Crush Your Enemies is basically about one thing: crushing your enemies as quickly as possible. I played a sampling of the game at this year’s E3, but now I’ve been able to take some time with the full enemy crushing experience. It’s streamlined real-time strategy at its core, and fighting your way through the hordes of Generia still requires some of the basic multitasking skills that games like Starcraft or Supreme Commander would. That said, Crush Your Enemies’ design style makes it easy to pick up and learn, and with the exception of crude humor that may be unpalatable for some players, Gambitious Entertainment’s newest battle is an easy recommendation.
Brog the Barbarian isn’t one for many pleasant words. He’s a manly, muscle-y barbarian prefers to let his sword speak for him, cutting down enemies as he pillages and plunders the lands he conquers. His son, Fuzgut, on the other hand, is a little less battle-hardened. Fuzgut prefers to spend his time drinking beers and being generally lazy, but Brog commits to the idea that his son is going to grow up to be a destroyer like his father. Roaming through the lands of Generia, Brog, Fuzgut, and their retinue slay enemies in their quest for the nipple of a statue that is said to bring unlimited power to its wielder. The dialog is funny at times, but there isn’t really a ton invested in the game’s story or characters. In fact, practically every cutscene is skippable, and that’ll be good for gameplay-focused players since the game is great mechanically.
Each map in Crush Your Enemies places you with a beginning set of soldiers, as well as buildings on the map you can use to convert your units into other unit types. Generians can become archers, knights, arrow-reflecting shieldbearers, and quick-moving scouts, also occasionally manning buildings to provide additional defenses. You can additional units by placing Generians at town centers where they…repopulate; the more units you have on the square, the faster the build time for the next unit. Maps tend to rely on players balancing their production rates at their town centers, than sending smaller groups of units out from the town center to perform tasks. It’s a simple rotation process in theory, but combat itself can get hectic and challenging quickly.
Each map takes place on a grid of squares with units and established buildings. Neutral and opponent-owned grid squares must be captured before your units can move freely on them, and the more units on a single square, the faster the square conversion. Instead of harvesting resources and using them to build a base of new buildings to create an army, players capture buildings by placing their own troops on those squares, slowly converting the building for their own use. As you play through the game you’ll also unlock multiple power-ups to use on each map. Potions power up a group of units for a brief period of time, recruitment tents to bolster a group’s numbers out in the field, while land mines explode and cause massive damage to surrounding enemies. If it sounds a little intense, that’s because it gets intense: Fuzgut’s campaign in particular requires attention to detail and quick strategy because it brings in some resource harvesting (wood for buildings and meat for people) that you don’t experience in Brog’s campaign. Crush Your Enemies spells out the tactics required for victory in quick, efficient tutorials, and the game’s approachability is definitely one of its highlights.
Many real-time strategy games appeal to their base through a mix of complicated unit types and building strategies, reaching out to people who technical savvy to rule the battlefield. Crush Your Enemies gives more space for tactics to win out by lowering the number of possible unit types and by forcing players to battle for buildings that already exist on the map instead of building their own. Need more archers, but your enemy took over your archery school? Tough luck: you’ll either need to take it back, or come up with a new play. It’s a gameplay style that really fosters aggression over “turtling:” hiding in your base and building up a massive army to rush the enemy with. Sometimes you’ll need to use special movements to push through pesky defenses like sending a small group to distract the enemy’s archers or guard tower, then flanking that unit while they’re unable to fight back directly. Most all of the useful tactics are described in brief tutorial pages, and you can consult the guidebook at any time between missions. Crush Your Enemies gets a lot of things right, but it also has a couple missteps along the path to victory as well.
Crush Your Enemies may be on PC via Steam, but it feels pretty evident that its home is truly on a tablet like an iPad. Splitting large groups of units into smaller groups requires clicking on the group, then click-and-dragging a slider to select the number of units you’d like to send into the separate unit. This felt smooth when I played the game on iPad at E3, but the mouse is often less precise. Sometimes dragging the slider doesn’t change the number at all, making you move your entire group unintentionally. This can become particularly taxing when dealing with unit groups closer to the 50-unit cap; trying to send 5 or 15 units can cost precious seconds as you fiddle with the slider and mouse. It would have been great for the PC version to allow players to type the number of units they want to send in addition to using the slider.
Also, some of those who take the time to read the story in-between missions may also feel a bit put-off: it’s obviously trying to lampoon macho stereotypes, but there are only so many dick-style jokes one can take before they sound repetitive. Though a game called Crush Your Enemies doesn’t exactly scream “narrative content,” I still would have appreciated some sharper humor at points, or even perhaps a foil character that highlights the lunacy of the universe. Instead, we get punchlines like “Fook koom!” (“Koom” is the name of a god in the game, and “fook” is their replacement term for…well, you guessed it.) They’re funny at times, but I found myself less able to appreciate the one-liners when there wasn’t much variation. It’s really stereotypical boys’ bathroom humor for much of it, and I think most players will be ok with skipping over it.
Even with those criticisms, Crush Your Enemies is a great reinvention of the RTS genre. The music is enjoyable (though there’s not much variation on the battle theme), and the retro-styled graphics look gorgeous. It also features cross-platform multiplayer, and it may be the one place I see touchscreen players having an advantage over the PC ones. I played both local multiplayer at E3 using two iPads and web-based multiplayer on PC; I definitely prefer the iPad version, but the matches I played over the internet moved smoothly and were a great way to distract myself when I was stuck on a hard campaign level. So long as you’re willing to say “fook off” to the dialog sometimes, Crush Your Enemies is a great way to get into an intimidating genre.
Final Score: 4.25 out of 5