PSN Review – Under Siege

After popping onto the scene back in 2008, Under Siege has gone through many delays and after all this time developer Seed Studios has finally released the finished product. The game, which offers PlayStation Move support and online play, looks to bring a compelling RTS-like experience to console owners. The question is, does Portugal-based developer Seed Studios succeed in bringing a strong real-time strategy game to PlayStation 3 owners, or is this yet another case where things are better left with a keyboard and mouse.

Under Siege is a real-time strategy game without a lot of the nuisances that come with the label of being an RTS game. Unlike games in the same genre, there will be no buildings to construct or resources to mine in Under Siege, leaving the player with an army of soldiers who level up as they are used. Each set of units in your army can have 1-3 soldiers depending on the type they are, and these types can be upgraded using money picked up during battle and at the end of missions. Units can have their strength upgraded but it will cost you and money can be hard to come by in the game – so be careful just who you upgrade.

There are a total of 9 different unit types that you can recruit, but not all of them will be available from the start. As you progress through the storyline and enter new chapters, new units will become available for you to buy, each with very unique abilities; such as the Frogs who shoot slowing darts or the Gorillas who can stomp the ground and stun enemies. Every character type in the game has two special attacks with the second one unlocking after leveling up the character enough. Each unit is unique enough and the game does a great job of kicking your butt, making you review what types of units you ant to bring with you. This game really is not very forgiving as even on the easiest difficulty you will find yourself having to reply levels a few times to finish them.

There is a narrative to the single player campaign that, while adequate and pretty to watch (the cut-scenes), does very little to add much depth to the game. Evil forces are taking over the land and you now rise to face the challenge. The strange part here is that for a game with cut scenes and story that looks to target a young audience, the difficulty is set more for those hardcore gamers among us, making it very hard for a casual gamer to pick it up and really get anywhere. The game gives you three difficulty options and even though one says easy, it might as well be medium with a trend towards hard, making it intimidating for when you try the medium or hard setting in the game.

Each chapter in the game takes place in a new territory and features various missions that you must complete to move on. At the beginning of each mission you will have to watch a small cut scene that does some explaining about your situation and then you are shown how many units you can use for the mission. Here you can select which units to take, upgrade current units or disband them, and buy new units all together. Like I said earlier, you will want to think hard on what type of units to take, making sure you have enough healers and front-line brawlers to make the mission a success.

Under Siege sports multiplayer with online or local split/screen support. In the online mode you can choose from Competitive which features modes Capture Point, Arena, and Deathmatch. There is a single map for each type available off the bat. If you don’t feel like a competition you can select co-op but this option is really just a collection of boss battles from the game – meaning you cannot play a boss battle until you have completed it in the campaign. These modes offer a good time for local split/screen, but the online community is not very big yet and I found it hard to get in a match due to the lack of people online at any given time. Selection is a huge issue here though as you begin the game with only 4 different maps to select, one for each of the modes available. In the offline multiplayer, the biggest problem to be found in any of these modes, is that even when you select to just play with two players, the screen cuts itself into four squares, narrowing the space you have to control your troops. It would have been nice to have the screen only split into two when playing with two players. The game does sport a cool feature in that when you are at the main menu, the game will show a scroll bar at the bottom informing you of the amount of players online and how many created lobbies there are.

The biggest feature in Under Siege is the extensive creator mode that Seed Studios has decided to include in the game. Just like what Media Molecule has done with LittleBigPlanet, Seed Studios is giving players every tool that was used when they created the game and letting players everywhere create new levels. You can either edit levels you have completed in the campaign or you can start from scratch creating a single-player or multiplayer experience. If you select to make your own map from start, you are given the options to select the theme, level width, depth, and if friendly fire is turned on. What the game offers here is deep and rewarding, but it will take some time to get the hang of it and definitely won’t be for everyone. The controls are easy enough to get the hang of and on the surface it might seem simple, but there are a slew of options under the skin for changing the lighting, terrain, and even cut scenes.

Move support is included when you pick up the game, and thankfully, they work fairly well. You are able to rotate the camera, select multiple units, and move around the battlefield with ease. However after and map or two, the old school gamer inside of me switched back to the regular controls and I was impressed to find out just how well using only the Dualshock worked. This is helped along by the ability to assign squad shortcuts to the D-pad, making it easy to select a group of archers in the nick of time to perform a heal or your soldiers to taunt the enemies. The way you decide to play is up to you but both methods of controls are rewarding and fit well within the game, making it very easy to control what at times becomes a large army.

Under Siege is a graphically enticing game with solid environments, good but not spectacular character models, and solid work with cut scenes. Effects of each character’s attacks or special abilities are a bit uninspired, but the game makes up for this with an impressive collections of sounds. Swords clanging against armor and bombs landing among a group of enemies are music to the ears. Voice acting is there for most of the cut-scenes and does well fitting the mood and tempo of the game.

When the dust settles from battle, Under Siege is an RTS game that deviates from the formula most of us have grown accustomed to, and plays more like a dungeon crawler. Lacking in buildings or resources, players will be left to manage troops real-time in an unforgiving world where enemies come from all angles, and players must stay on their toes at all times. PlayStation Move adds to the experience and the online/offline modes are fun – that is if you can find a game online. Editing current maps or creating new ones gives players the tools to get creative, but the ghost town that is the online mode doesn’t give too much incentive to do so. If you are in the market for an RTS experience that will test your mettle and only lightly dent your online wallet, then Under Siege is a game you want to look into. Those wanting something that stays closer to the traditional formula of games like Starcraft won’t find much comfort here.

PlayStation LifeStyle’s Final Score

+Move implementation works great!

+Deep level editor is very rewarding

-Thin selection of maps for online/offline modes

7 out of 10