Originally released in Early Access back in June of 2017, Dog Duty has finally made its way to a full release today including its console debuts on Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One. I have to admit that I never really followed the development of Dog Duty as I hadn’t heard of it until recently. When I saw the game though I found the premise to be interesting. I generally enjoy the squad based tactical strategy genre and the game seemed to have an interesting take on it. In addition to the vehicle combat the game also seemed to be taking a more action approach rather than the stealth approach that most games from the genre utilize. When you add in the post apocalypse/Mad Max universe, I wanted to check out the game. Dog Duty creates a fun and engaging squad based combat game that unfortunately has a few flaws preventing it from reaching its full potential.
In Dog Duty you are in charge of an elite group of soldiers in a post apocalypse world. The evil Octopus Commander has used his army to take over the world. As some of the resistance’s greatest soldiers you are responsible for leading the resistance in its fight against the commander. Can you use your wits and your heavily armored vehicles to finally put an end to Octopus Commander’s reign?
Dog Duty’s gameplay can be basically broken down into two main elements.
First there is the vehicle combat. The game’s world is broken down into a number of different zones. Each zone features a number of different outposts controlled by enemy forces that you can liberate in order to weaken the enemy’s strength. To travel between these outposts you will have access to different vehicles which your characters will ride on and attack any enemy forces that get in your way. They can use their standard weapons or you can place a number of different turrets on top of the vehicle which can be used to deal even more damage. While you are driving you will occasionally run into groups of vehicles that will attack you. When you engage combat your vehicle will drive itself while you control your soldiers standing on top of the vehicle. If you destroy the enemy vehicles you will earn some money which you can use to add more turrets or purchase other weapons and tools to help you in the other aspect of the game.
When you reach one of the outposts you can choose to attack it in order to take control of it for the resistance. When attacking an outpost you will get to control your three chosen soldiers. Basically you can control one or all of your soldiers at the same time giving them orders on what they should do. These orders mostly revolve around telling them where to move and which enemy units to attack. Each soldier also has a special ability that can be used periodically which can range from healing all of your soldiers to performing a more powerful attack. You also have access to health/armor, grenades, and other one time use items which can help you in your fight. You need to carefully approach the outposts taking out unsuspecting enemies or making use of the turrets in the base. Each outpost usually has a satellite dish that you need to destroy or enemy reinforcements will keep getting called in. In addition you also have to destroy enough vehicles/items to cripple the enemy forces or steal enough of their resources. When you have completed all of the objectives and killed all remaining enemies you will take control of the outpost which gives you a safe haven and weakens the enemy. Each different zone has a number of different outposts to capture including one that features a boss fight which conquers the zone for good.
I have to say that I don’t know if I have ever played a game quite like Dog Duty before. Many people seem to compare the game to the Commandos franchise, but I have never played any games from the franchise so I can’t make the comparison. I would say that it feels a lot like what you would get if you combined a squad based game with more of an action game. The gameplay mostly revolves around controlling a squad of three soldiers telling them where to move and which enemies to attack. You don’t really have any other impact on the combat as you just sit back and hope they take down the enemies. These squad based games are usually based around stealth as you dispatch enemies without drawing direct fire. Dog Duty has some elements of this, but it is also more action packed as your soldiers can survive some open conflict.
I generally had fun playing Dog Duty. It isn’t the deepest or best game that I have played, but it is satisfying to play. It is quite fun commanding your group of soldiers as they wipeout the enemy force that stands in their way. You are regularly outnumbered, but with a good strategy you can defeat a force much more powerful than your own. While you are mostly just ordering troops around, the combat is still satisfying as you feel a sense of accomplishment when you take control over an outpost. The game can become kind of tense at times when you are running out of health and the enemy is closing in on your position. The vehicle combat while a little over the top is also really satisfying as you take down a group of vehicles in close pursuit.
I don’t know how to classify the game’s difficulty. It really depends on how you approach the game. If you go in guns blazing you likely are going to really struggle in the game. You are greatly outnumbered in every outpost and some of the enemy units will have weapons that can wipe you out pretty quickly. Enemies using turrets are particularly deadly. While you are mostly just controlling where your troops move and what enemies they attack, you need to keep track of the situation to move them out of bad situations. If you think you are going to just be able to run into a outpost and easily dispatch of all of the enemies you are going to be disappointed. Early in the game I actually died quite a few times as I tried to adjust to the game.
