Developer/Publisher: Blowfish Studios || Overall: 6.5/10
Note: This is a review based on playing with normal-ass PC controls, not VR. Play experience may be significantly different if you choose to play in VR.
Build stuff, blow stuff up, spawn little guys with swords, and watch it all come together in the hectically-paced Siegecraft Commander. Your quick reactions and propensity to spam the map with your buildings will get you through almost any challenge the game has to offer. While it is technically a real-time strategy game, strategy is not usually what is rewarded, single player or otherwise. Since the game mechanics are pretty easy to understand, the title can appeal to a broad group in the strategy genre, mostly for beginners or people who never play RTS games usually.
The basic idea of Siegecraft Commander comes with placing towers on your map, and using them as stepping stones to travel across the map as you maneuver to vanquish your enemy. To place one of your buildings, a slingshot mechanic is introduced. Rather than simply clicking on the map where you want to perfectly place your building, you will have to gauge whereabouts you want to build by aiming with your previous building. You can’t spawn buildings everywhere, however. Terrain, other buildings, and seemingly-random obfuscations will prevent you from placing buildings down. What can make the gameplay chaotic at times is that buildings are hierarchical — meaning your buildings are reliant on its parent building existing for itself to exist. If Outpost A spawns Outpost B and Outpost C, and then Outpost A is destroyed, all three go down in flames (and all of the buildings attached to Outpost B/C as well). You’ll have to keep an eye on your earlier buildings for any dangers heading their way, since you could lose 10 or even 20 buildings when an important node falls.
With those basicalities explained, you’ll have a number of different buildings available to build. Due to a tech tree, you’ll need some buildings as a prerequisite for other buildings. There is typically no hard limit to the amount of buildings you can spawn from one, but there is a limited amount of space around the existing buildings before you need to branch out further. Buildings cannot criss-cross, as they lay down a straight line to their parent building, so you’ll need to plan out how you spread across the map in different lines. Outposts are the most important building, as they extend your keep and can allow for the eventual building of all other towers. You can make Barracks, which spawn infantry that auto-attack ground enemies and buildings, with no input allowed from you. There are also other sorts of towers that shoot projectiles, but typically require manual control — the Barracks are usually the strongest tower since there is no micromanagement involved and you can spend more time brute forcing into your enemy’s territory with your regular Outposts to launch explosives from them while your infantry back you up. The more advanced buildings are powerful in their own ways, but there’s not much impetus to bother with them due to cooldowns of their abilities or construction.
Unlike most RTS games, there is no resource-gathering. There is a blue and an orange resource on the map that is required for the more powerful buildings — all you need to do is build an Outpost on them to acquire it as a binary value. Construction is regulated by cooldowns, so if you accidentally launch your building onto an area that can’t be built on, you’ll be waiting for 30 seconds or so for your second try. The goal is always to eliminate your enemy, and in the single player campaign you will always start out with just your initial Keep while the computer will start with all of their buildings down already. They will sometimes expand or rebuild lost buildings, but it seems to depend on the level itself whether or not they are told to do anything. I’ve had a couple of levels where they have a lot of buildings but don’t try to advance on your position other than with spawning enemies or projectiles, and others where they don’t do much but defend. There are two single player campaigns, sixteen levels in all.
A multiplayer mode is included but unfortunately seems to lag out or become unresponsive at a certain point. I was lucky and had my very first game continue for about 10 minutes and it was surprisingly a lot more fun than the campaign since you are racing against the other player(s) in a bid to outmaneuver them on the map and then destroy them. All sides starting with just a Keep also makes it considerably more competitive, as facing against an already-established network of towers always feels like pushing a boulder up a mountain.
Unfortunately, there’s a lot of frustrating aspects that don’t make the gameplay enjoyable. First of all, the slingshot mechanic is a chore to use, and it is the primary thing you’ll be interacting with. By default, the slingshot will not show you where it is going to land so you have to guesstimate where it might, and even then you’ll be ripping your hair out when it goes half the distance you thought it would for the hundredth time. Frustration is further enhanced when your building lands somewhere it can’t even be built, forcing you to wait for extended cooldowns and deal with the slingshot yet again. It would have been nice if there was some sort of flag for noting what terrain could not be built on so you didn’t aim it there. However, there is a control option available called “Shot Guide” that shows you generally where the thing you are launching is expected to land, but it is for the campaign only. I get why it isn’t available in multiplayer and is off by default, because it would probably make it not as fun since part of the enjoyment is seeing your opponents fail at hitting their target all of the time.
There’s also a lot of random bugs, the biggest one being that if a tower you are currently controlling dies, you won’t be able to select any other towers unless you open the game menu (via Escape); after doing so, you are then able to select a new tower. Once, I even saw an infantry soldier die, then the sword came back to life (no person attached) and it started hitting my tower again! It was kind of funny, but annoying at the same time since I didn’t know if the tower was going to take any damage randomly and the damn thing wouldn’t go away. Perhaps with future game updates some of these issues will be resolved.
The graphics are pretty good and the cartoonish style of the art meshes well with the idea of the gameplay. There are only two factions, so there’s not a whole lot of variety in units or buildings. There is some nice/funny voice acting, but seems to be oddly incomplete. As I got further in the first campaign, voice overs didn’t play during the story bits — they either weren’t working due to a bug or maybe they didn’t get around to recording them? I honestly don’t know. The music isn’t bad, either and also fits the theme well.
Another big feature for this title is that it is also designed for VR play. While I didn’t get a chance to play this title in VR (I don’t have that equipment available to me), I have played with an HTC Vive for about half an hour or so. I can see how the experience could be a lot more different, as controls are a significant obstacle for enjoyment here. Since VR is still a pretty new platform, a game like this might be pretty unique in the range of titles out there.
While there are some interesting points to be had with Siegecraft Commander, I came away mostly frustrated with the experience. Wrestling with the controls and the lack of information regarding where buildings can be placed is a big detriment to any enjoyment to be had. The campaign doesn’t feel very exciting, and the stories weren’t too interesting either.