Thunder Tier One recently released on Steam, and while I was initially quite excited for it, having had my time with the full game, I’m not so impressed. Now, I’ll go ahead and say this outright: at $19.99 USD, Thunder Tier One is one of those games that’s probably more than decent for its price point, but that doesn’t mean that the game isn’t without problems, or that its price can fully sweep aside these issues like a well-placed grenade.
If you’re interested, you can read an interview with one of the developers here, but otherwise, I’ll continue on down below.
Thunder Tier One is a top-down shooter that allows the player control over their camera to a certain degree – the player can rotate, zoom in, zoom out, and reset their view to change the overall perspective and better be able to react and respond to certain situations, and maintain better visibility through the various scenarios presented by the changing nature of the environment.
In addition to this, the aiming mechanic is ever so slightly different than other top-down shooters: the player’s character aims specifically at the cursor and therefore the bullets don’t necessarily travel in a path which is directly parallel with the ground, and enemies can be on a different height, requiring you to aim with greater precision in order to actually hit the target.
This has benefits and drawbacks to the overall gameplay: on the one hand, it is an interesting mechanic, on the other, it can sometimes not necessarily work how you really want or intend it to. Buildings in particular lead to some very frustrating moments, and in general, a staircase, or any need to aim ‘up’ from wihtin a building is a scenario that I personally would avoid at all costs during regular gameplay.
There are a wide variety of tools at the player’s disposal, and it is possible to interact with the environment in interesting ways such as destroying the generators which provide power for certain light sources. Incendiary grenades do what they say on the tin, of course, and explosives can interact with mission objectives in a variety of ways.
That being said, the nature of a top-down shooter makes most of the differences between guns fairly minuscule. The CAR-15 stands out as probably the best all around weapon in the game for PvE, and if you’re doing anything else, the M249 works out quite decently. Sniper rifles don’t provide too much of an integral advantage or, given visual ranges, a real opportunity to do their job, which in turn does lend to a question of their overall worth, but then there is the matter of player-versus-player wherein sniper rifles can certainly be effective.
Mission briefings are voiced – although the immediate repeat on these makes it fairly annoying. Besides this, however, there is an expansive amount of intelligence provided regarded the player-versus-environment missions which can lead to a fairly well educated first encounter with the challenges. This is more than welcome in a tactical shooter like this where one bullet can get your character killed.
It actually adds to a fairly interesting set up when it comes to having a fairly strictly crafted scenario – of which, most of these scenarios play out quite excellently when these are considered in conjunction. But for all the time and effort that may have been spent in crafting these bits of intelligence and everything else, there’s a small percentage of the overall playerbase which will likely use them. It’s a shame, really, and one that I have to mention. The otherwise applaudable effort is simply not something that I think will be respected nearly as much as it should, and after I got some familiarity of the overall game, I’ll admit: I mostly blew past these during my playthrough of the majority of the campaign, but on my initial exposure to the playtests, I considered these fairly invaluable.
While initially I would have praised a good majority of the details in regards to what’s going on with Thunder Tier One, there are some things that don’t quite fit. The devil is in the detail, when you’re playing virtual dress up, and a good majority of the customization options don’t really fit on the player model once you’re using certain combinations. Besides that, there’s things like the backwards American flag patches, or far more hideously…
…The need to unlock most color options through a lengthy process of ‘leveling up,’ which in and of itself is nothing short of frustrating. While some of the customization options are of course downright silly, especially when presented alongside ‘serious’ options, the overall requirement to have to unlock the majority of the color options is just frustrating, plain and simple: Thunder Tier One is the sort of game that one plays for the intrinsic value of playing it, not for the unlocks, and to see the developers try to poke at the lizard parts of the brain in such a way is, for lack of a better word, disappointing.
There are, however, a decently spread out array of options in regards to aesthetics. Unfortunately, as mentioned prior, the weapons choice is a bit of an abstract concept in a top-down shooter, and especially a realistic one. CAR-15 is absolutely so stand-out in comparison to everything else as being incredibly decent and capable of doing its job well, but besides beating that point home, most of the other options leave a lot to be desired in some way shape or form, in spite of the ‘flavor’ they do provide.
In the pistols, there’s no Mk. 23, in the rifles, there’s no full length M16. In regards to machineguns, there’s no 7.62x51mm machineguns like the M60 or M240, in spite of characteristics like the M60’s rate of fire being one of the few things that could make it a unique feeling weapon. The developer’s answers to this, I’m sure, are simply ‘mods,’ but it’s worth mentioning that mods do disable progression.
Yeah, I’m sure there’ll be a mod for that too. In the mean time, regardless of any short-sightedness, to beat this point home, the developers have themselves released a few mods. I would probably draw attention to this elsewhere, but these assets honestly have zero reason to not be in the game, even if they’re something which should be seen as an example.
Probably one of the cooler features the game possesses, replays allow the player to play back missions and view them from entirely different angles – much the same as a lot of replay viewers, sure, but we don’t often see these anymore. It adds to a certain extra layer overall when it comes to the aiming mechanic in a way that almost makes it worth it and makes the visual presentation far better, presenting opportunities for excellent screenshots and cool angles if you were looking to record a clip.
It doesn’t really outright add or subtract from gameplay, which at the end of the day is all I usually focus on, but as a creative tool it would certainly even have its uses here if there were a reason to explore it for further content.
So when it comes to the price, do I recommend getting Thunder Tier One? Yeah, as of release that’s definitely a twenty buck game at least. It’s fun, fleshed out, and offers some unique depth that we often don’t get to see or experience in a lot of games.
If there were more developer created missions, both long and short (yes, that’s an entire mission!); more developer created weapons; then, I’d say the game’s even worth, well, comparatively more. But with regards to the length of the campaign things are pretty short, I myself express no interest in a top-down shooter’s player-versus-player aspect, but that has more to do with my array of preferences when it comes to competitive games.
Which in turn raises an issue: after some of the initial playtests players got to experience, the game was ‘balanced’ for its player-versus-player mode. Balance is all well and fine, but I feel like it subtracts, significantly, from the tactical experience that can be provided by missions out of the box. Claymores are massive, relatively. Frag grenades are highly expensive to the load-out ‘point’ value. These are things that may enhance the player-versus-player aspect, but in my opinion, they greatly diminish the authenticity of the otherwise highly realistic experience that Thunder Tier One offers as a tactical shooter.
That doesn’t make it a bad game, but when coupled with things like the customization progression, it feels more like getting C+/B- work out of a student who normally gives you straight A’s – a student which should have every capacity for going above and beyond, but on this debut outing they instead settled for doing alright.
So that’s what Thunder Tier One is, alright.