I've been playing Oil Rush for a little more than week now and it's been doing a great job of making me feel like I'm playing a new version of an old school RTS, complete with cheesy dialogue, exciting visuals, challenging gameplay, vast tech trees and massive armies. This game has plenty to offer seasoned RTS gamers, but it does not exclude less experienced gamers. The game has a fairly lengthy campaign with four difficulties that lasts 6-10 hours, plus there is an easy to use multiplayer system (assuming you have the game on Steam) and plenty of maps to play offline skirmishes against the computer opponents, on top of all that there is forty one achievement to unlock on Steam as well. One of the first things you would notice about Oil Rush is that it has some tower defense elements mixed with real time strategy, something which I will be over heavily along with what works and what doesn't in terms of gameplay, sound, presentation and more, all for the PC version of Oil Rush on Steam. It is available on Mac and Linux as well, plus the digital distributor Desura. Onwards my readers and let me show the world of Oil Rush.
Oil Rush tackles gameplay in an unfamiliar way that may be odd for many at first, but there are quite a few small scale games that touch on the basic idea, games like Eufloria or Stellar Impact. You do not directly control your forces, which are made up of various types of ships, planes, helicopters and submarines, and you merely direct your forces towards a specific area. When I say area I mean one of the various types of capture-able platforms in the game, whether that means a literal oil platform or a helicopter production base, or one of the many other types of capture-able platforms. You can split up your forces by selecting specific units circling a platform or you can break them up by selecting twenty-five or fifty percent of the forces on any given area. You control your forces entirely by this method of sending them to areas, whether it is your own platform or an enemies, and making your units into many little groups or one giant group of destruction. Many of the platforms you capture are factories that spawn a specific type of unit, which can be small assault jet skis, helicopters, planes, large heavily armored Hammerhead units or well rounded medium sized units that are fairly good versus everything. You have a max spawn cap per factory and the more you capture the larger your army gets. One thing that makes gameplay challenging is how you combine these units and how you can, or enemies, can use units to harass lightly defended areas. Take a look at this video I took from one of the earlier missions in the game to see how gameplay works, also take note of the gorgeous engine that runs it all. Do watch the video in HD, it looks immensely better.
Now that you see how the concepts of the game play out let me go over a broad list of what I love, like and hate. For this I will do some generalizations but I will also try to cover the more deep topics with explanations and embellishment afterwards.
+ Tech Tree
+ Variety of Units
+ Length of play
+ Smooth and almost bug free
+ Difficulty balance and options
+ Campaign Mission variety
+ Price ($20)
+ Story and voice acting
+ Story and voice acting
+ Skirmish Mode
+ Steam Integration
+ Clutter free UI
- Camera Controls
- View distance
- Multiplayer/Skirmish variety of maps
To start with I must explain what I hate. There is little that I truly feel makes the game worse, but the camera controls, view distance and map variety for skirmish/multiplayer modes do detract from the experience. The camera controls are there but they don't feel very friendly for PC and even by the end of the single player campaign I still felt a little off about them. Of course you may alter them, but you cannot how much the camera can move, it is fairly restricted and you cannot zoom out very far. This brings me to view distance, which is almost abysmal. You get fairly huge armies by the end of the game and it's really odd seeing a battle taking place but only being able to see 50% of the battle if it's taking place at two nearby platforms. My graphical options for Oil Rush were fairly maxed out and you just cannot see your units that far away, which detracts from the great combat graphics. You also can get nukes by the end of the game and I figured at the very least you would be able to see that go off from anywhere on a map, but alas you must be very close to see it go off. The third thing and last thing that I frown upon is the variety of maps for everything but the main campaign. Offline skirmish and multiplayer both share the same set of maps, all of which are good and challenging maps, but they almost all the exact same type of maps. In the single player campaign they introduce you to many different types of missions, like defense, escort, air only, single units and all sorts of options that would have been really interesting to see in multiplayer/skirmish. To contrast one of the things I liked is the pure number of multiplayer/skirmish maps and how balanced they seem to be.
I absolutely must talk about the story and voice acting, for it is a point of negativity among many reviewers and I can understand where they are coming from. I do concede that the story is cheesy, not very original and has some poor voice acting, but it does grow on you throughout, much like old RTS's like Command & Conquer, Dark Reign or Dune. Much of the game has an old RTS to feel to it and if you choose to embrace that, if you can embrace that, then you can turn the story into something enjoyable. I personally almost love the story but due to how it comes off I can easily see how many would push it aside. One of the many things I loved about the game was difficulty balance, something that is hard to do and I often see done poorly. When you play Oil Rush on medium difficulty it absolutely feels like you are playing a game on medium. The same goes for hard and easy, they feel just right. There are a few extra challenging levels in the main campaign, but they are easily beatable if you merely try again with a new or different strategy, which is how a difficulty should work. You shouldn't have to lower the difficulty if you've played through the entire game on medium until you hit one extra hard level that you cannot beat, the solution for that should be a rethinking of the level or situation, not lowering the difficulty in order get past it.
Another thing I loved about the game that I would like to explain is the mission variety in the campaign, which is often how people get momentarily stuck by a level. Most of the levels in the campaign require you to conquer platform after platform on fairly large open maps, or at least sections of large maps, but there are levels that have you go on the defensive and you can only build turrets, in that case it turns almost in tower defense level. You will still have tech tree options and abilities, you will still have Oil income and you will still have at least one platform, but you must rely on building turrets off of forts in order to stop a specific number of enemy waves. There are also levels that have you only use one unit and you must rely on abilities from the tech tree to get through the level, at least until you get to a point where you get some back up. There is also one escort level in the game, which can be a pain, but it is like I described before where you merely new to think up a new strategy in order to effectively defend the ships you are supposed to escort. On top of those blatantly different mission types the normal mission types often have new factors that make each level feel different from the rest. Rarely is there a level where you merely must conquer everything on the map.
It feels like there is so much I could say about Oil Rush and why it should be played by any fan of RTS, but for now I will cease my typing and leave myself open to questions, comments and scrutiny. Merely I say to you all, I recommend this game for all the reasons stated above and should you find anything to sound displeasure-able then stay away from this release, but there is much to be enjoyed and it can be enjoyed at a low price.
Violent Score: 4.5 (out of 5)
*Review copy provided by Unigine Corp. Played only the PC version and mainly on Steam.
-Written by Sean Cargle