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Front Mission 5: Scars of the War is the fifth game in the main Front Mission series of strategy role-playing games from Square Enix, which focus on conflicts between several world powers: the USN, OCU, EC, OAC, and Republic of Zaftra. The conflicts are largely played out via battle among Wanzers, a type of mecha. The game was released on December 29, 2005 in Japan.
The gameplay of Front Mission 5 is very similar to previous Front Mission games, namely Front Mission 4, which are classified as strategy RPGs. While being similar to Front Mission 4, there are numerous changes made to the mechanics found inside and outside the battle system.
Gameplay changes outside the battle system from Front Mission 4 to Front Mission 5 are as follows:
- Survival Simulator. Survival is a mode where the player chooses one pilot and passes through a set number of floors with items in boxes. Once the set number of floors have been passed or the player finds an escape item, the player can safely exit Survival and choose a number of items to return. If the player chooses not to return the maximum number of items, Remodel Points(RP) are gained instead.
- Arena. A feature seen in earlier Front Mission games, the Arena is where the player can choose a number of pilots to battle Arena combatants, which are controlled by AI. The player makes a bet and if his pilots win the battle, a number of Command Points(CP) are rewarded for the win. The player can field up to three Wanzers in every Arena clash and could even face previous Front Mission characters, whose Wanzer configurations are almost the same as their initial setup in their respective Front Mission appearances.
- Scouting. A new feature, Scouting allows the player to recruit extra pilots to the squad. Pilots increase in potency as the game progresses. Over 80 pilots can be Scouted at various times within the game, with a maximum of 12 pilots being used at any given time.
- Theater. The player can view cutscenes that have taken place based on the location that the save file was made. Players can also change their wanzer setups to give the cutscenes a more interesting angle or look.
- Mission Briefings. Another feature from earlier Front Mission games, mission briefings are shown to aid the player about mission conditions, special notes, and enemies to consider. Pictures, streaming data, and the ability to scan conditions of the area are used to illustrate the aforementioned information. The briefings also give recommendations to the player on how to meet the mission conditions if they have difficulty.
- Setup and management of wanzers through menus now use one, cohesive menu setup. The unnecessary separate menus found in Front Mission 4 (Wanzer Setup, Shop, etc.) are now incorporated into the new menu scheme. Part Sort is a new feature where parts can be sorted based on several criteria for the player to find the parts they desire more easily. Full wanzer sets are back for newcomers who are unsure how to configure wanzers.
- Aside from buying wanzer parts, the most noticeable change to the wanzer system is the Remodelling process. Using Remodel Points(RP) and Command Points (CP), a wanzer part can be upgraded in various paths.
- For example, the USN wanzer Frost can be upgraded to the Frost HW model, with higher HP and Defense values in exchange for reduced Evasion values. Likewise, it can be modified as the Blizzaia variant, which has higher Defense without an Evasion penalty. The player can opt to remain using the stock Frost but at the expense of limited performance. Remodelling, therefore, allows for a higher range of customization and can turn normally inferior parts into something more useful.
- Remodelling also introduces a new factor, "Set Bonus(SB)". If the wanzer's frame parts are all from one set, the unit is able to access bonuses exclusive to that set alone. For example, the iconic Zenith wanzer can branch off into the Zeria derivative. Assembling a full set of Zeria parts enables SB Auto Repair 3% and Anti-Shock, which grants resistance to Impact-based attacks. This factor encourages usage of full sets rather than combining different parts.
Battle system changes from Front Mission 4 to Front Mission 5 are as follows:
- All pilots specialize in one of the six preset Job classes: Assault, Gunner, Jammer, Launcher, Mechanic, Striker. Training under one of the Jobs require use of certain weapons, such as Missiles with Launcher or Repair backpacks with Mechanic. The only difference is that pilots training under non-specialty Jobs max out at Job Level 9(10 for specialists) and do not learn every skill in those Jobs. For example, an Assault specialist cannot learn the Mechanic skill "Defense III".
- Friendly fire is now possible for both ally and enemy units, a first for Front Mission. Positioning now plays a more vital role in missions as it is very easy to unintentionally hit allies in the line of fire. Every weapon with the exception of Striker weapons and Missile Launchers from Launcher weapons can cause friendly fire. Friendly units blinking in red indicate that they are in the line of fire from another allied unit. Thus, friendly fire is possible in this situation. Units that aren't blinking in red indicates a clear line to the target.
- A new factor, Pilot Type, helps minimize friendly fire during Link battles. Each pilot is classified under four pilot types: Tactical, Defensive, Offensive, and Support. Tactical types attack in cases when maximum damage can be dealt regardless of friendly fire. They do not attack if damage cannot be dealt effectively or if their AP reserves are less than 1/3 of their maximum AP count. Defensive types attack as long as they have enough AP and friendly fire situations are not present. Offensive types are similar to Defensive types but they always attack even in cases of friendly fire. Support types are similar to Tactical types, but they do not attack if their AP reserves are less than 1/2 of their maximum AP count.
