Crush Your Enemies Review
Crush Your Enemies is a game about barbarians raiding villages, storming battle fields, and, well, crushing said enemies. The goal in the game is to reclaim land that was rightfully theirs. After reading this extremely simplified synopsis, I was instantly hit with this indescribable urge to learn what it was like to lose land. Having never owned land in the first place, that was already a tricky order. I had to find a way to not only gain land, but then also lose it. So, I built an elaborate fort in the break room. I used everything I could get my hands on. Tables, chairs, cardboard boxes, my editor’s wallet, computer monitors, computer towers, and the refrigerator, mostly. I marveled at my work for about an hour before going home. And by home, I mean the fort. I curled up next to the wall of broken computer parts and felt my cares melt away. I remained there for 12 minutes before my editor made me put it all back (I counted).
The emotions flooded in all at once. As he was pressing his fingers against his temples, all I could think about was what I had lost. While he was pacing back and forth in silence, I nearly wept in remembrance. His words were a distant echo compared to the ringing reality that was before me. “Why do you do these things?” – “Where did you find all this stuff?” – “Why did you pile it up in here?” – “Did you really have to break everything?” – “Why is my wallet empty?” They all fell on deaf ears.
That’s why I was escorted out that day. That’s why I wandered the streets scared and alone. That’s why I called my editor 142 times (I counted). And that’s why he got me a copy of Crush Your Enemies in exchange for deleting his number. I hung up my phone in grim determination. “Looks like I win again,” I said, out loud.
What I Expected
Crush Your Enemies is advertised as “back to the awesome glory days.” The description of the game mentions being able to hop right in and get on with the action. So immediately, I imagined Boid, the last game I reviewed. I expected a simple and primal real-time strategy game that valued tactics over time and resource management. In that case, each round would be short and chaotic instead of a slow slog of pot shots and clever spreadsheet work. And, despite doing well in Boid, I expected to lose a lot. I’ve said it before. There’s just something about RTS games that doesn’t register in my head. I end up just not quite getting it and eat a lot of defeat. Maybe I don’t act well under pressure. Maybe I have trouble thinking quickly. Maybe its because I think patience, learning, and paying attention are for suckers. But let’s be honest for a second, because they totally are.
What I Wanted
In this case, I wanted something funny. Just from the title image, you can tell the game doesn’t take itself seriously. It’s trying to appeal to customers with a rude and crude sense of humor. That’s pretty much its main selling point. So I wanted it to do that well. If you’re going to put a feature front and center, it better be your specialty. That’s why my business card reads “Love Machine” in 72 point font.
I also wanted quick and uncomplicated gameplay. I can’t exactly hop right in if there are 72 different units with 15 different genres of buff potentials or whatever. I wanted it as simple as possible. That way, the difficulty of the game would rely solely on the circumstances in the game. No matter how well I learn the mechanics, the game stays just as difficult, because there basically are no mechanics. I figured these two, small requests weren’t expecting much.
What I Got
Let me get started with an apology. My review of Crush Your Enemies is actually a little late. I fully intended to have this completed and up sooner, but I was busy. I was focused so hard on playing Crush Your Enemies, that I completely lost track of time and desire to do anything else. I was hooked, and sneakily too. Like potato chips. Honestly, I had no idea that I was so invested until I realized I had been playing for hours. I haven’t done that since, well, since Overwatch launched. Before that though? It’s been a long time.
That image above is one of the first dialog sequences you see in the game. I think it does a pretty good job at summing up the tone. It plays up bad jokes in a way where you hope it’s on purpose. Which makes sense if you consider this a game that doesn’t take itself seriously. In this case, that’s a good thing. The game is free to be fun regardless of whether or not it makes sense, which happens often. In order to explain why a simple hut automatically generates new soldiers, the game simply refers to it as magic and moves on. It may seem like that’s them sweeping stuff under the rug instead of explaining it, and that’s because that’s exactly what it is. But, it’s definitely in a good way. It’s not so much, “we’re too lazy to figure it out,” and more, “don’t think about it, because that gets in the way of crushing your enemies!”
Speaking of crushing enemies, that really is the focus. Only a few maps have a different main objective, like taking a certain building or surviving for a 2 minutes. But even in those cases, one of the secondary objectives is always “Crush Your Enemies!” To put it simply, that means kill every single one of them, which is as fun as it sounds.
