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Review: Brass Tactics

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RTS in VR, OMG!

I wouldn't expect for an RTS game to make its way into VR and work as well as it does in Brass Tactics. I also didn't expect the RTS genre to work so well with a controller, but then Tooth and Tail came in and blew me away. I guess the genre is more malleable than I originally gave it credit for. Though, I'd like to blame the time I spent with StarCraft 64 for making me so jaded on my opinions of modifying the control input for RTS games.

I can say with certainty that Brass Tactics is better than StarCraft 64.

Brass Tactics (Oculus Rift)
Developer: Hidden Path Entertainment
Publisher: Oculus Studios
Released: February 22, 2018
MSRP: $39.99 (Free-to-play version available)

There are technically two offerings on the Oculus Store for Brass Tactics  The full game, which costs $39.99, and Brass Tactics Arena, which is free. The free version is limited to the tutorial campaign missions and a single map in online and offline play. This is a great opportunity for anyone on the fence to dive in and get the gist of exactly what Brass Tactics offers up, and I recommend doing just that.

The campaign, in general, is a rather weak showing but does a good job of introducing the player to the maps and mechanics. There are eight missions in total, the first two essentially acting as the tutorial. The player is one of the few who can act as this unit-controlling god of sorts, and so it's up to you to stop the bad guy! But the bad guy is all "psh, he's new so he can't take me down OOHH NO HE'S TAKING ME DOWN!" The story failed to grab my attention in any way, though the voice acting was quite well done for the auxiliary characters.

Luckily, the mechanics themselves make up for the lack of a captivating storyline. Actually playing Brass Tactics is great. Many RTS games rely on a lot of intricacies and memorization to play well, though games like Tooth and Tail have moved away from that recently. Brass Tactics is somewhere in the middle; it does require a fair bit of execution (physical execution in this case) to play well but is also very simplified because it is in VR.

Everything is done with your hands. Like literally, your hands. To spawn a building, you rotate your hand to bring up the selection of buildings, pick it up, and plop it down on one of the pre-determined building locations on the map. Then, to create units from that building, you point at it and press one of the buttons on the Oculus Touch controllers. To move those units, you point and hold the trigger, releasing when you've pointed to where you want them to end up. If you swoop over multiple unit groups while doing this, they all get the command. You can half-hold the trigger to tell only a single group of units to move, but I found this very difficult to do in the middle of a match.

There are smaller intricacies to the controls as well. For example, holding up on the analog stick while giving a move command will modify it to be an attack-move command. I was worried that the VR constraint would limit some of the necessary controls like attack-move, so I was happy to see it implemented. There are some things that I expected to be able to use that are not present, however. For example, there is no option to have created units rally at a certain point, which is incredibly frustrating. There are still plenty of things to keep track of, so to have to constantly revisit your buildings and move those units to where you need them is needlessly time consuming. You also can't "double click" a single type of unit to select all of that unit on screen -- another omission that leads to frustration from veterans who expect these things to just "work."

Resources are automatically gathered, so the main focus is on managing those resources and battle tactics. There is a rock-paper-scissors element to the units, and the main menu allows players to read up on all the unit information and what they work best against. It's exciting to look at the types of units one can bring into battle and choosing the set that fits your playstyle the most. 

There is no fog of war, which caught me off guard at first. I thought there was no way that this was a good idea -- I can just see everything that they're doing? But, as I played, I realized that I'm so focused on what I'm doing myself that I have very little time or instinct to look up and pay much attention to what's going on. I had to constantly remind myself to look up and take a moment to observe my opponent. It reminded me of getting used to glancing at the minimap in StarCraft.


My biggest issue with Brass Tactics is that there is little reason for me to jump into a match here over any other RTS in my library. Yes, it's the only one in VR, but I don't necessarily count that as a positive. All that essentially means is that I need to take the extra steps beforehand of strapping on the headset and controllers before playing. It's a very competent RTS game made by devs who clearly care about the genre and their title, but I find myself with no interest of returning and playing more rounds.

The game looks great -- it's awesome to get down on the ground level and watch the little dudes duke it out. Even the maps themselves look incredible. But once the novelty of "it's in virtual reality!" wears off, you are left with a mechanically-solid RTS game with a poor story, that lacks specific commands veterans will expect, and has what is likely a very small community.

[This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]


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Brass Tactics reviewed by Patrick Hancock

6

ALL RIGHT

Slightly above average or simply inoffensive. Fans of the genre should enjoy it a bit, but a fair few will be left unfulfilled.
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Patrick Hancock
Patrick HancockContributor   gamer profile

the day he teaches high school kids about At night he kicks their butts in competitive games like Rocket League, Dota 2, and more + disclosures


 



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