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Wednesday, January 10, 2007
This is the seventh in a series of Slamdance Finalist reviews (Tim posted a brief review of this game back in April 2006).

Steam Brigade is described by its creators as a 2D, side-scrolling real-time strategy (RTS) game.

Those who have played other RTS games are familiar with the 2d, top-down playfield that is standard for the genre. Even when RTS games "go 3D" (as most mainstream RTS games have in recent years), they are still fundamentally 2D games---you command units that move around on a planar terrain surface.

With Steam Brigade, the dimensionality is reduced by a notch. In fact, I see it as a 1D RTS game. Your units move on a linear playfield comprised of a single platform, like what you might see in a side-scrolling platform game. In a traditional 2D RTS, the "front" for the battle is often a line or a curve (with red units on one side of the front, and blue units on the other, for example). In Steam Brigade, the front is reduced to a single point on the battle platform.

Design limitations can often clear fertile ground for creativity, and such limitations were certainly fruitful in the design of Steam Brigade. I'm fond of pointing out that jumping to 3D adds nothing to strategy games (or most other games, for that matter). Quite often, especially in RTS games, a 3D presentation simply gets in the way (as the camera's view is obscured by terrain elements). After exploring Steam Brigade, I'm moving toward the belief that a second dimension is unnecessary, too. Here, we have real-time strategy stripped down to the bare minimum: picking the best group of units to thwart your enemy's group of units.

The creativity lies in the innovative mechanics that have been built on top of this basic foundation. For example, balloon bombs float silently toward the enemy line, but if they are shot down prematurely, they may drop their payload on your own ground units. Another example of great mechanics is found in the bunkers that are fixed on the battle platform. Control over a bunker is determined by a majority rule: your passing infantry units are pulled into the bunker until it is full, incrementally raising a flag of your color above the bunker. If enemy infantry enter the bunker, they lower your flag, notch by notch, and then raise a flag of their own. A bunker held by one color prevents rolling ground units of the other color from proceeding or firing past the bunker, leaving them completely open to attack.

Read the full review at Arthouse Games.

Name: Steam Brigade
Developer: Pedestrian Entertainment Inc.
Category: Strategy
Type: Demo
Size: 23.5 MB


Blogger 9572AD said at 1/10/2007 01:12:00 PM:  
I wonder if he's ever played Rescue Raiders, as the game sounds similar.