Oil Rush Review «

I’m sure that an RTS that completely eliminate typical unit micromanagement seemed like a good idea at the time — and in the early levels of Oil Rush’s campaign, you might be inclined to think so, too. There’s a certain friendliness to this design, but although it works well in the simple opening levels, the moment you have to manage multiple units at once it turns into a game of herding an unruly bunch of greased-up otters.

Bridge Over Troubled Slaughter

Oil Rush prevents you from selecting units individually. Instead, they can only be commanded in groups assigned to a particular platform. Let’s say we have six of the Jet Ski-riding Piranha units circling an oil rig. These guys don’t feel comfortable heading out without a man-made destination, so in order to get them to move out you’d have to click the rig, then click the portion of that particular group you’d like to send out (100, 75, or 25 percent), and finally a platform you’d like to send them to. You can’t reroute units after dispatching them, and they can only be selected again after safely reaching a platform. When Oil Rush isn’t demanding this idea seems novel, but when the action heats up, the simplified controls ends up complicating things.

Direct your attention to the bottom-right corner. Keep it there.


Though Oil Rush offers a healthy amount of unit types that can be identified at a glance — four sea vehicles and four air vehicles — they aren’t overly complex or interesting. There’s some good risk-versus-reward decision making happening, though. Some of your heavier hitters, like the amphibious Hammerhead tank, travel much more slowly than the weaker ones, making it a struggle to decide whether to have them reliably guard resources back at home, or be last on the scene to a losing battle. And even though your more mobile Piranhas don’t amount to much more than cannon fodder in battle and struggle with taking out platform fortifications, they can serve as a distraction to buy more time for some of your bigger guns.

Overbored

You’re forced to perform math problems and multiple actions just to execute a simple movement command.

As soon as a few more units are dropped into the mix, the inability to micromanage quickly mucks up Oil Rush’s potential. Even juggling three or four different unit types proves difficult when you’re forced to perform math problems and multiple actions just to execute a simple movement command. And once you’ve got multiple squads heading to and from various objectives, it’s best to drop any attempt to keep track of them; while there’s a cinematic hotkey that lets you trail selected units, soaking up the lovely graphics for more than a few seconds will inevitably end in disaster. Aside from setting up weaponry on your platforms, 95 percent of the game can — and should — be played using only the tiny minimap, which makes the rest of the screen feel superfluous. Yet given how necessary this minimap is, it provides a startlingly small amount of information on your units in action unless you possess the superhuman ability to understand the meaning behind many identical, swirling dots. Yes, the main view can be consulted to identify your units, but Oil Rush tends to punish players whose eyes stray too long from the mini-map.

No, this isn’t Wave Race.


My single-player experience eventually devolved into me taking on enemy platforms one-by-one, and being flabbergasted when every unit available to me still couldn’t muster enough firepower to take over a single one. In a situation designed for me to overcome an obstacle with the tools available, I had no choice but to send in wave after wave to grind down defenses and defeat this delaying of the inevitable. Multiplayer in Oil Rush proves far more successful — playing against another human provided a much faster-paced experience with more interesting guesswork about where my opponent would send his units. I could easily see this becoming a fantastic board game — heck, the graphics don’t even seem necessary — but until you see it in a cardboard-and-plastic format, Oil Rush is only fit for chum.

 

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