Oil Rush has been out for a bit, so it’s high time we hauled in our over-sized magnifying glasses, opened up our dog-eared writing tablets, and scrutinized it properly. The game is an interesting blend of concepts, sure enough, with mechanical bits and narrative bobbins taken from all over the place. However, interesting doesn’t, necessarily, mean fun. Let’s see how well those concepts fair in actual execution, shall we?
Oil Rush tells the unlikely story of an Australian man named Kevin being granted some sort of authority. Kevaussie’s world has seen the sea levels rise drastically as a result of the “ultimate weapon” being used. The game’s intro hints at this being nuclear weapons of some sort, though it could have just as easily have been green house gases. Now the folks wot didn’t get drowned have arranged themselves into various factions and are squabbling over the few oil sources that can still be tapped. It’s a silly bit of narrative and the voice acting is bland at best, but it’s still better than Waterworld.
Aesthetically, this is a surprisingly pretty game. The unigine engine powering it has been put to good effect. Floating structures bob serenely in the waves, units move believably, and everything looks suitably rusted and patched together. Honestly, the well-done art direction is the only thing giving the game’s premise any sort of believability. It’s a real shame that the game plays best when you’re zoomed out so far you can’t really appreciate the little touches.
At it’s core, Oil Rush is simply a very fancy-looking, mechanically stripped down point-to-point real time strategy game. If you’ve ever played Eufloria or the flash game Phage Wars, you’ve already got the basic idea. It’s a bit more complex than either of those games, but not by a great deal. Victory is won through careful timing, situational awareness, and strategic maneuvering. Things like tactics, build order, or resource management are almost entirely absent. So, while I feel comfortable calling this an RTS, it’s a fundamentally different sort of game than Dawn of War or Starcraft 2.
The game maps are all highly aquatic affairs, with various nodes available to be captured, reinforced, or squabbled over. The nodes can either build very specific types of units, or produce oil. Oil isn’t needed for unit production at all, as that’s all automated, but it IS required to build defensive armaments for your captured nodes and to activate various special abilities. Units aren’t controlled directly. Rather, one selects a percentage of the units at a node and tells them to go to another node. If it’s a node one controls, then they merge with whatever forces are already present. If they aren’t, then they fight with whatever forces are defending it. Killing enemy units yields experience, which can be used to purchase global upgrades or new abilities. It’s a simple system, but it fits the style of game well enough.
Having said all that, the real question is: Is it any fun? The answer is “Probably!”. With a game like this, having a realistic idea of what to expect is key to one’s enjoyment. Oil Rush isn’t a traditional RTS by any means and folks who expect it to play like one will probably feel disappointed. Folks who like the point-to-point flash games flooding the market will probably find it enjoyable, challenging, and relatively beefy. Overall, I think it’s obvious that this was a well-put-together game, but I find the game play itself to be a bit shallow and uninteresting overall.
I give it a firm: