Real time strategy titles aren’t exactly my bread and butter but when I get my hands on a good one, I have some of the most enjoyable, methodical experiences in video games. I’m a thinking man’s man. I enjoy a good romp where my intellect is the primary factor behind victory or defeat. In fact, Tom Clancy’s Endwar was a minor guilty pleasure of mine back on the PS3. So when I first dove into Siegecraft Commander and found out that strategy would meet semi-twitch battles, I was hopeful it would join my exclusive club of subjective, good RTS games. Long story short, no. No it did not.
The story behind Siegecraft Commander revolves around two campaigns with eight levels each. The Knight faction revolves around human warriors bumbling about trying to find treasure and opportunities to plunder. The Lizardmen storyline is much more noble. Some of their species have been taken over by a mysterious force and they traverse the land trying to find out why. Plus, they want to discover what’s going on regarding their “ancient gods.” The plot is only told through animated book pages between levels however. It will take up the entire screen with the left side featuring points of interest on a map. The right side will have a picture of each character talking and what they’re saying alongside sound effects. Then the page gets turned to continue the dialogue. This way of telling tales certainly isn’t bad but I felt no real connection to the world around me. Especially since you could see the gameplay borders and the blackness that extends on the other side of it. It’s just the way this process conveys information wouldn’t be any different from a tablet or mobile game.
The interesting but not immersive plot aside, RTS gamers probably care about one thing and one thing only. The gameplay. It’s all about building structures that are linked to whatever came before it. Starting with your base or Keep, you slingshot your options out into the level around you. How far you pull back on the analog stick will determine how far your choices go and where they’ll land. There’s an alternative way of firing but it only launches things a set distance away which can grow to be annoying. Each side will offer different ascetics and minor changes but overall they act similar and serve the same purpose. The end result for each level is to destroy your opponent’s keep and whatever else you can raze by the time you get there. They will have all the same functions and choices you do however.
Your base choices include an explosive projectile called TNT/Boombah. This can be utilized from Keeps or Outposts. The latter being one of the most important moves in your repertoire. Outposts are the buildings that branch out your arsenal across the map. So ground troops and air defenses won’t be possible without first getting this bad boy around. Speaking of which, those abilities are mostly relegated to War Camps and Workshops or Garrisons and Armories depending on race. Through these will allow a player to slingshot-spawn attacks whether soldiers, animals, flying ships, or other machinery to help you in your war effort. Some of them will require certain points on the map to be taken over before they can be used but near all of them will have a respawn timer.
As you progress building an advancing force, you have to be careful to monitor older creations. If they get destroyed then whatever is connected to them (what was spawned by them) will be destroyed. So half of all your work could disappear before your eyes and the same goes for the enemy. It’s a neat feature to be sure but certain gameplay mechanics don’t work in tandem effectively. First and foremost, the slingshot ability that lets you dictate where things are placed. I don’t know why but the sensitivity of it is different for multiple structures and attacks. So if you’re in the heat of the moment and are trying to get things out as fast as possible, you could end up plopping a soldier producing barrack directly in front of a Garrison. Not only would this lump the structures together, but would hinder you in spawning more in that direction. You see players can’t build anything across or over another thing as they’re all connected. It will be destroyed immediately if you do.
Which brings up the next problem. The detection and ability for launching things is sub par to say the least. You’re not allowed to build anything on big hills, small forests, shallow water (unless it lets you in the Lizardmen campaign) and if you come too close to these hazards, your choice will be destroyed and waste valuable time. This especially doesn’t work well with Siegecraft Commander’s spawn times and health bars. The majority of all items that require time to pass before it can be used again should, at the very least, be cut in half. Some of them will even take forty to sixty seconds and that’s no good when the whole premise is to build interconnected structures along a map. If you can somehow get past that then you’ll deal with the little amount of health each creation has. Options like Armories, Garrisons, War Camps, and Workshops will crumble after two or three lone explosive hits. To an even worse degree, a foot soldier can unleash one attack every two or three seconds. It will only take twelve to fifteen hits to destroy those same objects. Granted there is a repair beacon possibility, and it lasts for a generous amount of time, but it doesn’t solve the mentioned core issues.
You can only view a portion of the map at one time as well. There is no option to get a detailed look of the entire battlefield without panning over to a section. So there’s no easy way to view the completeness of your creations. The game tries to tell you if previous parts are in danger with a red, pulsating dot in the direction of the destruction. Sadly, it is easily missable at the edges of your screen or doesn’t offer enough of a warning ahead of time. All of these drawbacks make the entire solo experience incredibly hard. I had to take multiple, long-winded breaks in order to retain any interest in the experience. To be fair, I did have fun when everything went smoothly but that was a rarity.
The graphics were nice and neatly designed but again wouldn’t falter when played on a tablet. Same could be said with the map design. There were also a few audio and visual glitches here and there. If the game was trying to make a “SWOOSH” sound, sometimes it would skip and play back the effect really loud and distorted a few seconds later. Also, when some assets were destroyed they stretched out impossibly long, covering a part of the screen, before disappearing. I’ve noticed this mostly happens to living beings such as soldiers or cows. The soundtrack itself though was very well crafted. The main menu music alone got me pumped up when first launching the title. Arguably the best aspect of Siegecraft Commander.
There is multiplayer too, both offline and online, that can be played through real-time or turn-based combat with up to four players. Unfortunately, I was unable to find anyone online or get anybody to my house to experience this possibility. The mode doesn’t appear to be any different then what the story offers, so all the problems would carry over. Still I have no doubt that this title would be improved when playing with other human counterparts.
Review Disclaimer: This review was carried out using a digital code provided by the publisher. This does not affect the content of the review or the final score awarded. For more information, please read our Review Policy.
* Reviewed using a base PS4.