Oh jeez, oh jeez. I was far more excited about Interloper than I let on in my first glance back in September. For those that missed that, it's a gorgeous 2D RTS that evokes Hearthstone in how it breaks down the genre to its simplest form.
Games are won through capturing territory with an unarmed but invulnerable Sentinal. Some areas have structures in them with special properties - constructing smaller ships, combining them into larger ones with different abilities or simply blocking the way. Each match takes less than five minutes and is a hectic affair of attack, counter-attack and positioning. Before I had just a trailer to base my hopes on, showing off the basics. Now I've had a go of an alpha build and it is superb.
Starting from an initially small area of influence, you'll quickly expand while your army grows. The basic unit is the drone; it kamikazes into blockades and enemy units alike but has deeper use in stopping the path of your opponent's Sentinal, since the latter has no weapons. On the structure side, power buildings are required to keep your production working, more power making them pump out drones faster. Pulling ahead and staying there through careful positioning and application of overwhelming force is the key, with both quick second-by-second decisions and long term plans of action being required.
These tactics have to change as each map demands it too. Some have specialist structures, places where the smaller drone ships are traded in for different ones. The three currently in the game are a teleporter that allows you to move your Sentinal to its location quickly, destroying it in the process; a blockade ship that cannot attack but has three health and takes damage before the other things in its space, protecting them; and a long-range weapon which has recharging shots but can attack without retaliation, making it totally fatal to ignore. The complexity of this system spirals quickly. Is it worth taking away front-line units for a short time to combine them? If so, what's more valuable at this moment? Are there clever tricks that can be done with the teleporter on this map in particular?
But the interaction remains simple, the cause and effect all totally immediate. I'm never confused as to why I lost a game of Interloper - currently, sadly, only to the AI as multiplayer is still being worked on - it's just a matter of not having got my units into place fast enough. Or, better, a flaw in my strategy as a whole, leaving my flanks undefended or certain areas weak to the specialist ships.
For an Alpha demo, I was incredibly impressed. It's still struggling through Greenlight but I think it's more complete than the vast majority of those in Early Access. Not that that means it's in a sellable state. While it's stable and very deep, the skirmishes against the AI won't hold my attention forever with nothing to build towards. Some netcode, and it would need to be fighting game tier netcode as split second timings rule the game, seems essential. Equally, if developers Monogon Games continue to diversify the base with more maps, differences between the factions (currently just an aesthetic choice) or further singleplayer content, I'd be on board.
No word of when you can get your hands on it, but we'll keep you posted. Here's the latest trailer, including a full match against the AI explained by one of the developers: