Figuring out how to get a real-time strategy title to work on consoles has been a struggle that developers have waged for years. This goes as far back as the Genesis era with Herzog Zwei, leading up to ports of Command and Conquer on the PlayStation and even StarCraft on the Nintendo 64. Even more recently, Stormrise tried (and failed) to create a special console-friendly UI for RTS joy on the Xbox 360, while Halo Wars tried (and succeeded) at doing the same by simplifying the formula.
We’ve got yet another attempt here with Siegecraft: Commander, a PS4 RTS with added VR elements that’s also available on PC. So where does it fit?
So I want you to imagine that you’re playing Warcraft. You’ve got units to train, buildings to construct, all of that noise…but instead of just plopping down your buildings, you have to slingshot them onto the map via outpost buildings (which are also slingshotted onto the map). If your aim isn’t spot-on, well…sorry, you’re going to have to lie in the bed you made for yourself, even though you had to make it using a giant, questionably accurate catapult. As you slingshot buildings, they’ll connect to each other; this creates a wall between the two that serves to “power” future buildings. Destroying a building early in a chain will also destroy those that are connected to it, so it’s in your best interests to protect your chain.
Likewise, you can slingshot explosives, buildings that train combat units, livestock and so on to dish out some pain unto your foes, and you can secure resources by slingshotting an outpost next to them. The whole launcher thing is a cute idea that’s kind of at odds with the entire concept of strategic gameplay, so if you’re coming here looking for a deep and involving RTS experience, you might be a little unpleasantly surprised at what you get. What’s more, the cooldown associated with many buildings can make questionable aim very painful.
The game ends up feeling like it’s mostly about your ability to deal with the goofy placement mechanic than your strategic acumen. The gameplay is oddly reminiscent of the forgotten classic NetStorm: Islands at War, and as a huge fan of that title I find myself predisposed to like SiegeCraft: Commander despite the whole slingshot thing.
You’ve got campaigns for both the humans and the lizardmen to check out, each with their own story to follow. Shakespeare it ain’t, but there’s a decent amount of content here to keep you playing for awhile if you find the gameplay appealing. There are also multiplayer options available, including online, and it’s possible to play with PC players via the PS4 version and vice-versa; multiplayer matches can be played in standard RTS mode or in a slightly-awkward turn-based mode that doesn’t seem to fit the game quite as well.
Aside from being a more accessible form of strategy game, the other big reason for this game’s existence, it seems, is that it’s got VR support with PSVR. Well, it’s supposed to at least; when I played it on PS4, this capability wasn’t actually present, though it’s been promised as an addition in future updates, and this review will see an update if and when it’s added. Apparently the PC version of the game is compatible with the Vive and Oculus, though I haven’t had a chance to try it in either of those formats.
Siegecraft: Commander is an interesting concept that feels like it could have used a little more time in the oven. The basic concept here is sound and when it works, it works; it’s just not the kind of strategy game you might expect, and it’s probably easier to play on a touch screen, with a mouse, or using a VR controller. It’s not a terrible buy right now, but when PSVR support shows up the game will likely be worth a second look, especially if Move controls are included.