Mushroom Wars 2 is a real-time strategy (RTS) game developed and published by Zillion Whales. With my limited knowledge of the genre, I was initially unsure how well a RTS game would handle on a controller. My RTS experience consists almost entirely of Age of Empires and Impossible Creatures, both games where the mouse is almost essential to quickly select large groups of units and move them to precise locations. Thankfully I found the game to be easy to control and, after some practice, almost second nature.
The same praise cannot be awarded to level navigation. Similar to games from the Super Mario series, the levels are literally laid out on a map. The level navigation is, in my opinion, quite poor. I found it confusing and frustrating to try to get to the levels I wanted, and it was not always clear which level was selected, due to the random yellow glow some levels have, which happens to be the same color as the level selector. While the map was a pain to navigate, it was aesthetically pleasing and suited the overall theme of the game well.
Zillion Whales is not a stranger to mobile games, in fact, the majority of their releases are for mobile so I was quite surprised to find that Mushroom Wars 2, despite being released on Google Play and the App Store, has no support for touch screen play on the Switch. This small feature alone would make the map infinitely easier to navigate in handheld mode, and some small adjustments could fairly easily fix the navigation with a controller.
Now, onto the gameplay. After a few hours playing, I found the controls (outside the map screen) to be easy and intuitive to use. The left analogue stick allows you to move around the game level, selecting different buildings on the map. The left bumper allows you to change their function or upgrade them, the right bumper allows you to move troops, and the ABYX buttons are used to move 25%, 50%, 75% or 100% of the troops in a building respectively, and that’s really all the controls there are.
As I’ve just mentioned, the core of the game centers on buildings spaced out across the level. The most basic of these buildings is the village. This is where new units are created until the maximum capacity for the village is reached. Additional troops can be forced into the village, but once the maximum capacity is reached, no new troops will be created in that village. You can upgrade the villages to improve production and capacity. The troops created in these villages will be used to attack enemy villages and other buildings.
Each building has a small number on top of it. This signifies how many troops are in that building. In the early game, combat is simply a numbers game. Whoever has more troops wins, but as the game progresses through the first episode and more complex features are introduced, the game too becomes more complex.
The other buildings in the game are the towers, which attack enemy units in their radius, and forges, which increase the attack and defense of any unit on the allied team. This is where I began to have problems with the game mechanics. Another mechanic taught in a later tutorial is morale. This is a 5 star system that improves the attack and defense stats of your troops. Stars are gained by successfully attacking, upgrading buildings, or successfully defending yourself. In concept, this sounds like a good mechanic but in practice, I found it to be a frustrating positive feedback loop that was difficult to escape following a bad start, however I do appreciate the crushing victories it enables if you get a good start. Other than the morale tutorial, I found the rest of the tutorials to be clear and simple, teaching the mechanic in one level before giving you a few levels to practice the new mechanic.
The last major mechanic comes in the form of hero skills. Your “skill bar” fills up by the death of your units, and more slowly over time. Different levels of skill bar progress allow for use of different skills. Some skills include increased defence on one building, a ring of swiftness to move your units quickly, the ability to hide how many units are in your buildings and the ability to instantly claim any buildings with no occupants. By filling up with the death of your units, this mechanic creates a negative feedback loop which, with the right hero, can help you recover from the effects of a high morale enemy. Not being a regular player of RTS games, I think I would struggle to understand the 4 skills of each of the dozen heroes in multiplayer, but I imagine someone more acquainted with the genre would have less trouble.
During my play, I experienced only one bug which I think is worth noting. I can’t find a cause, but on launching, the menu icons were misaligned, saying “multiplayer” where the singleplayer button should be, etc. This not only made it harder to get to a singleplayer level, but once I did, the level wouldn’t load at all. The bug was fixed by just restarting the game several times until the buttons were correctly aligned.
With the easy, controller friendly mechanics, fun gameplay and charming visuals, I think Mushroom Wars 2 is a great solution for those RTS cravings when you’re out and about. Whether you’re an RTS veteran or a complete noob to the genre (like myself), for just under £20 despite it’s few flaws, I would recommend Mushroom Wars 2 for anyone looking to pick up a solid mid-priced indie Switch title.Mushroom Wars 2 can be found on the Nintendo Switch eShop