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Surviving Through Skynet’s Hellscape – Terminator: Dark Fate – Defiance Review

I’ve had my eye on Terminator: Dark Fate – Defiance ever since its launch back in late February. The game was made and published by the wargaming strategy giant, Slitherine. While the Terminator video games aren’t really known for their RTS games, who else but Slitherine can indoctrinate the idea to the strategy community. If you want to make the judgement for yourself then you only need to take a look at their growing library of strategy games.

One thing to know about me is that I enjoy all sorts of video games. My coverage history probably shows this but, strategy games are probably my overall favorite genre. While Slitherine titles feed my hunger for wargames more than most publishers out there, I have yet to find a strategy game more enjoyable than Age of Empires 2: Definitive Edition. Between the numerous campaigns, skirmish maps, multiplayer, spectating online matches, and the scenario editor, it is simply one of the best games ever made.

However, Terminator: Dark Fate – Defiance has the potential to be a very strong contender. Although, they are completely different games of course. Terminator: Dark Fate – Defiance is a deep, brutal, and compelling RTS that favors management and survival over your typical strategy titles.

Note to the reader: this is mainly because TheThousandScar has failed to protect humanity on many occasions, so excuse his ramblings and copious language that mask the fact that he secretly loves seeing his brave soldiers die in droves

Terminator: Dark Fate – Defiance’s main content comes from its Campaign Mode. While a Multiplayer and a Skirmish Mode does exist, they only feature as few as 4 maps as of writing. While the Skirmish Mode already allows for a decent amount of customizations, I still hope that Slitherine adds more features. While I love singleplayer RTS games and favor them over playing multiplayer, a game of such depth and complexity simply deserves more maps.

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Note from Scar: Slitherine recently put in another patch that adds a few new maps to the multiplayer/skirmish mode. This is a nice addition to the game, although I still would like to see more maps added.

Kicking off the campaign, I was treated to a lovely set of tutorial missions that blend into the narrative quite nicely. Having so many moving pieces in an interactive tutorial is a smart move. There’s also a dense tutorial/encyclopedia guide that exists in-game where players can look up mechanics at their leisure. You can bet that I used this frequently because the game forces the player to be very resourceful with their forces.

As for the story… Well, Terminator fans will know how bad its gone for humanity. The army has been crushed by Skynet’s hordes, and the player takes control of Alex Church, a policeman who is forced to take command during the endgame. The opening couple of missions involve the protagonists frantically trying to survive, and the gameplay reflects the narrative incredibly well. Almost too well, because Terminator: Dark Fate – Defiance will challenge even hardened veterans of the strategy genre.

Everything needs to be carefully managed from weapons to fuel, and your human arsenal must find creative answers against the machines. You are always outnumbered and outgunned. Get caught out by an enemy attack while you’re moving your soldiers into the correct position, and expect to pay the price. Even in the tutorial stages the game does not mess around. As can be expected, it took me a while to learn all the tools, and this resulted in several deaths and reloaded saves. All the while, my main character got chewed out by one of the militia commanders for the crime of wanting to save civilians. Forgive me for not wanting them to get killed, Mason!

While the voice acting is solid overall, I have to critique the audio mixing. No matter how much I fiddled with the audio settings, something felt off with the sound design like the music often cutting into the dialogue. In my experience, turning the volume at the lowest point before the silence was still too loud for me, and anything above the lowest setting drowned out everything else. This was most prominent during the cutscenes, and even with other sound effects and voices turned up, the music still drowned it all out.

I’m no expert in audio mixing so I have no idea what could be causing the problems I experienced, but balancing sound effects, music and the voices was a mess. I hope Slitherine will be able to fix this, as it is a major sticking point for the game’s experience.

Once the initial tutorial missions are complete, the game starts properly. This took me on a desperate search to find supplies, and the gameplay does a great job of supplementing the narrative push. Humans are in a life-or-death push for survival, and planning every move is critical to maintaining resources. These missions take place on a varied set of maps, and while the visual design does not win any prizes, this is still a good-looking RTS. The destructible environments and cover mechanics only add to the gameplay, and it immersed me in a way few strategy titles manage.

Coupled with the optional side stories in these missions, I came away from Terminator: Dark Fate – Defiance rather impressed. I have a long way to go in understanding this game, but every defeat makes me more determined to keep at it. I’m not one of those people who relish games like Dark Souls. I like tweaking difficulty settings to what I feel comfortable with. I like a challenge, but not to the point when it wastes my time. I haven’t wasted a second in the game so far, and that’s hard to do.

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Thankfully, the roadmap looks to address some of my concerns about the lack of maps in skirmish and multiplayer, which will go a long way towards preserving longevity. I just hope that the audio gets addressed soon, because it is probably the biggest weakness of the game. With a fairly expansive roadmap for 2024, and the combination of deep mechanics and difficulty, Terminator: Dark Fate – Defiance offers plenty for fans of the strategy genre.

While this is my ordinary impressions review, I wanted to try something else with this particular game. These may be early impressions, but that is why I’m committed to making this something new. Part review, part humorous AAR, I hope you have enjoyed the beginning of this little journey.

I plan on making this a mini-series of sorts, where I put my skills as a military commander up against the terrifying might of Skynet. While I’ll review the game as I go, I want this to be more interactive.

If you are interested in small, easy to digest indie game reviews, you can check them out on my other platform, Sassygamers.com.

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