By Remko Molenaar (Proxzor)
I’m an absolute fan of RTS games but in these past few years the genre has been in a serious drought. Even the icons of the genre like Starcraft II and Command & Conquer seem to be winding down and calling it quits. And this is honestly a real shame, since the RTS genre brought to life most games we know and play today, including many of our MMORPGs and MOBAs. But there is new light emerging from the shadows as a few indie devs refuse to quit the RTS race. I had a chance to test out a pre-alpha press build of Failure, a game that tries to bring a new sci-fi twist to the genre, and at the same time make it easier to understand and play.
Let’s get the disclaimer out of the way; this build I tested was more a proof of concept than game. Visuals are all placeholders, though they still managed to capture the technofever scifi feel they hope to portray in the final version. Still in the world of RTS, even a proof of concept can clue you in to a lot of the goals and aspirations of a dev team. So let’s start with what the game is actually about! Failure takes a cyberspace approach and thus the game reminds me a lot of how the movie TRON displayed the world. Think of bright neon lights, but then instead of playing in the field, you get to overlook a big area with hexagons that act as the playing field of Failure. Each team gets their own set of hexagons to play around with, and the basic objective is to control as much hexagons as you possible can, so that you can get within striking distance of your opponent’s base.
Obviously a digital form of Hex would make for a poor game in 2016. So granted the base concept has some complexity built into it to give players additional levels of tactics to learn. Hexagons aren’t all at the same elevation, and you can even adjust the playing field utilizing your Data (currency used to invest in turrets or other neat tricks) to put vital hexes out of enemy reach. This can buy a turret a little more time to make a last stand when under enemy fire. In essence it takes the minigame of properly defending a Starcraft base from every potential enemy approach, and removes the hectic APM intensity to let you plan your tactics as a leisurely pace. While not going to the extreme of being turn based, your Data Points accumulate slowly enough that you rarely feel rushed to make a decision. Whether you feel you need turrets, protective shields, a bomb, or a key playing field adjustment, you typically will have a few seconds to think that decision over before confirming your action.
Right now there are three different ‘turrets’ that you can put on the map. The first one, that is also the cheapest, is the normal Outpost. This provides you with the normal short range units that spawn in over time, and capture territory in the near surrounding area. If you’re on the offensive, these turrets are key to keep expanding your domain. Next in line is the Railgun. Railguns are best to place behind other turrets. They can’t take a lot of punishment but deal out massive damage, so buying them any extra time while they’re in range of fire can produce devastating results. Last but not least is the Artillery turret. Obviously this one sits all the way at the back and deals massive damage to the front lines.
Now this is where Failure separates itself from the standard mold of RTS. The units your turrets produce are steered automatically. This puts all the tactics for victory into your choices of where to build turrets, understanding where the AI will push those spawned units. Combined with the ability to raise terrain, you can get pretty clever with deflecting enemy units or sneaking your own into routes the enemy doesn’t prepare for. Whether this is something that will appeal to RTS fans or not remains to be scene, but it certainly directs the focus of the game in a new direction.
I love seeing games shape up into something I’d want to play even more from the basic bare bones preview through early access and into launch. It gives you insight into the type of people behind the game, where their values lie, and what kind of support you can expect post-launch. With Failure’s recent Kickstarter not over and unfunded, we will get to see how the developers react to this set-back. Their motivation to build the game without the funding is a good first start; we will keep an eye on Failure to see how progress continues.
From what has been shown so far, I can say I’m a fan of the artistic direction and more casual friendly introduction of the genre. But gamers are fickle, and it can be hard to convince them to try something too far out of their comfort zone. As of right now they are definitely facing a lot of big challenges to make the game better and building an audience in the process. With their distinct art style I hope they can do just that. If you’re interested in Failure though you have a wait ahead of you. The game is still in the very early stages and, without the Kickstater funding, I imagine it will take some time before we see a polished near finished project entering Early Access.