April 19, 2017
I remember when the Worms franchise was on the top of my favourite IPs of all time. There I was, 9 years old, sitting at my family computer running Windows 98 on a CRT monitor, waiting for the ol’ girl to finally boot up and allow me to jump in to another vacation day of blowing the little pink cretins into oblivion. Simpler times, but I digress.
Now it’s 2017, and what do we have to scratch that nostalgic itch? Look no further than the Aussie-made indie effort Forts. Brisbane-based EarthWork Games have delivered a stylish call-back to the strategic turn-based combat of the Worms series, blended with creative fort building and resource gathering and management, ala Starcraft or Warcraft.
The first thing that really impressed me was how the construction elements were strongly locked into the laws of physics. The first time I tried to create a bridge between two towers, it collapsed unceremoniously into the chasm betwixt them. My second attempt saw me attaching ropes to anchor points to keep the bridge sturdy, and using upgraded materials like armour plating to reinforce the bridge’s structural integrity. This attention to detail is rarely seen in PC indie efforts, at least from my experience, and it was simply a joy to experiment with different configurations and strategies to build the ultimate fort.
“…dialogue is cute and family friendly, but more than once I picked up a bit of cheeky political satire…”
The combat of Forts has you utilising different units and placing them in choice locations in order to effectively eliminate enemy units and structures. The ultimate goal: destroy the enemy reactor. The learning curve was steady, with a slew of tutorials and hand-holding during the first hour or so to get you armed and ready for action. There are over ten different weapon units to use in combat, including machine gun placements, mortars, missiles, and even lasers.
Each weapon has a different tactical use, and shot placement is crucial to disabling your opponent. On more than one occasion I fired off a lucky sniper shot that broke the right support and the right time, and my enemy’s fort collapsed and detonated in a spectacular chain reaction of carnage. Like a well fired bird in Angry Birds, the results can be truly satisfying and epic. On the defensive, you will utilise specialized armour pieces which can deflect some of the enemy’s attacks, and use your own weapon placements to shoot enemy missiles out of the air.
The art style of Forts is vibrantly colourful, taking great care to make each battle theatre feel different through its visuals. The character models are quirky and unique, and the physical game environment is expertly crafted, shedding any idea that the game is somehow lesser being an “indie” title. The sound design, particularly the weapon and destruction sounds, are among some of the best I’ve heard in the genre, topping that of Worms and Angry Birds, two games I feel must have been a big inspiration on Forts.
- Easy to grasp, difficult to master gameplay
- Visually and audibly impressive
- Smart building mechanics
- Thin and unnecessary narrative
- Bonus objectives are occasionally annoying
- Can get repetitive at times
While at times Forts feels like it would be more at home on a mobile platform, it is a solid and impressive PC title that has the potential to burst onto the indie scene as a smash hit. It scratches an itch I didn’t know was there, and successfully blends several different game styles into one cohesive gaming experience. EarthWork Games have created a game with all the polish you would expect out of a big-name developer, and it was made in little old Brisbane… my hometown!