Under Siege Enhanced Edition – The PS3 Attitude Review
Despite huge success on PC, RTS (real-time strategy) games are largely lost on console gamers, with console-dedicated studios only managing moderate success in their attempts to create addictive gameplay, compared their PC brethren who mastered it years ago. Because of this developers and publishers alike are reluctant to try their hand at this genre, which perhaps represents the greatest opportunity for innovation within the industry.
Enter Portuguese developer, Seed Studios and its PSN-dedicated RTS experience, Under Siege Enhanced Edition. It’s a refreshingly intimate, albeit flawed, strategy game that manages to overcome its shortcomings to give PS3 owners an RTS to call their own.
Note: Under Siege is not a new game. ‘Enhanced Edition’ denotes a large, free update to the game which provides greater polish, performance improvements and new game modes. As I had not played Under Siege previously, Enhanced Edition was my first experience with the game.
With Under Siege, Seed Studios approaches RTS gameplay with a basic if not intimate philosophy. Instead of controlling a massive army with a base that functions as a micro-city, players are restricted to controlling a single squad ranging from about 4-21 soldiers of varying races and specialties. A base and the subsequent resource farming are completely done away with, leaving players without the luxury of relying on reincforcements. The only resource that needs monitoring is gold, which can be picked up through careful examination of each level. That gold is then be spent on upgrades and additional soldiers.
The goal of each level is to reach a marker placed somewhere on the map. But, of course, standing in your way are hordes of enemies, a few minor puzzles, escort missions, boss fights and defense-oriented levels sprinkled in for good measure.
Outside of the 20 campaign missions, players can take the game online and opt for classic split-screen co-op play or create and share a map from scratch using the level editor. Online functionality is a major focus of the Enhanced Edition update – and the game for that matter – but unfortunately I wasn’t able to play any online matches. This wasn’t down to complications with the game but instead because I could never find anyone on the servers at the same time. That said, I hope to give online a spin sometime soon as it appears robust, particularly for a downloadable title, with capture the flag, deathmatch, king of the hill and co-op modes.
The high point of Under Siege is without a doubt its gameplay. It plays well to the inherent restrictions of the DualShock 3 (when compared to a keyboard and mouse) with gameplay centered around the squad alone, which is customizable at the outset of each level. Because of this players do not have to worry about constantly surveying the whole map, which is where other PC ports have come unstuck. Movement is also gratifyingly accurate and responsive.
Combat in Under Siege bears a strong resemblance to the affairs of a common MMORPG such was World of Warcraft wherein soldiers perform a base attack with special abilities which can be triggered so long as their respective cool-down effects are completed. The game yields combat animations and sounds that are as timely as they are satisfying. Giant mechs and bombs rightly send enemies soaring across the landscape.
The strategy comes in your ability to properly organize your troops in a fashion which maximizes their ability while providing ample defense; i.e. keeping fragile archers out of harm’s way, using the environment to your advantage, etc. It sounds simple, but it becomes much more challenging as the game progresses and/or when the game’s already formidable difficulty level is raised. For obsessive gamers like myself, leading a squad through a level unscathed offers a worthy challenge, warranting more than a few restarts and an unhealthy amount of expletives.
Although there were instances when soldiers were either inadvertently trapped in the environment or did not seem to mind an enemy attacking the squad next to them, gameplay hiccups were minimal and for the most part didn’t intrude. Although, pre-set squad formations and route-to-a-rally-point options would have been welcome.
Given the strength of its gameplay it’s a shame many of Under Seige’s other aspects don’t measure up, namely the narrative.
The story opens up simply enough but eventually ends up becoming a little confusing and ultimately an afterthought. Practically nothing about the story or the main characters grabbed my attention beyond the cutscenes, which amounted to me repeatedly hitting ‘X’ so I could jump into the next level.
The main issue with Under Siege’s story lies within its main characters which never quite link together with the actual game. The three main characters are never playable although they are seemingly by your side throughout the adventure. Cutscenes and interactions between levels are ultimately inspiring and tiresome due to a lack of any real connection that can be gleaned beyond each level’s respective mission. The minor grammatical errors (which can be attributed to the game’s development in Portugal) could have been overlooked if the narrative was at all captivating, but sadly it isn’t. In essence the story of Under Siege boils down to an anemic device to progress the game and it misses opportunity to create a much more memorable experience.
In the end Under Siege Enhanced Edition is a very solid game that had the potential to be more. I really enjoyed my time with it but I can’t help but feel it left me a bit flat due to the dismissive nature of the story. Nevertheless, I was pleasantly surprised by the strong gameplay that Seed Studios (previously a strictly handheld and mobile developer), was able to achieve in a genre that presents such difficulty for most developers.
For PS3 owners looking for an RTS, Under Siege Enhanced Edition is more than capable of delivering a good core gameplay experience, just don’t expect much else.
Lastly it should not go unmentioned that Seed Studios listened to consumer complaints and made a concerted effort to improve their game through the Enhanced Edition update. They should be commended for improving upon their product when they just as easily could have left it well enough alone.