When I first laid my eyes on Subsiege on an online stream my first reaction was: "Hey, an underwater Starcraft!" and a little nostalgia flew over me because underwater RTS makes me think of Submarine Titans. The fact that the game evokes memories of these two games is extremely positive, but what happens when you go under the hood?
Subsiege is available for purchase on Steam for $29,99.
Subisege is an early access, multiplayer focused, RTS-MOBA hybrid where you control many units, build a base and gather resources. The standard RTS mechanics. It spices this up by making the maps more MOBA like and introduces a constantly depleting resource, oxygen, that you can only obtain by destroying enemy units. Any of you who had hopes that this will be a case of base building and turtling, sorry to disappoint, as the aforementioned mechanic makes the game more of a hit and run, strike fast and strike early type of thing. This plays into the only victory condition at this stage of development, which is to destroy the enemy units by building your very own fleet of ships. To do this, you use the other two resources, crystals and gas which are dotted around the map and similar to Starcraft, you need to expand across the map to progress and be able to afford a larger army and better ships.
You have a limited number of slots for any given ship so you can't exactly build a huge army and swarm the enemy. The emphasis is more on tactical choices. Do you upgrade existing ships or do you expand and try building more advanced ships, exposing yourself to the enemy who decided for a different approach? On top of that, with the selection of multiple ships, each having his own strengths and weaknesses, it will take you some time to learn their kinks and how they complement each other.
My initial experience with Subsiege is a bad one. As I started the game and jumped into the tutorial, I found the game choppy, unpolished and buggy. My cursor was actually selecting 2cm above its position on the screen.
After managing to make my way through the tutorial, I jump into a single player game first, to try out the mechanics and my luck against an AI. Even though it features the same map as the tutorial, I immediately see the improvement in all fields as the game runs smoother, more responsive, and even the graphics seem to look better. So lesson no. 1 – don't judge a game by its tutorial, but I can't for the life of me figure out why tutorial didn't receive more care as it is the first thing most players go through when starting the game up, and it immediately leaves a bad impression. It also doesn't prepare you at all for the real meat of the game – the multiplayer. Jumping into it, I had real trouble finding matches most of the time as there weren't many players around, and sometimes there were none.
When I did manage to start a multiplayer match I found I had a really good time playing Subsiege which is saying much for an early access game. The fast paced nature of it didn't bother me although I would have like the oxygen option to be optional for when I wanted to satisfy my Submarine Titans base building cravings. I understand that the oxygen mechanic is critical to the game feeling like a MOBA, but it needs some work, as it depletes too fast and often times I was blindsided by it, and ended up losing the match after mere minutes of my units not killing everything in sight.
The game needs plenty more development, mechanic tweaking, and polish but you can see what the developers are going for. The interface and the menus are also bare bones and are not pretty or intuitive, but that is excusable at this stage of development. The game, as of yet, features no story, no major faction differences and features an underwhelming vs AI mode and tutorial which again, do nothing to prepare you for the frenetic and fast paced multiplayer.
Graphics and audio
The game is not a technical marvel of top visual technologies, and it doesn't need to be. Where it needs to separate itself and it does is the art style. Even though the underwater setting would usually leave a lot to be desired, with dark green and grey dominating the landscape – the developer populated the maps with plenty of colorful flora and fauna, hazards, as well as other effects to better sell the underwater feel.. Ships are bright and well designed and weapon have a neon effect that really made some battles look great. The sound is serviceable at this point and music features no standout tracks for now.
Subsiege is a strange game but in a good way. You can't approach it like you would a MOBA, but you also can't approach it like a standard base building RTS. It is a good mix, one that is fairly crude at this point, requiring some polish but the potential most certainly is there. You will either love or hate the fast-paced nature of the game which is enforced by its mechanics, but that is the nature of most MOBA games today that the developer will have to stick with to avoid the game becoming a regular RTS. A bit lower price could also help the game grow and build a larger community, as $29,99 is a bit steep for an early access game of this type and at this stage of development. Many of its problems are excusable for now but it will take a lot more for the game to gather a crowd and stand on its own among the competition.