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Front Mission Alternative is a deviation from the (mostly) Turn Based Strategy games in the series in that FMA is a tactical Real Time Strategy game, where players command squads of Wanzers
('walking armor', the giant mechs of the Front Mission universe) to outmaneuver the computer.
Prior to missions, players customize their Wanzers similar to other games in the series. Players can purchase (using money earned from missions) and equip weapons (main guns and secondary missles/grenades), shields, backpacks, items, support equipment (e.g. radar), etc.. They then arrange their Wanzers into 3 squads of up to 3 Wanzers each. Finally, players are given a map and have to plan the movement and orders of the squads, although this can be altered mid-combat as well.
Like other Front Mission games, the mission itself contains no resource gathering but simply combat. Unlike other Front Mission games, the player does not control individual Wanzers directly in combat but rather gives general orders to the squad such as "offensive stance" (engage targets of opportunity) or "defensive stance" (do not engage targets), "diffuse" or "local raid" (concentrated fire vs attacking all enemies), where to move, etc. The computer will handle much of the path finding as well as target acquisition, firing, and defense. Missions end in 30 minutes. Failure to achieve victory will result in a 'retreat' of the mission, with 4 retreats resulting in the end of the game. Generally, the terrain of the maps is rather complex with multiple heights and plateaus. Wanzers can utilize their increased mobility in these cases by jumping or climbing onto different levels while opposing tanks are limited to the level they are on.
There are multiple endings and branching missions based on prior mission success as well as completion or failure of secondary objectives.