A water world strategy game that’s not without its leaks.
Oil Rush is an extremely pretty game in which you spend most of the time staring at the bottom right of the screen, the mini-map. The gameplay revolves around you attacking and defending different ‘nodes’ which may be a flotilla or a settlement which then in turn allows you to upgrade and diversity your army. The main way of moving armies is by grouping them between 25%, 50% and 100% of their full strength, which makes decisions about what to move and when are not difficult to make. Despite this stripped back gameplay, it is still satisfying which you watch a your units capture and key node and secure victory. The single player is a bore however and some of the random elements are a source of frustration.
Oil rush does indeed have amazing visuals that look crisp and sharp as well as smooth animations, though looking at some of the small and beautiful details distracts you from the game itself. All movements are controlled through the minimap, which makes the games screen feel more like a movie than a game, with you just watching what is happening rather than being able to control your units through it. aside from the moments where you click on nodes to build, sell or upgrade turrets, there’s little reason to watch the battles. Despite how adamantly Oil Rush’s tutorial directs you to use the cinematic camera, it’s advice best ignored if you want to win.
Oil Rush is set in a fictional universe in which most of the earth is covered by water and the games factions fight over oil. Each map has numerous nodes that when in your hands will automatically produce either your basic unit, Piranha jet skis or Stingray attack helicopters or battleships. This for me takes away one of the most fun aspects of a Real Time Strategy, being able to choose which units to build and upgrade your army. The more nodes that you control, the more troops that will be created. After a match begins, you race the enemy for control of the nodes by sending out your army. Different units have pro’s and con’s. For example the Piranhas are made very quickly but also get blown up very quickly. Flying units can pass over anything to get to nodes quickly. This makes them essential for scouting and recognisance work.
Ones you have a node in your hands it can start to produce Piranhas and also be upgraded with up to five turrets, with a few variables that have advantages against air attacks and some best to taking down heavy armoured units. Buildings turrets consumes oil which is harvested at different oil nodes throughout the map. These rigs too cannot be enhanced by means of building turrets so this means it is essential to set up a defensive turret perimeter around your nodes. This also means that you need to consider how many units you wish to leave to defend key rigs as if you lose the rigs you won’t be able to build or upgrade your turrets. When then means your production nodes will be at risk of attack, which then means you will need to pull back your attacking forces to help defend, which means you cannot expand, which in turn means you most likely will lose the game.
Sometimes this can be a very frustrating style of play which cannot be avoided, as it is how the game play pans out. However, trying to prevent this from happening can lead to some very fun game play and makes each match exciting. There is also an element of chance that is built into the programming of the game which sometimes hinders your decision making. Unless you bring a massive force, you are at the mercy of the enemies automated targeting and movement. When your units are not doing anything, they circle around the node that they are attached too. This means that if an enemy army is attacking and your most powerful unit is circling around the back, you are already at a disadvantage. Units will loop around and go for the enemy, but it’s annoying that you can’t move them quicker, but instead have to watch some of your lesser units be killed. The lack of direct control is an essential part of the game, which would be made a lot better if it did not punish you for its absence. Pressing the ‘F’ key will make the camera move to the best action occurring in the game, and due to the lack of control you may not make a click in minute, making the game feel more like an interactive video.
I found the targeting and movement to be sometimes very unrealisable and adds the wrong wrong-reward tension to the gameplay. It is by no means difficult to play, but it makes the game play feel clunky and very dated. It is still easy to attack and defend if you have assembled a large fleet, but in evenly match conflicts, such random events can make a big difference. In the game you must switch between mini map movement commands, your nodes to replace and upgrade turrets and the tech tree which will allow you to buy/ upgrade weapons and armour and also buy special abilities. As your units die, the nodes will automatically produce units unit it hits the cap, then its your job to make sure they go to the right places to defend or attack. This give you room to think of tactics to try and outthink your opponent. However, this also makes you feel like the game is doing most of the work for you and makes the game feel repetitive quite quickly.
The story mode is where you learn how Oil Rush operates. The game is shown through the eyes of Kevin a recent graduate who is trying to follow is his recently deceased father’s footsteps. He is immediately asked by ‘the commander’ to suppress a rebel faction called, The Raiders who are trying to take control of the oilsupplies. The story really lacks any depth, and the dialogue is poorly scripted and the characters clearly have no emotion to each other, meaning you cannot get immersed within the game. The characters are forgettable, and though there are interesting plot twists that occur, they are almost certainly spoiled by the lifeless dialogue.
The mission variety is actually very impressive, with some missions just requiring you to capture all nodes on the map, but some acting similar to a tower defence game and offer multiply objective. Most do provide a good challenge, but some do actually put you in fair unwinnable situations which cause frustration. For example a convey escort mission where the ships you are tasked to protect park themselves in from of enemy attack lanes, which of course makes it near impossible for you to defend as your units can only circle nodes and not the convoy. This makes the gameplay very annoying and certainly put me off for a while.
Multiplayer is a preferred way, as the player on the other side may make similar errors to you, in which a computer may not make. There are a nice variety of maps and game modes, ranging from kill and capture to holdings the most amount of nodes. The Oil Spill map for two players features only one oil rig, and the winner is the first to reach 1000 units of extracted oil. This leads to a very exciting style of gameplay that often gets tense. Other maps vary the layout of sea lanes and type of production rigs in the field of play, meaning different approaches are required for victory. Unfortunately there really aren’t many people online right now through Steam, and connection issues are a hazard for games you do manage to get set up.
Oil Rush offers a very minimalistic approach to gameplay. Large parties of the game are automated and only challenges your strategic thinking rather than letting you get stick in with the action. This leaves a very detached style of gameplay which many Real Time Strategy players will not like. Parts of the game can be fun, such as unit relationships, though some of the gameplay elements that you cannot control hinder the experience more than they should. The story mode has many flaws and should be avoided if you can find a good opponent online or play against the computer. It is then easier to dismiss Oil Rush’s weaknesses and focus on its strengths.
Disclaimer:All scores given within our reviews are based on the artist’s personal opinion; this should in no way impede your decision to purchase the game.