EA SCOUT the last line of defense for buying on Steam's Early Access
by Quinn Levandoski
previewed on PC
JACK OF ALL TRADES
I love the games that bounce between different genres, and there’s perhaps no combination I want to see grow more than the RTS/shooter mixes. The problem is it’s extremely difficult to do well. It’s hard enough to make a polished, functional, engaging game of a single genre, much less one that switches between three or four. While Warshift is by no means the first game to attempt this daunting task, it is the latest, and it’s a promising, though still very rough, experience so far.
Warshift’s immediate draw is definitely it’s mixture of genres, but unfortunately right now it’s planted firmly in “jack of all trades, master of none” territory. The genres that I’ve been able to play so far include RTS, ground vehicle combat, mech combat, space combat, and even a bit of MOBA thrown in for good measure every now and then. While some missions will pigeonhole you into playing a certain way, most give you the power to instantly switch at any time between a top-down traditional RTS and third person combat in which you pilot one of three currently available avatars to fight enemies up close. The idea really is cool, and transitions work well. I had no issues moving units around, giving them orders, and creating units and quickly snapping into the action to make sure an encounter went my way. Not all of the genres represented in the game aren’t all present in each mission- most bounce between two or three- but they're all in the game right now, working to various degrees.
BY LAND, SPACE, AND AIR
Out of the major game modes space combat is definitely the weakest. Right now it feels much more like simple plane combat, locking in your orientation and instilling a hard lower asteroid floor, making it largely unrewarding for me. The controls struggle the most here as well. Navigating the Y axis feels difficult, making it awkward to deal with enemies above and below you, and aiming feels a bit sluggish. A space combat game needs to function in three dimensions or the very idea of it just doesn’t work. Space combat in particular is also hurt most, in my opinion, by currently-broken gamepad controls. Navigating with gamepad joysticks caused my avatar to glitch quite a bit, aim bouncing around the y axis.
Thankfully the humanoid and land vehicle combat, along with RTS mode, fare much better. While they still need some work, particularly in making navigation and combat controls a bit more responsive, I’ve had much more fun with them. It’s pretty cool to jetpack around as the cyborg Archangel, or mow down enemies as a walking mech. I really do hope that lone developer Cyril Megem can continue to polish all facets of the game on its path to launch. Making games in any of these genres is hard, and providing a half baked gameplay mode, no matter which it is, will ruin the entire draw of the game.
User interface, balance, graphics, and the like are right about where I expect to see a game in semi-early beta. Overall I’m happy with the difficulty of the game. It’s somewhat challenging while still letting you do enough damage to have fun in combat mode. One aid I would like to see added, however, are tutorials embedded in the game itself. Right now the game has a menu button for tutorials, but it links you to external web videos. They’re fine for now, but it’d improve the immersion of the game to have them open without leaving the game window. There’s plenty to learn in the game that isn’t clear without direction, and I’m worried external tutorials might be a turnoff for some players. Heck, just mix them into a few tutorial missions and I’ll be happy as can be. The game also looks and sounds nice. Environments and character models are pretty to look at whether zoomed in or pulled out, and the music provides nice background noise without becoming annoyingly bland or repetitive.
Warshift is a game with big ideas and ambition goals, and it’s too currently difficult to tell if they’ll all come together in the future. The game is definitely playable as is, but to succeed there’s still a pretty substantial amount to be worked on, tweaked, and cleaned up. When the main draw of your game is a seamless mesh of multiple gameplay genres, each one needs to be pretty darned polished, and that’s a tall order for a large development team, much less one person. I’ll be following Warshift closely. If it comes together it’s going to be an absolute blast, but for right now hold onto your wallet and let things develop a little more before you jump into the cockpit.
The game has potential, but we're not ready to jump in with both feet. If the game interests you, look, but don't touch - yet.