Now and then I play a game and wonder what the motivation for the game was. Sometimes the answer is obvious, as developers try to put a game around a one-gimmick pony or stick a movie title on a game to make it attractive to buyers. Other times the developers at least try to do something new and different, and sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn’t. But every so often I get a game like Besieger, which is about as vanilla as a real-time strategy game can get, and implemented poorly to boot, and I’m lost. Why bother with a game like this? What’s the point?
Anyway, the background story of Besieger goes something like this. The Cimmerians are in the middle of a golden age, filled with peace and prosperity, when their king decides he should go pick up this magic sword to ensure that the golden age continues. Of course, as soon as he leaves, his sister usurps the throne and immediately attacks the Vikings, and almost entirely wipes them out. As the single-player campaign opens, you control a lone Viking hero, and as you struggle to survive and fight back against the Cimmerians, eventually you hook up with the deposed Cimmerian king, and then together you try to teach the new Cimmerian queen the error of her ways.
The campaign is actually interesting. You start out with the Vikings, and then you play the deposed Cimmerians, and then you presumably control both at once (I’ll get to why I added “presumably” to that last sentence in a bit). Developer Primal Software did a nice job of mixing up objectives and alternating between base-building and fixed-force missions, and it’s sort of cool how the Vikings and deposed Cimmerians cross paths in a couple places, but you don’t notice until you play the Cimmerians. The only problem I had with the campaign is that it felt like a fan-created campaign for Age of Mythology. Not one of the bad ones where spelling and grammar are optional, but a campaign where it feels like a couple of talented people toyed with it during their spare time (but couldn’t get everything to work quite how they wanted) rather than the end product from a professional developer with a team of mission designers.
But now for the “presumably” part. You see, Besieger has a fairly bad engine. The AI is weak (the enemy always attacks in a straight line from its base to yours), the camera is plain awful (there are three modes and none of them work well), there are all sorts of pathfinding issues (units jostle around a lot and get stuck on just about anything), and the balance is weak (there are heroes in the campaign, but their experience isn’t capped, and so they can get powerful enough to complete missions on their own). And there’s more. But with all that I kept playing until the slowdowns and crashes finally got out of hand. My computer is comfortably more powerful than the suggested requirements for the game, but Besieger still ran poorly on my machine, with load and save times taking over a minute, and mission transitions taking over five minutes, and frequent crashes during both. Finally, when I got to the mission where the Vikings and Cimmerians were to join forces, the game couldn’t load the mission without crashing, and that’s where I finally gave up (like I had a choice). So I can only speculate about how the campaign ends.
Of course, Besieger hasn’t been out very long, and so possibly many of the engine’s problems could be fixed eventually with patches (I’m not holding my breath, but it could happen). The main problem with the game, though, is that it wouldn’t matter. Besieger would be a bad game regardless, just because of how vanilla it is. Consider the Vikings. They get berserkers, spearmen and spear throwers, and those are their only human military units. They also get a couple siege weapons and a couple flying units, but come on. Besieger takes place in a fantasy universe, and you end up fighting things like centaurs and ogres and skeletons, but Primal Software took advantage of the situation not at all. There aren’t any cool spells or lighting effects, and the mythical creatures are just melee fighters that look different. Ho hum.
Thus, Besieger is a real-time strategy game that doesn’t offer anything new, and that doesn’t work particularly well, either. It often looks nice (although its claim of having “photorealistic landscapes” is a joke), but so what if it’s boring and broken? So I’d recommend you stay away from Besieger until it finds a patch and a bargain bin, and maybe even then.