The game is a self-described naval real time strategy with stunning graphics and an interesting take on the original RTS feel with the majority of gameplay taking place over water.
The preview weighed in at around 250MB, but had most of the content there already. There are three missions in the preview campaign, two tutorials and one tower defense scenario that I will talk about later.
The game itself feels quite polished and is fast, with very short loading times and responsive menus and was certainly nice and stable for an early preview.
The graphics are, as you would expect, quite literally amazing.
The water effects are stunning, and the environments are rich with high resolution textures and excellent lighting effects.
I was expecting the game’s levels to be somewhat limited considering most of the action takes place over water, but the developers have done a good job of chucking in some variety.
Oil Rush presents different weather conditions, times of the day and also variations in location (one mission is clearly in the Arctic with big icebergs sticking out of the sea serving as obstacles, and another mission appears to take place around Asia or the Middle East, with old abandoned junks and cargo ships forming obstacles).
I had to turn down the settings for it to run smoothly on my 3 year old laptop, but it still looks fantastic although you’ll want a beefy graphics card and plenty of RAM if you like playing the latest games on max.
Most of the time I was averaging around 30 FPS, dropping down to 15 FPS in heavy battle scenes (some of the battles can get pretty intense).
The basic strategy is something most RTS gamers will be familiar with.
The goal is to eliminate the enemy, or to finish a particular mission by completing objectives. Units are created from points you capture, and to build defensive structures you’ll need currency – in this game, that’s oil.
Oil Rush has a few different points to capture – there are a few different types of oil rigs which can spawn units, and then there are oil wells/pumps which give you resources once you’ve captured them.
There are also other points that can be captured (such as random shipwrecks), but do not allow you to build defensive structures. These still produce units, and seem to serve more as strategic positions for launching attacks.
Like many RTS games, Oil Rush also features a ‘technology’ tree and an experience points system. The player earns points for destroying enemy units, and can use those points to unlock new technologies such as radar or stronger armor.
There are a few different types of unit-spawning oil rigs, “light” seaborne, medium tank-like boats, heavy boats, and airborne units. Each one spawns a new unit every so often, the weaker units are spawned more often, the heavier, more powerful units are less often.
Rather than controlling individual units, players instead control the oil rigs themselves. The units work as a team, and to direct them, you’ll be clicking on the oil rig that they’re currently “attached to” and then giving them instructions.
Interestingly, you can choose to send all of the units, or only 50% or 25% of them – leaving some behind to circle their base as defense.
One strategy is to amass a heap of units at one position and then to select them all, you just click that rig and then direct them to attack another one.
You can also build defensive structures on Oil Rigs by double clicking them – which activates a nice interactive overlay allowing you to choose what type of defense you’d like to build (ie, machine guns, turrets or rocket launchers).
I found the gameplay to be a bit monotonous on a smaller scale, but once there are many battles raging around the level, it does get quite complicated and challenging to make sure you send the right amount of units to the right places without leaving your rigs defenseless.
The in-game music is some of the coolest I’ve heard – a sort of grungy background instrumental collection of tunes that really add to the feel of the game. The only criticism here would be the changes between tracks – they’re a bit rough, one track will stop abruptly before another randomly starts, but after a while you get used to it and the music blends into the background.
Sound effects themselves are okay, although some are a bit questionable (when you build a new defense structure, the sound effect is more like an explosion than a construction noise), but they’re there and they work which is the main thing.
One thing that impressed me is the control scheme Unigine have come up with for Oil Rush. Traditionally, strategy games involve using the arrow keys or mainly the mouse to move around and the middle wheel button to rotate the camera.
The developers have instead opted for W, A, S and D to move the camera around, and the Q and E keys for rotating the camera. Unit commands and HUD interaction is done with the mouse, and zooming with the scroll wheel changes both the height and angle of the camera.
This actually lends itself to a nice and easy way to move the camera around which I found I was doing quite a lot. Due to the nature of the levels, there can sometimes be rather large expanses of sea with few landmarks for one to orient themselves.
Being able to easily flick the camera around to keep track of your units and the enemy is very important, and I think it works pretty well.
In the preview there’s a mission called Tower Defense which actually turned out to be a pretty fun take on the classic idea. For those not familiar with the concept, the enemy sends waves of units through some sort of choke point where you can build defensive structures that hopefully destroy them before they reach the end.
The Oil Rush version of Tower Defense was quite fun and rather challenging. I certainly hope the developers expand this idea some more for the final version of the game.
While Oil Rush isn’t the next Company of Heroes, it does have an interesting take on the traditional RTS style gameplay that could work in its favour. It doesn’t try to be a traditional RTS like so many others, and with a unique water-based concept, unlocks a variety of opportunities for inventive and original units, technologies and missions.
I think Oil Rush is an excellent showcase of the Unigine engine, and it’s certainly an excellent step forward for Linux gaming.
The preview that I played appeared to have most of the core of the game in place, was rock solid stable and certainly showcased the impressive Unigine engine.
I look forward to seeing what the developers can come up with in terms of a solid campaign by the game’s release next month, but apart from that, consider me impressed.