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Forts

[developer] EarthWork Games

[release] 2016

[price] TBA

[website] www.earthworkgames.com

What’s even more fun than building a tipsy, ramshackle structure? Smashing it. No, wait. Smashing the other guy’s with the powerful guns and missiles you have hidden inside yours. Forts is World of Goo meets Scorched Earth. Remember, in the latter, the tense time between choosing your weapons and waiting to see if your opponent could accurately aim theirs? This is Forts. Well, that and making sure the entire thing doesn’t gracefully topple over, due to poor building or damage.  

Honestly, I’ve had so much fun playing this at home after PAX that I’m not sure where to start telling you about it. Perhaps, if I describe what you can build, you’ll start to piece together this amazing experience. So, firstly, the structure’s bracing is cheap and flimsy, but you can bolster it with metal armour and sandbags. If you place a gunman inside, it will also require an armoured door that you can open when firing and close when you are being fired at. Shields and a cable, for support, are also available.

The resources for building are mined on flat ground pieces, of which there are deliberately few. Stores increase storage capacity. Power is also required for many structures and is generated by wind turbines and the reactor you are protecting. A battery increases the storage space for energy but will explode if it is hit. The starting units you can place are machine guns to protect against missile strikes, and snipers, who can kill units in the enemy fort, with a little luck.

As well as enhancing aiming arcs for other gunmen, your snipers also paint targets for swarming missiles, which are unlocked after you build a workshop. This also unlocks incendiary mortars, which create spot fires on impact. Should you find your own fort is burning, you can press R to initiate repairs around your mouse cursor. Frequently, units and structures will be destroyed. For the really, really good weapons, build a factory. I won’t spoil them.

In your mind, have you organised all of these pieces into something that works? Batteries to the back, snipers behind armoured doors, triangular struts, missile silo out the back. Now consider the following. Is your structure high enough so that every unit’s trajectory can actually hit the other fort in a weak, or valuable, position? What happens if you are targeted with heavy fire at the bottom of your structure? Are you skilled enough at what comes next to take what you have created into battle?

Yes, during the build phase, the opponent will take pot shots at you, especially if you have clumsily left a gunman undefended. In a balanced match, however, you can be pretty sure that, as soon as you are reaching missile capacity, so is the other guy. When everyone is suitably organised, all hell suddenly breaks loose. You have to instruct your gunmen how to aim, revise their trajectories, react to incoming missiles, paint targets and rebuild whatever is falling apart. It’s madness.

Forts allows for flexible play, but what you make has to work. This is what I love about it. Designer, Tim Auld tells us, “There doesn’t seem to be a single best way of playing, which should lead to very interesting matches and high replayability.” There are also a variety of game modes, including a small (so far) single player campaign, various multiplayer challenges and a level editor. I can’t wait to build, and smash, more forts at full release.

 

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