The Two-Dimensional plain is one that over the years has proved itself timeless and many indie games today operate in this said format to varying levels of success. But one thing that has always impressed me in a perspective that logically appears limited is that it is actually extremely versatile. I mean there is a gigantic catalogue of games that could be drawn upon as examples of how this grand-daddy of perspectives has seen success time and time again. New games like Angry Birds show us that a 2D game can become one of the most addicting game of all time, where as classics like Worms still possess the power to break friendships and controllers alike.
Forts sits somewhere in between these two games, a 2D tower-defence RTS hybrid. You and the opposing forces (or allies) start with a reactor which must be protected at all costs or face nuclear annihilation. The action is explosive and the end result from your fully constructed fort is either mind blowingly frustrating or chaotically satisfying. The game features a great use of gravity physics and balance that can cause you’re entire structure to come toppling down like a Jenga tower. If one side is too heavy it will topple but can be countered by using rope to attach it to walls, floors and floating islands.
The game plays out somewhat like your standard RTS game. Mine Metal, use that to construct many different weapons and upgrade facilities. The weapons, such as turrets and mortars can all be upgraded for varying different uses and each one counters each other. These can be grouped and assigned to your number keys for quick access. I was personally a big fan of sending swarms of missiles towards the enemy and then finishing them off with sniper fire. While controlling these weapons to attack and defend you must also use the click-and-drag mechanic to construct your fort to great heights, this can prove difficult at times but it is fair and the overall product towards what I would call the Late Game delivers a satisfying chaotic rhythm of explosions, spamming buttons and reconstructing that would make any long time Starcraft fan swoon. And just like in Starcraft whoever has the fastest built Fort and the one who builds his economy the fastest, wins.
In addition to a lobby based multiplayer that holds up to 8 players, Forts also comes with a 28-mission campaign mode that involves the player taking control of one of the 3 factions that each sport their own special passives and abilities. One must complete the special objectives in the levels to gain oil to proceed to the next set of levels (theatres of war). I enjoyed the campaign, it was tough at times and interesting at others. Finding innovative ways to complete your objectives is satisfying and once completed provide you with short cut scenes of dialogue that possess a whimsical charm. Oh and it also comes with a great Map Editor and Replay System and on top of that it has been stated that the game was built from the ground up to support mods. So that’s pretty neat.
The game is a treat to watch and even though it seems manic while actually playing, the resulting replays afterwards are epic to a mesmerising scale. Once defeated in the multiplayer I would often continue to watch the battles ensue and marvel at the grandiosity of explosions, cannon fire and bullets flying in the air. The colours are bright and the art style charismatic. It’s hard not to enjoy the visuals in the game and it’s strikingly impressive, even when you’re oogling the salvoes incoming towards your base, ready to blow your hard earned master fort to smithereens. It’s even better to listen to. Each weapon sounds distinctive and packs a good punch when firing. My personal realisation of Forts’ great sound design finally took hold once I had been carefully placing my structures at max zoom, only for them to be obliterated with a loud crashing noise as the enemy cannon blasted straight through the front structures and in to my reactor. If something that makes me stop for a second and nod my head in appreciation even before the my personal devastation has become a conscious thought, you’ve done well on your sound design.
A couple examples of the fantastic dialogue that made me cackle
As much of a good time I found Forts, I did feel like it over complicated it self at certain points. Specifically with the use of foundations and soft ground. Foundations can be built upon and are needed to create mines and missile silos while also providing extra support for your rickety structure, however these are very few. What makes it complicated is that when trying to expand your Fort you can sometimes clip the soft ground that can cause it to collapse in it’s entirety. Also, as the battle is dealt with in real time, trying to micro manage your offense, building and defence is just frustratingly messy. There are hotkeys to help this complication but these only help with grouping your troops and refiring in the same direction you fired before.
I see great potential in Forts and it’s a tower defence game that actually contains a surprising amount of depth and strategy. I enjoyed my time with it and small indie developers like EarthWork are renowned for finding small niches in the market and combining concepts brought in by AAA titles to create genuinely unique games that exude charm and Forts definitely does this. It’s a unique experience and one I shall be returning too with friends at the ready. I would recommend you do the same.