Oil Rush is an interesting strategy game that has a twist in the gameplay, combining simple RTS action with a tower defense flavor. It’s not hard to like it and to admire what the developers have managed to accomplish with the engine.
The game was created by the Unigine Corp studio and it’s using the Unigine technology. Maybe these names are not too familiar, but some hard-core gamers might recognize them from other instances.
Unigine technology was used in an amazing benchmarking software called Heaven DX11, which also uses OpenGL 4.0. Some Unigine Engine tech demos are included in the Phoronix Test Suite as well.
However, the engine was actually already used, by third-party developers, once in Syndicates of Arkon, an MMORPG, and Dilogus: The Winds of War, a not-yet-published RPG. Installation
Oil Rush is available in a number of ways for all Linux users. It can be bought straight from the official game website, from Desura (a digital distribution platform akin to Steam), and from Ubuntu Software Center for users of Ubuntu 10.10, Ubuntu 11.04, and Ubuntu 11.10. A retail version is planned, but I’m unsure whether it’s also going to hold the Linux variant on the DVD, beside the Windows version, or it comes in distinct versions. Story and Gameplay
Even if it might seem redundant to provide a story for a tower defense game, the developers have tried to offer some kind of background for the gameplay mechanics. Given the fact that everything takes place at sea, gamers need some clarifying for this environment, as the one provided is just not enough.
The action in Oil Rush takes place sometime in the future, but it's not clear whether it’s an alternative timeline or our future. Mankind has barely survived after a nuclear war that hastened climate changes. Because of global warming, there is no longer a land mass and everything has been engulfed by water.
Some pockets of humanity remain to carry on with the civilization still powered by oil. The entire economy is oil based and people only live around oil wells.
The player assumes the role of Kevin, a young graduate from a military academy, who strives to follow in his father's footsteps. He is immediately given a job to defend his colony from raiders’ attacks, and so his adventure begins.
Oil Rush is divided into chapters, each one consisting of several missions. More or less, every mission is almost like a skirmish map in which the player is pitted against an AI foe. There are some minor variations, but generally only to introduce some new units or technologies.
The learning curve is somewhat steep. The first few missions are easy, and players get the chance to witness how good the engine looks. Sometime during the second chapter, the difficulty changes abruptly, leaving players with a single valuable tactic, a guerrilla war.
Every map starts with the player controlling one or more platforms. Each platform is used to spawn a fixed number of certain units. You can’t build the units and the platforms can’t be destroyed, at least not with normal means. They are considered too valuable and are always the object of capture.
The normal platforms, with the exceptions of oil rigs, can have defenses built around them, in five predetermined slots, consisting of miniguns, cannons and sol-to-air rockets. Every single one can be upgraded and all must be destroyed in order to capture the platform. Players can't do anything during an attack, besides speeding up the construction of replacements.
There is also a small research tree available, which uses points gained in battle. Most of the technologies can be researched fairly fast, at the beginning of each map, but they are not carried from one map to another, which is kind of annoying. However, there are always more points available than can be used. Graphics
Oil Rush is an amazing looking game. It’s on par with everything developed these days and the fact that everything takes place on water was a challenge for the developers. Water is one of the elements most difficult to replicate in a game because players can easily spot “fake” looking textures.
The Linux platform is not known for being friendly with gaming development, and there are only a few games available right now that can be compared to their counterparts from other platforms. Moreover, beside the graphics, the engine benefits from a pretty good physics technology which makes the world a lot more believable and tangible.
Some gamers have said that Oil Rush is only a "tech demo" to demonstrate the power of the engine, with little to no gameplay value. I think not only that this is an amazing engine, but that the game itself is solid and has quality written all over it. Multiplayer
As far as I can tell, the game has a simple multiplayer mode, but it doesn't work on Linux. After some research on the official forums, it seems that only Steam versions of the game can use the lobby function. The Linux users cannot see other hosted games because there is no API implemented to resolve this problem. Needless to say, there are quite a few angry people on the forums because of this.
All is not lost, as users can still join other people's games by entering the direct IP of the host, but this would mean that they could only play with people they already know, like a LAN game. Oh, and the IRC solution proposed on the official forums is not really a solution.
As I said earlier, users can also create multiplayer sessions, for up to four players, and they can choose from a various selection of maps. A quick mode is also available, a.k.a skirmish for older people, so you can experiment offline gaming with the multiplayer maps. The Bad
First off, I want to make it clear that Oil Rush is an amazingly fun game to play. Even if there are a lot of problems, correctable through future updates, I would still recommend it in a heartbeat, regardless of what I'm about to write.
The main problem I encountered was the steep difficulty climb in the second act. All of a sudden, the maps became really hard. Maybe I'm just set in my ways, but this is not the first strategy or tower defense game I've played. I understand that PC games will always be a little harder and I really missed the days when games were sometimes impossible to finish, but a strategy game should have an incremental difficulty.
The second issue is related to the gameplay. Users don't actually control the units, but the platforms. Once you send a group of ships to another platform, until they get there, you can't interact with them in any way. I've restarted maps countless times because of this single issue, and because of the unit selection system, I'm not really sure this can even be fixed.
The third problem is of course the multiplayer mode. No lobby on Linux means that it is a lot harder to find gamers to join you. For instance, my friends and I have different schedules and it's hard for me to find them online. I really hope this will be fixed sometime in the near future.
The final issue is actually a minor one. I hate the fact that researched technologies don't follow me from one map to another, in the campaign mode. I feel silly searching for everything all over again, in every map. I realize that it's part of the gameplay, but that doesn't make it right. The Good
Beside the amazing graphics, the entire game is presented in an atmosphere that lures you into playing. Whenever I "rage quit" a game, I would almost immediately restart it because of the quality atmosphere. Maybe it's the lightning or the color pallet, but I enjoyed every moment playing Oil Rush on Linux.
The other thing that got me hooked is the gameplay concept. Oil Rush is not really a strategy game per se and not actually a tower defense game, but rather something in between. However, the combination is a successful one and I do hope the game will be pushed even further through some DLC or expansions. Conclusion
Even if I watched the development of Oil Rush for almost a year, I didn't see it coming. It's a beautiful game, with a core mechanic that will probably start its own genre. It may have some faults, but none of them is too great to prevent anyone from playing or enjoying it. It's viewed mostly like an extravagant indie game, but if this is not A+ quality, then I don't know what it is.
Every Linux fan out there has to realize that the days when games were for "other platforms" have come to an end, and the harbinger of the new gaming era on Linux is Oil Rush.