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Do you have cravings for a new entry in that one obscure yet unique genre you’ve played before?

Gamingtodaynews1f - Do you have cravings for a new entry in that one obscure yet unique genre you've played before?
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First things first, I'd like to apologize for the overly specific title. As cliché as it may sound for Reddit, my English is not very good – not in the sense that I suck at grammar, but in getting my point across. Anyhow…

This might be a controversial opinion to some (and if it isn't, I apologize in advance), but, to me, the period between the 2000's and 2010's was surprisingly rich in innovation. Back then, what some people now like to call "AA" or "B-tier" gaming development was in full swing, and we had plenty of studios implementing interesting yet risky ideas using proper budgets and manpower provided by their publishers. Of course, even in this sphere you still had plenty of trend chasers and stuff like polish studios putting out one generic FPS after another – matter of fact, I'd go so far as to say trend chasers overshadowed all of these interesting ideas and gave the beginning of the 21st century a bad name. Still, even the big fish weren't afraid of dipping into dangerous waters. Games like Okami from Capcom or From Dust by Ubisoft were really trying to push the envelope of creativity at the time.

Back in 2007, I was a huge fan of Jagged Alliance 2. It was a tactical, turn-based role-playing game in the vein of XCOM, but instead of fighting aliens as the sci-fi World Police, you were fighting a South American dictatorship. There were many major differences apart from that. For starters, the ballistics system and the tactical combat portion itself was very in-depth. Every bullet was simulated, the player needed to account for stances, cover and other factors; there was plenty of non-gun tactical equipment coming into play such as mortars, tear gas, C4, what have you; hell, there even was a proper camo system! Secondly, it married a proper CRPG system with the aforementioned in-depth tactical layer. Arulco, the country where the action takes place, really felt like a nation, with different factions such as rebels, mafia, citizenry and the local armies occupying various sectors for you to visit and retake. Your goal wasn't something to liberate the whole place, but rather, assassinate the head honcho in charge, Queen Deidriana. In the true CRPG fashion, you can approach this objective head-on or fight a proper guerilla war through a surprisingly deep strategic layer with sector defenses, militia training, and resource gathering in the form of mine income – thanks to that, every playthrough was different. Thirdly, there were the mercs themselves. They're nothing special today, but back then, when creators of military-based games didn't go out of their way to give their characters semi-detailed, quirky backstories, it was a welcome addition. Unlike X-com, each operative was not only entirely unique, but also had a unique voice and even special responses to certain in-game events (not gonna spoil here).

After finishing the game multiple times and playing some mods such as Urban Chaos, I wanted more. One day, while studying in my computer class, I watched a group of grown-up students play a really weird, simulator-like game. I looked like some kind of third-person shooter at first, until I saw a really weird interface with stuff such as adrenaline levels tracking and stats. Later, I learned that the name of the game was Brigade E5. It was a Russian spiritual successor to Jagged alliance, with two key differences – it was 3d, and it was real-time. Not just real-time, however – it had a "tactical pause" wherein you were able to stop the combat to issue orders. When I finally played it, however, I realized it had much, MUCH more – and less, at the same time. For starters, the ballistics system in this game is probably the most detailed in history, next to possibly Silent Storm and the ARMA/Flashpoint series. Secondly, unlike the creators of JA2, the people at Apeiron weren't just gun fans – they were gun fanatics. Just take one look at the game's IMFDB page to see what I mean. Thirdly, while stuff like mortars, destruction (there was some, but it was primitive) was absent, there was simulated shock (either from a wound or multiple hostiles appearing at the same time), armor coverage, penetration, ricochet, the aforementioned adrenaline system, and much more. This made combat feel extremely realistic, to the point where I would say this is THE most realistic tactical, infantry-based combat game ever made. The game was lacking JA2's charisma, though, and the setting was once again South America – this is because it was originally supposed to be JA3, but the idea was scrapped after a difference in opinion between the original developers at Sir-Tech and Apeiron. Nevertheless, it did offer something different – by expanding the simulation layer considerably.

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Even back then, games in the vein of JA2 were a relatively untapped niche, and it was mostly the Russian and German developers that wanted to continue the original's legacy. Apart from E5, there was its sequel 7.62 High calibre, which was more of an expansion on the original's ideas; Silent storm, a WW2 TRPG which had an amazing destruction system; and then there were the "official" sequels – JA Back in Action, JA Flashback and JA Rage!. And they were, eeeehhh… the first game was basically 7.62 high calibre with a bit more charm and none of the complexity; Never played JA flashback but didn't hear anything good about it; JA:Rage!… a cheap clone of nu-Xcom with JA coat of paint, really. It was fun, but should've really been called something else, because thanks to this game, I'm unsure whether there's any more interest in making a JA sequel.

Now, yes, there are plenty of TRPG's available nowadays, in various shapes and sizes. However, I feel that none of them have even a quarter of depth that made JA and Apeiron's the niche hits that they were. Take hit-chance for example. In most of these games, ballistics are either super dumbed down, only aesthetical, or straight up non-existent. Most FPS shooters nowadays, such as Escape from Tarkov and ARMA, have superior ballistics that those games. It can be argued that coding it in would be too time consuming and putting such system in would break the game and make it needlessly complicated – but there could've been at least one TRPG that catered to the niche crowd of realistic gun fight lovers like that, come on. Or, something even worse, the movement system. For some reason, a huge chunk of tactical games nowadays likes to use nu-Xcom's "scoot'n shoot" system with one turn reserved for one movement and attack only. I'm not saying this is bad – hell, games that use it tend to have some interesting ideas – but it's so prevalent to the point where I don't see the classic AP system used. The only game in the past five years I've seen that is closest to JA2 tactical layer wise is Xenonauts, which is, funnily enough, an original X-Com spiritual successor.

TL;DR To summarize my problem, none of the contemporary TRPG's can be called simulators, or even have elements of such. Please feel free to correct me if I'm being unfair, but when I play a contemporary TRPG, I feel like I'm playing a digital board game rather than a proper video game. Granted, very well crafted and interesting board games with no human computations and ease of accessibility – but board games nonetheless. Also, there weren't any games that even posed themselves as spiritual successors to JA2 and especially Apeiron's 7.62 High Calibre and Brigade E5 (please feel free to correct me if I'm wrong here).

I understand that AAA developers nowadays play stuff super safe, and that indie developers are focused on reviving the Nintendo-era nostalgia and roguelikes with tons of platformers, beat-em ups and metroid'vanias. Despite all this, I'm still holding out for a proper, deep TRPG with simulator elements, like JA2 and the Apeiron games were.

With my experience out of the way, it's time to hear your story. Do you, for example, miss the genre of U-boat simulator games? Original Rainbow Six-likes? Or maybe it's something strange but interesting like Lemming-likes? Discuss!

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