Under Siege: Enhanced Edition Review (PSN)

It is rare to find real time strategy games on consoles these days, which is a shame (heck, the last I played was Starcraft on the Nintendo 64!). While the fast paced and frenetic action may seem best controlled by a mouse and keyboard, there really is something to be said for kicking back in the lounge room and commanding your forces from the comfort of a bean bag.  Enter Seed Studios’ Under Siege: Enhanced Edition, a techno-fantasy top-down RTS for the PS3’s Playstation Network (what a mouthful!).

Under Siege puts you in command of and up against an array of units, ranging from armour-clad soldiers, archers, and canoneers, to strange frog people and giant iron mechanoids.The story is a typical fantasy affair full of cliches and cringe-worthy moments, told through partially animated sequences between missions. The game, as you might expect, is mission driven, with a brief introductory cut-scene before you head into the fray each time.  Missions are a fairly standard fare: rescue this person, escort that person, kill those units, and so forth. On ‘casual’ mode they are a relatively simple affair, as might be expected, but the other difficulty levels require quite a bit more tactics and better use of unit special abilities in order to succeed. If you’re a RTS veteran or would simple appreciate a better challenge, I definitely recommend staying clear of ‘casual’.

At the core of your army are any number of units, which persist between missions, retaining their level and experience. The appearance of a unit also changes based upon their level, which is a really neat touch that goes beyond mere aesthetics, allowing you to identify your better (or worse) units on the fly and ensure they are in the thick of the action (or hiding behind that hill).  I was initially quite enthusiastic about units levelling up, but in the early levels in particular this meant I typically sold or benched my lower level units to ensure I had the best army on offer (which I found particularly important at the higher difficulty settings). Units can be purchased through gold earned by slaying enemy troops, or found/rescued in bonus events during a mission. Scattered across the maps are hidden potions, buffs and gold-laden treasure chests, which not only assist your efforts then and there, but work to encourage the player to go off the beaten track and check every last nook and cranny. While the level of exploration is obviously quite limited, it’s a feature that I’ve come to expect from any major RTS and it’s great to see that attention to detail here. Other major features that caught me completely by surprise were the fantastic level/map editor and recording system, allowing you to not only create your own custom maps to share, but you can in essence create your own unique campaigns or stories, customising dialogue cutscenes to bring your creations to life.

Giving players the right amount of control, not only over units but also the battlefield is absolutely integral to a successful RTS. Seed Studios, have quite obviously devoted a great deal of effort into getting the control scheme right for Under Siege, and it really comes together quite well. Camera panning, zooming and centering over the action are all easy and make sense. Unit control, such as flicking through units with the R trigger, is quite intuitive and works well on the fly, allowing you to get those special abilities off when you need them (again, so important on the higher difficulties!). Grouping units together, changing their facing, and moving them about is fluid and on a level I would expect from a triple A PC title.

Under Siege is a game that manages to excite and frustrate me at the same time. It is a game that has taken so many positives from the RTS genre as a whole and shown that developers should not be frightened of getting these sorts of games onto consoles, and quite significantly: that features need not be dumbed down or cut to suit the console crowd. The gameplay is exciting and fun, units are diverse and interesting, and maps are enjoyable even if slightly repetitive. However, there is a distinct oversight here in the lack of a solid narrative to bring it all together and drive the player forward. After a promising opening cutscene, the story falls flat, and is relatively forgettable. In what is extremely rare for me, I quickly found myself rapidly clicking X to get through the dialogue scenes so I could get back to the action. This resulted in there being times when I was left wondering ‘what am I meant to be doing in this mission..?’ simply because I was unable to endure the painful cut-scene or mission overview to find out.

If you enjoy the RTS genre and have a PS3 I strongly recommend picking this game up, despite its flaws. It’s an extremely pretty, fun, quirky little strategy gem that is well worth your time.

Rating: ★★★★★★½☆☆☆

About the Author

I'm an archaeologist who games far too much! I was introduced to a Commodore 64 when I was a lad and have never looked back. Lover of retro gaming, supporting indie developers, RPGs and RTSs.