Crush Your Enemies
Developed By: Vile Monarch
Published By: Vile Monarch
Category: Strategy, Multiplayer, Party
Release Date: 8.2.18
From Vile Monarch comes Crush Your Enemies for the Nintendo Switch, a real-time strategy game ported over from mobile and PC. RTS’s are a dicey proposition on consoles; the just work a heck of a lot better with a mouse and keyboard than they do with controllers, or at least they always seem to for me. Crush Your Enemies didn’t change my mind about that, but I still had a lot of fun playing it.
The land of Generia was conquered by blue-clad nobility a generation ago. Grog the barbarian sets out to reclaim his homeland from the invaders, and maybe indulge in some carnage along the way. Grog is a proper fookin’ barbarian, with no time for feelings or fat little gobshites like his son Fuzgut. He curses and fights and pillages in the name of his ancestors. His interplay with Fuzgut is rather amusing most of the time; his paternal disappointment in his son’s laziness forms the crux of the game’s emotional journey. I mean, it’s a pretty lighthearted game all around, but what little emotional resonance the game has are derived from their relationship. The game is pretty funny; the writing never takes the game or the situation very seriously, breaking the fourth wall regularly. Along the way you’ll meet untrustworthy wizards (aren’t they all?), unscrupulous hobbits (or maybe just dwarves), and a giant death snail. It’s a crazy ride that makes the slog through the game’s story mode well worth it.
And, unfortunately, the single-player campaign can be a bit of a slog. The basic gameplay involves moving your units around a grid-based battleground. When your units and an enemy unit occupy the same square, they fight. You can also have your units inhabit buildings which have various effects. Buildings can be used to spawn additional units, change your soldiers’ classes, attack from a distance, and eventually collect resources. The campaign is broken into four chapters, each named for one of the main barbarians. The first chapter doesn’t do any of the resource collection stuff, but starting with the second chapter resource management appears in some (but not all) missions. You collect resources like wood to repair structures and food to create new units. It’s some fairly basic RTS stuff.
The game is actually a lot more balanced once resource collection starts, and I would place the blame for that on the game’s PC pedigree. The enemies often start out with more troop spawn points than you do, and if they don’t have to farm resources to get them, you often find yourself on the wrong side of a numbers game. So they have more troops and don’t have to waste precious seconds moving across a grid tile by tile to react to your movements. Again, I think with a mouse that problem would be almost nullified. If there was some way to pause the game to issue commands the game would feel much smoother and less frustrating. There is a button to cycle through units, but again, it wastes precious time to cycle through them if you’re up against a wall. The game also has touch controls, but I never found them to be sensitive enough to be useful.
Between battles, you find yourself on a world map. There are breweries that can be claimed on the world map, and after each battle they generate grog that you can collect to purchase items. You have to collect the grog manually, which is a bit of a chore. It only takes a few seconds, but having to scroll the map across to collect all the stuff every time got annoying. The rewards are worth it, though. Eventually, you unlock the shop, where you can trade grog for items. These are the great equalizers, and the power-ups and new tactics they introduce are sometimes the only reason I was able to beat a level. Overall, though, the game was frequently more frustrating than challenging. I often felt like I won more by luck than anything to do with skill.
There are a few different multiplayer options as well. Barbaric duel allows you to play online against an opponent. Duel allows you to play against a friend on the same screen. Multiplayer is a lot more fun than single player, because you’re both up against the same constraints and the maps are all set up to start both players off with equal resources. That said, it’s not as deep or fun as a PC RTS like Starcraft, but with the right friends it’s still a blast to play.
Crush Your Enemies has a pretty attractive retro-pixel art style. It reminded me of classic SNES JRPG graphics, but in an RTS. The battlegrounds and units are not super-detailed, but there’s enough there to get a sense of the game’s personality. Cutscenes have visual novel styled character portraits that are, again, pixel-styled, but the cartoony design of the characters was charming and accentuated the humorous tenor of the story. Fuzgut was a favorite design. Everything has kind of a generic medieval/barbarian design, which is part of the joke out (the kingdom is named Generia, after all). Still, it’s a good-looking game.
The music is fairly engaging, if not especially memorable. It set the scene for some epic battles or accompanied a more lighthearted moment well in various cutscenes. My favorite bit of the audio track, however, is what they did for voice acting. The dialogue isn’t fully voice acted, instead each character has a distinct “Blah, blah, blah” that plays over their dialogue. It made me laugh the first time I heard it, and made me smile for the rest of the game.
Crush Your Enemies does not use the Nintendo Switch’s motion controls, but in undocked mode you can use the touchscreen to select units and direct them. The controls are not all that sensitive; I had a lot of trouble selecting the number of units I wanted to select and then choosing their destination with the touch controls. I greatly preferred the controller, even though that had its own deficiencies. I don’t really recommend one style of play over another, so just stick to playing docked or undocked depending on your preference.
TL;DR: Good game design that makes for fun multiplayer but the single player experience is marred by balance issues.
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