War for the Overworld / Crucible Mode - PC Review

War for the Overworld released about a year ago now and was a homage to a much older series known as Dungeon Keeper. You, are an Overlord and have all but one goal, to remove the blight from the lands as who needs those goody touchous anyways? To do so you'll need an army of demons and monsters but they don't come cheap and because of this? You'll need the treasury to support your war efforts as you build slaughter pens, training grounds and forges to build the parts for your defenses.

The one major idea to be kept in mind when diving into the darkness of the underworld is that it is a very hands off approach. Yes you will tell your minions where to dig and where to attack but in the meantime? They do their own thing leaving you free to explore through divination or readjust the facilities in your base. You don't need to train or build new soldiers in order to do battle for you. All you need to do is set up the facility, make sure it's big enough if you want a fair amount of troops, make sure those troops have a place to sleep and that the tavern is stocked with food. Somedays it would have been easier to have them built like StarCraft Marines but then where would the challenge be?

That idea in and of itself is the true challenge to players. Yourself. Can you find the perfect balance of what you need in order to achieve your goals? You'll need money, minions, money to pay minions and food to keep them happy because well a demon's got to eat right? To do any of this however you'll need your workers to dig out and claim the areas that have been dug out. This again is all automatic though they will only dig where you tell. This makes it easy to either to lay the ground flat or make sure that there are specific tunnels that enemies can use in order to walk through and be mauled by defenses while simultaneously grumbling at the locked door now in their face. Yes you can lock doors and it's awesome!

The first few missions can take some time in order to get used to especially if you've either A) never played the style or B) haven't played the style in quite a long while. The reason for this is because that it is a hands off approach you are generally waiting for something to be done. The only real instant actions in order to see the results are casting spells, laying out your facilities or ordering a charge of your forces forward. Even with facilities being instantly placed which is a blessing when you need more food production, you still need to wait those that use the facility to arrive through a portal.

Placing facilities on the ground is easy and requires nothing more than highlighting claimed ground and letting go of the mouse button with the selected facility. As long as there's enough money in your treasury you are good to go. Now, that's the easy part. Most facilities require at least a 3x3 placement on the grid in order to be used. Not even used effectively, but used. Taverns take this a step further requiring a 5x3 placement as they require more to be put into place in order to serve food to your minions from the slaughter pens that you set up. I hope those were set up as without them, your minions are not going to be happy.

The reason finding places for these 3x3, 5x3, or hell 5x5 grids are because the terrain being used is very uneven. Let's be honest in that you're digging out underground passageways and more often than not there's some materials that you cannot dig into or you've gone right up to the water. These leaves certain areas with nothing more than 1x4 or 2x2 placement options by the time that some of your 3x3 areas have been placed. 3x3 is simply the minimum that can be placed in order to be functional however some imagination will be required in order to work around these space limitations. Selling off parts of already built facilities is easy allowing for expansion of another to take place without much of a fuss but that can always run the chance of affecting something else. Making sure that this something else doesn't get affected will be key.

The overall flow of your world domination from underground is fairly smooth especially when the game is sped up. Even when speeding up to 150% however things can sometimes still take time in order to get done so a faster speed may have been a good thing to have but that's also the name of the game. Being more of a hands off it's to be expected. If this aspect does get to you however there is an option to get a little more hands on with dragging your forces by the collar and then dumping them where you need them. Either than, or taking direct control of one of your minions for a First Person View experience allowing you to control and go smack things like enemies instead of simply waiting for the result of the encounter.

Encounters themselves are kind of cool and can go either way depending on your preparations. Like any good strategy sometimes you'll be on the defensive while other times you get to take the fight to your enemies without worrying too much about your base of operations. In the later you'll want enough minions to storm their gates and break down any defenses and doors that lie between you and their core. In the case of the former however you'll need to make sure to properly craft pathways into your base in order to maximize the potential of your defenses. Where do you put a door? Where do you place a cannon? Where do you hide floor traps? This will come in time as you learn what does what and how much you can place in regards to your cash flow and your Mana.

Mana exists for two things. The first is the obvious which are spells that can be cast as long as there's enough mana to do so. Lightning bolts on enemies that are within your controlled reaches, divination spells in order to either check your surroundings or spy on your enemy's base or summoning more minions in order to dig and claim the surrounding areas. The last of these falls more into the second category in which summoned minions take a portion of your max mana and lock it away as long as the minion is alive. That doesn't seem so bad right? Just spam them and then everything can be built faster… right? It could, and it will, but like summoned minions traps and other defenses also lock mana away until they are destroyed making spamming minions good in the beginning to get stuff done but harder as time goes by. These minions can be dismissed at will granting back some of the locked mana in order to build more defenses. Everything in your conquest requires a balance.

