Old School Fun With Limitations – Act of Aggression Review (PC)
Boasting a strong pedigree in the RTS genre, Eugen Systems have earned themselves a neat spot in a market that isn’t catered to all that much. From the hardcore strategy of their Wargame series, to the experimental nature of RUSE, Eugen are a versatile bunch. Their latest offering, Act of Aggression, is the accumulation of a lengthy service to RTS packed with classic staples, as well as more modern elements.
Act of Aggression takes a old school approach to it’s core outline. Each game starts with base building, followed by resource gathering which is in turn followed by investing in units and upgrades. While it may not be to everyone’s taste, base building is well rounded with the game’s general pace ensuring each match never stays too long in the early phases. Resource management requires constant monitoring, with sources dotted around the map, creating a risk/reward undertone that rules throughout Act of Aggression.
As with most RTS titles, player units match all have their equals and counters. The key to victory is matching up units, almost in a rock-paper-scissor style, making use of their individual roles and skills. Combat is given a more tactical outlet through the ability to holdout in various structures dotted around the map. Standing out in the open may be a valid tactics, but it’;s not without out it’s cost. Occupying structures with infantry provides troops with cover, resulting in them becoming a valuable defence asset.
Buildings aren’t merely just cover however. Each map plays host to buildings that provides economical benefits that cane make or break a game. Holding a bank for long stretches of a match can steadily increase a players resource pool, allowing them to expand/upgrade at a much steadier route. It’s a wonderfully subtle element to the core game that forces players to think beyond their unit count. Key buildings soon become focal points of each game, players battling for control.
The vital role that a maps layout plays in each game is both a blessing and a curse. Roads allow vehicles to travel much faster, allowing players to scout and attack much more effectively. This, of course, also means roads are a fantastic platform to stage ambushes from defending players. It’s a nice touch that adds a extra layer of strategic depth to the experience, even if it does provide a problem in the shape of air units. The choke points roads present often means players will scrap using land vehicles in favour of aircraft. The impact of this creates numerous cases of spamming air craft, cheapening the robust choice of land vehicles.
Air units aside, Act of Aggression does a decent job of creating three unique, but balanced, factions. Spilt across the US Military, The Cartel and Chimera, the choice in units gives a decent variation in tactics. Each faction boasts their own traits, be it more effective land units or air forces. At the heart of each faction is a super weapon, a powerful asset that can change the course of the game. The concept of obtaining such a potent weapon normally does create a slight worry of each game boiling down to a arms race, but you’d be wrong. Act of Aggression’s delicate balance between offence and defence thankfully concerns it’s self with the super weapons. Each faction has the ability to build defences that decrease the effectiveness of enemy super weapons.
The concept that offensive is the best defence is not one Act of Aggression subscribes to. With the before mentioned ability to bunker down in structures, along with the maps playing a part in tactics, defence is a legitimate means to victory. All of the various elements come together to create a neat RTS core experience that feels distinctly old school, but fresh enough not maintain a sense of freshness.
Hardcore strategy fans may feel that the general pace and streamlined mechanics may not be as rewarding as other games, but there’s a undeniable flow of enjoyment coursing through Act of Aggression’s veins. The abundance of fun is generate constantly by the push for gathering resources, often nudging players closer and closer together, forcing them to engage in a battle of wits and military might.
As a full package, Act of Aggression packs three campaigns along with skirmishes and a neatly formed on-line multiplayer option. The campaigns act as more of a means to teach the player the core principles of the game, as well as how to effectively play each faction. The story respective plots are a mixture of B-Movie grade action film plot lines with a wonderful supply of some truly hammy voice acting. None of the storylines will leave a serious impact, but they’re are wonderfully cheesy. It’s hard to think of the single player being the primary focus of Act of War, even more so given the multiplayer chat lobby is present on the main menu screen.
For what it’s worth, the multiplayer is an accomplished feature that allows Act of Aggression to express it’s self. There’s no apparent ‘overpowered’ units/faction/Strategy that appear in each and ever match. For the most part, the games flow thick and fast, with a decent matchmaking system supporting the game. All the positives found in the single player are enhanced by the multiplayer, especially when a number of players battle for control over resources resulting in some truly intense showdowns.
It’s hard to judge just how long the player base will stick around. The early signs are positive, with plenty of chatter going on in lobbies, and the emergence of the odd clan, but only time (and patches/content) will tell if Act of Aggression’s player base sticks around for the long run.
The heart and soul of Act of Aggression may be old school, but the game’s presentation is firmly modern. Maps are expensive and well detailed, giving each battle a breath of life, further enhancing each conflict they host. Unit models are nicely detailed, with infantry looking and moving in a convincing manner. Vehicles don’t look as good, with some of the Cartel units appearing slightly plain. When the bullets and warheads are flying, Act of Aggression looks and sounds the part. Running at full 1080p, and 60 fps, Act of Aggression leaves little to bemoan in the presentation department, even with a few uninspired unit designs aside.
It’s old school nature is Act of Aggressions brightest light, the amount of action going on during any given game is impressive. The only real negatives centre around the core mechanics being slightly too simply. While the spectacle of seeing units clash head on is entertaining to engage with, there’s always a slight longing for more strategic options to be available. One of the feature Act of Aggression boasts it the ability to capture enemy troops. While it does provide a benefit to the captor, it’s a mechanic that feels under utilized, and often too risky to use in multiplayer. The single player portion of Act of Aggression is adequate as learning tool, but some rather dull mission objectives leave it floating between satisfying and mundane.
Accessible, quick and enjoyable in bursts, Act of Aggression is a welcome distraction in a under supplied market. With enjoyable action, and a solid multiplayer experience, there’s a decent amount to enjoy, as long as you’re willing to accept a streamlined old school approach to real time strategy.