A long time ago I played Warcraft III, an RTS that really made me love the genre even further. Yet then the series moved into MMOs and left the world of RTS behind. We need a replacement. Thankfully it seems like I'm not the only ones who thought of this. Daedalic, the company behind games such as State of Mind, seemed to agree with me as well. At E3 this year I was invited to check out A Year of Rain, and it seems like someone is seeking to fill the spot Blizzard left behind.
I was given a quick overview of the game before playing it. While I didn't hear much about the actual plot, I do know that A Year of Rain takes place in a fantasy world populated by three major factions. The campaign will take about 15 hours, and the entire game can be played co-op. In fact, co-op is A Year of Rain's major feature. The entire game always sees you and either another player or an allied AI teaming up. Multiplayer and skirmishes don't even offer the option to do 1v1, it'll always be a minimum of 2v2. In the skirmish I played, a team lost if either player was taken out, so you always have to be ready to help each other.
As mentioned before, there's three factions in the game. The demo we played only had House Rupah available. They serve as your collection of normal "good" fantasy creatures, such as humans, dwarves, and elves, along with gnomes and djinni. The full game will also feature Undead, which will try to be more unique by having creatures like bone naga; and the Outcasts, which is a collection of "savage" races such as gnolls, lizardmen, and cyclopes.
Once you've picked your faction, you have two more important choices. First you'll have to pick a hero unit to bring into battle. Each faction has three difference choices, and I personally went with the Sparkmage for mine. You then need to pick what role you'll be playing in the battle, with players getting the normal "holy trinity" of DPS, Tank, and Support. I personally went with DPS, which meant my units dealt bonus damage.
Right as the skirmish started, I couldn't shake the feeling that I've seen all this before. I started with a town hall and some workers who could gather wood or gold. Soon I could build barracks and train spearmen and archers, upgrade them with passive buffs, and build special buildings for more upgrades and troops. All of this is from a UI this looks as if it's ripped straight from Warcraft. All the buttons were exactly where I'd expect them to be, in the exact menus I'd want. There's even a character portrait that gives me a close up of the character's face, something I'm not sure I needed but really appreciated. My only regret is not spending time clicking each unit 10+ times to see if there were funny lines stashed away.
At 90 seconds into the match, our hero units spawned in. Once again, fans of Warcraft III should find themselves right at home here. The hero unit levels up by killing enemies, and as they do, they can learn abilities. My Sparkmage had the ability to summon fire elementals or trap units in place with flaming thorns. Should the hero fall in combat, you can always revive them back at base. There's also neutral mobs around the map that can be killed for experience. In fact, the middle of the map contained a "boss" monster, where the two players had to work together to bring him down. One player had to deal damage to the boss while the other had to destroy some ruins around it to keep it from healing and buffing itself.
You have to work with your partner in more than just fighting these special bosses. Since the enemies are working together as well, you'll need to coordinate attacks and defenses against them. If you're playing with the AI, then you can ping locations on the map and they'll send backup to that spot. Sometimes this worked, like when I suddenly found my base being on the receiving end of an overwhelming attack and really needed the help. Other times this didn't. Late into the match I launched an attack of my own, and asked for my partner's help. They supported me with a single archer. I took a quick glance at their base and saw that they had plenty of units to spare. It certainly made me wish I had another player with me, one that I could ask to back me up. Still, at least my attack was successful and I won the match.
One thing I appreciated was how newbie friendly A Year of Rain could be. Early in, I was given the options to get recommendations on what I should be building, which would lay out a simple battle plan as a series of objectives that can be fulfilled. It was nice to have a simple strategy displayed for me, and I could see it being useful both to people who are new to RTS games and those looking to figure out how the professionals operate.
After playing the game, I did get to learn a little more. I found out that, in addition to everything mentioned before, A Year of Rain will also have a special 2v2 mode called Against All Odds. In this mode two players will play the normal RTS, albeit without any hero units. They'll be pit against two players that only have an overpowered hero unit. Both sides need to complete objectives around the map, with the requirements varying depending on if you have the army or the heroes.
I also asked about the possibility of a console port, more out of curiosity on if Daedalic wanted to really try. I was told "maybe," but that it was "not likely" and that the developers didn't believe the RTS crowd would give up the precise controls of mouse and keyboard for the comfort of a controller. This made sense to me, although I will admit I am always interested when someone tries it.
While I'm not great at RTSes, I certainly enjoyed my time with A Year of Rain. It may still have some growing pains to get through, and I'll admit I'm way more interested in the campaign than the multiplayer, but it's a great start. If you're looking for your next RTS, this may be one worth keeping an eye on, especially if you have a friend to play it with.
A Year of Rain is set to come out on PC in Q4 2019.