Research and Destroy PC Review
Research and Destroy has a lot of good things going for it. For starters, the theme is an intriguing combination of science vs classic supernatural monsters. Gameplay blends turn-based tactics from a game like XCOM, but adds in action elements during these turns to have a twist on Valkyria Chronicles formula, a sort of diet version of Sega’s superb tactical game. The 20th-century comics and cartoons inspire its themes; shows like Ghostbusters, Scooby-Doo, Pink Panther and Goober and the Ghost Chasers are clear inspirations for its stylish character and environment design and old school cartoon visuals. And the last key thing is one that will make a lot of people happy, it has full online and local cooperative play for its campaign as you take on the new owners of the world.
You read that last sentence right; humans are seemingly no longer alive in the world of Research and Destroy and the planet has returned to peace. The game’s introduction delivers this setup, starting with a parody of the “War never..” quotes that we have heard time again in other video games and mediums, although, there is no longer war because there are no humans left to fight each other. It was not weapons or bombs that eradicated the humans, it was the simple arrogance of ignorance. People all had their own view on things, their imagination ran wild and the trust in academics and professionals were no longer relevant. Without people following the belief of science, it allowed the beings known as the Supernatural, monsters we know in stories as vampires, ghosts and mummies, to spring from nowhere and overrule the Earth. Peace has been around for years, but now there are rumblings about the sight of humans between the Supernatural community, the sight of them coming from the underground, and the Supernaturals are worried because they know a war is coming and behind that war are three humans who have the power of science! Yeah, Science!
Most of the story is delivered through that introduction, as the rest of the game is light on narrative. The developers have opted to bring short snippets of amusing dialogue between the characters rather than offer a big story. I feel this is a missed opportunity, mainly down to the fact the visuals lend themselves well to bringing that Saturday morning cartoon vibe and this could have done wonders in bringing some of that childhood nostalgia into the story. They clearly want to convey that sense of light-heartedness as seen in the game’s comedy, but stopped at going any further than the banter between scientists or the monsters.
The game’s title is a reference to the two main gameplay elements of Research and Destroy. Research is a part of the game outside of battle and is set on a map that is closely resembling Europe, but with fantasy names. Spain is called Beachland, Italy goes by Brutalia and France is Bloodland, with the UK being appropriately named Foggy Isles… I mean the developers are not wrong with that entertaining name.
This map shows which areas are controlled by the player or the monsters. To progress through the campaign requires taking back the countries from the ownership of the Supernaturals. Each country needs scouting for enemies, beating them in battle and then using currency from winning, or looting monsters, to build universities that will act as the base of operation in that location. Universities are central to researching new weapons, weapon upgrades, enemy information and gadgets, but they also offer protection against invasions, with optional defence systems available through upgrades that will make invasion fights easier to win. Moving around the map, researching or building, costs days, with 40 days available before the Supernaturals will have their turn, displayed by the country shaking a little to show their action been performed. If this happens to be where a university is then this means an invasion is coming. The player then has the next 40 days to fight these battles or risk losing their university and the land it occupies. It is a small addition that gives players something extra and different to perform outside of the game’s main attraction, the turn-based action combat.
There are only ever the three characters available throughout Research and Destroy, and these three must come into battle together. Larry and Marie are the male and female scientists, while Gary is the person hidden in the hazard suit, so you never know what he looks like. They mostly behave the same, although Larry and Marie have the ability to holster their weapons, which increases the movement speed, while Gary cannot do this due to…I guess his short hands or large protection helmet? You will have to work that one out. Battles are turn-based, with the sides playing all their movements before switching. On the player side, each character has eight seconds to act, which only counts down when performing actions, such as moving, aiming, shooting, climbing, etc. Surveying the land with the camera is a free action, which helps to plan where to move the characters and get the most out of your team’s turn. Enemies seem to have a limit on their time as well, but they all move together in a phase, then it switches to their attack phase before coming back to the player, so they behave slightly different, mainly to keep the speed flowing so the player is not waiting long before it is their turn again.
