Welcome to Coverage Club, our new regular series where we shift our critical eye towards smaller games that deserve some attention. Each week, our review editors select two titles and provide honest first impressions in the same style as our full reviews. Games can range from brand new titles hitting Early Access to older hidden gems that never got their due. No matter your preferences, you're sure to find something off the beaten path here.
This week, Alex and Sam's games share a common theme of heavy artillery. First, Alex checks in on ShellShock Live, a modern take on Scorched Earth that features a whole host of insane weapons. Then, Sam commands the battlefield in style with Reconquest.
Covered by Alex Santa Maria
In 1991, shareware was king on PC. Players traded demos back and forth, and the first world of any new release became common knowledge among the gaming faithful. One of those releases was Scorched Earth, an artillery game that helped popularize the genre of two tanks blowing each other up on destructible hills. My entry to the genre comes in the many hundreds of hours I played Pocket Tanks in high school. Developed (and updated to this day) by Blitwise Productions, the game that can trace its lineage directly to an Amiga clone of Scorched Earth, proving that the genre still has legs despite never quite breaking into the mainstream.
I'm not sure where the inspiration for ShellShock Live comes from, but I see more than a passing resemblance between this game and Blitwise's release. This isn't a bad thing because ShellShock feels like an HD remaster of the tank game I loved in high school. It has countless weapons to unlock, randomized stages, and a suite of game modes to break up the monotony for veteran players. Add a bright coating of neon graphics on top and you've got a recipe for a good time.
The default mode is still the best, pitting you and your opponent in a fight to the death on opposing hills with a sack of random weapons. The initial badassery of it all gives way to a comic dance between the two players as they maneuver around, aim carefully, and then blast their Flower shot ten meters past their target. Sure, you could study the angles and line up your shot perfectly, but I've always had more fun just winging it and hoping for the best. If you are one for accuracy, you'll be at home with the game's alternate modes that encourage trick shots through portals and around randomized shield walls.
Of course, since this is a more modern release, progression is a big part of the experience. You start with a handful of weapons and quickly amass more via leveling up. Not only that, individual weapons have a level that increases with each use and unlocks improved versions of the guns. Everything you do in the game contributes experience points, but they're distributed at such a slow pace that you'll never reasonably unlock everything. It feels more like a free to play progression system than one for a paid game and somewhat tempers my enjoyment of the overall experience.
Despite being in Early Access for close to three years, Shellshock has continuously been updated and boasts a dedicated community online. Of course, that could be a negative to a new player, as weapon unlocks carry across all modes, and players who've been unlocking new ways to blow you up for 24 months are going to be straight up better equipped in a one on one duel. Worse, I didn't really see a way to even the playing field, so your best bet is to go in with a group of friends for some low stakes multiplayer fun.
ShellShock Live was played on PC via Steam with a copy purchased by the writer.
Covered by Samuel Guglielmo
Do you love Command & Conquer? Specifically, the first couple of games? Reconquest loves Command & Conquer, and it wears its inspirations on its sleeves. An RTS made with many of the same parts and design decisions, I can see some people getting into Reconquest if they're looking for a new single-player RTS.
Emphasis on the single player part, as Reconquest contains no multiplayer of any kind. Instead, you get a 20 level campaign and several skirmish options. It seems like a bit of a strange decision, but I'll be the first to admit that I was always terrible at multiplayer RTS games anyway so I didn't mind the lack of it. Plus I doubt the game would attract any kind of crowd so this is probably for the best.
The game pits the Urban Forces, who are the designated "good guys" who survived World War III by hiding in underground bunkers, against the Outlaw Clan, who are basically just Mad Max styled raiders. You'll begin most levels with little more than a construction yard, which you'll use to create various buildings. You'll have to gather gas to fund these buildings and build power plants to have enough power to keep them running as well. Also, you'll sprinkle your base with turrets. You know, to defend it.
Once you've got your Command & Conquer Economy running, you'll start building troops. Both factions have the same units, and most of these units are pretty similar to each other. You got tanks, missile tanks, fast tanks, tanks that can carry people, big tanks, and more. Some of these units are more effective than others (I eventually came to ignore all the soldiers, for example). It doesn't really make the game feel like two unique factions and more like one faction with a different coat of paint.
The game offers two campaigns of 10 missions each, which I could see lasting a solid 8 hours. There are also eight stand-alone "trapped" missions that are basically just difficult campaign missions with no story context around them. The downside to all this is that, despite the number of missions, there's little variety. Each mission was basically "build a base and destroy the enemy base". Sometimes you need to protect a specific structure. I didn't see any levels that required holding out to defend against swarms of enemies or operating with only a limited amount of units. It's just missions that can be summed up as "build base, destroy base."
It's a lot more simple than the classics, but Reconquest is an honestly fun enough game. It needs more variety, more to distinguish the two factions, and probably a facelift. If some real effort is put into it I can see a sequel actually being a big deal. For now, however, this is a fun simple RTS that can be worth looking at.
Reconquest was played on PC via Steam using a copy provided by the developers.
What do you think of this week's Coverage Club selections? Do you know of an overlooked game that deserves another look? Let us know in the comments below, and don't forget to follow our Steam Curator to keep up to date with all our reviews.