago. The sound design is poor, the voicework is hilariously bad, and there is a complete lack of destructibility in the levels.

ARMA Tactics at least has some interesting RPG elements, like how your characters level up and specialize over time. It’s not nearly as fleshed out as you might want it to be, but it’s enough to potentially keep you at least slightly entertained if you don’t mind the slow and mundane gameplay to begin with. Another interesting thing is that you can earn credits used to purchase various equipment between missions - which makes no sense since you’re not brought back to HQ between most missions - but it at least adds some depth and player-choice. In the end, you can really feel that this is intended to be sold on app stores for touch screen type hardware. It looks and sounds really bad for a PC game released in 2013, has incredibly mundane gameplay, and a serious lack of drive to motivate players onward. Worse yet, it brings with it none of the stuff that made ARMA great. You’re better off buying another isometric tactics game instead - even one of the older ones, like Full Spectrum Warrior.

Score: 2.5/5
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