Brass Tactics Preview
Sometimes in life, a singular experience can radically alter your opinion or ideology. Personally, I’ve never possessed a keen interest in RTS games. I’ve dabbled in highly regarded titles like Age of Empires and Starcraft in the past, but none of them ever grasped my undivided attention. At PAX West 2017 I had the opportunity to go hands-on with Brass Tactics, a virtual reality RTS game from Hidden Path Entertainment. The twenty odd minutes I spent commanding my forces and conquering the battlefield in VR revolutionized my thoughts on the genre and I couldn’t be more excited about it.
Brass Tactics is developed by Mark Terrano, (lead designer of Age of Empires II and CS:GO), and his team at Hidden Path Entertainment. If you’re familiar with the mechanics of Age of Empires II, you’ll recognize Mark’s finger prints all over Brass Tactics. You experience the game within a clockwork battlefield where you build towers, spawn troops, and fight for control of the land. The goal is to wipe out every enemy faction standing between you and their home fortress at the opposite end of the battlefield. The enemy intends to do the same to you, so, building the proper factions and strategically planning your attacks is the key to victory.
The game features many of the RTS tropes you’d come to expect including melee, ranged, and airborne units, and upgrades. You spawn units by building towers around the battlefield. In my demo, I began by building a single unit of swordsmen and a single unit of archers in front of my home fortress. In the distance, a faction of enemies defending a tower of their own stood between me and control over the next plot of land. Being the merciless commander that I am, I sent my forces to vanquish our adversaries with relentless ferocity. Destroying all of the enemy towers in a section of the battlefield establishes it as your own. You can build new towers where the previous ones fell, enabling you to grow your army as you progress. Setting up strong defenses at your new towers is equally important to progressing forward on the map. Should the enemy regain a region, the tides of war can change in an instant.
I later discovered that you can construct powerful structures like turrets and catapults to assist in massacring enemy compounds or defending your own. Additionally, currency is garnered automatically as you control regions on the battlefield, which enables you to focus solely on the enjoyable aspects of an RTS game like directing your troops, conquering new regions, and upgrading. By the time I’d reached my opponent’s home fortress, I’d amassed several units of swordsmen, archers, and cavalry. The final assault was magnificent as I witnessed massive armies collide in VR. The demo had me pitted against the AI on the easiest difficulty, so, my initial experience was pretty streamlined. I can’t wait to experience the dynamics of the battlefield and learn new strategies when facing off against real players online. If playing competitively isn’t for you, there’s also a single player campaign and two player co-op against the game’s AI at your disposal. As an added bonus, you play as your own customized avatar and you’re supported by three different NPC characters who are packed with personality and provide you with new challenges as you level up.
“Currency is garnered automatically as you control regions on the battlefield, which enables you to focus solely on the enjoyable aspects of an RTS game like directing your troops, conquering new regions, and upgrading.”
What immediately attracted me to the game was the total immersion. In the past, I’ve always felt like an outsider looking in when playing RTS games, specifically due to the isometric camera angle. In Brass Tactics, you can literally bury your face in raging battles. Tactics takes full advantage of virtual reality with the ability to see the fight from any perspective you desire. You can physically raise the entire war table to eye level to witness the carnage up close, or lower it to your waist to analyze it from a classic isometric perspective. Instead of having to navigate tedious interfaces to build and upgrade units, you’re able to physically grab onto and move objects within the world. To build towers, you simply snatch them from the palm of your hand and place them onto the map. In order to upgrade your units, you grab them from a drawer beneath your end of the war table and place them onto the open pedestals within your home fortress.
Navigating the battlefield and interacting with the tangible interface is a breeze when wielding the Oculus Touch controllers. You can dash to any point of the war table by squeezing the triggers and swinging your arms, and command your forces by waving your hand over them and pointing in the direction you want them to go. My disinterest in RTS games prior was largely due to their steep learning curves. Brass Tactics’ controls and navigation are incredibly intuitive, which simplifies the depth of strategy games for casual players like myself.
I’d never imagined having such a blast with an RTS game before and I’m certain I only scratched the surface of what the game has to offer. Whether you’re a veteran or new fan of the genre, Brass Tactics is worth checking out when it launches exclusively for the Oculus Rift on October 19th.