by William Thompson
reviewed on PC
It was a cold and windy day
The enemy commander stood in his fort, quite smug in the knowledge that his machine gunners had been proficient at shooting down any attempt I had made to dent his walls. I could see him through my binoculars, laughing with his subordinates. Little did he know that I had developed a more powerful cannon that would hopefully wipe the smirk off his comical looking face. Soon, it would be me that would be laughing.
Forts is a game that at its core, plays along the lines of the old Tanks game where two opponents sat at either side of a screen and took turns to take pot shots at each other until one tank was destroyed. Instead, in Forts you take control of a fort and its weapons and attempt to obliterate your opponents fort and its power generator before he destroys yours. The main difference being that in Forts also adds resource gathering and structure building into the mix.
The Campaign mode is a great place to learn all of the game's skills, slowly introducing each of the elements as you progress through the different scenarios. With a relatively mild learning curve, the game introduces each of the building resources as well as the various structures and weapons that will be required to defeat the enemy. There are three factions that you'll play as: the Eagle Empire, Iron Bear Alliance and the Dragon Army. In the Campaign, there are no real differences between each. Initially, the valuable resources of energy and metal are limitless, but as you progress, these resources must be harvested in order to be able to build and defend your fort. Weapons will also need to be upgraded in order to destroy the improved armour of the enemy.
The aim for each mission in the Campaign is to destroy the enemy fort (as it is in the other modes), but each campaign mission has two secondary goals. Completing these secondary goals, in addition to the primary goal of destroying the fort, unlocks further campaign missions. Missions are generally quite short and can be played within five to ten minutes (the later levels can take a bit longer), allowing gamers to have a quick session during lunch or study breaks. The campaign mode is rather enjoyable, although I did find that the levels began to have an aura of similarity after awhile. The developers have attempted to correct this by including some well set out maps, adding challenging scenarios to the gameplay.
Apart from the lengthy Campaign mode, Forts comes complete with a plethora of game modes. Skirmish allows gamers to play a single level within a range of scenarios. Multiplayer is the same, but played between two human competitors. Skirmish (and multiplayer) also introduce commanders into the game. Each of the commanders offer the gamer a boost in a specific area. Eagle Eye, for instance will enable better targeting of weapons, whilst Architect enables quicker building of weapons and structures. I have to admit, multiplayer was a far different proposition to the AI campaign, and one that was a heap of fun. And if you think the skirmish and multiplayer maps aren't your cup of tea, then you can go and make your own in the Map Editor. The editor is reasonably easy to use and once you've completed your ultimate design, it is always fun to test it out with a friend.
Building up your forts is really simple. The team at EarthWork Games have done a great job at designing the layout of the interface. The weapons, devices and building materials are all located within a specific tab along the bottom of the screen, without detracting from the important vision of the game itself. Gamers can zoom in and out depending on their task at hand. Zooming in when building makes it easier to work out where each brace and beam should go. But then zooming out allows you to see where to attack from a better distance. The repair function works remarkably well too, allowing gamers to concentrate (assuming they have enough resources) on building or attacking whilst not having to repair everything manually.
Forts has a look akin to the Worms series (the 2D variety), with lots of colour and cartoonish characters that guide you through the levels. The comical nature of the characters and the colourful visuals make Forts seem suited to youngsters, and although the early campaign missions are quite simple, younger gamers may struggle with completing some of the secondary goals in later missions. The cute visuals, combined with some of the humorous dialogue give Forts a fun atmosphere. The fact that weapons have a modern feel whilst the forts have a historic look only adds to the silliness of the game.
Fun, in short bursts
Forts has been well designed and implemented. The controls and gameplay are simple and the levels are generally quite engaging. Having the three difficulty settings will no doubt allow gamers of all ages and skill levels to enjoy themselves as they watch the enemy fort explode into countless pieces. The Campaign mode can get a little familiar by the time you hit the middle levels, but the variation in visual settings and secondary goals does make it more interesting. And the developers have been patching and adding new features to the game, and it is great to see that they are quick to fix any issues that the community is having whilst adding their own improvements to the game. With the fun visuals and dialogue, Forts is a great game for everyone in the family.
Easy to play with a gentle learning curve
Missions begins to feel similar once all upgrades have been unlocked