EA SCOUT the last line of defense for buying on Steam's Early Access
by Murray Lewis
previewed on PC
The Great Union
BOID is an aquatic, 2D, class-based RTS by Mokus Games. With a focus on short, intense, one vs. one rounds, most games are decided in mere minutes; it's a strategy game for the quick-thinking, highly adaptive MOBA generation. The application of a League of Legends mentality to the RTS could bring a breath of fresh air to the venerable genre, and Mokus are keen to push BOID as a competitive, tournament-ready game, but how is it looking now that it's entered public beta through Early Access?
The mechanics are deceptively simple. You start with generic units, continually being created in a spawner base. Send them to take over a class base, and then any units that use the base are instantly transformed into a new type of unit. Just take over and hold all of the spawner bases to win. Simple, right?
Turns out this is not a game you can pick up and play competitively within minutes. In fact, in the first few matches I played I was decisively kerb-stomped by the absolutely brutal AI, even on the 'easy' setting. Taking the game online led to much the same results, although finding a game was nearly instantaneous, which was a nice surprise for a pre-release indie game. Still, it had become abundantly clear that I would need to spend time learning some tactics.
There are eight different unit types on offer at the moment and Mokus have an eye on balancing them all against one another, which is no mean feat. Their stated goal is a rock, paper, scissors type of game, with tactics and countermeasures. In practice, it feels more like the tangled web of rock, paper, scissors, lizard, Spock at first, but the complex relationships between classes do become apparent over time.
By the time I finally stopped getting my ass handed to me in every match, I was beginning to get to grips with the sheer speed of the gameplay. BOID requires that you think fast. Really fast.
You get a few seconds grace at the beginning of a game to familiarise yourself with the map layout and formulate a germ of a plan, and then you're let loose to sink or swim.
Unit types like the Scouts are fast-movers, capable of crossing the map in less than a minute (if they don't get stuck on the terrain – the pathfinding AI still needs some work), so the most reliable initial strategy is to rush your opponent early on. There are more intricacies involved, but every plan boils down to out-reacting your opponent over the course of a minute or less.
Even if you're in a winning position, take your eye off the ball for more than a few seconds and you can quickly find yourself in a desperate struggle for survival. BOID's gameplay is not for the faint-hearted, and those who prefer to have even a little time to consider their next move will find it a very stressful experience. A trial by fire, if you will. Except underwater.
A View With No Room
Sadly, the real elephant-fish in the room is the interface. The game is played from a zoomed-in perspective, which gives very little of the context needed for co-ordinated tactics. While you can zoom out, you can't select units or give orders without zooming back in again first. For a game so reliant on lightning-fast reactions, it's incredibly frustrating to have to constantly battle the camera like this.
Visually, the game is slick and has a great organic, aquatic theme. Critically, while it adds atmosphere, it doesn't obscure the gameplay. Units are clear and brightly coloured, and cast some great looking lighting effects on the environment.
In upcoming versions, you can expect to see a map editor, which is bound to add some interesting variety to online matches, and the option to save replays of matches – something required if BOID really wants to be taken seriously as a competitive RTS against the likes of StarCraft. Other plans include a single-player campaign, and Mokus are considering adding 2 vs. 2 gameplay.
Publisher tinyBuild were also responsible for No Time to Explain, Lovely Planet and SpeedRunners, so have a solid track record for delivering quality games on Steam. With all of that in mind, and the bargain price while the game is in Early Access, it's difficult not to recommend BOID to those who reckon they can handle the quick-thinking it demands. It's a novel take on the RTS, and it's already looking quite polished, even if it does need some work before it's ready for the competitive, tournament-style gameplay it aspires to.
There are no guarantees - but we'd bet our own money on this one. If you're going to take a chance with yours, odds are good this one will deliver.