On the subject of balances however there comes the topic of your treasury. This wonderful load of shiny gold can make even the richest of Dragons envy as long as there's room to put it. Starting off you have a limited balance space that can seem ridiculously high but it really isn't. It doesn't take much time after finding a gold mine in order to fill up your coffers to the point that there's nowhere left to put it. Thankfully there's a facility for that expanding how much you can put away.

Paying attention to how much is in your coffers is VERY important not because you need money to pay for new facilities and defenses (they take money and mana… I swear everything is greedy around here) but there's that wonderful time call Payday. When Payday rolls around you've got got to shell out cash to everyone under your command on top of having already granted them sleeping quarters and a tavern that has it's own slaughter pen. Making sure that your coffers balance is important as you don't want to end up in the red because you just so happened to have placed a 5x8 grid of training hall in order to muster and level up your forces to go to war. Oops?

The last item in your arsenal is the ability to learn how to make new buildings, craft new spells, and build new defenses by spending research points in the Veins of Evil. Gaining points to spend is easy as it can be done by placing the appropriate structure and letting it bring in minions to do said research. As research progresses you gain the points that can then be spent used to learn new tricks in three separate trees in order to either stomp out your enemy to protect yourself from being stomped. You wouldn't want your minion's hard work to go to waste would you?

War for the Overworld does have some tiny issues that are more of a lack of explanations than provided features. Once you know what you're doing then everything is fine but prior to that I've spent a good deal of time looking around for exactly how to do something. For example, you are told that if you do not want to wait for defenses to be built then you can directly drag resources from your forge directly on top in order to speed up the process instead of waiting for your minion to get there. Until zooming in VERY close I never saw these supposed crates with the parts required. From an arial view these are hard to spot leaving you to wonder exactly what can be picked up.

Following on the defenses are your minions and setting them up as a specific fighting force instead of sending EVERYONE to battle. The option is sitting right on the interface but it isn't clear as how to actually add someone to a warband. The warband has to be clicked, then the minion type below, then the addition button back on the warband. You cannot simply click on the minion, select all of the minions, and then hit a quick key like CRTL-1 in order to make them the first warband. There's only a long way to do it and unfortunately while the monsters essentially work the same way, they can be removed from the monster band but not added back in manually. They rejoin automatically later but it was weird that you yourself did not have the option to do so.

War for the Overworld - Crucible has just released as a free add-on to spice things up. Designed as an unlimited waved Tower Defense, your survival depends on how well you can manage your starting horde of treasure in order to establish your base, your troops, and your defenses. Be quick about it because after the initial timer is up things get hectic and any mismanagement will end your run rather quickly.

Unlike the main campaign mode that allows for you to make a decision on taking your time or simply rushing forward, the Crucible is all about survival and if you don't act fast, you won't last long. Starting off with only money, you have an entire base to set up and a Vein of Evil that needs to be established as it starts with nothing in it. Given ten points alongside the horde of money, this is what you have to work with.

Crucible comes with several maps to challenge and two challenge modes. The first is Classic and the second is Advanced. Advanced is essentially hard mode cutting waiting times in half and giving you even less time to prepare yourself. While Normal's "five minutes" can seem like a long time, it's really no time at all when learning how to operate on a map and figuring out your choke points. Don't choke a lane to the point of not being able to breath however as if you do? Earthquakes will break everything apart setting you back as avenues must be left for your enemies to march through. It's quite a different experience but none the less a fun one for Tower Defense lovers.

Overall War for the Overworld is a fun and interesting Real Time Strategy that reminds us that not everything is always in our hands. With minions to pay, minions to feed and minions to house, sometimes making sure that the books balance out is more important than attacking right way. Other times it's fun to simply rush the enemy before they even know what hit them and worry about the fallout that decision has on your forces should you fail.

The Crucible compared to the core campaign is something different but in a good way. With time ever counting down to the next wave of enemies that will march towards you, there's a stress that sets in taking the whole balancing your checkbook and throws it out the window. With multiple avenues for your enemies to march down, how long you stand up to their unlimited hordes depends solely on how well you can plan out your defenses and use. Don't forget about payday however as it does come around!

Game Information

Brightrock Games
Subterranean Games
Brightrock Games
Subterranean Games
Real Time Strategy
Single Player
Other Platform(s):

Provided by Publisher

War for the Overworld

War for the Overworld - Crucible

Article by Pierre-Yves