Beware Entertainment is the name of the developer behind Stratega, a new RTS game available on the Kindle Fire and other Android platforms. We’ll assume the developer’s chosen name is not intended to be a warning to stay as far away from their game as possible, but it may as well be, because this game just ain’t that fun.
Stratega is a real-time strategy game of the space defense sub-genre. On a two-dimensional plane against a starscape backdrop, the player must build his space station (or “Hive”). Simultaneously, he must harvest nearby minerals to expedite the construction process while defending his base from swarms of enemy starfighters. Each stage begins with a central command pod in empty space; if that pod is destroyed over the course of gameplay, the player loses. From this hub the player builds out his Hive in an ever-expanding web as he moves towards completion of that stage’s particular mission parameters.
Players link different classes of blue pods to each other via connecting nodules called Ylons. (The lattice designs that result look a lot like the wobbling structures used in World of Goo to guide that game’s sentient slimeballs from level to level.)
The pods used to build the Hive drive the gameplay. There are mining pods used to mine flashing green dots scattered across the playing field, the minerals used in the construction of further pods. There are energy generators that provide energy for… something? The energy meter at the top of the screen will periodically drain and flash purple, prompting construction of more generators, but what that energy is used for is ambiguous at best. (Not helping matters, the on-screen instructions in the first-level tutorial are “All your base are belong to us!” incomprehensible.) There are also radar pods that the player can scatter across the playing field to uncover a tiny portion of a tiny radar screen that is mostly useless. There’s a repair pod, used to “heal” damage to other pods. Then there are the attack pods: laser turrets, missile launchers, and photon pods, all of which are weak and ineffective until upgraded through the use of more minerals.
At first glance, one of Stratega’s strengths seems to be its vector-inspired graphical presentation, thenifty neon pallet calling forth memories of the classic 2D space games Asteroids and Geometry Wars. The beauty is skin deep, though; the pods all look alike, and in the heat of all the pod-connecting “action” it can be tough to tell one from the other. Also, there is nothing in the destruction of enemy ships that brings any sort of visceral reward, no gratifying explosion either visually or audibly. It just isn’t very fun to destroy enemies.
But where Stratega fails most is in gameplay balance. Early enemies are kamikazes; they have to come close enough to your laser turrets to become targets. Later ships, however, sit just out of range of player defenses and fire leisurely on the space station, destroying pods at will. There is no moment of, “I was SO CLOSE to winning! I have to try again!” Instead, defeat often feels inevitable, with enemy ships blasting away (to add insult to injury, they can destroy long-range projectiles before impact), while the player scours the skies for minerals to build a laser turret to fight back, one that 1) needs to be connected to the central web with a Ylon, 2) takes time to build, 3) needs to be upgraded with more minerals before it can be of any use, 4) needs to be supported with a repair pod, and 5) is going to get blown up before all of that gets done, anyway.
Maybe hardcore RTS fans will appreciate Stratega. Maybe the bright colors and shiny lights will attract some gamers. More likely, though, is that this is a game that will be played once and forgotten. You have been warned. Proceed at your own risk. Beware, indeed.
Is it Hardcore?
So not Hardcore?
The neon lights are pretty. That’s something. Right?