Go back to the glory days of real-time strategy games they said, it’ll be fun they said. I’m not so sure about the “glory days” part, but Crush Your Enemies certainly was fun, nostalgic even. With delightful characters like Fuzgut the Destroyer, loading screen banners that say “shaving bollocks” and exit menu prompts like, “Need to take a shit now?” it’s hard not to appreciate this simplified strategy title.
As is frequently the case with strategy games, the story in Crush Your Enemies isn’t much to get excited about. In fact, it’s almost non-existent. Barbarians, led by the player, are trying to butcher, pillage, and conquer the mystical land of Generia and its denizens, the Generians. End of story. It’s clear with names like Generia, among others, that studio Vile Monarch had no intention of leading the player through an immersive narrative, and instead chose to laugh in the face of both themselves and those who expected otherwise.
This humorous honesty, instead of detracting from the game, actually adds to the charming, often ridiculous nature of it. Crush Your Enemies’ humor isn’t limited to jabs at its own narrative though, it also pokes fun at overly polished fantasy clichés by contrasting them with the blunt and crude nature of beer drinking, war-making barbarians. Throw in the occasional Monty Python reference (“he’s a lumberjack and he’s OK…”) and a sprinkling of amusing, toilet-grade jokes about the enemy’s bollocks, and you begin to realize that Crush Your Enemies is a bit like that obnoxious kid in school who could always make you laugh, but tended to get annoying after a while. And, just like that kid, this game’s veneer of comedy is only appealing for so long.
Crush Your Enemies can be played in its entirety with only left-clicks. This is due in part to its cross-platform functionality between PC and mobile, but it’s also due to the game’s uncomplicated strategic gameplay—there’s really no need for anything beyond a left-click. With only a handful of buildings and units, small maps, and hands-off combat that is determined by numbers and unit types, there’s just not enough variety to require right-clicks or hot keys. And yet, much to my surprise, there was more tactical depth than I’d expected.
Your objective is to kill the enemy forces (duh). It goes like this: train simpletons, station those simpletons at a barracks to train more simpletons, retrain some simpletons to be warriors, bowmen, or whatever, capture or destroy enemy buildings, kill enemies, win. The play-along tutorial does a great job of explaining these basic processes, building on them incrementally as the campaign progresses.
Maps are divided into territorial grid squares and movement from one to another can only take place horizontally, vertically, or diagonally, and only through squares that the player controls. These squares may be captured by moving a unit onto them, and the bigger the unit, the faster it’s captured. This simple system makes territory control not just a necessity, but also the key to successfully attacking and defending.
Unit types are easy to master. Simpletons, the base unit, are pretty bad at everything. Warriors are good at melee combat, bowmen at ranged, shieldbearers at blocking and reflecting ranged attacks, and so forth. Figuring out just how to counter these strengths, and how to compliment them, can be crucial to winning an engagement. Resource management appears later in the game, but again, it’s basic. I found it to be poorly integrated and not something that really added much value or enjoyment.
None of these features is wholly unique, and together they created more depth than I had anticipated. Unfortunately, where the tactics of Crush Your Enemies fall flat is in the fast-paced nature of the gameplay, especially against the AI. AI, of course, can issue multiple orders at once and easily micromanage all of its units to perfectly counter your own. This really becomes frustrating during heated battles, where being able to reliably and accurately click on a building, order a movement or attack, or divide units quickly is the difference between victory and defeat. Too often, the smallest mistake or delay can turn the tide.
Although I was impressed with how much strategy Vile Monarch was able to pack into such a small, simple, and cheap game, it’s just not enough to afford much longevity or replay value.
The overall simplicity of Crush Your Enemies is, paradoxically, both its strongest attribute and its biggest failing. At first, it’s a refreshing and enjoyable change of pace, but after a while, it becomes repetitive and boring (including the soundtrack), and I found myself yearning for more content, more variety. A good strategy game can keep me thoroughly engrossed for hours at a time as I fret over details and tune my tactics, but not this game. As for the bold claim of taking players back to the glory days of real-time strategy, I think not.