Since the MOBA rose to prominence with games like DOTA 2 and League of Legends, traditional RTS games have fallen out of the limelight. Fortunately, games like Siegecraft Commander show the genre hasn’t withered away completely. Coming from the popular Siegecraft mobile game series, this is the franchise’s first foray into a full console release. Sadly, the port does drag at some parts and, while it can occasionally be quite satisfying to play, its flaws remain very noticeable.
Siegecraft Commander features two story campaigns. One focuses on the Knights of Freemoi after they crashland in a storm, and the other focuses on the Lizardmen, a race of sentient lizards who must fight the rogue Huntrad Clan. Each campaign consists of eight levels. The story is presented in a storybook fashion, but the developers don’t do much with that concept visually, instead opting for a plain book-page flipping visual effect with each new piece of dialogue. The story is pretty forgettable in the end, with uninteresting characters and dialogue.
Siegecraft Commander’s presentation can also be quite basic and visually bland at times, especially in the Knights of Freemoi’s campaign. The characters and environments are blocky and not very detailed, showing off the game’s mobile roots. This, coupled with a few poor textures, really highlight the lack of visual depth in this title. The Lizardmen’s sandy environments do look better, but they still aren’t anything spectacular. For a genre like RTS that requires players to look at the screen for long periods of time, the lack of interesting visuals does get to you.
While the lack of an engaging story is disappointing, what really matters in an RTS is the gameplay. Siegecraft Commander has players physically launching their towers ahead of themselves as they progress forward on each map and aim to destroy their opponent’s main keep. Each tower has its own health bar, and if a tower connected to others is destroyed, the pathway between them will break and the ones constructed after them will also be destroyed. This prioritizes strategic building placement, as you want to be able to hit and destroy your enemies’ weak points while also hiding your own.
There are five towers initially accessible in the build menu: Armory, Ballista, Garrison, Library, and Outpost. Players then launch the tower in any direction as long as it is accessible by land for the previous building. You can launch TNT, Boombahs, or even Cows from an outpost to damage enemy towers near you. There is a reload wait time after you create and throw a tower. There is also a tech tree that players can access to see which towers they still have to create to get the ones they want to use.
You can capture resources such as Crystal and Gold by putting outpost in it circle of influence in order to get access to new units and towers. This includes magical structures such as the Tesla, which can be created through the Library, which projects a shield around the surrounding area that stops all incoming enemy projectiles and flying units. Barracks, which comes from the Garrison, spawn your own ground units which can attack enemy outposts and other towers.
These mechanics can be very fun, creating your own chain of towers as you progress towards the enemy’s keep can be very rewarding. Finding ways to destroy some of the enemy’s special buildings such as totems can also create some variety in objectives as you progress towards a keep. Destroying a chain of towers is also very satisfying, and makes you feel quite powerful at times.
As to be expected with most RTS’s on console, there are some control problems with the PlayStation 4 version of Siegecraft Commander. Going through menus can be a bit of a hassle using a control stick, as they seem more suited to be navigated through by a mouse or on a touchscreen. Projecting how far you are launching something can also be difficult because of these controls. While it isn’t gamebreaking, it did constantly shift my focus away from the game and onto my controller, so I could make sure I was going through the menus right, and can also be a hassle in multiplayer matches.
Siegecraft Commander also features a customizable mutliplayer mode that works both locally and online with up to 4 players. The PS4 version even has cross-play functionality with the PC version. Players can opt to participate in either turn based or real time matches, and choose which map and AI units to play with. Players can choose from four characters: Human Knight, Human Peon, Lizard Knight, and Lizard Shaman. Each of these characters has two subsets of classes which give them different boosts, such as a Haste Spell, reduced Trebuchet shot cooldown, and napalm landmines for the Templar class for the Human Knight. Leveling up a specific commander gives the player “Trait Points” to spend on new abilities.
Turn based matches were executed pretty poorly. In my local multiplayer experience, both players were able to control the camera, even on other players’ turns. Moving the camera can move the reticle onto a different tower, which can screw over a player if they are facing off against an opponent who wants to mess with you. The RTS mode is much more fun. Building your chain of towers as you progress towards your opponent is very rewarding, and the matches real-time pace really keeps one on their tows. While the control problems can sully this experience sometimes, the fun moments outweigh the bad, and I could see many Siegecraft Commander players having the most fun in this mode.
Siegecraft Commander’s biggest problem is that it can just be quite forgettable at times during the Knights of Freemoi’s campaign. With a lack of visual flair on screen, the already slow paced gameplay becomes a bore to play. Like most RTS’s things take time to happen, but there isn’t much here to keep players engaged in the interim. As matches later on the game become longer and longer, this becomes an even bigger problem. The Lizardmen’s campaign is more engaging, but even it runs into the same problems later on in its campaign. The least boring way to play this game is in the multiplayer matches, and that is where I think this game will find its audience.
Siegecraft Commander can be really satisfying to play at times, especially when you have a large network of buildings and are storming and bombarding your enemies keep. Sadly the game does become boring towards the end of both campaigns, and its controls and lackluster turn-based mode aren’t fun to play. If you are looking for something new to pick up in the genre on PC, I could recommend Siegecraft Commander, but if you are looking to jump into the genre with a really engaging game on console or PC, I would look elsewhere, and wait for Halo Wars 2 next month.