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
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.