Free to play XCOM, Ram Pressure joins a very competitive market. Its marketing offers a broad range of weapons, skills, and ways to customize your agents as you take part in various missions against a variety of enemies, with single and multi-player missions.
For those who have never played an XCOM or XCom-like game (there may be a few of you out there), you command a squad of soldiers who, if they survive a mission, can level up and improve. Of course, there’s also a chance that your soldiers can die from weapons fire, grenades, or just plain bad luck! New recruits will fill in the gaps as others die and missions get progressively harder as you go. Research will unlock new weapons, equipment, and ways to proceed. There’s also an element of base management and normally a strategic layer too.
In the story behind Ram Pressure, an unusual meteorite swarm collides with the Earth and alien artifacts are scattered across the Earth. Various intelligence agencies across the world recruit elite but deniable paramilitary units, which is where you come in. You’ll command a small group of agents who will deploy to various locations and try to find alien artifacts and fight off various mercenaries and enemies.
There’s a broad array of firearms, equipment, and armour to equip your agents who can level up in twelve different classes which have their own branching skill trees, very much like XCOM. You’ll be deployed to procedurally generated missions, many of which will see you battle it out over some downed UFO, Xcom style.
In fact, the whole game has a distinctly Xcom lite feel to it. Your agents have two actions, can generally only fire twice, and have their hit points and armour values above them. Taking cover is very important and you will need to make use of overwatch too. You can also use grenades and other explosives to destroy scenery to make targets easier to hit.
Again, like XCOM, gunfire has an RNG chance to hit and then an RNG amount of damage, based on the weapon. Armour will also reduce the amount of damage when shots land and some weapons can penetrate and remove more armour too. Keeping in cover will reduce the chance to be a bit but you’ll find that cover is a lot less forgiving in Ram Pressure than it is in XCOM and even on lower difficulties you’ll get shot to bits if you’re caught in partial cover.
So find, fix and flank the enemies, blow up their cover or put them down with a well-aimed shot. Or you can use class-specific abilities like “running shot” to outmaneuver an opponent. Different weapons are useful under different circumstances, such as sniper rifles excel at taking out single targets and LMGs can provide good crowd control. Grenade launchers can deal out AOE damage, though the game’s normal, low-level grenades deal a very weak level of damage.
Post battle, your troops level up, gain new skills and you can use newly acquired money to buy better equipment at the market or recruit new soldiers, including elite operatives who will offer you much stronger battlefield skills. However, this is part of the problem.
The low-level market gear is generally terrible, with low levels of damage and unimpressive base chances to hit. The best gear, operatives, and equipment is all “pay to play”, where you’ll need to spend real-world money to get hold of it. Of course, you can grind for many missions with the “free-gear” but even on early missions, you’ll frequently be outfought by even the normal enemy grunts, who have higher HP, better weapons, and a better base chance to hit.
Micro-transactions are somewhere between the annoying elevator music of the game world (something you just try to tune out) and a plague. Whilst cosmetic micro-transactions are the vanity plates of the gaming world, pay to win is generally abhorrent and sadly, Ram Pressure falls headlong into this trap. For some, that’ll be as far as they need to read with this review!
Beyond this, sadly, there are still quite a few things wrong with Ram Pressure. After a rather good, evocative cut scene that sets up the game’s premise, the game world is vague and not very interesting. You’ll pick your character and which agency you want to work with but it won’t really change things very much.
The missions all have a tendency to look fairly similar, work your way towards an objective, and engage in firefights with a number of enemies for a few turns. The gun-play never feels very exciting or deadly and the music and sound are fine but nothing special.
The game’s UI is workmanlike but the game is badly let down by poor voice acting and dialogue, with some truly wince-inducing lines spouted by the generic warriors that you’ll deploy into missions.
And whilst you can modify every item of gear carried by your squad, you can’t change their name or their looks, meaning that you can go into a mission with four soldiers you know almost nothing about and have no emotional attachment to. A very good article I read once described how in XCOM 2 the ability to tailor what your soldiers looked like and then the dynamic cameras showing you them up close really increased your level of empathy and investment with them. Ram Pressure totally fails to do this.
As stated above, the games pay to win theory means that even early missions are a tough slog but also feel strangely without proper tactics. Enemy AI isn’t great either, with them stopping in the open or pathing strangely.
All in all Ram Pressure feels like XCOM that fell off the back of a van. Whilst the price is right, and you can’t complain about free-to-play, only the most dedicated or wealthy player will be able to get much out of this game. It’s also fair to say that the game is in an early stage and there are likely to be improvements to come. But when you try and stand on the shoulder of giants, you have to be impressive too and Ram Pressure is too much like XCOM to avoid comparison and that comparison is far from flattering. Add in the pay-to-win model and Ram Pressure is a game that is, sadly, best avoided.