The only winning move is not to play.
In First Strike: Final Hour, you play one of twelve nuclear superpowers in a race to world domination. Each half-hour long game ends the same way: total obliteration. Whether you emerge victorious or become steamrolled by your enemies, the world suffers the consequences. The science fiction classic WarGames, in which a supercomputer designed to predict outcomes of nuclear war gains access to the real nuclear weapons control system, put it best: “A strange game. The only winning move is not to play.”
First Strike: Final Hour is a Steam port of the mobile game First Strike. It includes a few additions to the original game—like new superweapons—but is for the most part a simple remaster. Precise mouse movements make it easier to control your territories, but First Strike: Final Hour fails to take advantage of the keyboard part of the ‘mouse and keyboard’. You cannot use directional inputs to scroll across the globe or assign hotkeys to specific commands. After playing several rounds on my home desktop, I couldn’t help but wonder why I wasn’t playing the mobile version on the train instead.
On the verge of a nuclear meltdown.
Victory in First Strike: Final Hour is hinged on the effective timing of First Strikes, coordinated attacks on vital areas of an opponent’s territory. These use every weapon in your arsenal to obliterate a singular area. Enemies will usually retaliate with a First Strike of their own, so it’s important to have both a massive offensive force and an impenetrable fortress of defenses. Some missiles will likely slip through on both sides. Keeping your forces spread out means that attacks on one or two territories won’t annihilate your chances of winning.
Your opening move often decides the fate of battle. This is especially true in First Strike: Final Hour, where losses are often in the first ten minutes of the game. Expanding your territory, forming an alliance, and building cruise missiles must all be done before opponents have the chance to wipe you off the map. It’s usually better to play defensively and wait for opponents to decimate each other’s forces, then swoop in and claim their war-ravished territory for yourself.
Committing to defense gives you more time to research upgrades like visualizations for incoming missiles or greater map visibility. These can be difficult to process because the game marches on as you read their descriptions. It’s a good idea to memorize the most important nodes so that they become second nature in future playthroughs. At the end of each upgrade path, you can research powerful superweapons that can change the tide of battle. The Global Strike Trident, for example, rains down a mixture of real and dummy missiles upon an enemy. Winning under certain conditions grants you access to additional superweapons in future rounds.
A point amidst the chaos.
First Strike: Final Hour sends a not-so-subtle message about the folly of nuclear warfare. Nuclear destruction permanently scars the planet, your capital city and its surroundings likely burned to cinder. It becomes difficult to figure out whose land is whose when it’s scorched, a (possibly unintentional) ambiguity that highlights the morbid nature of atomic warfare. Only a select few spots are ever safe from the chaos, lucky to escape the scathing heat of the bomb. Even victories are rewarded with an uncertain “You Win?”
First Strike: Final Hour is a game better suited for the mobile space. Its simplicity and fast-paced nature work great on the go, but when you’ve got a modern computer there are better choices—even in its genre. DEFCON and Plague Inc. are similar in concept, but include something notably absent in First Strike: Final Hour: a multiplayer mode. Playing solo works fine on mobile, where spotty internet access causes frequent disconnections. At home, no multiplayer neuters its longevity. Every match starts to feel the same and the enemies become predictable. Unlike Sid Meier’s Civilization franchise, opponents are faceless countries with no personality. At $11.99 it’s a hard sell over the mobile version, despite its improved graphics and control scheme.
Final Verdict: 2.5/5
Available on: PC (Reviewed); Publisher: Blindflug Studios AG ; Developer: Blindflug Studios AG ; Players: 1 ; Released: May 31, 2017
Full disclosure: This review is based on a Steam key of First Strike: Final Hour given to HeyPoorPlayer by the publisher.