WARSHIFT is, if nothing else, an ambitious game. A blend of FPS and strategy, it channels the spirit of 1998’s Battlezone with a little RPG thrown in for good measure. Starting development in early 2012 under the name Universum: War Front. Several years and a successful kickstarter later, WARSHIFT is the brain child of just one developer. Which, frankly, is quite impressive.
Taking place in 2062, an alien race has invaded the world of Enigma through “Chaos Gates”. The player takes on the role of a telepathic commander sent to fight the invasion. Commanding from a huge ship known as an Ark, the player takes on the traditional duties of the RTS genre. Base building, resource gathering, and troop production, the usual. However, in addition to the normal units, the player also has control over a “combat avatar”, a super unit that acts as the commander’s presence on the field. At any point during a mission, the player take assume direct control over the combat avatar and play in first person mode.
Built using the Unity engine, WARSHIFT is a visually stunning game. There’s something of a 90’s vibe, too. The Colonial Republic (the good guys) have solidly built infantry and vehicles, reminded me of the GDI in the Command and Conquer series. In contrast, the Atroids Enclave (evil aliens) have a bright colour palette that’s reminiscent of early Blizzard RTS games.
Taking place over 12 missions, WARSHIFT initially provides a decent variety in gameplay. Rather than each mission being a build and rush affair, WARSHIFT offers a variety of mission types. One such mission revolves around gathering resources while preventing the enemy from doing the same. There are also missions that solely focus on the combat avatar and do away with the RTS aspect. This helped to keep the game interesting, as the tired build and rush formula has been done to death.
WARSHIFT, however, does come with its flaws. Unit AI is quite poor. The pathfinding mechanic seems poorly done, as groups of units tend to get stuck against each other in close gaps. Similarly, a large mass of units quickly becomes a conga line marching one at a time into the enemy.
The unit orders are also quite flawed. As in any RTS game, a unit will engage any enemy that comes too close. Unfortunately, the unit kills the enemy, it will target the next enemy, and go after it. No matter where it is. This leads to your gathered forces marching off to war with your knowledge, as you find that your army is not where you left it. This can be mitigated by switching to Defensive mode. But this, too, has its flaws. Rather than defending the immediate area the unit is in, the unit will only defend against something that attacks it. This is frustrating as the enemy takes down your units one by one while the others ignore the attack.
These AI faults mean that your army needs a lot of micromanagement to be effective. In a normal RTS game, this isn’t too much of a problem. However, when you switch to the FPS mode, you can no longer give orders to your army. In order to in the FPS mode, you have to give an order to your army, and hope for the best.
This gives the player a choice of whether to play the game as an RTS, or as and FPS, rather than a smooth blend of the two. During this review, I found that I just wasn’t using the FPS mode for much other than capturing resources. If I spent too long fighting the enemy directly, my army would be wiped out by its own bungling AI. Which is unfortunate, as to be effective in the FPS mode, supporting units are needed as backup. Otherwise, your combat avatar will get taken down very quickly.
That’s not to say the FPS mode isn’t fun. There are a selection of different avatars, though only one pre-selected avatar is available in single player, depending on the mission. There are a decent number of upgrades available for the avatars, allowing the player to build their avatar according to their own play style. As the avatar kill enemies, its gain experience and levels up, becoming more powerful and unlocking further upgrades.
Ultimately, WARSHIFT tries to do two things at once, but falls short of the mark in both cases. It’s not without its charms, but needs a lot more polish.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary PC code was provided to Brash Games for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to email@example.com.
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