By Matt Welwood / February 4th, 2015
The real-time strategy genre was by far one of the hardest for me to get into. StarCraft 2 was the first RTS that I played on the PC, and that was only a year or so ago. It took me weeks of playing with friends against the AI to actually figure out what was happening. While there are more complicated games and more complicated genres, there’s something about RTS in general that can inspire the most insane levels of depth and strategy, and I like that. What that means, though, is that it’s incredibly hard to make a new RTS, make it competitive in a very tight market and make it approachable for new players. BOID is trying to do just that by stripping out some of the extra baggage of the genre and bringing it back to its core. Does it do a good enough job of that to matter?
To start off with, BOID is a good-looking game. The Steam store page description calls it a game about “life and mutation,” and the aesthetic supports that claim 100%. Your units are basic micro-organisms, and, rather than upgrading them, you actually mutate them into different lifeforms. The levels are simplistic, but very nice to look at, with a sort of underwater cave vibe going on. The backgrounds are very nice to look at, as well, peeking through the walls every time you move the camera. One of the strongest elements the game has is its sound design. There’s not much for music outside of the main menu, but the sound effects are perfect. Each unit has its own little sound — with different noises for when you select them — or give them orders. The levels have an ambient, almost white noise-like, sound effect playing throughout them, helping to drive home the fact that the levels are all set underwater.
The actual gameplay mechanics that BOID brings to the table are very simple, especially compared to the bigger RTS titles (StarCraft 2, for example). You start off with a spawn point and a few basic units. You don’t collect resources or anything like that, though. Instead, your units continuously spawn every few seconds. The more spawn points you have, the faster you get new units. As the game progresses, you expand out to the various neutral bases and spawn points around you, driving out the neutral units and taking the base over. The bases are all able to produce a single type of upgraded unit. You send a basic unit into a base, and it turns into that upgraded unit, which has its own role (melee, medic, ranged, AoE). That’s basically all there is to it. Simple, but effective.
There are a few issues that I have with the game, starting with the UI. If you don’t know, the developer, Mokus, has only made one game prior to BOID, an Android/Browser/iOS game called Contre Jour (for which they won Apple’s iPad GOTY 2011). I’m not sure if that’s what’s responsible or if it’s just a placeholder, but the UI looks and feels like it was designed primarily for touch screen devices. As you can see in the screenshot below, the left side of the screen is entirely taken up by big, blocky grey UI. It’s a bit too simplistic in its current form, and the plain grey look does not fit the aesthetic at all, though it could be upgraded during a later update.
My next big complaint with this game is one that will hopefully be fixed before launch. There’s just not enough variety to the game as of yet. They only have 1v1 matches currently, and the player base is tiny. I’ve only seen between four and 15 players online at any time, and have yet to be connected to an online match. The only experience I’ve been able to get with the game is with a friend of mine who has a copy, and a few matches against the AI. Regardless of who or what I was playing against, each game played out the same. Get spawn points, attack, take over spawn point, win due to overwhelming unit advantage. Some maps do have abilities (basically spells) you can use, such as the ability to freeze a few targets, teleport some units to a different point on the map or convert all upgraded units in an area back to the basic unit. They’re fun to play around with, but in my experience didn’t really affect the flow of gameplay. Since all the maps I tried were set up essentially symmetrically, the first player to claim all of their spawners and take one of the enemy spawners can pretty much win due to sheer overwhelming force. I don’t think I had a game last longer than five minutes because of that.
That’s not to say it’s a bad game, however. I really do hope that some of the balance issues get fixed in the next update, because, at its core, this is a very fun little RTS with a very appealing style and sound design. I think it’ll benefit greatly from the addition of 2v2 games, or maybe a few different game modes to shake things up. Something that really does have me excited is the recent announcement that they’re working on implementing a league system in the game, along with several changes and updates to make it more competitive. My only worry is that the community may not be strong enough to support it as a competitive title. Time will tell, though, I guess.
BOID released in Early Access on January 8, and is currently priced at $2.99. Once the developers introduce Steam Workshop support, the price will go up to $5.99, with the full release costing $9.99. Like I said earlier, there are some balance and variety issues to be sorted out, not to mention an eventual upgrade from the current engine to Unity. In its current state it does need a lot of work done before I can safely recommend it, but it has an incredible amount of potential. Keep an eye on this one, and keep an eye out for a full review when the game is released.
Game code supplied by the publisher.