Nuclear Dawn has some novel ideas and some solid gameplay, but lacks balance and longevity.
I like the idea behind the game... one commander building structures and trying to direct the flow of chaos from within a fortified bunker. I don't like RTS's because I don't like splitting my attention between resources, structures, and every single unit out there. Nuclear Dawn puts direction of the troops in the hands of the troops themselves. Beautiful! With that out of the way, the RTS commander gameplay is actually nice.
On the field are the grunts of varying classes. Classes I originally felt played off each other like rock paper scissors with their advantages and disadvantages. As I played longer, I realized how lopsided things were.
To it's credit, Nuclear Dawn presents 4 general classes, with subclasses within them, allowing for some role overlap but retaining unique perks. You end up with things like infantry marksmen, stealth sharpshooters, heavy weapons, fire support, mechanical engineers, medics, assassins, etc. It works well. Mostly. Some particular subclasses, like the saboteur, aren't provided enough perks to make them useful. Same goes for most engineers.
Weapons are a mixed bag, and most of them don't feel robust and exciting. Sniper rifles are extremely jittery, Assault rifle recoil is insane, and grenades are incredibly overpowered. The big huge armored guys carrying structure destroying weapons are either a rocket launcher that feels like its shooting needles or a big huge square tube that fizzles out a thin beam of blue energy that reminds me of a bug zapper, not a devastator. The stealth class armblades just whiff through the air even when hitting someone.. no gusto, no grit. And pistols, my god the pistols.. everyone carries one and every single one is like a sniper rifle.. it seems a common skill to get a headshot from long range with it and it's pretty much an instant kill unless you're heavily armored.
People move quickly. Circle strafe fights are everywhere, and it all amounts to who can land a headshot first because without it, killing anyone takes forever. I've played games where my stealth ninja class was chasing a huge lumbering Exo-armored enemy... and I had to run full speed just to keep pace with him. What the hell is that?? Exo is supposed to be slow and vulnerable. As assault you have a vision mode that reveals cloaked stealths, but even when you can see them a mile off coming straight at you, sidestepping is so fast that it's hard to draw a bead on him before he runs right up to you and stabs you to death. It feels like a bad Monty Python and the Holy Grail moment.
The push-pull feel of games is good, but is heavily reliant on team-oriented players. People who can work towards a goal. People who can hold a line of defense, even if the kill count could be higher elsewhere. Eventually the game will tip heavily in favor of one team or another. From this point, it can take 15-20 minutes before the game actually ends, all while the losing side gets spawn-killed repeatedly. This is stupid. The designers smartly added a surrender option, but only the commander can issue it, and most either don't know or don't care because while their team is spawning and dying in droves, they are in their bunker watching it all fall apart, trying to get turret kills until finally the bunker is destroyed.
Nuclear Dawn can also use bots. Either in a single-player-esque mode, or to fill out online servers. Unfortunately they are stupid. I mean stand in place doing nothing stupid. I mean won't follow basic commander directions stupid. I mean don't react to bullets stupid. I mean 10 years ago Perfect Dark Zero stupid.
Servers are scattered and few. Players all cluster on one server. Due to the XP and levelling system, veterans will have an advantage over newcomers in quite a drastic way. That makes getting into the game harder. I think it's accurate to say this is a dying game in it's twilight years. Devs have stopped working on it.
The graphics aren't bad, the ideas aren't bad, it kind of comes close to being good. But it isn't. It's a shame because with proper care, this could have introduced a seriously fresh way to play both FPS and RTS. I really wanted to enjoy this more, but it simply can't deliver any sustainable enjoyment, only disappointment and frustration.
Don't play this. In a short while, the farmer will come out to shoot this lame horse.