The worst has happened. There is a world fuel shortage. Desperate to feed their energy hungry populace, the three largest empires on the globe go head-to-head to capture the last reserves of fuel. No soldier is too expendable. No structure too unsafe. They will do whatever it takes to come out on top. Even if it means destroying the world in the process.
Forts is a real time strategy game in a similar vein to Worms and Scorched Earth. Players each have a fort, a base of operations, and face off against each other across a map. They collect resources and build weapons, with the aim of breaking through to the opponents’ reactor core and destroying their fort. It is a simple premise, but Forts offers some tweaks to the format which make it a fun and challenging entry to the genre.
First and foremost are the forts themselves. They are bulky, wooden structures which players can upgrade with armour and doors. Forts can be built up and out, but players must be wary. Physics affects the forts. And the larger they are, the more precarious they become.
The taller a structure the more it sways. Height is great for wind turbines, but the movement can play havoc with aiming mortars. Some of this can be minimised with careful placement of ropes, which tether the fort to the ground or other parts of the structure. Players can also build outward. Not all ground is suitable for attaching the fort struts too, so building wide is a delicate game of calculated risks. This approach has its advantages though, as it is a great way to add protection to the reactor core, and an easy way to increase machine gun defence.
On, and inside, the fort players can place weapons and devices. There is a small selection, but each does a particular job, and they can be individually upgraded to fulfil different tasks. Mines and turbines can be placed to gather resources, while metal stores and batteries increase the storage capacity. Workshops and factories provide new weapon selections or upgrades.
Each player starts with a basic selection of weapons, usually machine guns and snipers. More options are made available as certain criteria are fulfilled. The weapon severity has a nice progression to it, with the two most destructive weapons taking a suitable amount of time and resources to reach. Weapons can be grouped together and fired, but they still need to be aimed manually. This is a nice compromise, as it means players have to constantly decide between attacking or working on their fort.
There are a number of modes within Forts including Campaign, Skirmish, Multiplayer and Sandbox. Campaign tells the story of the battle of the three empires, and also doubles as the tutorial. It is a clumsily executed portion of the game, and includes references to real-world political events and figures. These are apparently supposed to be funny or tongue-in-cheek, but are so flat and unamusing that they would have been better off left out. The game portions of the Campaign are fine, though as a tutorial they leave a little to be desired. Instructions are often indistinct, with some controls being restated many times, while others are hardly ever mentioned.
Skirmish allows the player to jump into a no-strings-attached battle with an AI opponent. It’s a great feature for practising speed and tactics, but once a player becomes familiar with the game, I can’t see it getting a lot of use. Sandbox is similar to Skirmish, but instead of an AI opponent, the player controls all forts. It is a great opportunity to explore each level and experiment with how to build different structures.
Multiplayer is where Forts comes into its own. There are two game types, Death Match and Co-op. Death Match see’s players face off against each other, while Co-op has them working together. Within this are a number of options and players will enjoy experimenting with the different formats with their friends. In particular the Co-op modes, where both players command the same fort, are extremely enjoyable. It fosters a level of player communication which other games have trouble prompting, as the team mates discuss which person will do what, and manage their dual expenditure of resources.
Forts controls are primarily composed of selecting objects, and clicking and dragging. It is a simple and relatively intuitive system. Some nice management touches have been included, like being able to upgrade support structures just by right clicking them and choosing an option.
However, the system begins to fall apart when things get busy. Having multiple selectable points near each other can mean that players click something they didn’t mean too, and possibly execute an addition or order that is completely opposite to what they intended. This wouldn’t be such a problem if the player could always make measured selections, but the suddenness and intensity with which they can be assaulted means that the controls hamper these hectic situations.
Which is a shame because the game is built around the too-and-fro between opponents, which often results in chaos on one side. And while the argument could be made that this is a fair representation of acting in a panic, it should be the players own actions which cause these mistakes, and not a weird quirk of the controls. With a lot of practise this can be minimised, but in the initial stages it can cause a lot of frustration.
Forts is one of those games which tries to do a number of things, and does some poorly and others fantastically well. Happily, those things which diminish the experience can largely be ignored, as they almost all pertain to game modes. I feel safe in saying that the player co-op experience is the highlight of Forts. A team of players against an AI is enjoyable, but player team versus player team is a fantastically fun and joyous experience.
Forts is developed and published by EarthWork Games, and available now on Steam.
Reviewed On: PC
Review System: nVidiaN9600C, G1 Sniper M7 S1151, 16GB RAM
Playtime: 8 hours