- Weapon selection receives several changes in regards to weapon additions and functionality. Flamethrowers have been incorporated back into the fold as an Assault-type weapon. A new addition to weapon selection is the Gatling Gun, a Gunner type weapon. Gatling Guns are long-range versions of machineguns and focus damage onto a wanzer's arms. Bazookas operate differently in that the explosion part of the attack always hits and causes splash damage, which is a new parameter called Blast Range. Bazookas now have a minimum range before they can be used to compensate due to functionality changes. Shields offer damage reductions and can be used as weapons for the first time since Front Mission 2 offered the Shield Rush battle skill. The only penalty is that any equipped weapon on the other Arm is restricted to one attack during battle phases, but this can be negated with the part skill "Remove Shield Limit".
- Skills are classified under the following areas: Special, Battle, Enhancement, Leader, Command, Link. Skills under Special are powerful, but are Job-exclusive and only one can be equipped on a pilot. Battle skills augment both a pilot's offensive and defensive combat abilities. Enhancement skills permanently enhance a wanzer's performance parameters. Leader skills take effect only if the designated leader unit is linked to other pilots and has not been destroyed. Command skills add special combat abilities that can be accessed by the player. Link skills, which are based on what weapons are equipped in the arms, allow the pilot to attack or defend with up to five other pilots. Purchasing skills expend Enhancement Points(EP), which are gained only through Pilot Levels. As Pilot Level caps at 50, there is a limit on how many skills can be purchased.
In Front Mission 5: Scars of the War, players assume the role of United States of the New Continent (USN) soldier Walter Feng. The narrative takes place over several decades from 2070 to 2121, passing by time periods from other Front Mission installments (2089: Border of Madness/1st/2/3/4). In addition, unresolved plot elements from the said installments are explored in greater depth in the narrative. These plot elements are answered conclusively as the player progresses further in the game. However, because of this, only those who have played all of the previous installments mentioned above will fully understand Scars of the War's narrative.
In 2070, Walter and his friends Randy O'Neill and Glen Duval witness the outbreak of the 1st Huffman Conflict. Walter and Glen receive injuries and physical scars as a result of the opening skirmish. The three boys are separated after the war; Glen stayed with the Oceania Cooperative Union (OCU) whereas Walter and Randy joined the USN. The three enlist in their respective militaries and reunite by chance during a peacekeeping skirmish at Peseta City in 2086. After seeing Glen pilot a wanzer, Walter and Randy undergo training to become wanzer pilots themselves.
In 2090, an OCU attack in the USN-controlled Larcus District sparks the start of the 2nd Huffman Conflict. Walter and Randy, now wanzer pilots at Fort Monus Base, are sent out to assist the USN offensive against the OCU. Early in the war, Walter's platoon encounters Glen in Freedom City and a battle ensues. Despite taking Glen as a prisoner, Walter and Randy visit him before he is shipped off to a POW camp. The three meet again in the final day of the war, one year later in Fort Monus. This time, Glen easily handles Walter's platoon and kills Randy. The OCU and USN declare a ceasefire shortly after Glen leaves.
While cleaning up Randy's belongings, Walter notices an application form to join the Strike Wyverns. He crosses out Randy's signature and signs the form. Walter is accepted into the unit after weeks of training and is assigned to the USN Navy aircraft carrier Eclipse, where meets his CO, Lynn Wenright, and old friend Edward Collins. Over the years, Walter participates in military operations worldwide and builds a reputation as an excellent soldier both on and off the battlefield. Hector Reynolds, the Barghest CO, recognizes Walter's potential during an operation to recapture Zaftran oil rigs in the Caspian Sea from terrorists.
In 2097, Cambodia and Laos form an alliance to declare independence from the OCU. When the OCU fails to comply with their demands, the alliance resorts to armed conflict. At the outbreak of the Indochina Conflict, the USN sends in peacekeepers between the alliance and the OCU. The Strike Wyverns are deployed to reclaim the Ratanakiri Province from insurgent forces. An intense battle ensues at a base by the Vietnam border against the Cambodian Army, where Walter encounters Glen again. Glen tries to kill Lynn, but Walter takes the attack instead and sustains serious injuries. Glen and the surviving insurgents retreat afterwards.
While recovering, Hector visits Walter in the hospital to disclose top-secret information about the incident with Glen. Walter keeps this information in mind and decides to investigate it upon returning to duty in 2098. His investigations lead him to the Barghest and a hardened terrorist named Morgan Bernard.