Crush Your Enemies, a strategy game from Vile Monarch, puts simplicity and instant accessibility at the forefront of its gameplay experience. It’s a strategy game that wants to do things a little differently: it’s not difficult to pick up, there is no lengthy tutorial, the is no requirement for the close concentration necessary to learn a myriad of management systems which usually accompany an RTS game. Instead, Crush Your Enemies does exactly what it says – it throws the player right into a battle and suggests they simply crush enemy hordes.
This is war.
This is, at the beginning, a relatively refreshing approach. As someone who has played a number of RTS games in my time, it was nice not to have to get to grips with a lengthy learning curve. Crush Your Enemies is not difficult; it does not have a multitude of working parts. The player starts with a horde of Barbarians and simply has to move them around the battle field, into an enemy horde, in order to start a fight. Each initial stage adds a new component to the mix – huts are a way to grow said horde, other buildings essentially upgrade the player’s horde into stronger fighters. The player can choose to move their entire horde at once, or specific numbers at a time. Conquered territory is one colour and can be traversed quickly, the enemy’s territory must be claimed before movement can continue. Swamps are neutral, but slow.
This battlefield essentially operates as a grid of squares, making navigation pretty simple. These ‘maps’, such as they are, are deliberately small. Battles, therefore, are also over pretty quickly. As such, Crush Your Enemies feels like it is designed to be played in short bursts. The gameplay mechanics are extremely simplistic – this is not an inherent criticism in and of itself, as it is clear this is what developer Vile Monarch intended. Things start out at a fast pace. Success was immediate and instant – I won my first few battles and they lasted no more than a minute or two.
So – the biggest appeal of Crush Your Enemies is its instant action. It throws the player right into the fight, without all of the bells and whistles that accompany a standard RTS game. It struck me as odd, therefore, that the fight action was interspersed with comparatively long dialogue scenes between the various characters. These scenes are essentially silly conversations that, in theory, convey the fact that Crush Your Enemies doesn’t take itself too seriously and is a light-hearted affair. However, the tone quickly became annoying and it didn’t take long for me to just skip these little episodes altogether. Again – this is a subjective view. Other players might chuckle their way through these cut scenes and find them entertaining. Sadly, I didn’t.
Similarly, this mantra of not taking things too seriously also extends to my overall experience with the gameplay. While I have talked about the accessibility of the game, its fast pace and the fact that battles are short and snappy, I soon began to switch off while playing this game. Things got repetitive quite quickly, and I had little motivation to carry on after a few quick rounds. There was nothing that kept me hooked, or intrigued. While the humour was a turn off for me and other players might very well feel differently, I soon grew pretty bored with the lazy clichés and the repetitive gameplay. Crush Your Enemies feels like a game that Vile Monarch pitched as a cool idea (which, in theory, it is) and then rushed out, explaining away all the problems with a ‘we don’t take that stuff too seriously’ mantra. As such, I found myself asking why I should bother investing any time in this game myself.
One example of this comes early on: the player gets a beer for pillaging a village, and for each subsequent victory can go back and collect more beers. In Steam, this unlocks an achievement titled: “I have no idea what this does.” I guess this is supposed to be funny but it seemed pretty random to me. Even worse, I actually found myself not really caring at all what beer does in the game (it later turns out to be a currency to buy items). It sums up the humour and banter of Crush Your Enemies – it’s going to come across as a turn off and a bit pointless to some. Much like the gameplay, it strikes a very inconsistent tone which ultimately left this reviewer feeling underwhelmed.
There is little long term value here – sure, it works as a quick distraction here and there, and as such probably suits mobile devices far better than PC. The main problem with Crush Your Enemies, however, is the fact that it goes out of its way to show how self-aware and meta it is – too far, in my opinion. Perhaps the developers should have heeded their own advice in making this game – sometimes, less is more.
Ultimately, Crush Your Enemies spends a lot of time mocking RTS tropes – and sure, plenty of RTS games have their issues. But if Vile Monarch’s intent was to strip back those tropes and create a smooth, snappy, accessible RTS experience, then their attempt has been largely unsuccessful. There is too much focus on what is wrong with other RTS games – so much so, it appears that Vile Monarch feels like the entire genre is basically missing a sense of humour rather than anything else. If this is what they have tried to redress, then the result is quite ironic: they have created a game that has lowered the tone too far at the expense of everything else. Rather than investing in an immersive, intuitive, enjoyable gameplay experience, they have, unfortunately, created a generic and rather boring click fest of a game.
Review copy of game provided by publisher.