It’s no secret that the RTS genre has long been in a very poor condition. Very few people risk creating new large-scale projects using fresh and original ideas, because such strategies, as a rule, do not linger for long in the tops of sales (if they get there at all). If you look closely, now those that continue to exploit the well-known successful techniques and clichés are still afloat. What they are playing now: in StarCraft II, Total War, Age of Empires (it’s ridiculous at all – in the top of the HD re-release of the second part) – and, perhaps, everything.
It is clear that on this background, the announcement of any more or less original RTS is perceived by fans of the genre with enthusiasm, even if it is not an AAA product from industry leaders. Re-Legion is no exception: the Polish studio Ice Code Games promised something special – in the announcements they talked about the original mechanics, revealed some details of the plot, boasted pretty cute artworks. Yes, and the entourage was just to the point – thanks to a completely different Poles, from CD Projekt RED, Cyberpunk will be widely heard in the next few years.
Get up and go!
Our main character is a man named Elion, a resident of a megacity of the future, immersed in technocratic stagnation. The power has long been concentrated in the hands of individuals, any dissent is brutally suppressed, and the townsfolk have lost a purpose in life, being content with simple entertainment like drugs and alcohol. One fine day (or rather, the night – it’s cyberpunk, everything happens at night here!) Elion decides to put an end to the fateful order. To do this, it is necessary not only to fight bravely with the henchmen of those in power but also to incline ordinary people to their side.
Strangely enough, Elion is able to do both, and his speeches are so convincing that a real cult is formed around an ordinary person, whose followers unquestioningly obey their leader. That, in turn, on the path to power and the attainment of freedom for his subjects is not considered anything, which in time leads not to the consequences that he and his flock expected at the very beginning of the journey …
Not a bad start. I never play crap – from the description, it was possible to conclude that at least an interesting story awaits us, moreover realized in the form of an extraordinary game mechanics. The fact is that in this strategy, people represent the most ordinary resource, like the same gold in ordinary RTS. They have to be converted into their own faith, and only then they can cultivate formidable fighters and workers who do not know tired workers (or, more precisely, hackers — they are the ones who make money) from former drug addicts and alcoholics.
Feeling like a real deity, to whom prayers are offered and for which they are going to die, is much more interesting than clicking on the barracks, ordering another faceless pack of infantry, or building identical tanks in the same factories. But there are also opponents who want to bring their own sect to power.
This city is mired in lies
Cyberpunk, if we consider it as a cultural trend, is a rather gloomy-looking thing. The stories told in this genre tell of a harsh future, where there is no room for human individuality, the power of omnipotent corporations, how much information can cost and how little human life can cost. Similar plots require appropriate external design: it is difficult to imagine a cyberpunk without futuristic slums with a mixture of neo-noir and colourful characters who actively use augmentations.
Re-legion trying to seem the very real cyberpunk, but it turns out it is not too successful. The city where the action takes place, turned grey and faceless. It would seem that all the elements of the exterior design that should emphasize this very cyberpunk are in place: dirty streets, where luxurious shop windows and neon signs side by side with rubbish, notes of Asian style in architecture, an almost complete lack of greenery and a city as if immersed in the eternal night … But this is done at such a low level that there is no question of any immersion. The city is just a set of monotonous boxes depicting buildings, and not at all the mysterious and fascinating essence, as required by the genre.
The characters are distinguished by the same quality of study: that the Prophet himself, that his numerous assistants. Despite the existence of a plot, it is so clumsy that it’s not even funny: the dialogue at the beginning of the campaign with the first follower of our religion gives rise to strong suspicions that you should not expect revelations from the plot. The premonition was not deceived – in the future the dialogues (and this is perhaps the only way the developers use to uncover the history of Re-Legion ) cause only one desire: to skip them as soon as possible so as not to read this kind of hack again.
I never asked for this
The gameplay itself turned out to be just as flawed. In trying to be original, developers forgot about such a simple thing as comfort. Literally, everything is inconvenient here: a tiny mini-map on which nothing can be seen, the process of pumping units and controlling them on the battlefield, and the whole interface as a whole. Tasks are also not sparkling with originality and represent different variations of “kill them all” and “keep the defence.”
That very unique mechanic, consisting in conversion, actually turns out to be the most common hiring of units. Pedestrians wander around the map, and Elyon or special units – preachers can convince them to become followers of our cult. The easiest way to do this is not the Prophet himself, even if he can influence several people at once, but with the help of preachers. It is enough to put them at the places of constant appearance of the inhabitants, and everything – you can forget about the lack of fighters. As soon as a free space appears in the limit of units, it will immediately be filled with neophytes.
The management of recruits is made stupidly – you either have to search for converts on the map and select the necessary pumping, or select all those available using hotkeys and try to start this process for everyone at once. How many of them have enough resources, exactly where they will be, how to find them and send them to the right place, you will have to figure it out on your own, without any prompts?
The graphics look hopelessly outdated, which does not prevent the game from lagging terribly, as soon as the number of units under our control approaches a hundred (which is far from the limit). Given the primitiveness of mechanics, in which to win you need to collect as many soldiers as possible and crush the enemy with a number, the performance impressions are not encouraging.
Somewhere at the end of the first task, you have to force yourself to play, but you don’t even remember the pleasure. As a result, I gave up on the fifth mission out of nine – I just had no strength left to fight control and monotony. In the strategies, the gameplay is in the first place, but here neither it nor the plot, which is weak even for the RTS, is not able to hold for more than a few hours of a single-player campaign. Multiplayer or mode of combat with AI is not here either – it is probably even for the better.
If in Re-Legion, hover the cursor on one of those units that can be turned into faith, the pop-up prompt will say: “A resident of a city without a goal in life.” In my opinion, this characteristic is quite suitable for describing the game as a whole – it turned out to be as faceless and grey as these little men wandering around the map.
Pros: music; pictures on boot screens.
Cons: poor optimization; outdated graphics; inconvenient management; primitive behaviour of units; dreary plot.