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Harvest: Massive Encounter Demo

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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Kieron Gillen

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Kieron Gillen is robo-crazy.

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