Real-time strategy games have been very popular over the years, especially with gamers who want a good challenge. The need to plan your moves, whether it be troop movement, resource management, or what upgrades to purchase, keeps gamers engaged as it tests their skills and critical thinking. 8 Bit Armies takes this gameplay and gives it a blocky, cartoon aesthetic.
8 Bit Armies focuses more on the gameplay than an actual story. The story is only told through short paragraphs that outline the missions before you start them. This is mainly to give the player their goal of that designated mission. It would be a little nice to have more of a story, but the game doesn’t falter much from not having it.
The core gameplay boils down to building up your base, collecting resources, and creating troops in order to accomplish that mission’s goal. You always start with a headquarters and a few random troops. From there, you need to build a refinery so that you can have harvester trucks collect resources for you. Each refinery comes with one harvester truck, but you can create more after you’ve built the motor garage. The levels have oil rigs scattered around them, which is where the trucks drive in order to obtain resources; once the truck returns to the refinery, it starts depositing them. You can get a good deal of resources from an oil rig, but each one has a limited amount, and once it runs out, you’ll need to find another collection point, which you can actually control by clicking on the truck and then on the oil rig to harvest from. If you do nothing, the truck will pick an oil rig on its own.
There are a variety of structures that you can build, including barracks, power plants, air control bases, tech labs, and more. Each structure requires certain structures to already be built before they can be created, and they also unlock their own specific troops to use. The barracks and power plants only need the refinery, but that’s because they are basic building blocks to create a strong base and army. Every building you have requires power, so you need to make sure you have enough power plants up in order to keep them running. The barracks give you access to infantry and rocket soldiers, the motor garage gives you armored vehicles, air control bases unlock helicopters, and tech labs provide tanks and turrets. There are more options, but these are just a few the game offers. In addition to power, the structures cost resources to build, so you need to plan accordingly. Creating troops and turrets also costs resources, so you’ll need to maintain a good collection flow.
You can create and control up to three groups of units, represented by the square, triangle, and circle buttons. Every unit can be a part of every button group, so it’s good to make your squads as diverse as possible. Different units are better suited to different situations; for example, infantry are better at taking out soldiers, while tanks can do more damage to structures. Infantry can destroy buildings, but it will take longer to accomplish compared to a tank. If you want to move the camera to a specific group quickly, double click their corresponding button, and you’ll teleport to them. If you just want to give them an order, click the button once, pick a target, and click X. Controlling three groups is nice because you can divide and conquer, or you can attempt a flanking maneuver. Sometimes you want to send out two groups, but leave one back at the base to keep your structures safe. I’ve done that plenty of times; sometimes it’s a safe bet, while other times it’s necessary in order to repel an aggressive enemy trying to assault your base.
The missions themselves provide a good challenge, although sometimes it can be taxing. Sometimes it feels like it takes forever before you’ve built up a good enough force in order to set out into the battlefield. The enemy may rush you not long after starting, which doesn’t help when you’re just trying to make an army. It doesn’t help that the enemies tend to have access to more advanced technology than you as well. In one on one encounters, this isn’t too bad, but when there are multiple other factions, you have to watch out for attacks from multiple sides. This can lower your spirits a bit, but not as much as my least favorite thing in this game: the nukes. Enemy forces gain access to nuclear missiles way before you do, which becomes unfair very quickly. Missiles have a three minute cooldown between each use, but they can do some massive damage to your structures or even wipe out an entire squad in one shot. I had so many moments where I had three bulky squads built, and then suddenly one of them was annihilated by a nuke. It’s such a huge setback and it can make you want to quit the mission sometimes. It feels like you’ve built a LEGO replica and then someone bursts into the room and kicks it against the wall. In an instant, everything you worked to build is ruined.
Besides the two campaigns, you also have access to skirmish mode and multiplayer mode. Skirmish lets you set up battles against one or more AI opponents, with everything available to be built and unlocked. This offers a good way to practice strategies outside of the campaign, while also offering more replayability to those itching for more. Multiplayer mode lets you go online against other players, or at least it would if you could find other players. I tried multiple times to start online matches with no luck. I couldn’t get into any quickmatches, couldn’t find any game lobbies to join, and nobody would show up to lobbies that I created. The multiplayer aspect isn’t a selling point for the game thankfully, but it’s a bit sad that I couldn’t even experience one match.
8 Bit Armies has a blocky, cartoon aesthetic, which is really charming. The graphics aren’t top-notch, but that works in its favor. The bright, colorful levels keep the missions from getting too dull or boring. The destructible environments are a nice touch, even if they don’t actually provide any gameplay advantages. Other than that, 8 Bit Armies provides a good challenge for RTS fans, although it can be unfair at times with some devastating assaults. If you keep at it, you’ll find yourself succeeding in your missions. It can be tough, but as they say, war isn’t easy.
8 Bit Armies is a charming cartoon-like RTS game that offers a good challenge. It can be unfair at times due to the enemy having advanced tech, larger forces, and even nukes. Planning and strategizing is necessary, and fills you with pride when successful. Unfortunately it seems as if the multiplayer lobbies are empty.