Siegecraft Commander, developed and published by Blowfish Studios, is the latest installment of the Siegecraft Franchise. Inspired heavily by Moonbase Commander from Humongous Entertainment, this top-down perspective Real Time Strategy game takes place in the fictional world of Freemoi, and has all the features an RTS should have, including VR support. Strategy games are hard to get right, from making the tedious task of clicking the same buttons over and over again feel worth it, to having challenging obstacles and rewarding gameplay, this game manages to have neither of that and falls flat from the beginning to the end.
Strategy games aren't generally known to be the place to get a good story, considering the focus of the game is to strategize your way to victory, not to find out what happens next episode. But I've rarely played a game where the story was so boring that it made it difficult to play. There are two campaigns to choose from, each of which lasting for about 4 hours, both consisting of 8 missions which should take about 15-30 minutes to complete.
First of the two, although you don't need to play them in any particular order, is Voyage for Glory. In this campaign, you'll follow Commander Steerson and his allies after they crash landed in unknown lands that are inhabited by humanoid lizard people. Your goal is simple; these lizards are protecting something, probably treasure, and you want it.
The second story is Crusade of Hope, which gives you control of Ktara Brutz, the broodmother of the lizard people, and Sharma LLertz, a shaman. Together, you two must destroy the corrupted Hurtrad tribe while ascending the mountain they live on. A simple story, to be sure, but at least it isn't so simple as "I want your treasure!"
These stories are told through a book, where a character pops up on a page with their dialogue underneath them and audio matching the dialogue as well, just so that way you can hear their voices over and over again, despite not really wanting to hear them at all. The pictures used and the dialogue rarely matched up, as there was only ever one image for each commander used no matter the emotion put into the dialogue.
While the story is there and is absolute garbage, it wouldn't be so bad if the characters weren't as bad as they were. Boy, are they bad.
Voyage for Glory has three characters, while Crusade of Hope has only 2, but none of that matters when all of the characters are dull, bland, and feel copy and pasted from one another. Commander Steerson takes control over High Mason Yuriy, the group's scientist(?), and Sir Frederick, whose role is completely lost on me. Yuriy is the smart guy of the group, he reads blueprints and scrolls, and makes technical stuff happen, he also makes snarky comments. Sir Frederick is the group's hothead whose willing to go out into battle head first, and he makes snarky comments too! Finally, there's Commander Steerson, the level-headed leader destined to lead his team to glory with strategy and snarky comments. Basically, despite filling three different niches, they all feel the same. In fact, Steerson and Frederick have such similar designs that at times I confused one for the other.
Ktara Brutz and Sharma LLertz, the characters for Crusade of Hope, are at least different characters, both in design and personality. I found myself actually kind of liking them. Ktara broods a lot, but usually for a good reason, like getting stuck in the murky waters of a swamp or how there are too many enemies in the area. LLertz, on the other hand, is some sort of shaman and is thus the voice of reason and sanity. Overall, the lizards are more likable than the people, but that doesn't make them good, as their characters are just that, the brooder and the wise one. There is absolutely no depth to any character and no development, we don't even get to know their histories.
Despite all this, what makes an RTS good or bad isn't its story, but it's gameplay.
Like all games of this genre, your goal is to conquer your enemy by creating the best possible base you can, maximizing both offensive and defensive power through the use of specific buildings, tools, and troops. In this game, however, you don't need to be very specific and there is only one infantry unit to use, of which, only 15 can be spawned at a time. Buildings are placed by firing them like a slingshot from a starting building, as the new building moves through the air it will drop blocks to connect to the original building. If the original building is destroyed, so is everything that you made from it; for example, if you have an outpost with 8 armories connected to it, and the outpost is destroyed, then so are those armories, including anything connected to them. This isn't really an issue to worry about, however, as this game is abhorrently easy, to an extreme degree.
AI in this game is awful and repetitive, spawning troops in the same areas and never responding to the moves you'll make. Coupled with simple objectives that don't provide any challenge, there is barely any difficulty to find here. While playing, you'll notice gold and blue nodes around the map, these are gold nodes and gem nodes, which are used to power some towers and weapons. All you need to do is have a building on top of one, and you'll unlock everything that requires that specific resource, or in the case of dragons, both.
Aiming in this game feels like more of a challenge than the actual game, as the aiming mechanism is an arrow with an arc above to indicate your range and landing spot where the arc will become too transparent to see, especially if there is anything in the way. Considering sensitivity is also a bit too high, it makes it difficult to land perfect shots. It should be noted that the controls are inverted at first, so you'll need to invert them to aim right. Unfortunately, sensitivity cannot be adjusted so you'll be stuck with it.
Due to the fact that every building you place means a new wall is built, it can be pretty easy to cut yourself off from a section of the map, or even cut off your infantry as they try to navigate around the walls. Admittedly, I like this feature, as it makes space management necessary, but it often times ends up becoming a hindrance due to the difficult control scheme and poor aiming mechanics.
