Natural Selection 2 is a game many of you will have seen on Steam and thought, “Wow, that looks awesome”, and then proceeded to the checkout and played. Your play-through will have gone one of two ways. It either went swimmingly and you are currently high above the leaderboards, consistently slaying Aliens or Marines on top of being a kick-ass commander. Or, you played it a few times, and realized just how bad you were, which in turn put you off the game for life. If not a very long time.
Natural Selection 2: Combat however, wants to hold you and tell you that everything is going to be okay. I myself, was one of the Natural Selection 2 players who could not get into the game no matter how hard I tried. I knew that there was a really good game there somewhere, but it was just far too much effort on my part for me to want to keep on playing. After so many modern games with the ability to look down the iron sights, I had been spoiled by modern shooters. Natural Selection 2 was just too much of a jump, and with its real time strategy elements too, it felt like too much to try take on at once.
I played a good few hours of Natural Selection 2, but could never get into it despite trying really hard. Natural Selection 2: Combat however, is a whole other kettle of fish. Combat is the game Natural Selection 2 should have had inside it from the very start. The once mod turned standalone title from Faultline Games gives players a friendly introduction to the messed up world of Natural Selection 2. Even those who have no skill at all manage to find themselves having a great deal of fun in the addictive playground.
Combat is a small game, but by no means a bad one. The game contains a total of 5 unique maps each of which offer large areas for players to fight in, complete with environmental destruction. The game itself is great looking, and to those who play Natural Selection 2, you should expect nothing new in this area of the game. There are a surprisingly robust selection of differences that separate Combat from Natural Selection 2, however.
The largest part to the game is most likely the lack of an RTS element. To this day, I can join a match in Natural Selection 2 and find that most players desperately do not want to take on the position of the commander. Besides this, players would often curse at those who did not know how to play as a commander, and from my experience, the community appeared very divided. Combat manages to bring people together by simplifying the whole game. If you were once scared to play Natural Selection 2 down to a lack of skill, Combat should let your fears subside. The game contains only 2 modes, but both modes offer a surprising amount considering how addictive the game can get. For those starting out in the harsh zones of Natural Selection 2: Combat, the team deathmatch variant where players must destroy one another base and kill the opposition should have you covered. The other option available is Capture the Point. Again pretty self explanatory, but the mode can get pretty damn hectic at times.
These 2 modes might not sound like much, but with the right amount of people, they can offer some of the most intense battles ever experienced. Unlike Natural Selection 2, Combat offers a truly unique experience and skill points which have a massive effect to the tide of the battle. Experience and Skill Points gained are not one trick ponies and so any upgrades purchased are kept for the duration of the fight. What this means then is that focusing on one playstyle is much easier, since even after, death you can still save up for upgrades that you want. This deal is sweetened even further by the ability to respec points earned. Doing so means that the Exosuit or Onos you were saving up for can be grabbed that much easier at the sacrifice of some current skills.
For my setup on the Marine side of things, I mostly worked my way up from rifle to shotgun to flamethrower. The sense of progression is very real, and every kill feels like an incredible accomplishment. I found working together with other players was also a real important element to the game, and one that had to be done if success was to be achieved. I tried many times to be a lone wolf, but it only resulted in my immediate demise. Coordination is key, so planning an attack is always highly advised. Throughout play, I was never topping the leaderboards (which I am mostly blaming on my insanely good competition), but over time I stopped being at the bottom, and am proud to report I have achieved 3rd from the bottom after around 6 hours of play. My incredible achievement goes to prove that playing Natural Selection 2: Combat is no easy task, but that consistent playing will result in an improved performance.
Jokes aside, Natural Selection 2: Combat is a brilliant game, and thanks to its much more player friendly layout, it is a joy to play. It does have a few downsides however, which I feel should be addressed. Loading times for the game are ridiculous, with it not being uncommon to be waiting up to 30 seconds to get into a game, though I am sure I have been waiting longer before. This appears to be a problem that has transferred from Natural Selection 2 however, so presumably lies within the original code. The only other major down point I found was that the Alien base is somewhat ho-hum. In Natural Selection 2, the spawn points for the Aliens are overgrowing with disgusting awesome Alien matter. In Combat however, the base is nothing more than a hanging ball type thing. At first it felt like a minor annoyance, but the more I played the title, the more disappointed I felt with the look of the Alien base. After discussing the issue with one of the team members however, I was told that this was done for gameplay and performance reasons. Since the RTS element had been removed, it did not make sense to include map altering Alien zones. Performance was also a reason given for this. Consider that the game is a much more simplified version of Natural Selection 2 and the lack of an Alien zone seemingly makes more sense anyway.
Bots are also available in Combat, though they are of course absolutely terrible and deserve no place in this review besides the screenshot above. A game like Natural Selection was not made to be played with bots, and so I will certainly not go into detail about them. In all seriousness though, Natural Selection 2: Combat only has 2 real problems of which I have stated above, and with that it is hard not to praise such a fun and unique game.
If you find yourself far too overwhelmed with what Natural Selection 2 has to offer, then Combat is definitely the first place you should go. Combat will allow all of those deficient in skill to practice their talents and raise above the leaderboards. Potentially those who do stick with Combat will be able to transfer their newly gained abilities to Natural Selection 2. Natural Selection 2: Combat, however, is much more than a stepping stone, and has a very addictive style of play that hopefully many will stay to enjoy indefinitely. Combat also features Steam Workshop support, so the game has potential to last a very long time indeed. Many games may be making their way to your PC before the holidays, and Natural Selection 2: Combat should certainly be one of them.
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