Review: Under Siege: Enhanced Edition (PSN)
Title: Under Siege: Enhanced Edition
Format: PlayStation Network Download
Release Date: January 13, 2012
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
Developer: Seed Studios
Price: $13.99 / £7.99
ESRB Rating: E10+ / PEGI: 12
First of all, I’d like to point out that I’m not an RTS guy. It’s not anything I have against the genre, it’s just personally (like with MMORPGs), I have neither the patience and spare time to sink into them, nor am I a PC gamer. I’ve never been sucked into the genre with a huge urge to play.
Under Siege though, is a relatively cheap download, built for consoles from the ground up, so I thought maybe it would be suited to a complete ‘RTS-noob’ like myself. The game itself has gone through quite a journey. It suffered various delays and had a somewhat troubled release. Furthermore, Under Siege had some significant issues when it finally became available – not least of which was the crippling difficulty.
That’s why Seed Studios have gone back to the drawing board and refined almost every part of this game; some sections (e.g. the difficulty) have been completely revamped. These alterations (along with a price drop) make the Enhanced Edition an intriguing and exciting addition to the PlayStation Store.
Let’s tackle the major plus-point of this game first – the controls. Playing Under Siege is a breeze because the controls are so tight and ultra-easy to pick up. Within a few minutes, I felt as if I was not inhibited at all, purely because it felt so natural. Controlling your view comes down to the sticks, while selecting units is a press of the x button and moving them/attacking is on square. You can also hold down x to see an expanding circle appear on screen to select multiple units at once. Another feature is the ability to ‘bookmark’ certain units, or groups of units, to each one of the d-pad buttons.
Overall, the configuration Seed Studios chose for the Dualshock is nigh on perfect, and my preferred control method. However, there’s also the option to utilise PlayStation Move. When I first saw this, I thought it was no doubt just an extra that’s been tacked-on poorly to ‘tick another box’. When I tried it though, I was pleasantly surprised with the great job they’ve done with it.
I wasn’t even playing in what you’d call an optimum environment for Move to function well, yet it was still very accurate. The button actions are the same – it doesn’t replace a simple tap of the square button with some random waving gesture, like many other games. The camera is controlled by motion, but it feels like it’s done correctly. You can twist the Move controller round as if you were moving the right stick in a circular motion; it does the same job. The Move has been implemented well, but in terms of playing the game for a prolonged period of time, I was more comfortable using the Dualshock; purely down to personal preference.
The pace of Under Siege took me aback a little, with some battles quite literally a couple of minutes long. Whether you like this or not will depend on your own opinion – do you want to meticulously plan before slowly moving across the battlefield in a drawn out fight? Or do you want short, sharp bursts of combat, with not much traveling around and not far to go back if you fail? Under Siege definitely caters for the latter more readily. After the tutorial I felt it was going to be slow and mundane, but once you’ve learned the ropes, it quickly ramps up the speed of proceedings.
As mentioned before, the difficulty was a major stumbling block in the original game, and even though this has been a priority, it’s still not completely fixed. Then again, if you like a challenge, this will be your cup of tea. I thought the difficult was a little too sporadic though – there is no steady curve. I played it on casual due to being a pussy not having enough experience with the genre, and found whilst some battles were an absolute breeze, others were the proverbial brick wall.
There are numerous unit types you’ll unlock throughout your adventure – each with their own unique, distinguishable traits and proficiencies. If memory serves, the ones you initially start off with are the archers, the gunner and the soldiers. Obviously your tactics will alter depending on who you’re facing and which units you have. For example, if you had three slots that could be used, you might want a couple of gunners holding back, raining down cannonballs, and a set of archers going into the heart of battle.
Opportunity of modifications to your strategy will be minimal in-battle, so the ‘preparation phase’ is key. This phase is before you start the battle and allows you pan across the battlefield, as well as more important tasks like disbanding, reinforcing and upgrading your units. You have unlimited time in this phase, so it can be used to your heart’s content.
