Developer Daedalic Entertainment has released an Early Access version of A Year of Rain, an ambitious and great looking new RTS on Steam. The game blends heavy elements of fantasy with a focus on engaging co-op gameplay. In many ways the game feels like playing Warcraft III at its launch, which is both a good and a bad thing, combining a feeling of familiarity at a time that might be problematic for its launch.
Co-Op As A Main Form Of Play
When first diving into A Year of Rain, a major high point is that the core gameplay is meant to be co-op based, either with other people or AI teammates. This dynamic changes the traditional take on RTS titles by forcing players to rely not only on themselves, but on a teammate that can compliment and synergize towards an overall game plan.
Much like attempting to play StarCraft competitively with random players however, experiences will certainly vary depending on one’s teammate and their experience and motivations. A great part of A Year of Rain lies in how roles are selected at the beginning of a match, each coming with its own buffs to the team. Players select a role of tank, damage, or support, and this provides some nice distinction among players with regards to what they want to contribute to each match.
The Heroes Feel Less Than Heroic
The game features less units than most traditional RTS games, and that might be why hero characters do not feel as impactful as expected. Interestingly, the comparison can again be made to the Warcraft series. Rather than being powerful heroes with outstanding, overpowered abilities like in Warcraft III, most heroes feel like regular units with more hit points and that do more damage, like in Warcraft II: Beyond the Dark Portal.
At first, this felt like a critique. In the long run, however, it is likely healthier for the game to have this design plan of making heroes less powerful than they could be to focus on the action and strategy of commanding one’s army. With that in mind, it would still be good to see something adjusted in the heroes to make them feel impactful without moving too far towards overpowered.
Unfortunately, this lack of hero power may be difficult to explain to potential consumers. When heading into the map to take out creeps for experience gain, the necessary work does not feel as though it comes with an appropriate payoff. If one player has a hero that is more of a beefed-up single unit, and another player can cast an area of effect fireball, the discrepancy between heroes becomes immediately apparent.
The music is fantastic throughout the game and fits into the overall theme of the campaign mission. A bit of research reveals that award-winning composer Neal Acree is responsible for the music, which was a fantastic decision. Acree is best known for some well-known tracks in Blizzard games, like Overwatch, World of Warcraft, Diablo 3, and more.
A Few Points To Address
The game largely feels complete in terms of gameplay through managing units in and out of combat. After playing some missions and replaying simply to explore more of the map and test out different strategies, it became apparent that there are some minor issues with unit pathing.
At times, it felt like the units moved with a mind of their own, taking odd routes towards a destination, which has the compounding effect of slightly separating them from their comrades and was problematic when it came to organizing groups for combat. However, this did not happen often, and so it simply stood out as odd when there was an issue.
Competing With Warcraft III: Reforged?
The game feels like it needs a bit of polish before exiting Early Access, but these points may exist because the developer may be rushed to have a completed game launched before Warcraft III: Reforged launched on December 31st of this year.
This leads to a larger problem overall. The game is enjoyable, but the timing is probably not great for developer Daedalic Entertainment because at its core, A Year of Rain feels too much like Warcraft III. If that game were not receiving the remaster treatment, A Year of Rain would probably sell well to those thirsting for a new RTS experience. However, given that the two are so similar in style and design, it may be difficult to convince consumers to choose this game over the nostalgic powerhouse of the Warcraft series.
To succeed, the game is going to need something more than only its creative use of co-op levels. While the game is certainly enjoyable, the overall experience feels like a familiar, but less satisfying experience than other RTS games. Perhaps the heroes need to be scaled up in their power. Or, perhaps the game is simply too familiar to what we have seen in the past, and though the forced co-op is interesting, but may not be sufficient for long-term player engagement.
A Steam Early Access code provided to TheGamer for this preview of A Year of Rain.