Cortex Command

More info »

Cortex Command review
Christopher Coke

Review

SNES meets RTS

Unfinished, Unpolished


After playing it through, my inclination was to try the campaign and experience what, in most cases, would be the core of the game. Yet it seems that Data Realms isn't quite ready for this to be the case as a pop-up appears stating, look, this works and all but it's not done, so please don't flame us. Or something like that. Getting started is an exercise in frustration. Where the tutorial throws you into a scenario, the campaign eschews this and hands you a planetary overview. All of the sudden, you're in a turn-based game with dig sites and tallied money with no idea of the purpose of function of any of it. Taken on its own, the player would never know that they had to plan an orbital scan of each site or fund battles for takeover. On my first play through, I went nearly twenty turns with the game playing itself while I figured it all out. This barrier did not need to exist, especially when the developers have already included a tutorial for the later elements. Once you've become familiar, however, the game opens up and it is sometimes good fun.

Cortex Command is inconsistent. I experienced far too many bugs during my time than is acceptable, especially with such a long development cycle. At one point, my cortex simply exploded as it was walking through snow, just a few feet from where it landed at the start of the game. At another, one of my drones flew too far and went off the edge of the map, dying instantly. In my first run of the tutorial, the enemy bots somehow triggered, entered my base, and obliterated me as I learned the basics of movement and control.

Pandering Positivity


There is yet hope, because at its core, there is a solid concept at play. When you finally dig through the layers of learning required to play well, winning out in the scenario encounters is extremely satisfying. Moreover, this kind of gameplay is so unique in the 2D space that it feels consistently novel and neat. The design team also saw fit to include a full physics system, right down to individual body parts. The first time I saw a drone lose both its legs then get back up and keep fighting, I was presently surprised. The whole system gives combat a bit of zaniness that fits with the lighthearted tone of its art. The audio direction is also excellent. Gunfire feels powerful, especially with the sniper class, and injects combat with a sense of realism. Players can create and share their own scenarios, customize those included, and compete against one another in PvP, thus increasing the replay value considerably.

Conclusive Conclusions


Given all of this, if we return to the original question posed at the beginning of this article, does the game deliver on all those years of development, the answer is no. While you can certainly tell that the game was a labor of love for its development team, too many things just miss the mark. Bugs need to be squashed, tutorials redesigned and expanded, and the platforming polished. The campaign, arguably, should not have even been released until it was in a finished state. Cortex Command is a great concept with a lot of potential, which has unfortunately bee held back by lack of polish, bugs and hasty product release.

5.0

fun score

Pros

Unique strategic gameplay, depth.

Cons

Bugs, steep learning curve.