Natural Selection 2

Natural Selection 2 was released today, after years of vaporware status. Heller was nice enough to his his Columbian cartel connections to land me a free copy.

It’s a multiplayer-only hybrid RTS/FPS game with asymetric combat. You play as either space marines or aliens, and it does sort of feel like the Aliens movies a bit aesthetically.

Every team has a commander, and 7-11 other players. The commander gets a top-down view and plays the game like an RTS game. He can see where his troops are, order medical supplies and ammo for them, designate what will be built and where, conduct research, and issue orders for them to follow. There are resource and base nodes along the map the the teams to fight over. The rest of the team has to actually go out and execute his orders. The commander can mark where something can be built, but the soldiers have to actually go out there and set it up.

As far as asymetric combat - rather than every other shooter where everyone just runs around and shoots guns at each other, the marines and aliens have very different playstyles. The marines are pretty much the normal FPS class. The aliens have 5 different alien forms each with their own role. In general, the marines rely on brute force - heading straight for the enemy, unleashing a lot of lead. The aliens generally have to be stealthier - they have the ability to climb on walls/ceiling or fly, they have night vision (and can attack the power in sectors to knock the lights out), and they’re very fast.

Playing as the marines it almost feels like a very good survival horror game - aliens swarming around from everywhere. The atmosphere of the game itself is very well done - it can be downright creepy sometimes. Playing the aliens so far has been a lot harder for me, but I’ll get better in time as I learn the maps and playstyles better, but it’s definitely a different kind of challenge.

It’s a PC exclusive and a proper PC game, which is always a huge relief to me. The multiplayer doesn’t use some retarded console matchmaking, the controls are responsive, the gameplay is fast and tight. It’s also a very good looking game - good design. Not once have I had to say “oh why did they design it that stupid way… oh right, consoles” as I do with 80% of other games nowadays. It also seems to have a very good community - helpful people, very coordinated with voice comms, team players. It also has extensive modding support although I haven’t played any mods yet of course.

I very rarely recommend buying a game at full price, what with being able to get a gazillion games for almost nothing via digital distribution, but if you want to learn with the rest of the community (although lots of players preordered and played the beta), the fact that it’s only $25, and wanting to support PC games that actually play like PC games, I’d have to say if it looks good to you, it’ll be worth it.

Here’s the launch trailer and here’s a video overview that explains the mechanics of the game.

There’s also a 4 pack on steam for $75, so if you can split the cost with some friends it gets down to $18.75 each.

I have a huuuuge weakness for multiplayer FPS games with playable leapy crawly melee critters. I’ve done just about all of them, I even signed up with the super-niche Gamestorm service just for Aliens Online.

But I’m leery about this one, because of, among other things, Nuclear Dawn. The FPS/RTS thing, as promising an idea as it sounds on paper, causes a pretty big split in gameplay, and seems utterly impossible to make work in a public game setting. The commander role winds up fairly trivial, because when you get right down to it, you’re not really -doing- anything but following a basic flow chart, which leads to the inevitable result that nobody experienced really wants to get stuck with the job. The problem with that is that there’s no point in even playing if there’s some clueless newbie in it, because while the flow chart isn’t complex or interesting, it does still need to be followed.

I’ve seen some the streams of tournament games of NS2’s beta, and it looked to be repeating the same core design problems as Nuclear Dawn. Have they managed to strike a better balance in the last few months? I mean, I’ll probably get it anyway, because buggies, but I’m expecting disappointment.

Also, did they ever improve the melee mechanics? The game’s pacing looked heavily towards the twitch end of the spectrum, which is all fine and dandy for general shooter purposes, but when you throw speedy critters with melee attacks into the mix, especially once latency is involved, it’s just a recipe for endless headache when the timing for those attacks is purely manual. Especially since, last I saw, they weren’t using any sort of client-side hit detection for anything.

