August 27, 2011 23 Comments
Calling VideoWars a real-time strategy game almost seems wrong. Game play zips along so fast that you have no time to really plan out anything. Passive-Aggressive Action-Strategy might be a better name for it, but that would be abbreviated PAAS and I hear those Easter Egg dye people are really protective over their trademarks.
Sorry. Sigh. Writer’s block sure is a bitch.
Anyway, in VideoWars you play as one of six character classes themed from classic video games. There’s a single-screen map and you start with one base, called a “node.”
Every time you lay a new node down, it extends your territory. Scattered throughout each map is special spaces that either give you points or increase the speed at which you accumulate money. Using money, you can buy new Nodes, upgrade current ones with a defensive turret, build troops, or purchase missiles. The object of the game is to destroy all the enemy bases.
It all sounded kind of like a stripped down version of Advanced Wars to me, but VideoWars is really nothing like that series. The game isn’t turn-based for one thing, and there’s also no micro-managing like in your typical RTS. Once you release a trooper, it will automatically do its own thing. This design choice had the potential for disaster, but it actually works really well. The AI is smart enough that if you are in need of defense and you unleash a minion, it will stay behind and defend your territory. If nothing is attacking you, it will go on offense. Hell, my average team on Call of Duty isn’t that smart.
VideoWars is not a game you’re going to jump right into an instantly get a feel for. The controls are fairly complicated. You have to call up building options while holding the right trigger and action options using the left trigger. CORRECTION: You do not have to hold the left trigger to do action commands. My bad. This gives you a lot to juggle, and it takes about twenty minutes for everything to “click” and make sense. Sadly this is, oh, twelve minutes longer than the average player usually devotes to an Xbox Live Indie Game.
If you actually do purchase it and wait out the opening learning curve, VideoWars is a lot of fun. It’s like a real-time strategy game as developed by someone with zero patience for any clichés the genre is known for. The game moves along at an insane speed, with troops making short order of bases, money that builds quickly, and construction times that are minimal. And if all that is too slow for you, or you’re sick of watching your AI troops have all the action, you can build missiles and fire them directly at whatever enemy targets you want. You don’t even need to build anything special to get them, although you’ll acquire the ability to use them faster if you build more nodes. The only way to defend against them is to have your nodes equipped with turrets and manually shooting an intercepting beam in the general direction the missile is traveling, sort of like Missile Command.
However, all is not perfect. When playing the local-only multiplayer, the issue of balance came up. There’s six classes you can pick from, themed after games like Defender, Robotron, the ghosts from Pac-Man, etc. Once I had properly broken in my playing partner to the control scheme, we started having a really good time. And then, we suddenly realized that the Defender ships were about as balanced as a two-year old who was just introduced to Jack Daniels. Every character class has a super-duper power that can be activated once a minute. For the Defender ships, it doubles their attack speed. This allows them to pretty much steamroll over entire enemy troops and bases in just a matter of seconds. The other character classes’ super-duper moves can’t remotely compete with that. We tried to ban using the Defenders, but it quickly became apparent that balance was an issue in every other possible match-up. No matter what, one class is always going to be too good to be a fair match for the other.
But, if both players agree to not use the super-duper powers, it’s actually the best multiplayer experience I’ve had in an Indie game thus far. Really. It’s awesome.
Which brings me to my biggest complaint. The game’s primary focus is on multiplayer, but like damn near every Xbox Live Indie Game, there is no online support. People tell me I need to quit bitching about this because it’s hard to program for and people don’t have the time and blah blah blah. You know what, fuck you. If your game could really use it and you don’t include it I’m going to call you out on it. It’s hard to program for? Here’s a thought: learn how to. If it frustrates me to play a really good game with no online support then I promise you, it frustrates most non-XNA fanboys too. You’re making games for a platform that millions of people own primarily to play online with. Tell your average Xbox Live user that it’s just too hard to include online play and they’ll call you a newb, claim to have had sexual relations with your mother, and spend their money somewhere else, likely while teabagging their own floor.
VideoWars was developed by Baaad Dad
80 Microsoft Points said “granted, the average Xbox Live user is a pit viper raised in the depths of Hell itself, but you should still try to cater to them” in the making of this review.