In blending real-time strategy with tower defence, Oil Rush serves to deliver a unique and interesting post apocalyptic game of warfare and tactics. Moreover the setting is novel and unique, set in a Waterworld-esque world where melting ice caps have flooded the planet. It’s a shame then that it lacks polish in certain areas and overall may fail to win you over.
As a military commander for a faction called The Sharks, you’ve been tasked in leading raiding parties to secure more oil from other factions and extend your influence and power through it. The campaign follows your progression as a tactician as new units, upgrades and fortifications are introduced throughout four chapters across different watery locations. It’s RTS standard procedure in its structure but it unfortunately lacks the narrative flare to give you a compelling reason to see it through. Characters are two dimensional and unrelatable and the plot overall is a very forgettable experience. As such it essentially boils down to a tutorial for the multiplayer; however, the mission variety on offer helps mitigate concerns.
Missions vary from attacking occupied oil platforms and bases to defending against waves of attackers or escorting units. The variety comes from how the enemy attacks and the design of the maps; this is also where strategy plays a big part. The enemy’s behaviour can be highly defensive – keeping unit at their platforms and waiting for you – or aggressively trying to conquer your platforms and anything in-between. As a result there’s a hint of unpredictability in how a battle will play out, with streams of enemies gradually testing your defences or huge fleets storming across the water. You also often find capturing all territory on a map isn’t the end of the mission, as enemy ships attack from off screen with intent to take them back. It’s a pleasant mixture of the aforementioned real-time strategy and tower defence, and certainly adds flavour to the missions – at least the first time you play a mission it does.
This theme of mixed genres is also present on your side of the battle. Base platforms can be defended by placing machine gun, artillery or rocket towers whilst oil rigs need to be defended by units. Your units are automatically generated at the base platforms depending on their function and range from machine gun jet skis called Piranhas to Stingray planes, each unit packing a different weapon load-out and being more effective against certain foes. Dispatching units is a restrictive process but one that focuses on strategy. Units can only travel to and from platforms, and can be sent in fleets of unit type or a percentage force of what is available at that platform. It certainly feels restrictive lacking manual control over your units, and can prove disastrous as you are forced to depend on the AI to prioritise targets, but deciding how many and of which units to send out to areas and which to leave behind to defend does allows for some strategic scenarios, especially in multiplayer matches.
Multiplayer supports up to four players, which can be a mixture of human and AI. 15 maps make up the roster and offer a great selection, with an icy map in particular standing out due to a maze of narrow waterways between platforms restricting the movement of fleets. Against human opponents is where Oil Rush really shines, as tactics become more varied and human error makes for interesting scenarios.
Another high point for oil Rush is its visual presentation. The water effects look spectacular and the sunken vestige of land civilisation beneath the waves or the dilapidated skyscrapers sticking out of the water looks fantastic. Small floating villages and the slapdash design of your units hint at the struggle for resources and the inevitability of faction wars. It sets the tone brilliantly. Unfortunately what little voice acting there is is hard to tolerate, lacking emotion and believability. Mostly your find text mission briefings and whilst they may be a little old fashioned they beat the voice acting hands down.
Another issue are occasional bugs during missions. Objectives occasionally wouldn’t identify their completion, halting progress and forcing a mission restart. At other times the structure of the mission objectives and the order they are intended to be completed can cause confusion on the player’s side initially then follow through to the AI and cause another halt. There’s nothing too serious but it lack a level of polish that is hard to ignore.
Overall Oil Rush does a great job at creating an interesting and unique RTS/tower defence hybrid in a great setting. It’s certainly more geared towards tower defence enthusiast with RTS fans likely to find many of the restrictions too, well restrictive. And it’s not without its small issues such as the campaign progress bugs, AI target prioritising and unimpressive narrative. But if you’re looking for something a little bit different then this naval warfare title can certainly offer that.
MLG Rating: 7/10 Platform: PC Release Date: 24/02/2012
Disclosure: Midlife Gamer were provided a physical copy of Oil Rush for review purposes by the promoter. The title was reviewed over the course of two weeks on a PC. For more information on what our scores mean, plus details of our reviews policy, click here.