Act of Aggression (PC) Review

By Chris Leebody 07.09.2015

Review for Act of Aggression on PC

To be frank, the traditional 'base building' RTS genre has been on life support since 2003's Command & Conquer: Generals. Sure, along the way there have been some scraps to feed on and some pretenders as well, such as Company of Heroes and the Total War franchise, however, nothing that can match the great luminaries of the past - think Command & Conquer: Red Alert and [i]Total Annihilation, titles that had the classic mix of base building, economy micro-management, as well as great unit selection and placement. The last vestiges have been held together recently by Starcraft 2 and some HD Remasters that crop up occasionally to remind everyone of past glories. Eugen Systems, the team behind recent strategy titles Ruse and the Wargame franchise, has made it its mission to try and go about reviving the genre, creating Act of Aggression, successor to its rather anonymously received Act of War in 2005. Complete with three factions, base building, resource gathering, super-weapons and two faction campaigns, on paper this seems like the title the community has been waiting for. The team is clearly aware of this, as much of the promotion around the title has made great play of this fact. The question, is has Eugen delivered?

The good thing is that, for the most part, all the elements are here to suggest this can be a new great RTS title for the PC community to enjoy. It doesn't revolutionise the genre in any great way, rather Eugen Systems has played it safe, sticking to the basics and making a few subtle refinements. Starting with the economy, there are three resources that are scattered around the maps to collect: oil, which acts as the main resource with which to buy most normal units and buildings; aluminium, usually for the more experimental buildings and unit upgrades; and, finally, rare earth metals, used for the third and final tier of buildings and super-weapons.

Any RTS veteran knows how important having a good economy structure to these types of titles is. Act of Aggression works it well, allowing good strategic decisions and battles to take place over resources that are finitely scattered around the map and must be mined using refinery's that are vulnerable to attack. Where Act of Aggression throws in a little management is with the stockpiling of aluminium, as well as the management of electricity. It is easy to find the economy grinding to a halt due to a lack of room at the main outpost for aluminium, which can rapidly find build queues collapsing. There is a constant need to balance the amount of store buildings needed with the amount of resources being gathered. Additionally, electricity throws in another plate to spin, with defensive turrets, for example, shutting down if too much is built and the electricity supply cannot cope.

Screenshot for Act of Aggression on PC

This resource management is not exactly a revolutionary idea, but it is nice to have to think about these things after so many years of simple 'capture points' that so many titles have stuck rigidly to in recent times. As stated, though, Act of Aggression does throw in a few twists along the way to spice things up. One such twist is the banks that are scattered around the maps and offer focal points for the action. Capturing a bank grants a steady supply of gold every second if all six troops are garrisoned inside. More interestingly is the prisoner of war mechanic, in which destroying enemy troops will see a prisoner of war pop out who is able to be captured immediately at the scene, granting a one-time gold bonus, or alternatively captured and sent to one of the buildings each faction can create that can house them permanently and allow a continuous steady supply of gold. It is a strategic decision that can make or break a foray into enemy territory, allowing a bolstering of troop numbers there and then or the long term economy boost at the expense of time and protection escorting them back to base.

As most would expect, a thriving multiplayer community has already taken hold in Act of Aggression and the multiplayer works excellently. For the most part, a very good balance has been struck between allowing a multitude of strategies that gamers can utilise but, at the same time, trying to limit to ability to engage in the hated 'rush' tactic synonymous with RTS games. That said, it isn't perfect, as some will still get overwhelmed very quickly if not taking some care to know what buildings and units to build at the early stages of matches to allow them to protect their base.

Speaking of multiplayer, another pleasing aspect has to be the amounts and variety of maps, as well as their sizes. Map sizes are excellent and very large, a reverse of the trend of some recent RTS releases of incredibly condensed and small maps. Interestingly, terrain also plays a bigger part than normal. Roads, for example, are an important strategic consideration, allowing tanks and road vehicles to move much faster using them. It allows for possibilities in using good building and unit placement in order to make most use of them and cause problems for the enemy, forcing them to tread much slower over ground.

