We get ready to shift worlds in Crytek Black Sea’s latest competitive real time strategy title
On the front of Worldshift’s box are your typical gaming buzzwords. “Strategic – Epic – Immersive.” There’s pretension involved when publishers slap journalistic terms on their own box, after all, we’ll be the judge of such claims. Worldshift is the latest game from Black Sea Studios. Their first game was the relatively unknown PC title, Knights of Honor. Four years later and a lot has changed. Broadband has fielded a want for an ever-connected gaming experience and casual gaming is in full swing. Rejuvenation was needed if Black Sea Studios were serious about presenting a modern ‘epic, strategic, immersive’ experience. Worldshift had been in open-beta up until May when the studio was acquired by Crytek (the minds behind Crysis), rebranding itself as Crytek Black Sea. It all went quiet until a retail copy arrived out of the blue with the announcement that the UK / English language version had been released. Promising a blend of old school RTS’ing and next gen connectivity is Worldshift the next step in PC gaming?
It’s definitely not going to get there with its plot. Cue golden age, late 21st Century colonization of space, mysterious incoming ‘Shard Zero’ and a big dollop of kaboom. “It’s the end of the world as we know it.” It seems that whenever mankind fixes its nagging problem of continual war, we get a big shunt into post-apocalyptic society. Hit the fast forward button and we’re a couple thousand years later where the onboard plague of Shard Zero has shaped earth into something unforeseen in a game. Think ‘The Time Machine’ but with guns. Kudos for the new take on the ‘end of the world’ situation, but there are only so many times one can sit through such narrative. It’s all explained in the 79 page manual so we’ll spare you the detail of reading it.
There are three forces to be found on the invigorated earth. There are the big, burly humans that live in the planet’s five surviving cities. Their look resembles a cross between Warhammer 40k’s Space Marine and the combine from Half Life 2. Their strength comes from specialist weaponry and strategic tactics. At the other end of the spectrum you have The Tribes. Evolution / Mutation has morphed humanity into a ‘magic’ focused spiritual race. They’ve tamed the wildlife and utilised their psychic abilities to produce elemental combat. Bringing up the rear is The Cult. Mysterious, focused around the unknown and genetically modified, The Cult are a unique faction. A quick glance suggests that the factions are different enough to offer a variety of gameplay, but in reality they’ve been balanced to such a degree that playing online comes down to skill and tactics, not (unbalanced) uber units.
Despite that, you’re not just playing a reskin. There are advantages and disadvantages of each faction and they’re amplified by the game’s ‘ability grid.’ Throughout the single player campaign, co-op multiplayer of competitive online matches, you’ll be awarded items which can be assigned to your race’s grid. There’s a huge amount of items to be found and the customization allows for you army’s uniqueness. There is also a specialization section that mimics World of Warcraft’s talent tree. It’s a system that comes into its own when playing online. To play any form of Worldshift requires a connection to a lobby where chat services, auto matching, single player missions and customization are available. Playing online will reward you with battle points that in turn can be spent on new artefacts. It’s comparable to the above MMO’s arena / PVP system and it’s a construct that works extremely well. It’s unusual to see a system in a fixed-genre like the RTS, but it’s been done right and adds a breath of fresh air to the game.
It’s definitely needed as Worldshift struggles to stand out. Once you’re actually playing the game, it’s little more than a point and click affair. It uses the same RTS devices that were laid out by the genre’s founders. The gameplay has you selecting your troops, selecting your enemies and letting the maths take care of the rest. The odd special power is used; otherwise it’s a pretty static experience. Take it online and the game strengths with the introduction of a human brain. Otherwise, the AI is (seemingly) scripted and bordering on the pathetic side.
The game’s graphics engine does a good job at recreating the colourful (thankfully) future earth. Curious wildlife, detailed armour, sharp environmental textures are all pluses. The game’s not resource hungry and it’s extremely stable. There are some nice post processing effects and overall the game looks up to the challenge. Clipping does occur on occasion and it raises a few eyebrows, but apart from that it’s packing a visual punch.
Sound wise, the game’s soundtrack successfully presents the mood of the game and voice acting is convincing. Worldshift’s production values are notably high and it completes the package on offer. It’s definitely one for tiding you over until Starcraft 2. The multiplayer is well worth a look-in for genre enthusiasts, otherwise it’s pretty bog standard.
TOP GAME MOMENT
The lack of resources / base building. Action is the way forward.