Here we are Natural Selection 2, here we are. You were once just a mere mod, Natural Selection they called it. You built a grand community full of aliens and marines duking it out against each other on October 31st, 2002. Look where you've come since then, look where Unknown Worlds has come. What was once just a mod 10 years ago has grown into an immersive shooter full of FPS and RTS elements still ready for modern players to jump into. After being a fan of the first, this is definitely a nostalgic trip that I've enjoyed. "This has been such an epic journey." - Charlie Cleveland, Game Director at Unknown Worlds
Natural Selection 2 doesn't give you some amazing story, they throw you right into the action and it feels just right. Whether you decide to take on the role of the Frontiersmen(Humans) or Kharra(Aliens), you'll have an entirely different experience each side you play. They're both full of action and strategy each uniquely tailored.
After having about an eight hour streaming session of this prior to this review with my brother, I'd say they've done something right. A good portion of that was full of laughs and overall just fun and it really didn't matter what team we were on. In my personal experience just talking about that session, the community was usually pretty good except for maybe one match. We had a lot of good communication and team work as well as people helping out the rookies. I had played commander on the Frontiersmen side for a couple times having never done it before so I expected things to go poorly. But having some experience from the first Natural Selection I was able to figure things out and people helped me by pointing me in the right direction of what to focus on. One of the biggest things Natural Selection 2 has going for it right now is the community. Every game has it's few sour ones, but this one has a large amount of sweet ones.
Lets get down to how unique Natural Selection is in having FPS and RTS elements. Or should I say FPB, first person biting, ba dum csh! For the aliens, get it, get it? I'll stop. Unknown Worlds of course followed up with their mod in having two sides of the game outside of the two teams. When you first get into NS2 I don't recommend trying commander on either side right away, because honestly the RTS side of this is much more difficult.
Welcome to the Roughnecks
So lets get into the FPS bit. Jumping right into NS2 like I said you're thrown into the combat after leaving the ready room. If you're an alien you'll have agile movement to get right in your foes' face and bite it right off. If you're a marine/Frontiersmen you'll either be fortifying your base or moving out in a group as a deadly squad that can light up that infestation. As you get further into a match your team will get more upgrades and resources leading to a whole new type of combat for the grunts. If you're a marine you might be walking around in an Exosuit which is basically a mech with either dual mini-guns or a mini-gun and a claw. Yes, a claw, that claw will smack those aliens around like no tomorrow. Or even just an average marine with a shotgun, flamethrower, grenade launcher, the upgrades keep going! As the aliens you change entirely into a whole new creature or just get upgrades to make yourself quicker and stronger. Why not just go invisible and sneak up on your enemy, you can! And just because you're a grunt that doesn't mean you can't have strategy. There are vents for you to crawl through, whether you're a marine or alien. There are gaps to defend against a big rush or push. Also, there's the terrifying darkness that will envelop the area if that power node goes down. If you're a marine, that flashlight only works so well in the dark against an alien's amazing vision.
So We've Got a Tough Guy Ay?
Then there's the RTS side of things. While I don't have too much experience as an alien commander, I know the marines relatively well after that one night. Since we just talking about the FPS portion of NS2, you realize now that there's generally 12 vs 12 people in a match. With one on each team usually being the commander. So from the start we already know, we've got 11 people who are relying on us. We can either bring them to victory or a painful downfall, hopefully the first one! Anyway, as commander you'll have a top down view on the field and most of the units running around frantically you have to order. Let's get into talking about the marine commanding. Starting out with a Command Station and Infantry Portal you'll have to branch out and order your marines to build. You'll have to gather resource points and build extractors if you want to keep having resources to build structures as well as resources for your men to buy weapons. So now you have people running around the map building extractors, people scouting, and people at base fortifying it with stuff like Armory's and Observatories. It sounds simple, but it requires so much concentration you'd be surprised. This is where you really see communication come into play, I was constantly on my mic letting people know what was going on. Whether it was an attack, that I'm teleporting everyone to base, ordering them, what I'm researching, etc. And you'd get a response a lot of the time as well. This isn't just Starcraft where you're commanding AI units, your men are real and will cooperate with you if you speak to them.
Now when we mix these two together, what do you get? You get Natural Selection 2. You've got the grunts communicating and working together, then you have people outside of gaming talking together, then take it even another step further and you've got a commander leading everything. In other words, well one word, communicateception. Wasn't sure how I would make that one work. While you can lone wolf it, it's generally a bad idea, so it's a ton of fun working with your team and playing with friends. I'd highly recommend getting the four pack deal Unknown Worlds has going on so you can really have a great experience.
What's Bad About NS2?
So I've chewed your ear off about how great this game is. But what's bad? Well to be honest, I haven't found too many issues! There are maybe two things that I could see being a problem. One, balancing, but this is a tough topic I'll admit. It can be discussed in several ways actually. Whether we're talking about good players stacking a team or the damage of a weapon and alien ability. Right now I'd say they know what they're doing and have it balanced very well, but of course patches can change that in the future. Therefore, Unknown Worlds make sure to watch that well. Numero dos, commanding. But what do you mean by commanding? While commanding is great and all, it has two issues, which aren't necessarily on Unknown Worlds, but rely on the community. Wait a second, isn't the community supposed to rely on the commander? Yes, but no. If you're in a match and you get a horrible commander or a new player, this may be your downfall. Every second wasted is time that your enemy is getting closer and stronger. I've experienced bad commanders in the original and NS2, it doesn't end well. Also, this issue leads to some players not getting the opportunity to learn how to play commander. My best suggestion is to go into an empty server or your own one and learn how things work. But in the end you'll need the real action to get used to the game. That's my biggest issue with NS2, you may not get the opportunity or as lucky as I've been in learning how to play commander. You might play for the first time and get people yelling at you frequently or the nicest people giving you advice. It's a gamble.
Overall, Natural Selection 2 is easily a successor to the first and is an amazing game. It's full of action, strategy, cooperation, and an entertaining time. Everyone can shine in this game after just a match or two and learn how they're best. You might be the best on a certain side, the best with a certain gun or evolution, you'll figure it out. And then you'll have grand time. If you haven't bought Natural Selection 2 yet, I highly recommend it in my personal and professional opinion.