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FireSquad – Review

Firefighter games have had a rough ride in general with only a few games really feeling like they click. One of those is Flashpoint, a turn based game where you control a squad of firefighters to save people and put out fires. FireSquad pitches itself as FlashPoint but in real time, controlling a squad of four to save a city that keeps catching fire. It is a decent premise but the execution has a few issues.

Each level is full of a maze of choices and decisions. What do you prioritise?

FireSquad plays more like a time management game than a strategy game. Think Diner Dash and Build-A-Lot. You view a building from a top down perspective and your fire squad are circles that you click on and then click to where you want them to go. Dotted around each level are various symbols. Some are people to be rescued, some are hazards to be either secured or removed and others are doors to break down and open new rooms. Fire is shown in the grid-like level format and it will grow in size before spreading. As you move your squad next to fire they’ll automatically start to dowse the flames. Everything else will require you to click on them to interact with and that’s where the time management comes in. Everything has a time to wait for completion and so you wait until the task is complete and then they’ll radio up that they’re idle and you plot your next move.

Key to all of this are hiding places. These will be furniture, drawers, cabinets, beds and tables where you’ll need to search for additional survivors or hazards. The reason this is key is because your game over state is when you lose 4 humans or hazards. Often this is because you haven’t reached a hiding place before it catches fire and so you’ll need to prioritise these and what else you can rescue or clear before really tackling the blaze. You can also lose when your building reaches 100% damage but it doesn’t appear to be tied to the amount of fire in a level, its a timer. That felt slightly odd throughout.

The UI trail is very confusing, showing you old moves not new ones. Sometimes you can’t click on the icons at all.

FireSquad has heavy randomisation and this is where part one of the games issues currently are. Fires do spread naturally if you let them but the main problem is a new fire will break out at random anywhere. Often it occurs in a hiding place spot and so I lost games just by pure bad luck and no amount of skill would have helped. Sometimes this would happen right at the start of a level too adding more frustration. It also means on harder difficulties, sometimes hazards and fires often start next to each other which felt unfair rather than challenging.

The second and bigger issue is around UI and control. Clicking on all the icons feels like a mystic art. Sometimes your squad will walk to the square next to the hazard you clicked on. Sometimes they just stop mid-walk. Sometimes when firefighters walk into each other they forget what they are doing. It is as if the UI for where you click to move a character doesn’t line up with the actual grid system of where they are going to stand. The other more ugly element is that you’ll always the previously selected firefighters current route on screen until you completely lock in a new move for your currently selected fighter. This means whilst you make your decisions, you aren’t seeing real feedback on your actual decision, it’s using your previous decision data and showing it instead. This is messy, confusing and really annoying when timing is crucial on later levels. Add in the RNG deaths and I got a bit annoyed, even on easy mode. Between alternate levels you are asked to select a difficulty increase parameter like more fire or hazards, and a boost for your team such as faster movement or survivor carry speed. This is a nice spin and gives each run a roguelike bonus tweak.

A lot of the bugs and design issues feel like they could be fixed. Whether they will remains to be seen but Flashpoint does this exact game better – its just turn based. When a game doesn’t quite deliver on its own differentiator it is difficult to recommend to anyone except the hardcore audience desperate for Diner Dash: Firefighter edition.

Review copy provided by developer.

Final Thoughts
Some confusing UI and awkward controls undermine a nice idea.
Real time firefighter team co-ordination is a great idea.
Each run does feel a bit different with the random hazard layouts and various mutators.
UI is ugly and confusing - showing you your last move whilst selecting your current move.
Fire spread is too random and sometimes results in game overs you can't avoid.
Icons to trigger specific moves often don't work the first time you click on them as if the UI doesn't align with the trigger points (tried in different screen ratios).
Repetitive sound.
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