The quest for black gold in a futuristic waterworld.
The developers of Oil Rush, Unigine, have created an impressive looking real-time strategy-lite game for PC using their own self-titled Unigine engine. The water, which makes up the majority of the playing area in this naval-based game, really does look impressive, and it is this that first leaves an impression on any strategy fan. Empowered with the warm fuzzy feeling that this is a world that they want to play in, the player sets forth into a game that requires minimal micro-management, but as a result gives the player minimal control.
Offering a decent-sized campaign, a quick battle mode and the obligatory multiplayer, Oil Rush certainly seems to have all of the RTS bases covered, which is also the main mechanic of the game.
Set in a grim future where the sea levels have risen and water now covers the Earth, all of the action takes place at sea, with Oil being the resource that everyone needs. The gameplay revolves around capturing the various different types of platform and dominating the map, or at least fulfilling a given objective. This is achieved by sending units from one platform to another to overwhelm the current owners and capture it, then defend it against the inevitable reprisals. The number of units that a player has is dependant on how many platforms that they are in control of.
Different platforms will produce different types of units, such as the basic Piranha – a fast moving jet ski unit, all the way through to the Stingray – helicopter units. A controlled platform will continue to produce units until the unit limit is reached.
Players do not control the units directly, but rather select the platform to which they are currently assigned and then send them to another platform. The player can send either 25%, 50% or 100% of the units at a given platform and then relinquish control until they either reach the friendly platform, or capture an enemy platform. In this respect, the strategic control is minimized, but not necessarily in the games favour. On a number of occasions I found myself wishing that I could have more direct control, especially when my units could be seen doing something stupid.
Perhaps the most important platforms to capture and keep hold of are the Oil Rigs. These platforms generate the black gold which everyone is after, which can then be spent on improving the defences of other platforms. Most platforms can be defended with special turrets, either in the form of Bunkers, which house machine guns, Artillery or Anti-Aircraft. Purchasing these costs Oil and leaves the units free to go and capture other platforms. The turrets can be improved upon at the cost of more Oil.
The player also earns experience as they progress, earning points to spend on the tech tree. These technologies include passive improvements to unit production, armour, speed and such, alongside abilities such as the radar, which allows you to temporarily see through the “fog of war”, and a barricade which makes the given platform invulnerable, whilst also preventing it from firing on enemies. In any battle that lasts more than just a few minutes, these technologies prove vitally important to the flow of the game.
Watching your units zipping across the waves is all very impressive and enjoyable to see, but the unfortunate side-effect of Oil Rush’s lack of control is that very little time is spent on the big map. Aside from building the turrets and using the tech-tree, the rest of the time is spent concentrating on the mini-map, where it is easy to monitor all of the action. The player selects their platform from the mini-map, selects the percentage of units they want to send, and then select their destination. Even the results of the move can easily be seen on the mini-map. Realistically, the game could be played on a smart phone, without all of the fancy graphics.
The multiplayer game fares a bit better, if only due to the inclusion of human error into the mix. Playing against other real-life players undoubtedly adds to the fun and the experience, but the core gameplay still remains the same.
The overall result is a very impressive looking game which, unfortunately, just doesn’t need to look that good. The gameplay is fun, but just doesn’t have enough input from the player to feel satisfyingly strategic. In the single-player game, coming back from one or two bad decisions is almost impossible, although it may take half of the game to realise that.
Oil Rush is a brilliant showcase for what Unigine can do, but the actual appeal of the gameplay wears off quickly. Pick it up if you have friends you can play with, or if visuals are the most important thing in you life.
Oil Rush is available to buy from the Iceberg Web shop