Tactical turn-based RPGs have been around for a long time and it's rare to come across one that truly stands out in the genre. Therefore, the Mad Max inspired Mad Carnage definitely looks promising but does it hold its own in the Thunderdome?
The first thing you're probably wondering is how the heck you play a vehicle-based SRPG so allow me to explain. You command a small army of vehicles to move around a map and shoot or mow down their adversaries. However, they can't move anywhere they want. In fact, I don't think any of the vehicles have a reverse gear because they can only drive ahead and turn. Anyway, momentum plays a significant role and you have to constantly decide whether to charge ahead or play it safe and make small pinpoint turns instead. Seeing as all this takes place on a grid, it's surprising how well the developers translated vehicular movement to a turn-based strategy gameplay setup. Overall, the core gameplay is undeniably unique and will have you strategizing in a completely new way but does that necessarily make for a worthwhile game?
Before I discuss the less desirable qualities of Mad Carnage, allow me to touch on a couple of its admirable traits. For starters, there are well-illustrated comic scenes that help explain the story as you progress which I thoroughly appreciated. Next, there is a variety of vehicle types which consist of berserkers that can ram into foes, fighters that are mobile yet lack defense, and heavy units that are less mobile yet can attack twice on each turn (to the left and right side of the unit). Meanwhile, some units may be equipped with a missile that can cause extra damage if it strikes an opponent. Considering units only take about one or two hits before they're destroyed, you're forced to strategize carefully while keeping the variety of vehicle types and what they're capable of in mind if you want to win.
One aspect of SRPGs that I always look forward to experiencing is party customization. There's nothing more rewarding than setting up your party for success then executing a winning strategy on the battlefield. Unfortunately, Mad Carnage merely rewards you with upgrade points that you use to purchase tiers of enhancements for each vehicle type. Needless to say, it's far too simplistic to provide a decent sense of satisfaction. Along those same lines, the battles within story mode all start with preset units and positions so each battle plays more like a puzzle that you have to figure out as opposed to a full-fledged fight.
Speaking of story mode, there are essentially only two modes in Mad Carnage: the story campaign and a mode where you can set up custom matches. In that mode, you can choose to play either against AI opponents or a friend. It's great that you can play competitively with one of your chums but considering all you get is a basic linear story mode with limited customization and custom matches, it's hard not to be disappointed by the amount of available content. The lack of variety is also prominent in the visual department as everything just looks brown and uninteresting. There is some variation in the stage backgrounds but nothing really stands out.
Mad Carnage's premise is incredibly unique and has a lot of promise. Unfortunately, the restrictive nature of its story campaign and bland visuals make it not live up to its full potential. Here's hoping we see a much improved sequel sometime down the road.
- + Unique vehicle-based SRPG battle system
- + Variety of vehicle types force you to carefully strategize in order to win
- + Comic scenes are well-drawn
- - Customising vehicles is too simplistic
- - Lack of enjoyable content with only a basic story campaign and custom matches
- - Visuals are mostly unvaried and bland