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Is mixing Tower Defense and Real-Time Strategy a good thing?

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    Siegecraft Commander

    Rating: 1.5 – Bad

    Is mixing Tower Defense and Real-Time Strategy a good thing?

    You know what type of games you just don’t see on consoles nowadays? Real-Time Strategy games. Not that anyone is surprised: you don’t have the type of precise control you need to play at a high level. While we’re on the subject though (and we’re totally on the subject…), you don’t see a lot of "Tower Defense" games on consoles either. Siegecraft Commander, however, borrows from both of these genres and boldly arrives on consoles, indifferent to such preconceived notions! But… is that a good thing?

    Let’s get this out of the way first: Siegecraft Commander is not a story-driven game. There are short (emphasis on SHORT) pieces of dialogue before each story mission that are presented in a story-book format. These snippets of dialogue feature some very generic "leaders" for both the human and lizard sides but they amount to little more than "Look how dumb the human commander is!" for the humans or "What’s going on here?" for the lizard side. The story is just very underwhelming and offers so little to the experience here that even writing this one paragraph about it seems overly generous.

    So, onto the actual gameplay. I will admit that the gameplay in Siegecraft Commander is undoubtedly unique. Each side has a central "Castle" it controls that functions as its main base. From there you have to LAUNCH outlying buildings. That’s right… "Launch." You literally fling outposts out from your main base (or other outposts). Wherever they land is where they’ll immediately build at, connecting to the previous building with a wall. Launching these buildings utilizes a slingshot-mechanic that is reminiscent of catapulting birds in Angry Birds, as you can determine the strength of your launch with that slingshot I mentioned. Thankfully, you can change this launching mechanic to a more static option if you don’t like the slingshot options (which I did right away). You can turn the inversion settings on or off in the game’s settings.

    This style of base-building means that you’ll end up with long chains of walls sprawling across each and every map. Off of these outposts, you’ll build your actual combat buildings. These include the barracks that automatically generate soldiers, magic buildings that you can cast spells from, or even buildings you can launch air units from. There are also various turret-type buildings you can make that automatically attack enemy ground and air forces.

    This… unique style of base-building turns the actual game play flow into something like this: Launch outposts as close as you can to the enemies’ front lines, build up barracks and turrets, and try to launch explosives at the enemy buildings. Rinse and repeat. You’ll find yourself constantly building more and more to be closer to the action. Otherwise, your buildings will just be out of range, and your soldiers will have to walk FOREVER just to meet the enemy. Now, this system as a whole has its pros and cons. Let’s start off positive: there’s no denying this game play system is unique. Launching buildings to build bases isn’t something you’re going to see in a lot of games. The other positive here is that if you (or the enemy) destroy a building in the MIDDLE of a chain, EVERYTHING built off of that building will also be destroyed. Think of it like "building dominoes." As you can imagine, this goes for your buildings as well, which can definitely lead to some aggregation if you don’t build enough defenses…

    Unfortunately, the negatives of this entire system are just overwhelming. I’ve already touched on the fact that to maintain an effective combat front, you’ll CONSTANTLY be moving your outposts and buildings forward (which makes your forces feel more like a battering ram than anything). But that doesn’t even touch on the one giant (and literal) obstacle holding this game play back: walls. There are walls EVERYWHERE, which is what happens when every single one of your buildings is connected via walls. This wouldn’t be such a big issue if it wasn’t for the fact that your OWN SOLDIERS are unable to cross your walls. Which of course means that barracks that aren’t built on the front line (which, again, you’ll need to adjust constantly) will spawn soldiers automatically, which will then take forever to walk their way to previously-mentioned front line. Oh, and to pour salt on that wound, you’re only allowed a certain about of soldiers on the battlefield at one time (the limit is 15). Have fun walking around your country’s giant wall, sword fodder! In fact, the only real way to combat this headache is to blow up your own buildings, as that’s the only way to get rid of them (something the game doesn’t exactly teach you). Thankfully, that is an option. This game would literally be unplayable if that wasn’t the case.

    The graphics in the game are presented in a cartoon-ish style, which work well enough for this title. You can actually zoom-in on the battlefield quite a bit, but doing so just serves to show you how plain the 3D models themselves actually are (not to mention how every soldier looks exactly the same). Surprisingly enough, the game also features PlayStation VR support, which is neat as VR is still rather new. Even though I personally wasn’t able to try it out, it doesn’t appear to add to the game play or graphics in any meaningful way. The model animations here are all solid, but rather boring. The AI soldiers move VERY slowly towards the nearest enemy or enemy structure but pick up their pace a bit when they get in some predetermined range (which is a bit awkward), but mostly you’re just going to be looking at explosions all game long as buildings get destroyed over and over. The environments are thoroughly average, but are somewhat unique. It almost feels like you are playing in a toy box thanks to the level’s wooden boarders and foliage that just reminds you of scale-model trees bushes. This doesn’t add to the game at all, but it is noteworthy.

    The game’s audio is also thoroughly average, with high-fantasy background music sprinkled in throughout the campaign, average sound effects (get used to those explosions!), and very stereotypical voice-acting. Lord knows all of the lizard men NPC’s MUST draw out the letter "S" whenever it "issss pressssent."

    In my time with the game, I played both of the campaign options with the Human and Lizard factions (which are both available from the start), but I would be remiss if I didn’t tell you that I was completely unable to try the "Multiplayer" option. Siegecraft Commander’s multiplayer (as the game itself will tell you) is cross-play with the PC version of the game, and comes with real-time and turn-based options (which seem to be a great way to implement multiplayer for a title like this). But despite the additional platform, I couldn’t get a single player to join my party, let alone the four players the game attempted to search for. You CAN do local multiplayer games, however, which I did try in split-screen. And I must admit that THIS is where I see the greatest potential in Siegecraft Commander: 2-4 real life players attempting to destroy each other in real-time multiplayer mayhem, which just comes off as chaotic fun.

    Overall: 3/10

    Unfortunately, unless you happen to have those real-life friends that want to play something really different and are willing to buy Siegecraft Commander with you, the rest of this title isn’t something I can recommend. The battle system, while definitely unique, gets in its own way too much and just doesn’t offer enough variety in its gameplay or tactical options to be truly fun. Siegecraft Commander may very well boldly mix the "Real-Time Strategy" and "Tower Defense" genres, but they seem to have made the same mistake the scientists from Jurassic Park did: they were so preoccupied with whether or not they could, they didn’t stop to think if they should… Have fun and keep playing!

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