Forts: Or, Multiple Mechanic Mastery
Many people have a favorite game or genre that they stick to, and it’s only natural. We gravitate towards things that we’re either familiar with because we don’t like to go out of our comfort zone, or we like the ease of using skills in which we’re already confident. The great thing is, every now and then, a title comes around that bridges the gap between what we’re used to, and the mechanics outside our normal muscle memory and thought processes that we didn’t even know we would enjoy.
Forts is exactly this type of hybrid game. It allows players to explore things like long-range bombardment while flexing their construction skills, and mastery of physics and structural integrity. If you’re a fan of games like Poly Bridge, combine it with the classic cross-map ordnance lobbing of anything in the Worms franchise, the resource generation and structure upgrades of Starcraft, and how could you not have a good time?
It’s as good as you think.
… so, if you attempt to fire a weapon through your own building or unit, you will undoubtedly be displeased with the outcome.
For starters, Forts pays exceptional attention to detail in the UI design and artwork departments. It looks as though it’s produced by a large, top-notch shop, not a small indie house — a complex task to pull off, mind you. Many indie games ‘feel’ as though they were done in mom and pop shops, and that can be part of their appeal. Here, all the textures used are spot-on, and their variable states (with or without damage, stressed, etc.) are all beautifully executed without being cheeky, which is not easy to do.
Once you’re done being impressed by the visuals, you’ll notice how well thought-out are the gameplay and mechanics. Lob-and-bomb games are usually pretty simple, as you only need to pay attention to position, angle, and speed of your ordnance. Here, you are also challenged with ensuring you have the appropriate level of real estate to build the various upgrades needed. That real estate needs to be both logically designed to be stable and to protect your core power plant and units from damage. There are also energy and mineral resources that need to be generated or extracted and stored somewhere. Again, this can be challenging, because energy storage explodes when destroyed, damaging all surrounding structures.
Position and shape of your structures directly impact the effectiveness of your weapons systems. Almost each weapon needs to be placed with structure in mind. Friendly fire is enabled, so, if you attempt to fire a weapon through your own building or unit, you will undoubtedly be displeased with the outcome. As a matter of fact, the physics are accurate enough that, if you build an unstable structure and fire, let’s say, three mortars at once, the blowback will not only make the building (and your aim) sway, but it could legitimately stress a joint past its breaking point, and a structural failure could cause a setback you’ll be hard pressed to return from.
On a shiny platter
The campaign is well conceived and scales appropriately. That said, the AI, even on easy mode, can really piss you off. One of the best parts of this game is that it is, in fact, pretty challenging. Sometimes, the enemy has a build advantage, and you need to try and build up your base from scratch while they’re already pummeling you with artillery fire. I admittedly rage-quite several times when the AI handed my ass to me on a shiny platter. Never one to back down, I went back time and again until I figured out a winning strategy, and I think those hard-fought victories brought me more satisfaction than the stages I was able to plow through with little-to-no resistance.
Multiplayer is where I felt Forts truly opened up a new experience for me. In the 2v2 mode, each side gets one tower. Your mouse cursor has your player number on it, and you can see what the other player is doing. Sure, you could potentially chat and plan a strategy, but because the game is so fast-paced and ever changing, you learn to anticipate what your teammate’s moves shall be, and adapt accordingly. Sure, you could team up with a friend in voice chat and do pretty well, but the pick-up games are frantic, exhilarating, and a real time drain, because you’ll want to play over and over again. Frankly, I’m not doing it any justice in this description: it’s an experience you should experience for yourself, and not just read about.
Forts is an exceptional example of how a release can properly integrate many mechanics, from multiple genres, and get it right. The fast-paced challenge of managing multiple tasks before you’re obliterated creates a sense of urgency and an increased heart rate that you wouldn’t normally find from a title that simply leverages one of these mechanics. Buy Forts, and make a solid investment in your game library.