WorldShift PC Review - -

Gameplay 5.0
Graphics 9.5
Sound 9.0
Value 6.0
Developer: N3V
Review Date:
February 2009
Mark Arnold
Rating: M15+



WorldShift is a RTS/RPG created by Bulgarian developers Crytek Black Sea. It's a very pretty game, and does a great job of capturing a melded fantasy/sci-fi, post-apocolypic Earth. However, it is suffers heavily from some questionable game design decisions.

Set in the far-flung future, the Earth has been changed forever by a strange object that fell from space and crashed onto the surface. This giant “Shard” transformed the world into a land unsuitable to live in, raising the dead and transforming all the beasts and plants that survived into mutated monsters. The remaining humans retreated to protected mega-cities and developed a militaristic power-suited culture (always fashionable in any post-apocolypse), while the people that were not saved – but survived anyway – evolved into mutants that wield magic powers. Recently a new threat has arisen – a cult of alien creatures and swarming insectoids. So we have power-suits, wizards, and an alien horde – how can we go wrong? Well, we didn't, entirely.

WorldShift's manual states “...[In] most tradition real-time strategy games ... the single-player campaign doubles as a tutorial for the player-versus-player (PvP) mode...” Although the first mission or two of a traditional RTS might double as a tutorial, after that the single-player campaign stands on its own (one hopes.) So from the very outset WorldShift starts on the wrong foot, presenting a single-player experience that is designed to be a lengthy tutorial.

It's certainly apparent from the very outset that WorldShift is designed from the ground up to be multiplayer. The main menu is sleekly designed to get you logged into the GameSpy network and up and playing a Skirmish or Co-op match with the least amount of fuss. The side-effect is that the single-player games are badly written, executed with boredom in mind, and horribly voice-acted. Most missions consist of taking your 2-8 people, running them from A to B trying to aggro as little as possible, then merely right-clicking on the greatest threat and waiting until everything is dead.

There is no base-building because WorldShift tries to blend RTS and RPG, which isn't entirely unique, but is not very common nonetheless. Unfortunately, it errs much too far on the side of RTS, without providing all the usual RTS strategy. There is no base-building, no resource collecting, and no territory conquering. Both single-player, skirmish, and co-operative essentially consist of you starting with a handful of units – most of which have one or two abilities that require minimal strategy to deploy – that you must survive the map with. Every 5 minutes or so your leader can simply resurrect anyone that has died putting you back at full compliment. The only difference between single-player and multi-player is that you don't get to choose your starting units in single-player, and in multiplayer you have a points-buy system to build a small army.

The co-operative campaigns are quite fun, for a short while at least. There is a large map to explore, items to find, and even incredibly difficult boss monsters to battle. This requires all three players' armies working carefully to bring them down – although typically the fight consists of trying to heal the front-line troops for as long as possible, then resurrecting your army as soon as you can, rinse and repeat. The key is to keep your field commander alive – if he dies, you can not command your troops any more, and you can not resurrect them either. Fortunately a friendly field commander can head to where you died and resurrect you and this leads to a fun co-operative experience. It's a shame there wasn't a bit more depth to it.

Skirmish is along the same lines. It's cut-back RTS fare, with very simplified resource gathering allowing you to quick churn out an army and get on with the business of killing. Skirmish includes a few new abilities to summon temporary troops, or cause map-wide destruction via the expenditure of resources. This is a fairly neat addition which is on par with any quality RTS out there today. There is also about 3 buildings to build – but they hardly count as base-building, since they are only used to secure resource piles, and slap up defenses around your HQ. All of this management takes about 3 seconds out of your busy schedule. Some people may find the reduction on these components a relief. Certainly some RTS's are going this way now, so in that regard you could say WorldShift is in on the ground floor.

The graphics are completely spot on. Leaning a little on the cheesy side, they still provide gorgeous forests, fantastic monsters, robots, power-suits, and magical effects to die for. Some of the animations seem a little too exaggerated, but visually it is very nice to watch. The thing WorldShift did the most right, was the look of the world and units.

The sound and music are also top-notch. Great scores of slower, calming music, and exciting combat music that really do a good job at putting you in the mood. Unfortunately there is exactly no rhyme or reason as to why the music changes when it does. Large bombastic fanfares will start up as you're jogging through a quiet forest. It seems like it has no intelligence when to play the scores, but simply cycles through them – some of which are quiet, some of which are exciting. Dynamic music is something we've come to expect from modern RTS's and it WorldShift's effort is off-putting.

There is an item collection system in WorldShift, which has the twist of equipping the items to a side rather than a character. So the humans, for example, have 8 slots to put items. One slot might improve surgeons, say. So you could weigh up the benefits of an item that gives surgeons +1% health, or +14% damage. Different slots equate to different units. As you play more you will find more and better items, allowing you to equip your army in a certain way or to generally make them more powerful.

WorldShift looks very nice, and the multiplayer is quiet fun, but even with the item collection mechanic it doesn't have enough depth to have much staying power. The root problem with WorldShift can be defined in one of two ways: either they skimped too much on the RTS elements to shoe-horn in RPG components, or they didn't go far enough with the RPG elements to create an engaging experience. If you like the idea of controlling smaller armies, without all the hassle of buildings and resource management that other RTS's have, the cut-back approach to the Skirmish may appeal to you.

WorldShift is rated M, for Fantasy Violence.


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