I’m a huge fan of ‘real-time with pause’ tactics games. The ability to react fluidly, explore larger maps, and to lay out multi-stage plans that feel amazing when they actually work is so appealing to me. However, I do often find myself getting bored after a couple of hours. Maybe I’m just not into tactics games as much as I think I am. Dog Duty seems to get that as it takes the isometric Jagged Alliance style interaction and makes it a whole lot arcadey-er.
Set in a sort of G.I Joe style cartoon mercenary world, you are put in charge of a group of elite mercs who have been tasked with stopping the Octopus Commander. A simple premise that doesn’t try and explain itself any further and judging by the quality of the dialogue, probably shouldn’t either. Though, being in early access, maybe it’s just placeholder dialogue that’s lead to such awful voice clips as:
“We’re hunting shitheads!”
“Behold my Octo-Tank!”
“Looks more like a Tick-Tank! HAHAHA”
At the start of the game you’re taken through a simple tutorial level that sees you freeing the three starting mercs. A medic, an assassin, and a minigun toting tank of a man. From here you’re given a selection of hub worlds to drive around in and take out enemy bases in order to weaken the end level of each area.
Once you enter an enemy base you’re given a couple of simple objectives (usually blow up the satellite dish and loot all the crates). Again, simple but that doesn’t matter cause Dog Duty focuses on making that core gameplay loop as fun as possible and like any good tactics game, it really makes you feel clever. At least, as much as it’s able.
Like Jagged Alliance you move your units around by clicking on the map and pointing at who you want them to shoot or letting them pick off targets themselves. As you make your way through the bases you’ll need to utilise cover, turrets, items, and special abilities to succeed and that’s how Dog Duty holds my interest. In games like Jagged Alliance or UFO, you’re stuck just watching as your low level soldiers try and fail to hide the broadside of a barn. In the more arcadey Dog Duty you have special abilities that really change things up. Abilities like the assassin’s sword dash which can outright kill unarmoured grunts feels fantastic when you get it just right through a throng of them. Even utility powers like the medic’s heal which can bring all nearby mercs up to full health can feel great if done at the right moment.
The only downsides to the gameplay are that vehicular combat, which happens if you run into an enemy patrol, feels awful. You’re able to buy vehicle turrets from the various vendors around the world map but I couldn’t for the life of me work out where to put them that my mercs would actually shoot them at the enemy. Couple that with the constant falling bombs and it really makes more sense to just run your mercs around.
Oh, and the constant reinforcements are a bugger that, even after taking out the outposts that are supposed to reduce reinforcements, still see another vehicle worth of them arriving every ten seconds. My solution was to get the shield spawning robot woman, give her a minigun, and leave her on the boat/truck.
But possibly the most critical downside is that the boss fights the entire game is built around are awful. At the start of each boss fight the octo-commander flies in on his helicopter and exchanges some terrible dialogue with the mercenaries. But for the entire time he’s talking, your mercs are shooting at him and causing damage. Most don’t require you to move or just need one merc to run in circles as a distraction and can usually be beat in under a minute. The only real challenging boss was the final boss and that’s purely because its difficult to get close enough to shoot him. Unless of course you have the assassin, who can sword dash off the roof and can’t be targeted or hit by the boss and is free to follow him around taking free attacks…
Back on the positives though the low-poly style and bright colours really make Dog Duty feel like a Saturday morning cartoon and amp up that arcade feel.
But the music did keep cutting out at random which highlighted how repetitive it was…
And for some reason the flamethrower is the most expensive weapon in the game but you get it for free from one of the levels and it’s awful…
And the dialogue is painfully bad…
Y’know, at the time Dog Duty felt like a fun romp and each of the actual missions (sans boss fights) are enjoyable but looking back on it, there where a lot of issues. It is in early access so hopefully we’ll see those bosses get more interesting attack patterns and made into more of a challenge. And maybe a way to mute the more annoying merc voicelines.
Check it out on Steam HERE