STAFF REVIEW of Aftercharge (Xbox One)

Monday, February 11, 2019.
by Adam Dileva

Aftercharge Box art While I’m not huge into competitive shooters these days, I do still dabble in a few games of Overwatch now and then when a buddy or two are online. I’ve always gravitated towards the team-based game modes like Team Deathmatch, as opposed to a Free-For-All style of gameplay. I’m always game to try the newest offerings for team based games, even more so if it’s online and competitive, so I was quite intrigued when Aftercharge released.

Touted as a 3 vs 3 competitive asymmetrical first person shooter, Aftercharge is full of interesting, and even unique, ideas that makes for an experience that really is unlike many others. At its simplest form, a team of invisible robots must destroy energy extractors on a battlefield as the defending robots must do what they can to stop them. It’s an interesting premise, and works as an idea, but has a little ways to go before being a fully-fledged experience that crowds will flock to.

Dusk 11 is a far and distant planet that the Aftercharge corps saught after for its abundance in energy beneath the surface. A line of worker robots, called Workonics, were built to do the work and given stealth technology to avoid any corporate espionage. When construction was complete, Aftercharge left the planet behind to be automated, including their now useless Workonics robots. Like any great story, some seismic activity occurred, releasing some sort of energy, reanimating all of the Workonics that were left behind, and they only have one goal to enact: destroying all of the energy extractors. Now they’ve sent in a team of Enforcers to stop the Workonics from destroying their assets.

Honestly, I was a little surprised that there was a decent backstory for what and why you’re doing what you do in Aftercharge, but it’s a welcome backdrop to put in some perspective into your objectives. With four maps currently available, you’ll be tasked with either attempting to destroy or protect these precious energy extractors alongside your other two teammates. Doing so won’t be as simple as it sounds though, as Enforcers need to be near the extractors themselves to refill their energy based weapons, and Workonics need to smash the extractors ten times before it will be destroyed.

Factor in that the robots are invisible all the time save for punching or when in range of an Enforcer, and you’ll quickly learn that your team is going to need to be quite tactical in their approach, regardless of which side you’re on. Each map has multiple extractors, so it’s generally not difficult to get a couple of Extractors destroyed, but once you’re down to one or two, that’s where the gameplay becomes quite chaotic and exciting.

Each faction has five different characters to choose from, each with their own unique abilities and playstyles. If you’re a Workonic, you’ll always be focusing on stealth based gameplay, wanting to be able to dart in and out of the enemies’ range to not be seen, whereas Enforcers have weaponry and gadgets to do what they can to stop the pesky shrouded robots when they are in range to be uncovered.

Both sides have two completely different ways of playing and winning each match. Workonics need to destroy all of the extractors to win, but the Enforcers will have lots of abilities to notice, capture, trap and destroy them whenever possible. Enforcers will win if they can down all 3 of the attackers simultaneously, as robots can revive each other an unlimited amount of times, so there’s a lot of strategy that comes into play with every attack and defense.

Obviously, certain elements have been borrowed from other games, but as an overall experience, it feels truly unique. The fact that Enforcers need to constantly stand near extractors to refill their ammo means they can’t chase attackers for too long, or else they’ll be left useless without any ammo. The invisible mechanic is really interesting and can be quite fun, setting up a perfect attack, but you’re only able to punch and knock back Enforcers, unable to disable them really, so it’s a cat and mouse style of gameplay.

Do you have one Workonic play the speedy type to whack an extractor, making him visible for a short period, to distract and attack another extractor, or have your whole team rush in for a quick objective destroy and risk losing the match? You’re going to not only need reflexes, but more importantly, communication. Because of this, you will absolutely need a group of friends if you want to become a serious competitor, as playing with random’s seemed to always end in a complete disaster for myself. Luckily, Aftercharge features cross-play between PC and Xbox One players (and soon to be Nintendo Switch when launched), so ideally you should have no shortage of players to compete with, though my experience was quite the opposite, but more on that shortly.

I really enjoyed the fact that the robots were able to infinitely revive teammates that were down, as you can somewhat carry a teammate that may not be as skilled. Interestingly, you’re also able to essentially freely use your abilities as much as you wish; another mechanic that breaks the norm and takes some getting used to. These ideas make it feel fresh and interesting, even if it’s not perfectly balanced yet.

Each faction has the five characters they can choose from, each with their own strengths, weaknesses and abilities. Each one is very strong and effective against another from the opposite team, but also is weak against another. Workonics abilities range from providing cover, escaping quickly, healing, distracting and more. Enforcers on the other hand have roles that are more suited for damage dealing, pursuing, shields and others. There’s a finer meta at play, and it will take some time to not only find the character that suits your playstyle and fits in your trio, but how to enact your strategies against the enemies based on their team composition as well.

As you play and level up, you’ll earn unlocks for randomized characters. These are simply skins, emotes and cosmetics but are quite bland and generally just a palette swap. There are much cooler skins and such you can purchase, but as you can guess, you’re going to have to open up your actual wallet if you want these.

Given that cross-play is enabled with PC and Xbox One currently, I expected there to be quite a pool of players to fill the multiplayer games. I was dead wrong. A buddy and I queued up for a match and sat for literally over 30 minutes without finding one. We tried again later and found one after about 20 minutes, but proceeded to lose 30 seconds into the match. You can see where our frustration started to set in and we didn’t want to sit around for 20 minutes at a time for a single match.

While I couldn’t research concurrent players on Xbox One, I was able to see how many were and are playing on PC, and it’s not a pretty sight. Unless there’s a massive sale, I don’t see it getting much better in the future either, and completely explained why the queue for every match was so long. While Aftercharge is included in Gamepass on Xbox One, I can’t see many opening their wallet for the overpriced cost of $25.99 CAD for a simplistic shooter as this with such a minute player base.

Sure you could play versus bots, but that’s only going to entertain you for so long. While you could work on leveling up, there’s really no reason to aside from getting pallet swap skin unlocks. There’s no other real unlockables or progress to work towards, nor is there any type of skill tree or anything of the sort.

One thing I did learn from the two online matches I got to play in an hour or queuing was that Enforcers are able to push your downed body, meaning they’re able to essentially place it somewhere that’s incredibly difficult to get a revive at, like a forted up extractor covered in mines and shields. Maybe this is a bug that’s being worked on, but I can see this becoming quite frustrating, and even game breaking, if used maliciously.

I’m not a game designer, nor do I claim to know any better, but when I research the current playing user base on PC, I’m no longer wondering why I can’t find a match when queued for over a half hour. While it does come with Gamepass, possibly a switch to free-to-play would benefit them where they could charge for awesome looking skins and aesthetics, as it may bring more concurrent players to the playerbase. It’s a very fresh idea with some really interesting mechanics, but it feels like they’ve priced themselves out of the market.

If you’re looking for a competitive game with some truly unique ideas and interesting mechanics, Aftercharge has you covered if you’re wanting something new, it’s just hard to recommended in its current state knowing that you’ll mostly likely sit queuing for a match longer than it actually takes to play one. With a deep discount and a much bigger install base, Aftercharge could really be something unique and interesting to play, but that’s a steep mountain that’ll need to be climbed before it gets there, which is a shame, as the game has a huge amount of potential.

Overall: 6.5 / 10
Gameplay: 7.0 / 10
Visuals: 6.5 / 10
Sound: 6.5 / 10


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