What to build
There is a total of 13 different towers to build, however, these options are not the same for both humans and lizards, which is mostly just cosmetic changes and name changes, but there are a few different buildings here and there. None of these building actually require resources, with the exceptions of the few that require a certain node to build, but those nodes will never run out. First off, your four main buildings are your keep/outpost, which lets you build your main buildings: the armory, garrison, and library. It can also build other outposts and the anti-air ballista
The armory can shoot out mines and build mortars, trebuchets, and airships, with mortars being your ground defense towers and trebuchets acting like your snipers, the airship is deployed above your armory and moves forward in whatever direction you launch it, never moving left or right, though it's not automatic, so you have to fire both the mines and bombs that it can launch, these are difficult to aim since all you're given is an arrow to know their general direction, but not much to know the distance, or even where they'll land, as no arc is provided. Honestly, the armory is only good for making mortars for defense, but at the end of the day, it's about as useless as the library.
Where the armory is focused on offensive and defensive buildings, the garrison is entirely offensive, holding the barracks, the infantry generator, and the hatchery, which spawns a dragon. The barracks can only produce 5 troops at a time, with a max of 15 able to be deployed at any given time. Dragons can only be spawned from each hatchery one at a time, with about 40 seconds between each one, and only have two hit points, thus two ballistas can kill 1. Despite this, a dragon has the ability to destroy a building in one shot but afterward, will fly off never to be seen again. I guess they just owe us something. It's best to destroy old garrisons to make room for new ones so that your troops can actually get around the map. So long as you don't box yourself in the garrison can prove to be a useful tool.
Finally, we have the library, which is arguably the most useless tower in the game. This is for simple reasons, the first being that the towers produced by it are nearly useless and all require a power source, the anti-air shield generating tesla is one such example, in that it requires a gem node operate. This may seem like a better choice for AA than a ballista, but building both the library and tesla takes up more space, and the battery will eventually run out. Your other options are the pyre, which has a seeking bolt that locks onto an enemy at its apex, and the spire. The spire is a good example of something that would appear to be useful but just takes up space, as it can shoot a haste spell, which speeds up your buildings, the freeze spell, which slows down enemies, and lastly the damage spell, which makes your buildings and troops do more damage. Considering the name, you would think it would damage enemies, as opposed to increasing your damage.
It may appear that I'm being overly critical with how useless the armory and Library are, but quite frankly, you only need to use the outpost, the ballista, the garrison and the armory to win any level. Put troops down on one side, then spam outposts and ballistas (to kill enemy air units like airships) until you finally destroy the enemy keep. Each outpost comes loaded with a bomb that has a 3 second reload and can launch a decent range, and since you can build without consequence, you can make a line of outposts on one side of the map while infantry attacks the other side. Sure, enemy infantry is a threat, but you can just wait for them all to group up at one outpost, then make it launch bombs right at its feet, killing both the group of enemies and the tower. That may seem counterproductive, but you can literally toss another one in the same spot without consequence, thus nullifying any losses you may have incurred.
Flaw after flaw, from control scheme to tower spamming ruin this game's replayability, as it's simply not fun. Libraries and armories are utterly useless and the only thing you need the garrison for is the barracks, making node capturing and tech producing absolutely pointless. I actually found it harder to play when taking advantage of everything offered from all towers, it was just easier to use outposts and infantry. A lack of glitches and bugs, along with a constant framerate, even with an overactive screen, are about what this game did best, and that's not good. Overall, the gameplay is unrewarding and stale, but it can be highly satisfying to destroy a large chain of hostile buildings; watching them go up in fireworks is a sure sight to see.
Graphics and audio
Failing is what this game is best at, as graphically, from lighting to textures, this game is very subpar. I'll admit that building models and animations work splendidly, as well the art style actually working with this games design, but those are the only good things I'll say. First, textures are muddy even when zoomed out or zoomed in and the limbs on the character models are pixelated, making them very difficult to look at.
Even the audio is awful, especially the audio. The game's sound effects sound like the cheapest torrents the developers could find, with the wind just being too loud and unrealistic to lightning sounding like a clip from a 90s episode of Scooby-doo. Voice acting, however, is the worst offender. Every human character sounds like they're the same person and no emotion is put into their performance at all. The only saving grace is the lizard people, who actually sound decent.
I played with the sound off after I was about thirty minutes in.
I came into this with low expectations, and if this review didn't clue you in on it, my expectations were met. This game fails at almost every turn, with poor map design, easy to complete challenges, touchy controls, and useless towers, I was more surprised with how much I disliked this game.
I don't recommend purchasing this title despite it being only $20, spend your money on something more deserving.
|+ No glitches or framerate drops||– Awful control scheme|
|+ Animations are done well||– Lackluster towers|
|+ Interesting premise||– Overly simple challenges|
|+ Solid art style||– Boring story with poor characters|