I have many good memories playing the Risk board game with friends. We didn’t exactly play by the standard rules, but the fun and anger that it created is something that’s still very fresh in my mind. Risk: Urban Assault brought back some familiar feelings. The satisfaction that came with dominating the board – the despair and depression that came with defeat. It all came back to me.
In Urban Assault, the governments across the globe have collapsed by the year 2080. Five new factions have amassed to fight over the scarce resources that remain. These factions, with names like Future Corp. and the Obsidian Order, wage war with each other in the world’s biggest cities. Each has unique commanders that have special abilities that can be used while attacking an opponent’s territory. The results of a battle are decided by many variables, but it mostly boils down to rolling the higher die/dice than your opponent to inflict casualties.
Platform XB1 (reviewed), PS4, 360, PS3
Price I’d pay: $5
Each turn, players strategically attack adjacent territories to earn stars. Stars can be cashed in to add troops, commanders and facilities. When an entire section of the map has been captured by one army, a town hall can be placed in that section. The game is over when a faction has retained control of enough town halls (the number depends on the map).
Playing with the different commanders adds another layer of complexity to the game, as did the options that one has when they control the most territory. Bounties can be placed and stars can be given to other factions. This creates situations eerily similar to the cold war – as it’s smart to support the faction that is giving the other superpower the most trouble. Sitting there for minutes, while balancing my many options, is something that I really enjoyed, especially when those choices turned out to be wise ones.
Urban Assault has a campaign only in name. There are five missions with five objectives each. For each separate mission, players can pick any faction. This enables experimentation with different commanders, but sacrifices any sense of progression. No variation in dialogue or objectives makes this campaign more of a list of maps.
I was thrown into the first city without much of a tutorial. It showed me what was happening, but I had to put a lot of the pieces together. As someone who has some experience with Risk, even I struggled to understand many aspects of the game at the beginning.
Let’s get this moving
Risk games notoriously take forever. Urban Assault slightly fixes that with its “Fast AI” system that simulates the moves of opponents. Unfortunately, this system goes by the wayside when a commander attacks – as they often do. Players are forced to watch the dice rolls and overly long animations of the commanders performing their abilities. Since a defender has no strategic options, I would have preferred that this process could also be simulated.
I had fun playing Risk: Urban Assault, but it made me wish that there was more there.. Going after all of the objectives will require a few replays of the levels, but again, there’s no kind of thread going through the whole thing. It all felt a bit hollow. Convincing friends to play custom games would surely be fun, but it might be wiser to wait for a more robust package to come along. There is also matchmaking, but I struggled to find a game.
Risk: Urban Assault, while flawed and bare-bones, has renewed my interest in Risk. Risk’s biggest issue, pacing, is only half-solved in Urban Assault with the “Fast AI” system. Most Disappointingly though, it lacks any semblance of a campaign.
Review copy of game provided by publisher.