I’ve been a fan of RTS games (real-time strategy) since I could click a mouse. The best of the best still stands tall today: Command & Conquer: Red Alert. The OG RTS in my eyes. So how does 8-Bit Armies compare? Very favourably, actually, and it’s all very familiar.
8-Bit Armies is a simplified strategy game in the same vein as the aforementioned legendary Red Alert. You build a base, gather resources to turn into currency, and then you spend that currency on new buildings, soldiers, and war machines. From the first moment I was reminded of my childhood favourite. 8-Bit Armies borrows heavily from those that came before in the genre, and it even has some similar voice-over dialogue when you’re building barracks and the like.
These nods to the game’s inspiration hooked me straight away and I felt like I was playing a remake of a classic. It does stand on its own, though, and it does a few things to make life easier – a necessity for RTS games being played with a less-than-optimal controller; mouse and keyboard would be perfect for this game.
Despite the game only supporting a controller, it’s still a joy to play. Controls are simplified and very responsive. Navigating menus is easy peasy and you’ll be plonking down buildings in no time. Building up your army is just as simple, and with a couple of taps of the triggers and face buttons, you’ll be on your way to building a full-on blocky army.
8-Bit Armies employs a simple Minecraft-esque graphical presentation. It’s simple and you kind of expect that from the game’s name, but it works well and offers up a few moments of comedy throughout the game’s campaign. The camera is a little finicky but there’s nothing inherently bad about the game’s design. Units are clear and you’ll struggle to lose a blockman if you organise them well. Speaking of which, there’s actually a neat little feature whereby you essentially turn your controller buttons into hotkeys. So, for instance, you want to train up a few soldiers. You simply open the unit select menu and then press either square, triangle, or the cross button and they’ll be assigned to that button once they’ve been made. It makes organising small squads of killers a touch easier and it’s a well thought out little touch that really does make playing the game a little less stressful, and boy can this game be stressful.
Don’t be fooled by the game’s cutesy presentation – the campaign levels are a nightmare. Naturally you’ve got the basic training where you’ll learn, er, the basics. But then you’re dropped into the game’s missions and things quickly take a turn for the worse. It can feel like the game is completely against you at times. The difficulty spike is a little annoying, but through trial and error a victory can be had.
My favourite part of the game, however, isn’t the campaign. It’s not even the multiplayer. It’s the Skirmish mode. Just like in Red Alert.
Skirmish mode is essentially a deathmatch. You pick a map, choose how many opponents you want to go against and then just play. It’s simple fun but increasing the difficulty and tweaking the modifiers keeps things fresh, especially with the decent variety of maps on which to play. Honestly, I’d have been happy if the game was released with just the Skirmish mode, but that’s just me.
From the top to the bottom, 8-Bit Armies is a throwback to the glory days of RTS games. There aren’t many available on consoles, unfortunately, so this is to be cherished. It’s not perfect by any means, but if you’re a bit of a saddo like me who just wants to be able to have matches without the burden of objectives, the Skirmish mode will be more than enough.
8-Bit Armies PS4 Review
Overall - Fantastic - 8.5/10
8-Bit Armies has been done before, but as there’s nothing quite like it available on PS4 it’s a welcome addition. The story mode isn’t anything to shout about, but if you enjoy skirmish modes then you’ll have a blast. Heck, if you can get some online mates together, the fun can be spread around in multiplayer.
It’s basically Red Alert minus the grim setting – and that’s the highest praise I can give it.
This review was carried out using a copy of the game provided by the publisher. For more information, please read our Review Policy.
Reviewed using PS4 Pro.