It’s funny the stuff you happen across when researching new games. Today I found the Wikipedia page on Boids, short for “bird-oid object”. This is already sounding brilliant, I thought. I live in Brighton and the place is full of bird-oid objects, stealing everyone’s chips and crapping on things. I’d play a game about that.
What I’ve actually played a little of is tinyBuild’s class-based multiplayer RTS BOID, which launched on Steam Early Access earlier this month and is set in the sea rather than the sky. Its narrative framework is rather barmy: an automated space ship called a Bio Organic Infestation Drone – a frankly irresponsible thing to have flying around – crashes on an ocean planet, spilling tech everywhere. This causes the local lifeforms to mutate and begin fighting one another, probably because some turned red and some turned green and we’ve not been able to countenance that sort of difference ever since the Martians beat the Greens in the 2056 General Election.
This plot is just an excuse, of course. What you’ve actually got here is something reminiscent of Eufloria or, more distantly, GalCon and its imitators. Each match starts you off with a single spawner that pops out basic units. You can capture additional spawners as well as ‘class bases’ that convert any units inside them into the associated class. These are all conceptually pretty familiar beasts: crabs hit hard but move slowly, scouts are the opposite of that, guns have a ranged attack, medics and venoms poison or heal from range, and so on. The only objective is to beat your opponent.
It’s a surprisingly tough little game. Having put an awful lot of time into Eufloria and a fair bit into various GalCon clones I thought I’d be a dab hand at BOID. However, even on Easy the AI opponents will pull off some sneaky strategies and undercut inexperienced players, and winning a game on Medium required me to think, react and click a lot faster than I’d expected. I also tried a multiplayer game against a fairly silent chap called ‘DESTROYER’. It… well, you can imagine the outcome.
Despite the somewhat familiar concept and unit types, I think this may prove to be a game with some depth – not least because, thanks to those class bases, you can switch unit types on the fly. Then there are the fiendish special abilities that can strip classes from enemy units or teleport your mobs across the map.
I’ve got a few reservations. For a start, it’s clear even from a few games that the AI cheats, happily despatching units across the entire map in the opening seconds because it just knows you’ve left an opening for it. There aren’t many different maps as yet and the layouts are also pretty familiar. Still, for an Early Access title only released this month it’s already pretty solid and fun. It’s a cheapie too, at £1.99. I think I’ll be dabbling in it a little more.