by Ingvi Snædal
reviewed on PC
Oil Rush was made to showcase the UNiGiNE graphics engine and for a 20$ indie title, it looks absolutely gorgeous. I’m not sure whether that is entirely thanks to the engine, however, as the art style of the game is superb. The developers have managed to put the focus of the game’s visuals exactly where they should be in a strategy game; on the environment. In a strategy game, where the board is the only consistent element and the player is able to zoom-in and zoom-out at will, the importance of quality in environmental design cannot be overstated, and the designers over at Unigine Corp. have hit the mole square on the nose in that department. Any game that is so aesthetically pleasing as to make you forget to notice the graphics is a proverbial sight for sore eyes.
...and the Beast
There was, however, one thing that bugged me about the design. In most modern strategy games, each faction has a different style. This means that you can visibly distinguish one faction from another, not only by what colour their units wear, but also by their hull structure, gun placement, barrel size, and other details. In Oil Rush there is only one line of units, which makes it difficult to get a feel for who it is you are really fighting. This may sound like a minor grievance, but it takes so much away from the potential feel of the game to have every faction using the same units. It makes every level feel like a mere puzzle waiting to be solved, rather than a piece of a much larger puzzle, connected together with a plot in a fictional world full of characters who are hell-bent on domination. This becomes very frustrating in multiplayer matches as an option to choose different looks for your units would have made them much more varied. Regardless of this minor issue, the levels are interesting and challenging. The difficulty curve gets quite steep, however, but overcoming the initial bump will only make you happier about your success. I cannot overstate the importance of saving regularly, though, as you will fail and fail often. Nothing drives a player away from a game faster than having to redo their entire progress repeatedly.
I’m assuming that the strategic targeting of voice acting schools was a major element in the nuclear war. Either that or every such educational institution on the planet just so happened to be placed next to a valuable military target. Either way, this game features some of the worst voice acting I’ve heard in a video game. The protagonist, Kevin, constantly sounds as though he’s doing a radio sales pitch, and when you look at Matt Cowlrick’s résumé, you will understand why. This does not drag the game down that much, however, as the voice-over bits are few and far between. One thing I noticed when playing the game was that the background noise of each character was different. Upon a little research I found that each of the actors voicing this game was hired through a service called Voices.com, and each of them does their own recording. This may not be a big issue, but it is noticeable in dialogue between Kevin and Firefly. The characters’ voices have different recording qualities. The rest of the sounds in the game (i.e. water, engines, rotors, guns, production, explosions, etc.) are well done and the ambiance of the game remains unaffected by the poor quality of the acting.
A Sum of its Parts
The occasional reset of the graphics settings and empty multiplayer server lists may deter some potential buyers, but all in all this game is a healthy mix of the two genres and plays surprisingly well as such. Despite my many grievances, I found myself thoroughly enjoying it. The annoying voices faded into the background as I struggled to pump forces into a platform being over-run, and the duplicity of fighting in the frozen north while the polar caps are supposedly melted was forgotten in the sheer beauty of the landscape. This game is a sum of its parts, not its flaws, and deserves to be played. If you have 20$ to spare, get Oil Rush. You may not find anyone to play online with, but it is sure to challenge your tactical wits.
Beautiful environments. Challenging levels. Available for Linux.
Occasional graphics reset. Bad voice acting. Empty server lists.