Door Kickers

Door Kickers, or strategy, tactics and door kicking melded together.

By Woozie, Posted 12 Sep 2014

Good realtime strategy games are hard to come by nowadays. Barring Starcraft 2, there aren’t that many titles that manage to stand on their feet in the genre. Door Kickers, developed by KillHouse Games, plans to throw players into a top-down realtime strategy game that drifts towards the area of realtime tactics.

In Door Kickers you control a squad of SWAT units. As you enter one of approximately 80 scenarios available, you’ll be faced with the game’s cartoonish graphics style. For a moment there you may even think you’ve accidentally logged in to the tactical side of Newgrounds. A minimal graphic style can do a lot for a game. Here, it never goes past being simple, thing which can also be said about the audio part.

Door Kickers,Preview,Screenshot,KillHouse Games,Real Time Strategy,Real Time Tactics

While artistically it’s not necessarily impressive, the visual side of things are functional. Unvisited areas are marked in a dark blue color while areas cleared or where you have a line of sight are shown in brighter, detailed colors. Your units’ line of sight is shown by visible cone indicators. The game offers the option to play missions in realtime but also allows the use of an active pause button whenever you feel like it. Choosing particular troopers in realtime, however, can be tricky. Having specific indicators next to each unit would be a tad easier than having to wait for tooltips, which sometimes require pausing the game. Your troops’ abilities are influenced by both their equipment, the doctrine your squad is following, and by a few skills which improve on their own as you level your soldiers up.

As mentioned before, your squad is subjected to a number of customizations. You start with a decently high number of troopers, each with custom portraits, names and callsigns. All will have randomized stats in regards to their aiming, accuracy and breaching skills. These stats level by themselves. Every trooper has access to a decent number of equipment pieces. We’re talking pistols, smgs, shotguns, hammers, lockpicks, shields, armor, spy cameras, incapacitating grenades - typical tools.

Any trooper can belong to any class, this determining the weapons or equipment he’ll be able to use and the role he’ll fulfill. The classes can be changed in between missions. The pointman only has a pistol but is more mobile than the others. The breacher wields shotguns and is more efficient at close range. The shield wielding troopers are good for navigating long, tight spaces and offer much needed protection to the squad, while the stealth class is the best way of making sure hostages don’t get shot before you reach them. These roles feel and play differently, thus, finding the optimal team composition, requires some time spent with each of them.

Door Kickers,Preview,Screenshot,KillHouse Games,Real Time Strategy,Real Time Tactics

Every completed level gains you one to three stars depending on your performance. These stars count as tokens which buy new equipment. When it comes to firearms, however, it seems that there’s often no point in buying the “intermediary” items because there’s always one gun that costs more but is superior in stats and performance to everything else. There is some variation in the behavior of different guns, however, it often feels that the trooper’s skills and doctrine play a bigger role in the outcome of certain situations.What’s this talk about doctrines you ask? Door Kickers has three different skill trees that address pistols, smgs and shotguns. They contain passive skills that can be upgraded when the entire squad progresses a level and gains doctrine points. This helps your troopers with their use of cover, their close or long range aiming and their handling of their assigned weapon.  The Doctrine build can be reset at any time and does weigh in quite a lot, although, at this point in time only about half of the skills are available.

The way you approach missions is entirely yours to choose. The tactically savvy can opt for a lengthier plan of action, as the game comes with an optional challenge that asks players to complete the mission using a single laid out plan. Using the mouse you can set up waypoints for your team members and direct their actions when encountering doors. Depending on the situation at hand, you may want to use flashbangs, breaching charges or kick the doors open. Any placed waypoint can be removed at any time allowing for on-the-fly changes to your plans. You can set up GoCodes which help when your team is divided and needs to enter a room simoultaneously. It’s a nice mechanic that’s not difficult to use or master, and one that adds depth to the overall way of things. The engine is, however, lacking any kind of melee combat. This can breed quite amusing situations, like having your trooper and an enemy bump repeatedly into each other as they’re both trying to reload their weapons.

Door Kickers,Preview,Screenshot,KillHouse Games,Real Time Strategy,Real Time Tactics

Right now Door Kickers’ AI tends to be quite inconsistent. At times it responds accordingly to your movements, attempting to flank or outrange you as much as it can. In some cases opening the door leading to the hostages and tarrying for too long will get them killed. However, there are other moments when it shines less. In certain hostage missions you have access to sniper support, which basically involves a minimum of one free kill. Snipers can only fire through windows and in some cases, after you kill the enemy hanging around the window, his friends will proceed with either taking his place or just casually strolling in front of said window, oblivious to the sniper threat.

Another false-enemy is permanent death. A permadeath mechanic was introduced to perhaps bring more realism to the table. However, permadeath isn’t really there in Door Kickers. If one or more troopers die during a mission and you decide to return to the menu, they’ll be dead forever and replaced with other fresh recruits. The catch here is that restarting the mission right after failing it will give you your troopers back. Quit then and your troopers will be safe. So, unless you want to punish yourself for failing, permadeath isn’t a mechanic that’ll pop by too often.The developers pride themselves in an AI that requires no babysitting. However, in larger levels troopers failed to respond to getting shot by enemies just outside their line of sight. The trooper’s armor took three or four shots, but he would not budge without direct orders. There’s definitely work to be done when it comes to the AI, but when it succeeds at what it does, there’s much satisfaction to be had in playing the missions.

The mission types present cover a decent range of objectives. Eliminating all the enemies, rescuing hostages, arresting suspects and defusing bombs - they’re all there. The levels available offer different types of encounters in maps of different sizes, thus forcing you to change the specializations of your soldiers and the way of approaching the tasks. Through some missions you’ll sweep like a breeze. Others will have you restarting them before you figure out the optimal path. Some missions can be done in less than 20 seconds, while others require a few minutes to complete.

Door Kickers,Preview,Screenshot,KillHouse Games,Real Time Strategy,Real Time Tactics

While there’s satisfaction to be had as your troopers march down hallways quickly dispatching foes, the missions give you neither chance nor reason to feel involved. It all moves too fast, and at the end of the day it just seems to lack soul. There’s no gravity to your actions. There’s little kick to the bullet impacts. You care for the hostages because you’re supposed to care, and it’s here the game could use a bit of work. Sure, tactical games rarely concern themselves with narrative, but with the inclusion of permanent death and trooper customizing, one cannot assume these mechanics are there without an existing intention of getting the player attached to his squad and their actions.

As of now Door Kickers provides gameplay where going in recklessly yields small rewards. Issuing orders to your squad and making sure they progress at an optimal pace while covering the right areas can and will grip you. While there still are things that require polish, the game has potential to give you a run for your money, especially if it gathers a community of modders ready to tinker in the Steam Workshop. With a release date set for “no later than November 2014”, that’s bound to include a campaign mode, Door Kickers is worth keeping an eye on.

MateÈ™ Bogdan Robert, NoobFeed
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General Information

Platform(s): PC, Mobile
Publisher(s): KillHouse Games
Developer(s): KillHouse Games
Genres: Strategy
Themes: Real Time Tactics
Release Date:

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