WorldShift Review (PC)

On the front of Worldshift’s box are your typical gaming buzzwords. “Strategic – Epic – Immersive.” There’s pretension involved when publishers slap journalistic terms on their own box, after all, we’ll be the judge of such claims. Worldshift is the latest game from Black Sea Studios. Their first game was the relatively unknown PC title, Knights of Honor. Four years later and a lot has changed. Broadband has fielded a want for an ever-connected gaming experience and casual gaming is in full swing. Rejuvenation was needed if Black Sea Studios were serious about presenting a modern ‘epic, strategic, immersive’ experience. Worldshift had been in open-beta up until May when the studio was acquired by Crytek (the minds behind Crysis), rebranding itself as Crytek Black Sea. It all went quiet until a retail copy arrived out of the blue with the announcement that the UK / English language version had been released. Promising a blend of old school RTS’ing and next gen connectivity is Worldshift the next step in PC gaming?

It’s definitely not going to get there with its plot. Cue golden age, late 21st Century colonization of space, mysterious incoming ‘Shard Zero’ and a big dollop of kaboom. “It’s the end of the world as we know it.” It seems that whenever mankind fixes its nagging problem of continual war, we get a big shunt into post-apocalyptic society. Hit the fast forward button and we’re a couple thousand years later where the onboard plague of Shard Zero has shaped earth into something unforeseen in a game. Think ‘The Time Machine’ but with guns. Kudos for the new take on the ‘end of the world’ situation, but there are only so many times one can sit through such narrative. It’s all explained in the 79 page manual so we’ll spare you the detail of reading it.

There are three forces to be found on the invigorated earth. There are the big, burly humans that live in the planet’s five surviving cities. Their look resembles a cross between Warhammer 40k’s Space Marine and the combine from Half Life 2. Their strength comes from specialist weaponry and strategic tactics. At the other end of the spectrum you have The Tribes. Evolution / Mutation has morphed humanity into a ‘magic’ focused spiritual race. They’ve tamed the wildlife and utilised their psychic abilities to produce elemental combat. Bringing up the rear is The Cult. Mysterious, focused around the unknown and genetically modified, The Cult are a unique faction. A quick glance suggests that the factions are different enough to offer a variety of gameplay, but in reality they’ve been balanced to such a degree that playing online comes down to skill and tactics, not (unbalanced) uber units.

Despite that, you’re not just playing a reskin. There are advantages and disadvantages of each faction and they’re amplified by the game’s ‘ability grid.’ Throughout the single player campaign, co-op multiplayer of competitive online matches, you’ll be awarded items which can be assigned to your race’s grid. There’s a huge amount of items to be found and the customization allows for you army’s uniqueness. There is also a specialization section that mimics World of Warcraft’s talent tree. It’s a system that comes into its own when playing online. To play any form of Worldshift requires a connection to a lobby where chat services, auto matching, single player missions and customization are available. Playing online will reward you with battle points that in turn can be spent on new artefacts. It’s comparable to the above MMO’s arena / PVP system and it’s a construct that works extremely well. It’s unusual to see a system in a fixed-genre like the RTS, but it’s been done right and adds a breath of fresh air to the game.

It’s definitely needed as Worldshift struggles to stand out. Once you’re actually playing the game, it’s little more than a point and click affair. It uses the same RTS devices that were laid out by the genre’s founders. The gameplay has you selecting your troops, selecting your enemies and letting the maths take care of the rest. The odd special power is used; otherwise it’s a pretty static experience. Take it online and the game strengths with the introduction of a human brain. Otherwise, the AI is (seemingly) scripted and bordering on the pathetic side.

The game’s graphics engine does a good job at recreating the colourful (thankfully) future earth. Curious wildlife, detailed armour, sharp environmental textures are all pluses. The game’s not resource hungry and it’s extremely stable. There are some nice post processing effects and overall the game looks up to the challenge. Clipping does occur on occasion and it raises a few eyebrows, but apart from that it’s packing a visual punch.

Sound wise, the game’s soundtrack successfully presents the mood of the game and voice acting is convincing. Worldshift’s production values are notably high and it completes the package on offer. It’s definitely one for tiding you over until Starcraft 2. The multiplayer is well worth a look-in for genre enthusiasts, otherwise it’s pretty bog standard.

Best Gaming Moment: The lack of resources / base building. Action is the way forward.

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By herodotus (SI Herodotus) on Oct 16, 2008
I remember "Knights of Honour", and none too kindly. There are good Medieval games and bad ones (where that one fell). Review is very thorough, thankyou Marco. Looks like "Starcraft II" in the forests of Endor...without Ewoks, I hope. Might have to get this when it inevitably goes to Budget.
By Marco_Fiori (SI Veteran Newbie) on Oct 16, 2008
No problem, It's probably better for a budget release. It's not bad, just a bit old in its core design. It does bring some interesting ideas to the table though.
By V4ndall (SI Veteran Member) on Oct 16, 2008
I begin to think that I just like different games in general. I have pleasant memories of Knights Of Honour and have been giving this title as a most underrated game I know... Not that I loved it as MTW2 is clearly better but still it was fun to play. As for Worldshift the first time when I heard about it was when I got it and after a few hours I knew it will be another good yet unknown game. Graphics and world/atmosphere are really good and slight touch of "I've seen this before" is it's only sin in this department. The most noticeable aspect of the game is it's gameplay style. There's practically no base building (only two buildings - main base and resource extractors), and the main point of the game is to manage a few strong main units and a bunch of easily replaced "mob" units to obliterate everything unfriendly on the map. While this makes the game really action packed, after the first festival of beauty and destruction comes repetition. There are no "advanced" unit controls like vehicles, cover or buildings except for distance & damage dependence; only few types of units per faction (with some unique abilities); and bluntly said, not much fun in terms of tactics as everything is quite annihilation oriented. All in all the game is quite good really, but reminds playing a deathmatch via RTS controls, and thus it's enjoyability lies mostly in playing against a human player.
By lichlord (SI Core) on Oct 17, 2008
prety heavy graphics tough my pc lags like hell.....
By Kres (SI Elite) on Oct 18, 2008
I wasn't overly impressed with the demo / game. It seems too simple, straightforward. Sum up troops, send the most you can, destroy opponents main structure and then do that over and over again.

Knights of Honor was a brilliant game. Still is. Often wanted to replay it, but can't find it anywhere anymore...
By Eversor (SI Elite) on Oct 20, 2008
I know that I might step on some toes but strategy games are not Cryteks strong
point. Games like Crysis & Crysis Warhead are, no game on earth can match
these games.
By V4ndall (SI Veteran Member) on Oct 20, 2008
No game on earth could not match them, if they had better AI....
By RefuGeelas (I just got here) on Oct 26, 2008
hmmm yea i have to rethink on this game,and when i have to rethink ussualy means i wont be buying it. Some how i expected more from this game, not really appealing to me.
By ScythSoulces (SI Core) on Oct 29, 2008
This looks to be a good game to play for many years.