Review: Mildly Interesting RTS15 Mar 2017 2
Review: Mildly Interesting RTS
Released 13 Feb 2017
Minimalist design in video games is an often-used approach in video games to get the absolute maximum from the bare minimum needed. A necessity in the early days of video games when we had to presume a square was the representation of a human. These days, bedroom programmers are increasingly using their talents to make games that do not rely on an artist to get their point across.
Amir Rajan is an indie game developer who regularly writes and does presentations on software development. He is intelligent almost to the point of intimidation, but clearly has a desire to help others. He released A Dark Room for iOS back in 2014 – equal parts a text adventure and ASCII art showcase, it received rave reviews for being a truly offbeat RPG. He returns with the ‘does-what-it-says-on-the-tin’ Mildly Interesting RTS – a game that makes a slight contrast from his previous work mechanically, but certainly continues his visual approach to games.
The premise of Mildly Interesting RTS is centered on capturing bases – here represented by a circle. Your units – also represented by circles (you might be noticing a theme) – can be moved from base to base, first by tapping on the base you occupy, which will present you with an arrow pointing in the direction of the base(s) you can move to. Each tap of the arrow will send another unit of yours in that direction, so if you have five units, you can tap up to five times. There is a delay in the proposed move happening, which is useful when playing on a slower setting, as it gives more time to look around the screen while your units prepare themselves, but becomes chaos when playing on anything past ‘normal’.
There are two whole buttons to work with: the parachute button, letting you drop a bunch of units into one base, and the nuke button, which, as you can imagine, nukes all opposing units inside of one base. Both have a timer, with the nuke taking a lot longer to countdown, and both work on a cool down mechanic, meaning they reset after each use continuously until the game has finished. They are simple and effective additions, with the only real drawback being that the game doesn’t offer up any other mechanics like this.
The difficulty setting is waved off in favour of both the speed setting and choosing the number of units before each level (going up in sets of 5 up to 25). The AI feels and acts in a similar manner regardless of the changes made, and shoots straight out of the starting block at all times.
The bare bones nature of the production does have its drawbacks: it gives no indication of progress or informing the player of levels they may have finished – there’s simply no end game. Though as this is a freemium game, with Amir clearly throwing out this odd little project for players to mess around with, I can accept the loose ends staying as such.
Amir has noted his confliction over releasing it at a price or adding skin packs for IAPs later down the line. Personally, I would like to see an expansion released at some point for a fee, as the game is sorely lacking in content, which could be easily rectified with extra levels, mechanics, or potentially a level editor, as the games simple UI and rules make it perfect for such a concept. The game does have the option for multiplayer, which just feels awkward, and spectator mode, which is mildly hypnotic.
Reviewing games such as Mildly Interesting RTS is fine up until you need to put a number on it. Based purely on its merits it is absorbing, has a visual style that sets itself apart, and Amir has clearly accomplished transforming his vision into the game that we see. However, it should be noted that within minutes you have seen everything this game has to offer. You can select any level you like from the start, meaning there’s no sense of progression, and you can just jump into see what the map looks like before jumping out. Even as a free download, can I feel comfortable giving this game a 4, considering games in the past I have also given that score to? For context, Potion Explosion, Chezz, and Don’t Starve: Shipwrecked have all been awarded 4 stars this year by me.
In the end I’ve settled on 3 stars, though the game has potential to expand on this. Keep in mind that with any criticism thrown against the game, the whole thing was made in 30 days. Amir has tracked his process of the game’s creation with an incredibly interesting blog for anyone who has a curiosity in game development.