Real-time strategy fans, this one is for you. The latest release from Unigine and Iceberg Interactive making its way onto a PC or PS3 near you is Oil Rush. Oil Rush is a real-time strategy game revolving around node capture, where you are given a small force to capture factories and rigs to increase your numbers. Though this sounds like an easy task, all of these nodes are heavily defended, so you have to make calculated decisions to ensure victory.
The setting is a post-apocalyptic, water-filled world full of raiders and thieves. Civilization has fragmented and survival of the fittest reigns supreme. You play a newly recruited officer straight out of military school. Your potential is immediately recognized, and the leader of your faction takes you under his tutelage. You are given control of a small force and must prove your leadership skills on the battlefield. Your objective is to secure your factions interests and further the campaign to secure the flow of oil, which keeps your faction alive.
Oil Rush is a game that blends two separate genres of games together in a new and interesting way. On one hand, you have an RTS that tests your ability to command small attack forces, secure points of interest to produce more troops, and increase your grip on the battlefield. This game differs from the traditional RTS mold quite a bit, though. In traditional RTS games, you will have to queue new units and secure resources to build the army that you want. In Oil Rush, however, it is all about gaining control of platforms. Once you control a platform, its production is automated, allowing you to focus on the larger battlefield strategy, rather than resource management. It is quite a departure from what we’ve seen in the mainstream.
On the other hand, you have tower defense elements, which are blended into the gameplay in an interesting way. Once you control a factory, you can build up to five turrets around your building, allowing you to move your forces where they are needed most. The tower defense elements come in at this point because all factories are constantly creating new units. These units are sent to you in small bunches, so as long as you have enough “towers” to defend against the onslaught, you’ve done your job. Turrets can be specialized and upgraded to do more damage or have the ability to take on different types of units. Though you can’t alter the path the enemies take to you, you can make sure your towers are ready for the type of enemies that are thrown at you.
As interesting as this mix of gameplay is, there are inherent flaws in the design. Most of the problems of the game come from the lack of control you have over individual units. Once new units are created, they can only be controlled in groups, and these groups constantly circle the platform they are assigned to. You are given the ability to move your groups or attack your enemies by sending one-quarter, half, three-quarters or your full force. If you want to send a specific number of units to a location, you can’t. This system, though extremely simple to use, is just limiting and takes some of the momentum out of the game. You also can’t set up way points, so units have to be sent and rallied around a specific platform, which particularly limits the strategic feel to the game. Most RTS fans know that splitting your forces and attacking on different fronts is important in a game like this. Timing is also important, and unless you own platforms that are equal distances from the two different battle fronts, your forces will arrive at different times. This could throw off any advantage you would create.
There are also some smaller details that this game failed to capitalize on. The voice acting in this game is poor. Most lines are just read as narration, and though that is fine most of the time, in periods of intense battle, the dialogue just doesn’t fit the situation. This game also pushes players to play this game a certain way by awarding victory to the player with the largest force. Though that seems logical, it makes for a very predictable and non-strategic experience. It seems like as long as you have a certain number of units against a certain type of platform, you are always going to win. This system takes any sense of random outcomes out of the equation completely, and the game just feels overly simplified. Finally, there are a few technical problems with the game, including crashing during long gameplay sessions. This isn’t a big deal, but it does create some frustrating situations.
All is not lost, though, because there is plenty that this game does well. The visuals in this game are stunning. The combat, the backgrounds, the units: everything looks smooth and detailed. As long as you have a system that can handle it, you won’t be disappointed with the visuals. Since the world is so detailed and engrossing, it helps the story become even more compelling. The story is what you would expect from a game like this, but since everything looks great, you’ll want to see this world in action.
The other strong point to this game is the multiplayer mode. There are fifteen maps where you can play with up to three other friends. Most maps are well laid out, providing a fair amount of variety to challenge yourself and your strategic ability. Different maps will cater to different types of players, including those who prefer aerial units or those that enjoy capturing lots of platforms. Whatever your particular style is, you will find a map that plays to that strength. Unfortunately, the online community is weak, so finding a game can be difficult at times.
Overall, Oil Rush is a mixed experience. The gameplay is somewhat limiting, with a control scheme that is overly simplified and lacks the features of a full RTS game. The voice acting is weak, and there were a few technical problems that interrupted gameplay. However, there is a silver lining to be found in the style of graphics and fun multiplayer experience. Even though there are better RTS games and better tower defense games out there, there aren’t many games that blend the two genres together like this Oil Rush does, and that is interesting on its own. When you look at the package as a whole and consider that this game is affordably priced, the bitter side to the game is a lot easier to swallow. If this game looks interesting to you, we would recommend you give the game a shot; you may be surprised.
This review is based on a review copy of the Steam version of Oil Rush by Iceberg Interactive