FWIW here is what one reviewer has to say about this:

I’ve never played Nuclear Dawn, so I can’t address the specific similarities, but I did spend years playing NS1, so I can make some comments form that standpoint.

Regarding the commander, having a good one can make all the difference between winning and losing. Although the commander role is somewhat reduced in NS2 (in NS1, they were responsible for dropping every upgrade, including weapons and jetpacks/heavy armor), they still need to deploy all buildings, as well as drop health packs and ammo to marines in the field. In addition, the commander isn’t restricted to one player throughout the course of the game. They can technically swap in or out as needed, including leaving the team without a commander at all for a few critical seconds if absolutely necessary. (As an example, maybe they need to hop out of the command chair to save the only remaining spawn portal.) Trust me, I’ve known some players who always volunteered for the job and it often made all the difference in the world.

The other thing about commanding is that unlike in a RTS game, the units actually can give feedback more complex than “we’re under attack!” They can actually inform the commander about what sort of buildings they need, what the enemy forces are, where they’re going and so on. They can also advise the commander about what sort of upgrades are most needed, so there’s still a team-effort.

As far as the melee mechanics are concerned, I didn’t get much of a chance to play aliens last night, but it seemed to be fine. A large part of alien gameplay is stealth. Being spotted at range is usually a death sentence, so it’s better to get the drop on the marines, and get that first hit in before they notice you. In that regards it was pretty similar to NS1, which didn’t have too much problem with hit detection. At least, not that I remember. :wink:

FWIW (and this is from memory of something I recently read but cannot find the link) I saw a post or article that mentioned in Beta the aliens won about 48% of the matches and the marines won 52% (or something close to that) which suggests however the mechanics work the balance appears to be pretty good.

Wow, it looks really tempting.

Sounds a lot like Savage, which I really enjoyed. I’ll probably give it a try.

I was on Gamestorm for airwarrior. I wish they’d come out with a new game like that - I know there’s aces high but it’s obscure and pointlessly difficult to use.

I haven’t played enough to have an idea about how the overall balance will go like that. I can say that I wanted to like nuclear dawn in theory, and played for maybe an hour, but just couldn’t get into it. The gameplay just wasn’t there - it just wasn’t fun.

NS2, on the other hand, hooked me immediately. I don’t know if NS2 has a better commander/soldier balance, or the overall balance is right, but what NS2 has that ND was lacking was fundamentally being a fun game to play.

I’ll have to play a bunch more to get a feel for the issues you’re concerned with.

With more play, I really like the game. The commander role isn’t simplistic - there seem to be real meaningful choices to make, and beyond just the general build and research orders, you set the overall strategy for your team. There are different ways the game can play out based on how the commander plays it. When you get a very good and communicative commander, you feel like you’re part of a well oiled unit.

This is a weird compliment to pay a game, but this game feels like it could’ve come out 10 years ago. I mean, it’s technically a lot more advanced than games were 10 years ago, which is great, but in terms of gameplay. It doesn’t dumb everything down for mass appeal. The action is fast and unforgiving. Communication and teamwork is extremely important. The game actually plays in all 3 dimensions. There aren’t retarded compromise decisions on the controls. It completely sidesteps all of the hundreds of little design issues that we’ve come to learn to accept due to multiplatform development and reminds you how good PC gaming could be when it focuses on being what it can be.

Because of that, the community has been great so far. Very communicative, often very helpful, much more mature on average than most games. I suspect the game will have a long life because of that too. Good community, proper server architecture (it’s so fucking annoying that it’s so rare these days - we somehow perfected client-server gaming relationships in like 1998 and apparently like Atlantis we’ve just lost that to the ages.

Support this. It’s a real PC game with a real PC community. It is a complete outlier in the trend towards what gaming is becoming.

So, as someone who was already fan of the original, I’m actually really blown away by how fun the second is. We’ve played a lot of games now with Dopers, and I think everyone’s starting to pick up the mechanics. SenorBeef has pretty clearly taken a shine to the commander role, and people are starting to branch out to learn both aliens and marine roles.

