Reviews

Full Metal Sergeant – Steam Review

FruitsNDoggie reviews Full Metal Sergeant, a training management game

First Impressions

Growing up, I never had much interest in joining the military. I certainly appreciate those who go out and defend our freedom, but I’ve never been one to enjoy trudging around. However, with Full Metal Sergeant (FMS), I do get the opportunity to yell at other people and make them do it instead, “Move out grunts! I want to see you sweat!” My past job talking with people was horrible, but being paid to yell at others? That might not be so bad.

Gameplay

Starting out, you’ll only oversee three recruits, and are limited to the most basic training, which will only increase their stats by a single value. There are six stats available: strength, melee, agility, shooting, intelligence, and discipline. Strength affects how many supplies they’ll carry, melee is for when there’s no ammo, agility helps with stealth, shooting ensures you hit the enemy, intelligence reloads faster, and discipline ensures your troops stand their ground. Achieving certain tasks, such as assigning a troop to a specialty, will earn prestige points that can unlock new training regiments. It winds up being a surprisingly large skill tree, which will take several points to acquire. By and large though, they’re different training gear so you can more optimally raise their stats. Two other factors to bear in mind is stress and stamina, as letting them hit critical levels could wreck a troop.

The second chunk of gameplay comes after they’ve completed their 12 week program. Whoever has lasted that long can be deployed to a mission with live combat. In theory it’s made up of five parts, but only the best-trained squad would be viable for surviving the entire thing. Landing somewhere to the west, you’ll lead them across a grid, deciding the best route for them to take to reach their objective. It’s largely a matter of avoiding fights when possible and taking the most direct, optimal path. If they have high enough stats, they can clear optional scenarios, such as sneaking their way through an enemy camp. Withdrawing early may cost you prestige that could have been earned, but will allow you to recruit one of the survivors as an assistant. Their presence increases the gains from training.

Controls

Since you oversee the training of recruits, it makes sense that this resource management game is controlled with a mouse. There were a few things I noticed that might be helpful. After unlocking the cannon, I initially couldn’t figure out how to use it. Instead of selecting the equipment or station, and then choosing who goes there, you’ll have to choose a recruit and can then drag them where you want them to go. The four areas in the corners can be switched out for different training courses, which take a week to set up. Other items have permanent fixtures, such as the group run, or the guard station near the bottom. Once you figure it out, FMS handles well.

Story

Despite playing as a drill sergeant whipping recruits into shape for active combat missions, there’s not any plot-line about your character or the specific conflict taking place. You simply have your marching orders and do everything within your power to get them into fighting condition. Maybe it’s an attempt to avoid the same sort of global politics that Nintendo’s Advance Wars re-release got wary about, “Thanks a lot Russia.”

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Visuals

The only time you won’t see the training grounds is when transitioning from one week to the next and sending your recruits out on their mission. Even that isn’t much to look forward to when they feel like carbon copies. Are you sure the other side didn’t run out of people by this point, we’ve seen the same ones a dozen times by now? It does make things a bit tedious, as you’re already locked into so strict a system with the game’s mechanics. A lack of visual difference exacerbates the problem and has worn its welcome a bit thin.

Sound Design

Between screaming drill sergeants and training with rifles and grenades, you might expect FMS to be a pretty loud game. However, unless they’re leading a chant, it’s largely silent. I’m surprised at the lack of rousing military music, as it’d do a lot to set the mood, and give some much needed sound. I could see it getting old repeating two or three songs to death, but a dozen tunes would go a long ways.

Pros

🌟 It does get repetitive, especially when you can’t fast-forward the training sessions. However, I do enjoy the chants they say when drilling the recruits.
🌟 Some training courses can only hold a single person for an entire week. Others can hold a dozen people all at once without any issues.
🌟 I like the gritty reality that the troops you train sometimes die; even the ones you thought would flourish.

Cons

❌ One of the worst traits has to be Loner. It can only be reduced with group runs, which requires your entire squad to train together, using all of your available points in an inefficient way. It’s convenient, but the gains are too small compared to specialized training.
❌ Aside from the grind of upgrading your gear to better train your soldiers, and so on, there’s really not much to the game.
❌ I fail to see why my recruits with nearly maxed out strength and melee lost to anyone else.

Tips

🔍 Whether you want to specialize your troops, stacking their training in only a couple of stats, or generalize them, you should have a rough goal in mind when spending those points each week. The most important thing to do first is remove any traits.
🔍 Although you’ll want to level up your equipment so they generate more powerful results, you also want a variety of gear to train with. Personally, I staggered and alternated whether to level up or unlock a new one.

Final Thoughts

Honestly, by this point I feel pretty bored by the game, having gotten everything I want from it. You get more resources to train your troops with when you have a full dozen, but seeing as you can only bring a total of six into a mission, you’re wasting time and resources on the other half. The best use for them was to earn prestige by breaking their traits, and to sop up stress when I couldn’t train the ones I cared about further. I really wish there had been a way to re-sort and organize my troops, instead of having to remember which ones I was invested in myself.

I don’t know that adding intermittent events would necessarily improve matters, but your only reason for continuing is your own sense of accomplishment. As a sergeant, you aren’t working towards your own promotion or the long-term future of your recruits, you just hope to see them clear missions and survive. Something tells me that FMS has a delicate balance, and tweaking matters haphazardly could throw it all off. In its current state, I can suggest playing it, but I think it’d get old after a while.

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