Enemies come in many shapes and sizes, and all of them are based on familiar monsters. The game begins with easy foes, such as zombies who walk incredible slow, but if they manage to get close to a scientist, especially in groups, then they can soon cause big damage. Ghosts are the cannon fodder, having low health, but can move through walls and will grow stronger each round they are alive, changing colour to symbolise this. As the game progresses, tougher and harder enemies are introduced. Werewolves are fast and strong, almost taking off half health with a swipe, but also pushing the character back and onto the floor, causing wasted time as it eats into the eight seconds available to stand back up. Vampires appear with mirages, with the fake image vanishing after a hit. The player must find the right one and then kill it, but is not the end, as their bones need to be turned into $cience, otherwise, the vampire will respawn after a couple of turns. I think the enemy I hated the most was the mummies, as these guys are basically the artillery. The arc long-range shots come out of nowhere and can cause easy damage, due to their area of effect. Any scientist left within the sphere will take damage over time, even while other friendly characters are moving.
Guns may have strange names, but in essence, they cover the basics. There is a plasma gun that can shoot out fire or ice, basically a flamethrower, there is a gun that performs like a shotgun, but shoots out beams of light close together. Some more adventurous weapons, like the Riftinator, can summon items through wormholes or use portals to travel around the map. For me, easily the best weapon, and I wish you could give everyone the same weapon, although that would probably break the game, is the Laserizer’s max amplitude mode, turning it from a submachine gun into a sniper rifle, deals so much damage and has great range. I always made sure one of my scientists had this weapon and made that character the person who mostly took down enemies while the other two were performing the objectives. It’s that good, it can kill early-game enemies in one shot, while taking down late-game enemies in two or three, and since you can shoot the gun around six times within eight seconds, it means good enemy clearance. There are also items that can be equipped to the scientists, one per character, and these are usually movement or crown control based, such as black hole grenades or a portable stereo that causes the supernatural to get their jig on as some heavy bass beats blast out of the stereo. The designers obviously had fun coming up with some of these outlandish weapons and gadgets.
Maps and enemy variety are about enough for the length of the game, which can last around 8-10 hours depending on how your map progression plays out. Apart from the defence missions, which there are only two types, too little for the number of times it happens. These involve surviving a number of turns without the university taking a certain amount of damage or turning on disintegrators to charge up the supernatural eraser device. The actual attacking missions have a good selection of objectives and are decently designed to offer some great battles. Greater Transylvania has a castle map that adds in plenty of verticality and close spaces, making it hard to perform long-range shots. Concrete is set in a forest with a train track which has a ghost train pass by, causing damage to anyone who gets in its way. Brutalia takes inspiration from the thin, long streets in valley towns making for a steep climb with great forward visibility, but cramp spaces at the sides, making it easy for ghosts or other nasties to get a jump on the player. Overall the maps play into the game’s strength with its real-time action gameplay.
One frustrating feature of Research and Destroy is its use of unlimited spawning enemies. Turn-based games usually have a set number of enemies on the map. They might be reinforcements, but the main point is there is a limit that once all the enemies are killed the mission is completed or easier to finish. Research and Destroy does not have this, instead, when enemies are killed, new enemies will spawn into the map, randomly it seems, as sometimes things like zombies can spawn very close to the player, and it seems extremely unfair. It was complete frustration in the final battle as I was constantly under the threat of strong enemies while trying to finish three objectives. You would clear the strong enemies, only for them to appear again a few turns later, with runner zombies and ghosts appearing after each turn. It makes the player feel constantly under threat, which with the theme of the game makes sense, but it makes it overly frustrating and annoying to feel ahead in the mission, only to be hindered or overrun by the randomness of new spawning enemies. It is the one thing I hated about this game and knocks it down the peg a bit.
My initial statement about Research and Destroy being a diet Valkyria Chronicles is close to how I feel about the game. Its theme is light-hearted, setting the tone for the overall experience, an enjoyable turn-based action game that has the added bonus of being able to play it with a friend. It blends the two gameplay styles well to create a compelling hybrid action that requires some thought in the process. The problem is I feel the game is missing that magical touch. It misses some of the complexity and depth that you might find in other turn-based games, plus it has some polish problems, such as weird interaction with the environment that can lead to falling over and causing damage. Do not even get me started on the constantly spawning enemies, as that can make Research and Destroy feel unfair and irritating.
Despite those flaws, anyone looking for an entertaining mix of turn-based action will have a fun time with it. Just like the Saturday morning cartoons that inspired this game that you all enjoyed as a kid; they might not be the best TV shows, but they did the job of providing happy entertainment. Sometimes that can be enough to be satisfied for the day, and Implausible Industries has created something similar to that emotion with their game Research and Destroy.