In Vigilantes you become Sam Contino – a vigilante determined to rid Reiker City of violent crime gangs. This is a small squad, turn-based, combat heavy game. Sam collects allies, builds his base, and puts a beat-down on three gangs: the Mafia, the Survivalists and the Church of the Final Exodus. As you raid city blocks controlled by one of the gangs your squad battles a gang to the death (or to the knock-out) to loot the gang’s money, weapons and items.
[Sam Level 1 & Sam Level 17]
This review is based on completing the game after 20 hours of play. I bought the game when it was on sale for $7.50 (50% off) on Steam. The controls were intuitive if you have experience with turn-based squad level combat games. The game was very stable and I experienced no locks, freezes, corrupted saves or other problems with my new Falcon Northwest Talon. The art is traditional comic book style but not anime.
You start the game choosing your difficulty level and the general campaign length. I strongly recommend playing a regular game due to the combat system which I discuss later.
Through combat and other activities, Sam gains experience which can be used to improve various attributes and skills. His teammates stay one level behind Sam accruing a smaller amount of improvement points per level-up. Sam’s team maxes out at seven total members. A maximum of four can go into combat at a time including Sam. The others use investigation skills to determine gang presence in a city block, heal wounded comrades, and other base activities.
The game starts with each enemy faction having a leader and three lieutenants. The names and locations of these leaders are unknown. After playing Russian Roulette or administering beatings to captured faction minions, Sam and his crew start to identify and locate the gang leadership. If Sam’s Gang wipes out the four leaders of a gang, the gang becomes insignificant. Sam wins the game if his group wipes out all leadership of the three gangs terrorizing Reiker City.
Sam’s allies follow common meme’s from vigilante movies and books. Ray Case is a hard-boiled, film noire detective. There are two bent members of law enforcement who are determined to use any means necessary to stop the gangs from terrorizing Reiker City. There is a firebug Fireman who wants to incinerate criminals. Plus two civilians who have picked up weapons determined to mow down the opposition.
Weapons are melee, grenades, or firearms. All weapons take action points to use and individual weapon skill determines hit percentages. Sam goes on every combat mission, so players should build Sam’s combat skills. Since you can only take three team members on combat missions, some of your gang are better used as medics or investigators.
All game weapons can be used to kill or knock-out opponents. Setting the “kill switch” does more damage per hit. Using bladed weapons and even incendiary grenades to “wound” bothered me. Since I’ve done a lot of shooting and hunting over the years, it makes me wince when game designers invent a “shoot to wound” combat system.
Like most combat games with RPG elements, Sam’s allies have different motivations. Some hate one gang more than the others. Some don’t want to kill the enemy (unless a team mate is knocked out in battle). Others become happier if they go on a killing spree. Sam cannot maximize everyone’s happiness. But a happy team member gives Sam attribute boosts. Sam will be more tolerated by the police and most of his team if the group shoots, bashes, knifes, explodes and incinerates enemies “to wound.” But one ally becomes cranky if not allowed to occasionally kill members of one faction.
This is a very combat heavy game. The combat system is turn-based, squad level combat. Think X-COM Enemy Unknown or Jagged Alliance 2. The environment has cover which can lower accuracy from some (but not all) sides of the cardinal compass points. The map uses squares which are inferior to hexes.
Combat strategy is pretty simple. Take cover. Have over-watch with your ranged weapons. Use a blocker with lots of health and a melee weapon to keep your ranged shooters from being swarmed.
Unfortunately, the AI is weak. Your enemies tend to rush in one (or perhaps 2) avenues of attack. Enemies make poor use of the terrain. Enemies bunch up. And enemies do not concentrate on eliminating the blocker. As a result, instead of “smart” survivalists, cult members, or mafia the game combat is more like mindless zombies rushing the nearest enemies. Your foursome is outnumbered in every combat, but the enemy is so dumb that setting up kill zones is easy. Overall, I found the combat AI to be much weaker than the X-COM or Jagged Alliance series.
In sum, the game has good atmosphere. The incorporation of base improvement, weapon and armor upgrades, and leveling up different skills is well done. The architypes of Sam and his henchmen will feel familiar. But the combat leaves a lot to be desired – a bad thing for a combat heavy game.
Many may find the game unsuitable for children. The bad guys commit horrific crimes. The language is coarse. Captured gang members are beaten, forced to play Russian roulette, and given truth serum after every battle. Deadly weapons can be used to knock people “unconscious” in a fairly realistic world providing a bad example for weapons used to kill.
I enjoyed the game and do not regret spending 20 hours to free Reiker City from criminal gangs. But I wish the combat AI was more challenging, you could rename team members, and for a variety of allies instead of the same six every game. But if you like squad level, turn-based combat RPGs you will probably enjoy Vigilantes.
1] Sam Should Focus on Combat since he is a member of all combat missions.
2] You need one melee attack, large hit point tank. That character should lead the shooters while using cover. The melee tank blocks the wave of attackers allowing your shooters to take down opponents without getting swarmed.
3] Look at your battlefield carefully. Choose choke points for your melee tank. Quickly eliminate opposition not heading for your choke point.
4] Use the same characters for a combat team (Sam is a shooter, 2 other shooters, one melee tank).
5] Develop investigation, surgeon, and crafting skills on your “base henchmen.” Put them to work while your combat foursome goes to work in target blocks.
6] Difficulty ramps up substantially when attacking gang lieutenants and bosses. Make sure your combat group has sufficient weapons, healing items, and armor before taking on the first lieutenant.