From the sound of things, even those who just start out have been finding things to be a lot of fun. I can definitely recommend this one without reservation. (…as though I couldn’t before… ;))

Well, more gushing. We played for like 5 hours straight last night and it was awesome. We had a few games where 5 or 6 of us made up half the marine team and I was commander. Everyone followed orders and communicated and it was one of the most interesting gaming experiences I’ve had.

Commanding is intense, stressful. You need to manage the overall strategy of the game - tell your guys where you’re going to be aiming to cut the other side off, where you’ll be looking to expand, when to flank, when to attack head on. You need to keep all the buildings up and healthy, expand, and do research. You need to respond to requests for health and ammo in the field. You need to listen to what they’re telling you and verbally communicate so everyone is on the same page. And you know that the success or failure of your team is utterly dependent on you - if you fuck up, you’ve got 10 other people dissapointed. I actually feel mentally exhausted at the end of a long game.

But yeah, it was great. I was pulling people off the front line to go fix power junctions in our rear, assisting people hunting down sneaky skulks harassing between our bases, dropping welders and giving people directions to go support or mechs, finding flanking opportunities based on the force layout, dropping enough medpacks for some of the aliens to start raging in chat. And it all worked. Partly because SDMB players made up half the team, but in this game the community is generally very good and people are playing for the team - even pubs will listen to my orders, even if they’re relatively boring (pulling them off the front lines to go patch up some sentry guns in some corner somewhere). There’s more teamwork in this game than in any game I’ve ever played - and I’ve been community-building in teamwork based games for most of 2 decades now.

Downloading the game now. Should have it in an hour or so.

I am a bit concerned at the difficulty level/learning curve people keep mentioning. It sounds like people are cool and tolerant of newbs to get them up to speed but still…(I have heard a newb jumping into the command role is heavily frowned upon)

This is not to say I like or want simplistic games (far from it) and I am glad this is a PC-only title meant to leverage all the PC has to offer. It’s just that I feel bad when I am running around like a goof and getting the team killed. Is there any kind of tutorial single-player mode to get a handle on some aspects first?

There’s no training mode, but there are well made tutorial videos on youtube. Some are linked from within the training section of the game itself.

There are servers that specifically list themselves as being rookie friendly - they’ll show up as green in your server browser. Start on those.

Start playing marine - it’s much more straightforward and simpler than playing aliens. Don’t try being a commander until you’re pretty confident you know what’s going on.

Ask your commander what he wants you to do. You can make yourself useful outside of front line combat by just building the stuff the commander needs done. Otherwise just stick with other marines - cover them, see what they do.


Have the game downloaded.

Will go check out some training videos and maybe a few pub games.

Anybody else having a problem where they get alt tabbed to desktop every few minutes? It doesn’t disconnect me, it just acts like I’ve pressed Alt + Tab. I can go right back in by pressing the game icon.

Could it have to do with video settings? Any idea which?

I’ll probably pick this up tonight.

I was trying to organize people into a 4 pack to save you guys some money, but people kept telling me “nah I don’t want to bother to organize anything, I’ll just grab it now”

So just a heads up, if you want to save a few bucks ($7.50) specifically, go ahead and organize a group buy if you want. I know crimethink (same name on here and steam) and possibly zembo were interested. I think I’m forgetting someone.

Anyway, you can contact each other, use the thread, or just tell me on steam that you’re interested in a group buy and I’ll try to hook you up. Someone has to be the buyer, though, and pay the $75 up front and have everyone else reimburse them via paypal.

If that’s not worth the hassle, just go ahead and buy it, just figured I’d help people if they were borderline about buying it.

Does the alien side have a command role too, or are they strictly playing as individuals?

Both sides have a commander. That’s actually one of the changes from the original game.

As far as the concerns about the learning curve, don’t sweat it. As people were finding out last night, you can be a huge help to your team even if you’re just running around behind the front lines repairing buildings and securing resource nodes.