Review: Siegecraft Commander
If the walls start caving in then its all over.
There’s no shortage of strategy style games for HTC Vive, the trick is to find the ones that not only provide a polished experience but also some originality. The latest to arrive for HTC’s head-mounted display (HMD) is Siegecraft Commander from indie team Blowfish Studios, which manages more of the latter than it does with the former.
Siegecraft Commander is essentially a real-time tower defense title that gives you an entire map to take over and control. Rather than going down the standard tower defense route of set positions for defences while attackers follow a set path, Blowfish Studios has mixed up the mechanic by allowing you to place towers pretty much anywhere, there’s just one small cravat, they’re all interconnected.
Matches start from a main castle (Keep), from here you launch the necessary buildings you want to expand with, but in doing so whichever building is used to launch the next an interconnecting wall appears. The premise sounds simple enough, but if you’re not careful and don’t properly plan ahead this can lead to all sorts of issues. Outposts are your main expansion building, from here Garrisons then Barracks can be built, or an Armory then defences such as mortars. But these can’t just be placed randomly. While buildings can be fired to cover different distances from any angle off the base structure, their interconnecting walls cannot overlap, so you may find certain environment bottle necks difficult to navigate if you’ve been haphazardly building.
Another critical factor in all of this interconnectivity is that of losing or destroying buildings in the chain. Should you or your opponent manage to breach deep enough in either’s defences, destroying a crucial building – ideally an outpost – then every single building built from it comes crumbling down. If this happens later on during a match this can be devastating for the opposing player, easily turning the outcome of a game.
As with most tower defence videogames, Siegecraft Commander tends to err on the side of management more than direct action. Barracks automatically produce knights up to the allotted build count, with mortars and ballistas firing automatically, when not on cool down. But for those that like to get into the heart of the action they can still do so. Trebuchet’s, Pyres (fire magic) and Airships for example all have to be manually fired, leading to some heated engagements when teams are at loggerheads.
Controls for the HTC Vive are easy enough to pick up, with the left hand controller adjusting zoom, twisting the map and moving it any which way you please. But its not completely rosy Siegecraft Commander. While these controls work just fine when not in the middle of a chaotic battle, trying to move around the map can be cumbersome, there’s no flight or teleportation movement, you need to drag the map. Also – and this does depend on how you’ve expanded – you may find selecting the appropriate buildings somewhat problematic. If they’ve all been nicely spaced apart then its all good, but more often you’ll have built a chain, bits have been destroyed so other sections are adapted and rebuilt frantically, meaning that nicely laid out plans have been turned on their head and everything is bunched together. This can then make it somewhat frustrating trying to highlight what you need quickly.
On the flip side, when chains are destroyed and plans need to be adapted on the fly Siegecraft Commander becomes a highly engaging, taught, strategy videogame. It is rough on certain edges, and there are niggling issues, but for a title that’s looking to enter a genre so heavily established, Siegecraft Commander does just enough to make it a worthy consideration for purchase.