Once you realize that you need to take your time the game becomes quite a bit easier. You need to take time to heal from damage and to set up advantageous situations. You need to use cover to limit damage and break the enemies into smaller groups that are easier to deal with. Getting rid of the satellite dishes is also key as the continuing supply of new enemies are really hard to deal with. There are a couple tricks that I learned while playing the game that should help. First when you arrive at a new outpost drive around the outskirts so you can use the turrets on your vehicle to take out some of the enemies before you start to move in with your soldiers. Also I would highly recommend taking advantage of the enemy AI. If you attack an enemy it along with any nearby units are likely to move to your location when you retreat. This allows you to set up ambushes that can wipe out enemies quickly. Even if you use these tricks though the game can still be difficult if you aren’t paying attention and regularly moving your soldiers around.
I am not entirely sure how I would describe Dog Duty’s overall atmosphere. The story is pretty basic as you are an elite group of soldiers that is trying to take down the evil commander. The story never plays a big role in the game as you only get a little dialog from the commander when you face off against the various bosses. The story is not bad, but it isn’t anything particularly original either. The overall world reminds me a lot of Mad Max as it has the post apocalypse feeling with roving bands of vehicles. The graphical style feels like a mixture of 2D and 3D. It feels like the game tried to update the graphical style of games like the Commandos franchise. If you are a fan of these type of games I think you will appreciate the game’s nostalgic art style.
I enjoyed playing Dog Duty but it does have a couple of issue that prevent it from being as good as it otherwise could have been. At this point I would like to note that I mostly played the pre-release PlayStation 4 version of the game. I bring this up because as the game gets patches after its release some of these issues that I am going to discuss may get fixed.
The first issue I have with Dog Duty has to deal with the controls. Having played the game on PlayStation 4 I would say that it is the type of game that would probably control better with a keyboard and mouse. The troop movement usually works just fine as you just use one of the analog sticks to move your targeting reticle and a button to tell your unit(s) to move to or attack your designated target. The rest of the controls are quite simple as well. I think this aspect of the game would work better on PCs as I occasionally had some issues selecting a specific location or enemy to attack. This is probably due to using an analog stick instead of a mouse. This was usually a minor inconvenience, but it did lead to me dying a couple times. The bigger problem is with the driving. I eventually got used to the driving controls, but at first if you saw me driving you would think that the driver was impaired in some way. I kept swerving back and forth and ran into many obstacles. The good news is that outside of wasting a little time, driving poorly is not likely to have a big impact on how well you do in the game.
The other issue that I had with Dog Duty had to deal with some bugs that I encountered. I had some issues adding and removing turrets from some of the vehicles. I don’t know what triggered the bug, but suddenly I wasn’t able to edit the placement of turrets. I don’t know if it was just coming back at a later time or if it was reloading my save, but these issues resolved themselves after a while. I had another issue with the game that was fixed with the release date patch. I am guessing this means most of these other bugs will be fixed soon as well.
As for Dog Duty’s length I unfortunately can’t give you a definitive one. This is due to a couple things. First the length is obviously going to depend on how good you are at the game. If you adjust to the game’s difficulty and find ways to ambush enemies you can finish the game quite a bit quicker than if you just keep trying to brute force it. Another thing that factors into the length is how through you are. If you try to take over all of the outposts it is going to take considerably more time than if you just go straight to the boss fights. It is actually possible to immediately fight the bosses without worrying about the other outposts. The boss fights will be more difficult as you didn’t weaken the troops by taking the outposts. If you are good enough at the game though you could probably breeze through the game. I would guess most players will probably get around 4-6 hours out of the game if they actually try to capture all of the outposts. If you really struggle it could take a little longer and if you rush to the boss fights it might take less time.
Ultimately I found Dog Duty to be an enjoyable game even though it is not perfect. The game is basically what I would consider a combination of a squad based game with an action game as you control a squad of soldiers as they take over outposts. Between the vehicle and squad combat I found the gameplay to be pretty satisfying. The combat can get a little hard at times, but if you take your time and take advantage of ambushes you can succeed. The story is kind of basic, but I think the game utilizes the post apocalypse setting well. The main problems with the game have to deal with the controls not always working as well as they should and there being some occasional bugs.
My recommendation comes down to your thoughts on the game’s premise. If Dog Duty sounds interesting to you I think you will enjoy it and should consider checking it out.
We at Geeky Hobbies would like to thank Zanardi and Liza, and SOEDESCO for the review copy of Dog Duty used for this review. Other than receiving a free copy of the game to review, we at Geeky Hobbies received no other compensation for this review. Receiving the review copy for free had no impact on the content of this review or the final score.