Harvest: Massive Encounter Demo

By Kieron Gillen on March 11th, 2008 at 7:53 pm.

I'm not sure what I make of Neil Young's album Harvest. You tell me, Alt-texter!

Before running off to visit Ubisoft Romania, I had a chance to play the demo of Harvest: Massive Encounter. The game’s just been released, so you can buy it now. It came second in 2007’s Swedish Games Awards, where the judges called it “a well-polished game that triggers competitiveness and the desire for exploration”. Which is pretty neat. While I gave it half an hour, I suspect I bounced off the surface. But there’s certainly something there in this Tower Defence game that may distract you. Video and a few more thoughts beneath the cut. No, really. Trust me. There won’t be a picture of Walker’s Cat again.

If hitler was a cat, people would have let him off because he's adorably furry. Fear Cats.

Ha! Winnah! Winna… ah, here’s your video.

Okay – it’s a Tower Defence game, and accepts the sub-genre’s basic concepts. That is, you’re trying to construct something to defend against enemy creatures who come wandering in. However, it’s really stripped to the bone in terms of the tools you have. Compared to even webgame-par-excellance Desktop Tower Defence you’ve only got a handful. You have a basic turret laser gun. You have a missile launcher, which can be upgraded into two separate yet complimentary guns. And that’s basically it for guns. Where it separates itself is how you gather energy to expand your base. It basically rests on a more trad-RTS model, where you gather minerals by mining rocks scattered around the map and gather energy by having Solar Panels.

However, the trick is that energy must also be distributed. Along your series of panels individual particles are generated, then bounce around, eventually reaching things which need them – that is, things being constructed, and guns recharging themselves and whatever. In other words, it’s actually a game where the distribution of energy matters as much as anything else. Tie this into other elements which create variety in the initially simply appearing tools – as in the lasers being able to work by themselves, or to chain themselves, lasers firing at a central laser, to amplify the focal beam’s range and power – and you’ve got something which while clearly lies inside the growing sub-genre, certainly has its own flavour.

I’m not sure it’s a flavour I like. It seems to have a slow build early on – and clearly if you dive in the deep end, you’re going to be overwhelmed because you don’t know the tactics. That said, I suspect my central problem is that I can’t really predict what may be a “good” thing to try. The system’s a tad too nebulous for comfort, lacking the hard edges of Tower Defences “Make a maze of guns”. Still: An interesting approach, anyway.

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12 Comments »

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  1. Raziel_AxD says:

    Hey, Kieron, how long are you gonna be in Romania? I’m from Bucharest, its unclean capital-city (I had to say no to my admission as a game-tester at Ubisoft Romania because of my studies) and was wondering… can I treat you to some beers while you’re here? Yup, this may sound stupid and I know you’ll just say no, but I had to ask… so, how about it? (an RPS fan)

  2. Chris R says:

    Don’t do it!! He’s a lie and a cheat and will put bad things into your beer! ;)

    Also, that cat picture is freaking hilarious. It looks as if the cat is saying, “I KEEEELLL YOUUUUU!!”

  3. Raziel_AxD says:

    Yup, I plan to drag him into some obscure bar and pois… errrrrr… talk him some hours of gaming and game related stuff. Seriously, Chris, man, your post isn’t even funny. Still, your site is ;) Anyway, Kieron, those beers are still available.

  4. Chris Lynn says:

    error

  5. Frosty840 says:

    Are there really people out there expecting me to pay over a tenner for a tower defense game?
    There’s literally hundreds of the damned things all over the internet. What could possibly be so much better about this one that I’d fork out actual money (as opposed to Audiosurf’s charge of a fiver, which lies just below the “actual money” threshold) for a purely distraction-level game?

  6. Kieron Gillen says:

    Raziel_AxD: Sorry, man. I’m back already. Were you the chap who mailed me when I was over there? I still have to respond, as I’m clearly well behind in the mail. I was only there for less than two days any way, with a tight timetable, so would have been pretty impossible to find time. Alas, as I’m always up for beers.

    Frosty: Well, abstractly, you could say that about any type of game. There’s loads of free FPS you could play – why play Crysis?

    KG

  7. moromete says:

    Nah, I’m the e-mail chap. No problem I thought you’d be on a real tight schedule. Next time when in Romania drop a mail, will you?

  8. Kieron Gillen says:

    Will do. And will respond to the mail too. Clearing inbox now. Well… almost now. Close to now.

    KG

  9. Raziel_AxD says:

    Kieron, as moromete said, I didn’t mail you, I saw this post yesterday and don’t know for sure when you said you’re coming over here. Well, no problem, I was expecting you wouldn’t have the time, still hope to find the occasion somewhere in the future. Has the article about your visit to Ubisoft Romania been posted already? If not, I’m looking forward to check your impressions about the time here. Cheers.

  10. Radeo says:

    Frosty840:
    It’s not actually a tower defense, its more of a defensive RTS game. The devs call it “Arcade RTS”, it’s just been extremely popular among TD fans.
    Its hard to explain, but there’s something catchy and unique about this game, so you should definitely try it out!
    Once you get the hang of it it’s hours of fun, Audisurf is more of an interesting idea while harvest is an actual game!
    In my book it’s definitely worth $25, and I will probably buy it, not only because I like it, but also because I like to support indies that actually release polished, quality games, and Harvest is.

  11. madhaha says:

    A very interesting game. The general idea is definately one of resource management. Too many buildings and you’ll run out of power. Too much power and your relay nodes start to overheat(!) Building, reloading, upgrading and firing takes energy so suddenly upgrading all your turrets can cripple your base as your run out of power. Lasers can link up to increase their power but each one only adds 50% more damage so you’re actually losing DPS for each one you link up but you gain range. Do you want one monolithic obilisk of light style setup or lots of little lasers? What happens when the type of enemies change? Of course each laser still needs to be recharged with energy. You can also use your relay nodes as bombs by overcharging them.

    Normal mode is pretty much like an arcade game, putting you under constant increasing threat and forcing you to balance mining with defence. Wave mode is more like the turret defence games letting you strip mine the level, then prepare your defences but you’re racing the clock for a high score.

    £12.50 worth of game for extra levels and modes? I think its worth it.

  12. Frosty840 says:

    Meh. Tried the demo and wrote a rant. Then I decided that the rant boiled down to “I didn’t like it, but I’m sure people will disagree”.

    Personally, I think it’s not bad for a flash game.
    For an actual paid-for bit of software, it’s not good, the mechanics of both the enemy spawning, and the power management encourages tower-spamming over thougtful placement, and there are better flash-based tower defenses out there, if you ask me.