The game started me off with the basics and gradually worked up to more advanced content. There was just me and the enemy. I had to crush them. Then they introduced dual battlefields. I had to slowly convert each square of my enemy’s field to my own before traveling on it. Then I learned about troop spawners (aka: magic huts). Now I had to build up my forces before attacking. Then special units started showing up. By sending troops to a specific building, they would immediately turn into an advanced troop. Over the course of the game, new specializations popped up until there were soldiers, archers, shield carriers, spies, and wizards. Soldiers were strong, archers had range, shield carriers deflected arrows, spies were fast, and wizards buffed whomever they were adjacent. You couldn’t build these training facilities from scratch, though. They had to already exist on the map. If you or your enemy didn’t start with control of it, then it was up for grabs for whomever reached the neutral site first. But that’s enough about that. Let’s talk about what makes the game so good.
Oddly enough, it’s not the victories. Even though there were a lot and they boosted morale, winning didn’t make the game great. What made it great was its simplicity. And that goes back to how it doesn’t take itself seriously. Everything is designed to make each round quick and brutal. Troops generate quickly, they train instantly, and even combat takes very little time. You also have to do all your thinking on the fly. If I paused the game to look at the map, a huge menu blocked the screen. With each round, the game’s message was clear. You are here. The enemies are there. Crush your enemies.
Each round of the single player started by giving the player three objectives. The top was the main objective, but the two lower ones were not required. It was necessary to gain at least a few in the game, though, as later missions require a certain number of completed objectives before becoming available. But if I’m going to be honest, it would be pretty difficult to not meet most objectives just by casually playing.
There is an outstanding amount of freedom in the game too. Unless you are trying to solve every secondary objective, you can finish every round however you want. If I wanted to claim all of the buildings for training shield carriers and then swarm the field with archers, I could. If I wanted to set a group of 50 soldiers (the maximum unit number) next to an enemy spawn to pick them off, I could. To be honest, nothing could have stopped me from filling every single possible space with as many troops as possible. I know this, because I totally did that.
That’s right, that’s 2100 soldiers. Against 22. I admit this was a bit much, but you have to understand. The first time I played this level, I lost. And it was the first time I lost too. I really had no other choice. It’s not how excessive I was. It was about sending a message. However, I must say that this didn’t come without a price. A pretty substantial price.
Oh yes, you’re reading that right. One of the secondary objectives is to finish the round in three minutes. And to be fair, that was plenty of time to get it done. But this time, it took me one hour one minute and twelve seconds. That is absolutely insane. That’s over 20 times longer. The kicker is that I had no idea I spent that much time. I was having a blast making troops, sending them out, and watching the field expand. It was cathartic in a way.
As the game continued, it occasionally gave me new features to hold my interest. Right as I got the hang of one, it would toss another one at me. One of these times was when it introduced villages. These were little battles that I didn’t have to complete. If I did, though, they would give me beer with every victory. Initially, beer did nothing. It was just a little counter that grew exponentially after every mission. It got a little out of hand after a while.
It wasn’t until later when the game introduced the shop. There, you could trade a number of beer mugs for items that regenerated at the start of every mission. They ranged from decoys to mines to a drink that increased attack power of a single unit. But honestly, the items made an appearance so late in the game, I almost always forgot I had them. Only after the fact, I’d see that I hadn’t even touched them. Even if I had, though, most missions since usually had a secondary objective of not using items. I have to admit, the items kinda felt like an afterthought. They were so unused, I even neglected to get a screenshot of them.
The only other thing I can think to mention about the game is the story. It gets pretty involved for a game that doesn’t take itself seriously. It begins with barbarians trying to take back their land, but it ends with a quest to obtain godhood. And with each step, the story grew crazier and wackier. The jokes got cheesier. The characters got more meta. The plot pretty much just exploded.
This is the cause of my first real complaint. Though I was fine with the story for Crush Your Enemies, I’m pretty sure I never laughed. Not even a polite chuckle. I was decently entertained, but for a game that tried really hard to get me to laugh, I was a bit disappointed by my own silence. Given, I’m definitely splitting hairs here. I had no real reason to believe this game would be laugh-out-loud funny. I was just a bit bothered that it seemed to focus on “draw nouns out of a hat” random instead of satire.
My other complaint is that the gameplay could have done more to match the tone. As I said repeatedly before, the game doesn’t take itself seriously. That shows itself in the story far more than it does in the battles. I would have loved to see some more creative and out-there choices for the gameplay. Soldiers, archers, and wizards just seemed bland next to a statue with a magic nipple. The minds behind the story went hog wild with it and drove it to the moon. I would have just really liked to see that same mindset on the battlefield. Regardless, this game definitely caught my attention and is one of my favorite games I’ve played this year. I’m definitely looking forward to the sequel.
Final Verdict: 4.5/5
Available on: PC (reviewed) and Mobile ; Publisher: Gambitious Digital Entertainment ; Developer: Vile Monarch; Players: 1 – 2 ; Released: July 13, 2016 ; ESRB: NR ; MSRP: $9.99
Full disclosure: This review is based on a review copy of Crush Your Enemies given to HeyPoorPlayer by the publisher.