Review: Crush Your Enemies25 Jul 2016 2
Review: Crush Your Enemies
Released 13 Jul 2016
At its core, Crush Your Enemies is a strategy game – albeit one that attempts to strip down the typical formula in favour of a more simplistic approach to the genre. From Polish developers Vile Monarch, the game’s setting is rooted in Viking mythology. Just don’t expect to learn anything about them. The historical setting is merely a placeholder for gameplay that's intertwined with poorly executed dialogue – an attempt at comedy that falls far short of the mark.
But first, the positives; gameplay takes place on a grid-like environment, with your army on one side and your enemies on the other and the scenarios changing and increasing with difficulty as you progress. You move your army across the environment over to your enemies where the game implements a simple maths equation: do you have more men in your army than the AI? Yes? You win.
The increase in difficulty comes from tweaking the scenario in a number of ways; in some levels there are huts that will transform your lowly grunt into an armored super-soldier, which means you can dish out more damage, but so can your opponent. Swamps appear and slow down your trek across the land, which can put you at a disadvantage depending on your where your enemy is. Watch towers can be built, defended, used to your advantage, and can be an absolute nuisance in the hands of the AI. These elements all are used for different strategic purposes depending on whether the requirements are all-out offensive missions, or for slower-paced tower defense objectives.
The key to winning, and pretty much the only mechanic you are forced to rely on, is resource management. It's in keeping with the stripped-down nature of the game, though, as the only resource you ever control are your men, and the choices you make early are on are usually influential on the whole round. You require more men by using the ones you begin with to influence other local villagers, either through charging up to them for a chat, or using the village hut to multiply your army. The more men in the hut, the quicker your turnover is, but you can only hold up to 50 at a time. By this time there’s a good chance your enemy will have taken over the local watch tower, so you have to be quick and prioritize your objectives.
More often than not, most levels are about scoping the environment and seeing what it is the developers want you to do, instead of being able to freely choose how you want to finish the mission. Preference on this is subjective, but given the limitations of the game the designers have chosen to go with, it works in its favour. Crush Your Enemies seems comfortable at home on a mobile device, and I can’t imagine I would be as interested sitting down for an hour to play on my laptop. In bite-sized chunks, failing a level and understanding why you did before coming back to strike a fatal blow is consistently satisfying.
And you will fail, a lot. CYE can be punishingly difficult at times, with the difficulty wavering from one level to the next in a way that is anything but consistent. But the pick-up-and-play style means frustration never begins to sink in as the game never asks for your attention for more than a couple of minutes at a time.
As complimentary as I am on the mechanics of the game, the same cannot be said for the tone and writing. Simply put: it’s awful. Its a ham-fisted, dull-minded approach to humour that is so shallow and uninteresting that it doesn’t even have the ability to be offensive. Whether it’s the loading screen telling you the game is “shaving bollocks” (or any other number of knob gags), childish & repetitive swearing or fourth-wall breaking humour that thinks it's being cleverer than it actually is; Crush Your Enemies is the barometer to use going forward on how to nearly ruin your game simply through its writing. None of the characters are remotely likeable or memorable, and by the end I was hammering the skip option to avoid cut scenes altogether.
It’s a shame, as the comical tone does fit the overall art direction and style, which are both quite strong. The actual writing though is so woefully poor you would think Vile Monarch had farmed that part of the game out to another team to finish.
Multiplayer is available across all platforms, which is great feature, and I never struggled to find a game. Unfortunately, finding someone to stick around long enough to see one through to the end was a struggle. It's a nice idea, but the stripped down mechanics work against the concept of multiplayer here. Levels are designed with your crew, buildings, and the landscape all evenly spread. This means that within the first few seconds, if your opponent realises they were too late moving their warriors, half the time they would leave the game knowing they had already lost. I won't fault the devs for the inclusion of multiplayer, as they do a good with the levels available, but the twitch-based style of gameplay never fully grabbed me the same way the single-player campaign did.
Crush Your Enemies is available to purchase on iOS, Android, and Steam, with a free-to-play model being available for the mobile options. It’s easier to think of the F2P version as a demo, as there are no IAPs other than the option to purchase the full game. Only 14 levels are available to you, which is plenty of time to decide if the game is for you. Other limitations include only being able to face off against random players in multiplayer and half of the unit types being unavailable. Coming from a generation where demos were the norm, it’s a nice approach and gives you more than enough content to make up your mind on the full purchase.
It's a difficult one; while I appreciate the different approach it takes in a genre that is far too often po-faced, CYE makes a right mess of its execution. Where I enjoy the stripped-down mechanics, it often throws a difficulty spike I’m not prepared for and options are not available to me to overcome them in the way I would like. Ultimately, this review comes with a tepid recommendation to seek out the free version and see if the gameplay holds up enough to override the negative aspects of the game.