One problem, that leaves you with nigh on zero room for error, is the fact that all units carry over to the next battle. This many not seem too bad in itself, but there is no other opportunity to earn coins than inside a battle. That in turn means that if you are stuck on one mission, with the wrong types of units and not enough coins to buy what you need, you have a big predicament and will just have to make do with what you have. It is vitally important you keep your units alive from one mission to the next – especially if you’ve put a lot of coins into upgrading their skills.
I like the little mini-map in the bottom left of the screen, which presents which area is ‘in the light’ at the moment and where enemies or objectives are. (Although the screenshots shown are from the old version so have a different mini-map). Another positive is the comprehensive level editor. I didn’t really get too deep into it as it was pretty daunting looking at all the possibilities you could explore. For RTS veterans though, I’m sure you’ll lap this up and spend hours upon hours creating the perfect levels – ranging from fundamentals such as forming the landscape as you require, along with adding the bells and whistles, like cut-scenes. It really is an astounding feat and offers unlimited playtime.
One gripe with Under Siege is the load times – they are pretty significant. While they have been reduced from the original and they are not crippling or game-breaking, you will notice them, as you will the save times. There can be little errors and glitches during gameplay, such as a unit just running in one spot, but these are few and far between.
Seed Studios have done a bang-up job with the overall graphical style and level of detail in Under Siege. When you first load up the game, there is a very nice CG cut-scene to introduce proceedings (see the very first screenshot of this review). However, that’s the only time you see that sort of movie, because the rest is what you’d expect from an RTS. The characters that appear in between missions are comic book-style with the text appearing at the foot of the screen. This art is quite well done and it’s just a method of moving the story on and linking the chapters.
After those little conversations, the camera pans across the battlefield with the in-game engine. This is where one big problem comes into play – there is an inordinate amount of slowdown and huge scan lines lumbering across your screen at this point. That is unacceptable from any game, be it a PSN download, a PS Mini, or even a cheap mobile game; you just don’t expect things like that anymore. Luckily though, these highly irritating scan lines only appear during actual play extremely rarely, so it’s not the game-breaker it could have been. Even so, the fact that it’s present during the chapter links is still annoying.
The textures look like they’ve had a lot of work put into them, along with the lush environments which vary from chapter to chapter. There are a few little nuances which really present the detail that’s gone in – such as the footprints on snow of these tiny little people on screen. It’s these little things that Seed Studios could have left out and nobody would bat an eyelid. They incorporated them into the game though, and it creates an atmosphere.
A bit of a mixed bag really, but ultimately I elected to have my iPod in whilst playing rather than continue with the game audio. Let’s start with the good: none of it is painstaking or plain terrible. Also, some of the sound effects are fantastic – such as rocks colliding with one another. The bad is simply the repetitive nature of everything. The battle music is exactly the same each time you go for an enemy and as for your soldiers, you will quickly get tired of the constant “huh!” and “hyah!”. Then when they get close to their foes, the sound of swords grating will fast become, well, grating.
I would like to be able to tell you about the online portion of this title, but unfortunately I can’t. At countless points over the past week, I’ve attempted to access an online match, but nobody has been online at any point. It’s not even like there’s been other people already in a game – I begin searching and at the bottom of the screen, it pops up that 0 players are currently online.
Grading Under Siege: Enhanced Edition is a difficult task, as it greatly depends on exactly what you want from it, more so than most games. Personally, I wasn’t truly enthralled or engaged by it, but did enjoy the vast majority of the time I spent on it and found it a solid title. However it wasn’t really an ‘experience’ like we expect from games nowadays, but at the same time, it’s a PSN title so you could give it a pass on that.
Overall though, I’d recommend this title due to it offering something unique on the PS3. It’s easy to pick up and play, offers you the chance to think and plot rather than just blow people’s heads off. There’s variety, there’s longevity, there’s the challenge, there’s awesome controls; there’s a whole lot of good in this game – only let down by a few minor grievances. And who knows, maybe Seed Studios will release another mega patch and turn this into an A-grade game…