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Genre: Strategy / Action

Developer: Hothouse Creations

Year: 1999

Platform: Windows 98

Emulator: PCem

Wikipedia: Abomination: The Nemesis Project

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Added to the lair: 4/18/21

Abomination: The Nemesis Project

Eight commandos vs a nightmare army

Abomination is a game that, while flawed, has a lot going for it and ticks many boxes for things that I enjoy in games... I'm not particularly good at it though.

Probably one of the most glaring issues with Abomination, at least upon release, was some extremely questionable marketing which tried really hard to convince people that this was the successor to X-Com. In fact, the box mentions X-Com, by name, no less than three times. This is really misleading because frankly that isn't an accurate comparison at all. Abomination does not play like X-Com. It's not turn-based and the combat is much more chaotic, for better or worse (largely worse, in my opinion). The American box proclaims "Action. Strategy. Mayhem.", the last of which is the most accurate of the bunch. What they should have compared the game to is Syndicate or Syndicate Wars. That would have been a much more apt comparison but I guess they thought Syndicate didn't have as much mass appeal. It set themselves up for failure though because anyone going into this expecting X-Com is going to be in for a rude awakening. The reviews at the time weren't particularly positive and it makes me wonder if it was at least in part due to these inaccurate expectations.

From a presentation perspective, Abomination is pretty great. "Slick" is how I describe most of it. I like the over-designed UI, the randomly-generated mission environments look really nice, with bombed out cars, dead bodies, weird mutated hulks of melded flesh and metal that form some really disturbing looking... well... abominations... Some of it reminded me a bit of the game Gorky 17 a.k.a. Odium which is high praise from me because I like that game a lot. There's all kinds of debris strewn about everywhere to really convey that things have seriously gone to shit since the outbreak. The descriptive writing for everything from mission briefings to character and item descriptions is really appreciated. In fact I would say that the writing is one of the most effective tools for really selling the atmosphere they're going for here, and it works. There's also a great industrial soundtrack. The only real complaint I have on this front is that inventory management is overly cumbersome, and I found myself fighting with it more than should be necessary. Other than that, everything looks and sounds good. It would have been nice if the characters and enemies were sprites instead of polygonal models, but they're generally small enough that they don't look too bad.

The gameplay consists of randomly generated missions where you send out four soldiers to complete various tasks like killing all the enemies, recovering some object or person, or activating/deactivating various widgets. All of this is fine, but unfortunately the combat often devolves into a bit of an unwieldy, chaotic mess. The game gives you lots of tools for managing your team, their behavior, their stance (standing/crouched/prone), etc. but in practice I found the combat feeling really messy with so much going on at one time - this is where the X-Com comparison completely falls apart. The game has the tendency to throw a dozen enemies at you at once, some of them using grenades or rocket launchers, and in moments like these I found myself just kindof hoping for the best. It's at least helped somewhat by the ability to pause the action at any time, and you'll likely be using this a whole lot.

I wish that the between-mission section had more to do. They've clearly setup the strategic map to evoke a vibe similar to X-Com's, but they give you very little to do with it. You're basically just equipping your team, reading up on new research, and then waiting for another mission to pop up. It just felt like wasted potential to me.

From a presentation perspective Abomination really works for me, but it's let down by overly chaotic combat that too often leaves you feeling out of control; which is particularly problematic when you've also taken it upon yourself to compare your game to X-Com. I think if you like sci fi horror and especially if you also happen to like Syndicate / Syndicate Wars this is a game you should check out. If not, it's possible you'll still enjoy Abomination, but prepare yourself for a certain amount of frustration as you learn your way around the game and what it throws at you, because it can be pretty unforgiving.

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