Screenshot for Act of Aggression on PC

Within the maps it has to be said that the graphical presentation is excellent. Units are incredibly well detailed (as much as the units in the Wargame series) and the assets that populate the map make each location vibrant and realistic. Special mention goes to the UI, especially with Eugen Systems taking player feedback into account and improving it a great deal during the beta in time for release. Everything is very clear on the map and even the amount that people can zoom in and out is perfect now.

The mix of factions doing battle across these maps is equally varied. There are three factions: the USA, the most outwardly straightforward faction to get a grasp of, providing a good mix of ground and anti-air possibilities; then Chimera, who act as a sort of jack of all trades faction that allows each unit to be upgraded with anti-air or ground capabilities; and, finally, there is the Cartel, who take advantage of experimental technology, such as stealth. They are probably a hard faction for any new player to use effectively, yet with a little practice they are definitely the most fun. Hopefully, Eugen Systems resists nerfing the stealth upgrades too much, as already during the course of the beta some controversy has cropped up around this issue. It would be a shame if the most unique faction lost its selling point. The pleasing thing at the moment is that all the factions seem balanced with each other and it is really the player ability that decides the outcome, rather than overpowered units or anything like that. Furthermore, unit variety is generally very good and there are definitely numerous strategies for each faction to utilise.

Screenshot for Act of Aggression on PC

Of course, a traditional RTS wouldn't be complete without the campaign mode. Unfortunately, here it does seem to be a bit of an afterthought. That is not to say it is bad, as it is a fun play through that won't take very long and allows gamers to get used to some of the main mechanics in a storytelling setting that takes place in the 2020s. The main issue is that it relies a little too heavily on spy-thriller clichés and overused political intrigue, and the FMVs before each mission are quite poor on explaining the story in a coherent way, as well as being pretty humorously voice acted. It is fair to say Red Alert's AAA cast of actors in its story FMVs still have not been bettered. There isn't a great deal of examination into the people behind the shadowy Cartel organisation, which leaves everyone struggling to care a great deal. At the moment, rather strangely, there is no USA campaign, with the main campaign being the Chimera faction. There are then a few additional special missions that act as a retelling of the Chimera missions from the point of view of the Cartel faction, which is, admittedly, rather neat.

A few more slight disappointments are that pathfinding of units still requires a little bit of work. It is not unusual to find tanks struggling to move past each other on roads that then require unnecessary micromanagement from the player to fix. Additionally, unit AI could use an upgrade as rather annoyingly they tend to have a habit of switching their attacking targets to the least threatening one in the middle of firefights. Finally, it is a minor point, but the lack of a tutorial in the game itself (one is available on the game's website) has the potential to put some players off who may need some extra help getting to grips with the economy, for example. RTS games live or die on their community and it would be a shame for a minor thing like that to have the potential to dissuade some for trying this. That said, the RTS purists will shout about learning while playing and with a great skirmish mode here, that is a perfect solution on offer.

Screenshot for Act of Aggression on PC

Cubed3 Rating

8/10
Rated 8 out of 10

Great - Silver Award

Rated 8 out of 10

Act of Aggression is most definitely a return to the golden age of RTS titles and it is one of the best there has been since the aforementioned greats. There isn't a whole lot that Eugen Systems has done that stands out as new, but that is fine. What it does do is put the old perfectly crafted methods into a modern package - one that looks and sounds great. The campaign isn't fantastic and it is unfortunate that there is no USA faction storyline, however, the real meat here is the multiplayer and skirmish modes. Thankfully, it is in these modes that Act of Aggression shines. Multiplayer is a mix of strategy, speed, building decisions, as well as a pinch of old fashioned luck thrown in. Unit and faction variety is fantastic, with each faction having a balanced but specialist playstyle. Map variety and amount is plentiful, which will keep matches fresh, and there is the potential here for a long lasting game, add future expansions and user created content into the mix, so there is a very exciting future for it indeed. Ultimately, anyone looking for a great RTS should look no further than this.

Developer

Eugen Systems

Publisher

Focus Home Interactive

Genre

Strategy

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  8/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date None   Australian release date Out now   

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