Siegecraft Commander is a deep and satisfying RTS with a fresh and exciting mechanic I’ve never seen before in a tired genre. It’s a shame then that Blowfish Studios, the developer behind the game, settled for such a bland and unenticing art style.
From the first menu, I was greeted with big headed lunks in cartoony looking armor, the same type of characters which populate a million and one free to play iPad games. Siegecraft Commander is innovative and fun, and it’s a bummer that the first view of the game I had set me with low expectations, and to be honest, a first impression that was hard to overcome.
That’s not to say the game needs ultra realistic graphics, with spurting blood on a crimson soaked battlefield. It simply should have avoided the flavor of the month art design. But luckily I played on, and I was rewarded with one hell of a solid game.
Siegecraft Commander is hands down one of the most fun RTS games I’ve ever had the pleasure to play. The guys are Blowfish Studios took a well-worn genre and managed to breathe new life into RTS’ with an interesting and rewarding mechanic. In a time where it can seem as though everything that can be done in games has been done, it’s refreshing to see a company come out with something that can be considered fresh and new.
A lot of what you can do will be familiar. You can set up trebuchets to launch projectiles across the map at your enemy. You can spawn countless soldiers to charge across the field to slaughter opposing forces.
The innovation comes from the building of your structures. You start each map with a keep. From there you can build a variety of structures, including an outpost, which in turn is the hub from which you can launch almost everything else, including more outposts. When you select what you want to build, an aiming reticle in the shape of a crossbow appears. You aim and let fly, and a ball of material shoots into the sky. As it flies towards its landing spot, a length of wall falls behind it, and once it lands the structure is made, and the wall attaches it to the keep or outpost which slung it forth.
Everything you build is connected to the last thing you built, creating a spider web like of stone and structures that spread across the map as you dominate your enemy. The game is won when you destroy the other side’s keep. It’s lost when the same happens to you. And there is where a lot of the strategy lies. If a structure is destroyed, any structure built off of it will be destroyed as well. There were a few times playing the game where I was nearing the edge of the map opposite where I started, only to hear an explosion and realize that the enemy skirted my defenses and took out one of my first outposts, causing most of my hard work to vanish in an instant.
The idea is something to behold, the first time you play the game. Seeing your keep expand and cut off the paths available to an enemy is a great way to indicate how well you’re doing in the game. Often it’s literally as simple as seeing more of your colored walls than your enemies. If you have more, you’re winning. If they do, it can feel almost suffocating, seeing them throw out another outpost or barracks to spawn their soldiers.
From the beginning you can choose to play as humans, or lizard men. The human campaign is listed first within the menu, so that’s what I started with. The story is almost inconsequential, unvoiced and nonsensical, told through pictures and words on the pages of a book. It strives to be funny I suppose, but it fails at that, though a child may get a few eye rolling grins from it.
I expected the lizard campaign to be more of the same, but I must say, I was wrong. It tells a far more interesting story, involving a civil war of sorts. It’s not deep or involved by any means, but I found myself much more interested in the pages of the book between maps when playing as the lizard men.
Each campaign only consists of eight or so missions, but with each map taking me around a half hour to clear, you may get some hours from the game. There is also multiplayer options, and the game features cross play between the Xbox One and PC. There are turn-based multiplayer options to go along with the same time approach that the single player campaign takes, allowing for players who favor a calmer approach to do so.
Art style aside, the graphics are nice. The maps are somewhat similar but they’re bright and colorful and have enough geographic differences to make each map a challenge. The sound is a high point, with a booming soundtrack that made me feel as though I was in a Lord of the Rings movie.
As fresh as the gameplay is in Siegecraft Commander, that’s not to say it’s not without its problems. There are places you can’t build your fortress. The wall can’t go up cliff faces for example, and you can’t have an outpost in the water. If you try to build where you can’t the new edition simply blows up, and the timer restarts. (Different structures have different cooldown times. Outposts are nearly instant, soldier spawning barracks are on a 30-second timer.) The problem arises when the game won’t let you build somewhere, but you have no idea why. I don’t know how many times I’ve flung a new addition and had it land smack dab in the middle of what looks to be, to me, solid ground, only for the whole thing to blow up. With no indication of what exactly is wrong with that particular plot of land, it can lead to frustrating instances.
Another issue I had with the gameplay is that the aiming portion of the game can feel frustratingly difficult. That’s not good news since the aiming portion of the game is the most important portion. Finding the perfect pullback length on the stick to nail your opponent can often take so long that by the time you land one hit they’ve destroyed you, negating the whole process.
The game itself is hard, which is refreshing. The first mission in the human campaign is a tutorial, and a player will certainly skate right through it. From there, though, things get tough, fast. I had to replay the third mission countless times before I found the sweet spot between growth and protection that worked for me.
For one difficult mission, I simply spawned as many soldiers as I could and hung back, letting them march around the map and destroy my enemies structures for me. I had to contend with airships launched my way, but the reality was, after countless retries, I sat back and let the game play itself if only to move on. I’m not proud of it, and it sucked some of the fun away. There are some missions I beat by the skin of my teeth and being able to cheese one of the hardest missions in such a manner, to be honest, is shocking. To be fair, it may have boiled down to luck. With the enemy constantly spawning its own foot soldiers your little guys usually don’t last long without the support of your sprawling fortress.
I recommend the game fully and give it a 7.5 out of 10.