Another day, another dollar – er, another strategy game! Today we’re taking a look at Renations, a pure-browser strategy game set in a post-apocalyptic Earth. Not the most original premise, but hey, radiation sells. After ‘The Great Disaster,’ a global thermonuclear plant explosion that leaves large sections of Earth shaken and disorganized, a secret society of politicians and ungodly wealthy no-gooders saw an opportunity to turn the nations against one another. Nukes followed, and eventually the entire globe was consumed in a nuclear winter, uninhabitable for thousands of years, until now. The year is 2012, and four factions have risen from the ashes. What happens between these factions is where the game takes place. Interested? Fuck yes you are. Read on for our bits & bobs, kids.
The title, by the way, comes to us from Sweden (one of our favorite lands – tall espresso, tall flowers, tall women) from developer Pikaia Games, four brothers who obsessed over early strategy titles from an early age. We like these guys already. The game came into beta in late 2011, but right off the bat, the game has me scratching my head – there isn’t a whole much ‘unique’ here. Because humans as we know them have all but died off (think Chernobyl), when you jump into Renations, players must pick which Human descendant he or she is: Time Travelers, The Order, Children of the Prophecy or Myrmidons (for The Little Mermaid fans): Earth is about to be re-colonized by these new descendants of the Human race, which no longer exists. Been there, done that.
I started with the tutorial for about an hour when I first jumped into the game which introduces you to resource gathering and how to move yourself around. The game follows a typical formula of setting up your domain, developing your resources, setting up ’embassies’ or satellite bureaus in foreign regions – I’m going to skip ahead to my impressions after playing the game for about five days. I dig the storyline, I dig the distinction between the four faction descendants, and I dig the somewhat indie developer aspect of Pikaia. However. The first thing that popped out to me was the lack of impressive graphic prowess in the game. Don’t like the mildly-impressing cell shaded faction characters (above) fool you into thinking the game is cleverly animated: it’s not. Nothing short of mediocre graces the screen, including somewhat rudimentary on-screen controls and map views that scream “meh” – at least to these eyes. Now don’t get me wrong, after two days I had a very easy time navigating controls and buttons (and there are a lot of them), everything seems to be in a logical place and serves a legitimate purpose, but it just doesn’t look very good to me.
One aspect that kept me interested, however, in Renations was what the Swedes call ‘Log Books.’ As progress is made in the game, the player is presented with graphical presentations of the next piece of the storyline. As you play, you learn more about what actually happened after the globe was destroyed, and how your faction is playing into its history, which is actually one of the few truly unique things about the story, which isn’t common in the OSG genre. In fact, as you progress, it makes Renations feel like an OSG-RPG hybrid (to me, anyway). It reminded me of Final Fantasy – you’re learning and engaged in the actual story from start to finish. Very cool, especially paired with the fact that players can engage in side quests (rescue missions and the like) which tie into the log book RPG concept.
So we’ve established log books as the saving grace of Renations – but is there anything else worth writing about? The rest of the game: resource development and spending, weapon systems, military units, research trees, it’s all pretty vanilla. After a few days, I probably won’t continue playing the game. The storyline development aspect I loved, as I’ve been an RPG gamer for most of my life, but the rest of the game feels fairly hodge-podge. Graphic system/overlays aren’t original or unique in any way whatsoever. The advancement system of gathering resources and moving into new territories has been done in about a hundred OSGs over the past several years. The social media functions – which everyone has access to in just about every game (not to mention titles from developers that exist purely on social media platforms like Zynga) – do absolutely nothing for me. The hipster in me, however, supports game simply because it DOESN’T come from a mega corporate developer. It comes from four bros who love gaming, who have a passion for developing titles. It’s just wasn’t unique or drawing enough to keep me interested.