Part 1: MISSION 1: (Dis)OrientationMISSION 1: (Dis)Orientation
This is the first thing that greets you when you load the game. It then proceeds to play the Soviet National Anthem over an image of the flag.
It plays the ENTIRE anthem.
The anthem is almost 4 minutes long.
Just over the flag. No jokes, no animations. Nothing.
And ends with this. I sat through this bullshit twice just so I could get this screencap that proves I did. Moving on.
Nothing offensive here (going to ignore the GAME OF THE YEAR gag) other than the game running at an ass-tastic 1024x768. Soviet computing hasn't come so far, I guess. Let's hit up the Options and fix that.
So...we're stuck with Pentium-era resolutions, but hey! We can let the game know our opinion on cats! I left it on "Yes!" because cats are assholes and it is funny. Cats being assholes, not this game.
Clicking "New Game" takes us straight to the first mission briefing. This seems like a good time to reiterate: This game is not funny. I don't know if they were trying to be wacky or subversive or what with the anthem bit and the cat question in the options, but the briefing leaves nothing in doubt. There is not a single funny thing in the entire wall of text. It is a veritable monument to wasted potential.
Don't worry, though. It turns out Stalin vs. Martians has very little potential to waste.
Oh, right, the loading screen. I joked to myself when I first saw it that this might be the best part of the game. That joke is no longer funny.
Game time! I see some tanks and some dudes and my mission objective: Survive! Okay, I ca-
SPRINKLES ARE ATTACKING AND NUMBERS ARE FLYING AND I DIDNT TOUCH ANYTHING
...And I win. You complete the first mission in the game by doing nothing. The Martians (yes, those little colored dots) run up immediately and mostly get mowed down by your troops. Like any good RTS, your units are at least smart enough to shoot at things near them...though I found out later this doesn't always hold true.
Let's talk about the interface real quick. That thing in the lower left corner is the minimap, which shows your dudes (in green), enemies (in red), objectives (in pink), and your camera field of view (in white). Next to that are four buttons that appear when you have a unit selected. They are, from left to right, Move, Hold Position, Attack, and Stop. I only know this because little tooltips with their names pop up when you mouse over them.
In the upper left is the Menu button, clearly labeled, and near the top center is the Objective button, which just flashes the same red/green messages in the center that you've seen so far. What do the other interface items do? I have no idea! Did you think there was a tutorial? Because Central Planning sure as hell didn't set aside any funding for TELLING you how to fight Martians!
Case in point. Proceeding to the next objective, I find a big communist-looking star on the ground. What's it for? Who knows?
Sure, why not. Grouping is done by click-dragging like any other RTS, and movement defaults to right-click. You can assign groups with Ctrl-number, as well. There might be keyboard shortcuts for other commands, but I don't care.
More sprinkles attack. I zoomed in a bit so you can maybe kinda see what they look like. I'm gonna go with Pikmin.
Speaking of copyright infringement, the squeaky dudes from Toy Story start blowing up my tanks. The tree scowls at me menacingly, but does not appear aggressive. I don't know what the fuck.
It is at this point that I try clicking that tempting "Reinforcements" button. Glancing over the menu, it all starts to make sense. Coins that pop out of enemies give you money to buy more stuff, which appears on that red star when you order it. That...doesn't really make much sense, but I can at least follow how it works.
My next objective is to "Find your scattered reinforcements". On my way to the marker, I spy something odd to the north. Relatively speaking.
Just what the fatherland ordered, worshipers of Gimli. I had no idea Tolkien was popular in the U.S.S.R.
Mo troops, mo problems. I think there's a song about that.
Oh, right, music. Understand that the whole time I'm playing this, the game is blasting a mash of chiptunes, techno, and faux-rock at me. In particular, whenever a fight breaks out, the same thumping techno track breaks in over everything else. What this has to do with WWII-era warfare is for you to decide. (HINT: nothing)
There's voice acting from your troops, too. It consists of "I AM IVAN I LIKE YOU" and "BOLSHEVIK ON A BICYCLE" over and over and over and over. When your men die, they helpfully announce "I'M DYING". There are no limits on how often any of these can be played, so try to imagine what happens when about 20 of your dudes die at once.
As we approach the bridge to the next objective marker, sprinkles start charging across it. I wisely position my men to cover the span, and...they take heavy casualties. Why? Because those tiny Martians move about 5 times faster than any of your units. That means they can cross that bridge in about 2 seconds, faster than your troops can possibly kill them.
A better view of those elusive coins, next to my quantum co-locating tanks. By elusive, I mean they vanish about 5 seconds after you kill an enemy. In contrast to the coked-out turbo Martians, your units can fire farther than they can move in 5 seconds, so unless you let the Martians all up ins your actual grill pieces, you're not getting those sweet CommuCoins.
My battle-weary force trundles on, with another disapproving tree scowling at us in the distance. They don't seem to do anything, so they can scowl all they want.
My mans have been found, and now I have to...survive?
They swarm from the other side, too. I kinda panicked at first, until I realized my tanks took out whole clusters of the things in one shot. My tanks actually one-shot everything I ran into this mission. Probably should have bought more.
A conga line of legal liabilities are the last foes on the map.
So, what have we learned so far? Stalin vs. Martians is a real-time strategy game with no strategy. None. Zero. You move your units around and hope they kill things, because your basic enemy moves to fast to click on. If you have tactical options besides "Move" and "Shoot", they don't bother to tell you.
Of course, this is just Mission 1. Maybe it's supposed to be the (shitty, useless) tutorial! Maybe they're saving all the good stuff for Mission 2! New units? New commands? Dare I dream of base-building options?
NEXT TIME ON STALIN VS. MARTIANS: