“Subsiege” Review

There is a lot to like about “Subsiege”, but sadly in the end I was underwhelmed.  I think this is mainly because it takes a lot for me to be interested in RTS games, and this one isn’t quite there in its development. Given what I’ve read from fans of the genre in forum threads, I have no doubt that it will eventually get there.

“Subsiege” is an underwater-themed real-time strategy game (RTS).  RTS games have been around for decades on PC, but are making their way more and more into the console market (as shown with “Halo Wars” and newly released “Halo Wars 2”).  If you’re unfamiliar with the genre, a RTS is a game where you are placed on a map and view the units you control from an overhead 3rd person point of view.  You direct your units around the map to find resources that allow you to build new units and also engage enemy units who are doing the same.  In my experience with “Subsiege”, it adequately captures the core elements of traditional RTS games, but ultimately comes up a bit shallow when compared to AAA real-time strategy titles such as “Starcraft” or “Supreme Commander”.

A big negative for me is that the game has no single player campaign, focusing primarily on a multiplayer experience.  I’m not a huge fan of PVP, mostly because I’m just not very good playing against other people.  As of late March 2017, the only single player experience available in “Subsiege” outside of the tutorial is a “training grounds” mode, which has the same map as the tutorial but lets you play against enemy AI units as long as you like. Even If I were interested in multiplayer games, I still feel I would end up disappointed. The community is not large enough to be able to hop on any time of the day and have a list of opponents waiting for matches.  The few times that I logged on to play, there were no players in the lobby, but this is fairly typical of early access games.  I did, however, read a forum post that talked about their league play having a “match scheduler” which allows you to find people to play.  So, it seems they are moving towards solving this issue.

Another issue I took with the game is that, in its current state, it only has 10 different units available to attack with or defend your base.  These units are the same for each player and faction.  Traditionally RTS games will have different unit models for each faction with similar but differing abilities like in the game. In “Subsiege” there are no such factions.  This isn’t necessarily bad, because it makes for a more leveled playing field, but will ultimately lower the interest level of many players when they find there isn’t as much to work with in the game as with others in its genre.

There was one game element that I found annoying, but other players could view as a strength: the oxygen timer.  The game’s environment is underwater, and oxygen is a commodity to be valued.  In addition to finding resources such as crystals and gas to help you build your base and new offensive units, you also have to replenish your ever-dwindling supply of oxygen.  This is a game mechanic not seen in any other RTS to date.  For the most part, you can only obtain more oxygen by killing monsters or other ships in the game world.  So in essence, the oxygen timer pushes combat forward whether you like it or not.  This was a borderline negative for me, because in previous RTS games I’ve enjoyed, a large source of gratification for me is to sit back and build up my base and army first, and then take a huge force over to the enemy to wipe them out.  With the oxygen timer there is always a ticking clock that forces you to not sit back and build, but to get out and attack early and often.  I don’t enjoy playing this way, so the oxygen timer was a deal breaker for me.

All the negative aside, the game has a lot going for it in the positive column.  The game interface and menus are all very well done and polished.  They are much better than other games I’ve seen in early release.  The game menus include a social system which allows you to see friends from your Steam friends list and communicate with them through an in-game chat window.  This is a nice feature if you’re trying to organize a game with friends.  The game keeps track of your victories, and you are ranked according to all other players in the world.  In addition, the tutorial is well thought out and easy to follow.  The game’s website shows that there is evidence of tournament play on the weekends, which may appeal to some players. When diving into the forums to see how well the developers interact with the community I was please to see that the devs were quick to respond to posts in the “bug fix” thread and seemed genuinely concerned and eager to help with each issue, which is somewhat rare. And last but not least, the general feel of the community in the forums seemed that they were impressed with how fast the game was progressing from it’s beta phase to now and how quickly bug fixes and features were being added.  This shows that the developer is invested in and enthusiastic about their game, which makes all the difference when considering the purchase of an “early access” game.

Ultimately, “Subsiege” is a strong game considering it is an early access title, but currently (late March, 2017) may be a little overpriced at $29.99 on Steam.  The price tag sets an expectation of the quality of a game, and I don’t feel this one is quite up to the $29.99 range.  Given that I’m not a huge RTS fan, I’d be more comfortable with a purchase around $19.99 given the current states of the game.  If you enjoy RTS games and are interesting in exploring new mechanics like the oxygen timer, this may be the game for you.

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