Platforms: Xbox One, PlayStation 4, PC (reviewed), VR
My love for real-time strategy (or “RTS”) games has slowly grown over the years and I’ve been a fan of medieval/fantasy settings ever since I was a little kid. It is because of that previous statement that I was expecting to at least like Blowfish Studios’ new humorous RTS title Siegecraft Commander, a game which was designed from the ground up to be both a standard single-screen experience as well as a fully functional VR title (I played it on my standard PC).However, despite some interesting and innovative concepts, Siegecraft Commander suffers from a severe lack of polish which makes it hard to enjoy the game on even its most basic levels.
Breaking The Chain
Siegecraft Commander’s central gimmick is that, as the player constructs their home base, they must do so by “launching” new structures from previously built ones and having the new structure link back to the previous one through a path of wall segments which are laid down as the new structure is launched. This means that all of a player’s structures are linked together through a series of interconnecting walls and if a structure is destroyed, it results in an exploding domino effect which spreads down the “wall chain” to any newer structures which were linked to the destroyed building.
This element of multi-structure vulnerability means that you have to carefully consider where you put vital structures and how far you’re willing to extend your base’s “structure line” towards your enemy’s base. Getting close to and destroying one of your opponent’s key structures can easily turn the tide in your favor, but if you miscalculate and leave one of your own important structures vulnerable, it can spell disaster when you least expect it. Unfortunately, getting to experience the above gameplay concept in its purest form was something I was only able to do after first subjecting myself to a bunch of frustrating trial and error, and here’s why.
Missing Puzzle Pieces
I’m not sure if it’s because the version of Siegecraft Commander I was playing was an unfinished build (it was the build I was provided when I inquired as to a review copy so I’m assuming it is at least close to what Blowfish intends to be the final product), but virtually everything about the game, from the UI to the gameplay, felt barebones and, in some cases, unfinished.
There is a pair of single-player campaigns in which you can experience the “stories” (if a string of poorly-constructed tutorial missions and groan-inducing dialogue can be considered a story) of the game’s human and lizard-man factions, but the campaign missions themselves drag the player through tons of pointless dialogue which often spends minutes explaining a single mechanic that could easily be summarized in a short tool-tip. In many of the missions, the player is forced to build structures in specific spots, but since the game doesn’t have any precise means of determining where a structure will land after you launch it, you sometimes have to repeat the same shot several times until you get it right in the sweet spot the game wants you to.
Also, and I honestly cannot understand how Blowfish overlooked this, the single-player campaigns have absolutely no progress-saving mechanic. There’s no manual or auto saves while within a mission and if you quit out of a mission for any reason you have to redo the entire campaign from the start. I’m guessing this is because Blowfish didn’t intend the single-player campaigns to be the main driving force behind Siegecraft Commander, but it’s still an egregiously frustrating omission.
And speaking of omissions, if you enjoy being able to customize your control inputs or even perform basic PC-centric tweaks like switching between full-screen and windowed mode, you better learn to live without them because Siegecraft Commander’s options setting doesn’t extend far beyond adjusting audio levels.
As for the game’s multiplayer component, I was sadly unable to play a single match so my perspective on it is limited. You can customize your “multiplayer commander” to a limited degree and the multiplayer supports both real-time and turn-based formats depending on which you are more comfortable with, but I’m guessing Blowfish didn’t hand out many pre-release review codes since, despite several attempts at different times and on different days, I was never able to get matched up against other online players in either of the two offered modes.
There is also a custom game option and the official Siegecraft Commander website claims that there’s support for AI bot opponents, but for the life of me I couldn’t figure out how to get a custom AI bot match started, yet another problem which could have been solved had I been able to at least view the game’s controls.
Hobbled From The Get-Go
My time with Siegecraft Commander was especially frustrating because, underneath the barebones UI, poorly-crafted campaigns, and baffling lack of basic customization features, I could sense that the game’s concept was a unique one with plenty of opportunities for zany fun, especially in multiplayer. I do sincerely hope that Blowfish corrects the above issues I had, especially if it wants Siegecraft Commander to stick in players’ minds for any significant amount of time, but if what I played represents the game’s final version, I sadly cannot recommend it to any sort of RTS fan, casual or otherwise.