Act of Aggression Review | MOUSE n JOYPAD

Act of Aggression Review




Act of Aggression is something special. If I had to choose my favourite RTS, if my life depended on it, I would only be able to narrow my choice down to two titles – Supreme Commander (Forged Alliance) and Command & Conquer Generals: Zero Hour. Two relatively similar, yet entirely different examples of the given genre from back when it was still one of the most popular ones around, on PC at least. Sure, SupCom is a younger title, but the influences remain relevant all the same, which is why I’ve bundled them together. While I surely do appreciate the novelties brought to the genre in these last couple of years, there was something special about the combo of base-building and intense combat those old RTS games had going for them. With, for example, Dawn of War 2’s focus on encounters themselves, a certain amount of that special oomph disappeared. Most real-time strategies are now hybrid endeavours trying to do multiple things at once, or hyper-focused affairs that, while certainly fun on their own behalf, aren’t quite up to the snuff with the old guard.


Sadly, stills really don’t do this game justice. They still look good though..

This is where Act of Aggression jumps in – the game is essentially a throwback to the ages long passed, when there were three basic pillars to the gameplay of a prototypical RTS. When the factions were few, yet vastly different. When the campaign was little more than an intro to the game’s skirmish and especially multiplayer modes. Is it painfully obvious already that I’m quite happy with how Act of Aggression turned out? Well, that’s kind of the point.

Act of Aggression depicts a near-future battlefield in which three warring factions stab each other in the back for resources and world domination. Honestly, the less is said about the plot the better, because any disposition given for the duration of the game just put me off. That said, the importance of a good storyline in an RTS such as this is negligible, which is what saves the relevant score somewhat. What you need to know is that this is an all-out free-for-all with an occassional truce between the US Army and Chimera to take the Cartel down a couple of notches. Yes, these are the three factions we players have access to. Interestingly, the US Army is not the jack-of-all-trades in this game, with them being a powerful, albeit not especially rich nor malleable force. Oh, apparently, the US military suffered numerous budget cuts in Act of Aggression and thus are a mere shadow of their former selves. Playing with them can be compared to the ancient notion of “tank rushing”, which should be quite telling without further explanation. The Chimera, on the other hand, are an amalgamation of numerous European countries pooling their military might into a singular, highly adaptive task force. These are the guys you want to focus on if you want to be ready for any situation, but also want to be able to specialize them just a tiny bit so as to further suit them to your playing style. The Cartel, on the other hand, are a highly-specialized, well-trained and extremely expensive force that requires great planning and lots of practice to master. They’re the equivalent of a PMC interested in taking down the US government. Apparently, they already did this to both Russia and China so you know they mean business.

Obviously playing with each faction is different; nuanced so as to suit a specific type of gameplay. Should you choose the US Army, you’ll want to churn out lots and lots of cheap units to swarm the enemy. Chimera players will want to set up a nice, comfy base and tackle the enemy tactfully with their wider arsenal of gadgetry and high-profile units. The Cartel will be running wildly from one resource extractor to another just to maintain their costly operations, but they will also have access to the most experimental tech, including lasers, which is awesome. Each faction must be approached differently due to this, but their appropriate tech trees through which the players must progress also differ greatly, and this means you generally don’t want to jump into multiplayer without playing against the AI first. Normally, I would recommend to try the campaign first, but due to the rather eclectic nature of this mode I suggest you stick to the skirmish instead. It’s much more fun anyway. See, the campaign will have you boxed in certain situations that aren’t all that useful in preparing you for player versus player combat, and will be switching from one warring side to the other without even saying sorry. You won’t get a proper grip over your chosen faction because you won’t have access to all of your tools at any given moment and you won’t have time to get to know these tools properly either. Sure, the campaign works on its own merit and disregarding the horrible plot does offer a fair amount of fun game time, but it’s limiting. And that’s not what most players will be looking for in a game such as this. Instead, jumping headfirst into skirmish with an easy AI opponent helped me the most. Sure, it’ll take a while to get to know all of the given systems and features on your own, but it’s worth it.


Shiny sci-fi thingamajigs versus tried-and-true HE rounds. Hell yes!

Act of Aggression is a rather nostalgic title that tackles gameplay just as its glorious predecessors did. Upon starting a match, you scout your immediate surroundings, locate and begin extracting the resources, build the first couple of important buildings and start the combat preparations. It’s great to see the mechanics of an RTS returning to form in this way, and if you’ve ever played any of the games I mentioned in the introductory paragraph you’ll know what to do. Sure, there are nuances from one faction to another, but the mentality remains the same. This recognition of what made ye olde real-time strategies good is what, in return, makes Act of Aggression as good as it is. Once the technicalities are dealt with and the combat begins, AoA shines like few other strategies do. Watching your combat troops take cover behind cars, buildings and walls and the following hostile exchange of live ammunition with the enemy feels and plays out amazingly well. I only don’t understand why are the small armaments so oversized compared to their operators. Units can storm virtually any building, reinforce it and use it as a checkpoint, with some (such as banks) offering additional bonuses for capture. This makes urban combat especially intense, with players dictating what goes through and where. This goes hand-in-hand with the game’s brilliant maps, which make every encounter tense and at least somewhat unpredictable.

Giving a glancing look to one of the screenshots will tell you that the game also looks pretty, sure, but I wouldn’t say it does it justice. Seeing all the moving parts of your base is an impressive sight, especially with the attention to detail the developers have given to the units and buildings. Each faction’s war machines look equally impressive, but it can be a tad difficult to make out what is what in the heat of the moment. Perhaps making the buildings more distinctive would have been a worthwhile goal. Then again, you’re bound to remember what’s what eventually so this issue is alleviated as time goes by. The sounds are good, nothing special, but the music left me hurting and grasping for a volume modifier. It’s just distracting and feels intrusive, at least as far as I’m concerned.

There could be plenty more said about Act of Aggression, but in an RTS such as this, uncovering the systems and mechanics on your own is a special experience players have to make their way through on their own. Certain issues aside, Act of Aggression is a brilliant real-time strategy that harkens to a different era, thus making it perfect for those who enjoyed Zero Hour and the like. Multiplayer is what’s bound to be either make or break AoA’s long-term success, and only time will tell whether it catches on or not. All the important elements are there for us to grab a hold of.