Currently, the game is a little less than $500 dollars short of its goal, with 21 days left to go. Stretch goals thus far include a persistent base in campaign mode, which players can customize and upgrade for their goblin-slaying needs, and the addition of mini-bosses to bridge the gap between the lowly grunt units seen in the demo and the main bosses.
In Siegebreakers, you play as one of the currently four dwarven mercenaries known as the – wait for it – Siegebreakers, a short, but strong group of soldiers hired to defend castles under fire from goblin invaders, employing fortification, traps, their own personal armies and raw might to fight against their foes.
I’ve been playing Siegebreakers for the past few days, over two separate alpha builds, the latest being the one available on their Kickstarter page right now. The gameplay, though not mechanically the same, feels very similar to Cannon Brawl, the RTS artillery game mash-up by Turtle Sandbox Games. In both games, the controls are smooth, each action is rewarding, no matter how minor, and the multiplayer elements make it all the more exciting. After having Jamestown be my friend group’s exclusive party game of choice for the past two years, it’s great to see some new projects, like Siegebreakers, combining the easy to grasp gameplay and cooperative elements that make these sorts of games so appealing.
That’s not to say Siegebreakers is easy. The controls are intuitive (I chose to play with an Xbox 360 controller), and your goals are immediately clear and understandable, but the strategy is where the bulk of this game’s fun, and challenge, lies. At the start of the demo, you’re provided with 500 stone, 500 gold, an empty castle (aside from the King trembling meekly behind his throne) and about three minutes to prepare for the first wave of enemies.
At your disposal is a handy little cupboard overflowing with weaponry, including your standard battleaxe, a blunderbuss for ranged combat, a grappling hook for quick navigation and for pulling enemies towards you, a pickaxe for mining (rocks, or goblin brains), a shield for defense and knocking enemies back, a warhammer for heavy damage and also speedy construction or reparation of damaged buildings and, finally, a spellbook… for spells!
There are sixteen different buildings you can construct, which you access from a real-time menu by pressing either the left or right bumper, or Q on the keyboard. Buildings cost stone and gold to create, which you have to mine from the surrounding, tile-based environment, similar to Terraria. Enemies also drop gold. To build, simply navigate the four building categories displayed in the wheel-like menu, choose a structure and position it on the map.
The categories consist of castle structures, unit buildings, support buildings and traps.
Castle structures include fortified stone walls for your standard exterior defense, draw-bridges, rooms, which you can adjust the size of, and ladders. You can climb up the side of any wall in Siegebreakers with pretty good speed, but ladders make you much faster and don’t require you to jump at the wall to scale it, or perform any number of fancy dwarven parkour moves to get from the base of a multi-level unit building to the top. Every second of both prep time and battle is precious in Siegebreakers, and if you’re preoccupied with trying to Super Meat Boy your way up parallel walls while your shit is under fire, you’re not gonna have a good time.
Unit buildings like the Barracks and the Archery Range, which are unlocked from the start, produce NPCs to fend off waves of incoming goblins from either end of your base, or to defend from the inside if you choose to construct your arsenal within the castle walls. Either way, the NPCs are free to move around, and you are not in control of their posts or their paths. The archery range also restocks your ammo when you enter, which is handy if you want to help repel enemies from the castle gates with the blunderbuss, but don’t want to keep running back to the weapons cupboard to refill.
Support buildings like the forge provide the player with certain vital advantages. The forge, for instance, buffs your weapons with runes of different kinds, enhancing them with elemental effects like fire, or whatever the green one is that sends goblins flying (like, out of the ballpark) with a single swing. The teleporter sends you right back to the king’s throne, which is the heart, and thus the HP, of the castle. This is very convenient if you’ve setup a fancy outpost on the outskirts of the fort and you’re insistent on staying there. Between your valiant displays of goblin-slaying determination, you can hop into the teleporter and jump right back to the throne to check up on the King, and also the other side of the base.
Finally, traps. I found a towering wall of knuckleboxes between layers of fortified walls or spike pits were pretty effective, but that’s just me.
Laying traps is really fun in Siegebreakers, not only because of their easy implementation and the endless number of creative combinations they provide, but because each setup tests the enemy’s intelligence in unique ways, and often bring about new sets of challenges you weren’t even aware you had to face in the first place. The AI is sharp, and adapting. Spend too much time digging spike pits and the game will send in goblin engineers to build bridges over them. Build up your walls and they’ll setup ladders to scale them, or simply tunnel under everything and dig an entrance right in the middle of your base. The same goes for your play style. Rely solely on hacking and slashing until each wave is over and soon you’ll be facing enemies much tougher than your average grunt.
Setting the tone for your carefully planned goblin massacres are Jacob Pernell and Emily Kingsbury, the game’s music composers. Given the quality of the soundtrack and the solid gameplay, all this game really needs now is some visual polish and more time to finish everything up. That’s what the Kickstarter’s for!
Siegebreakers is a “couch co-op” at heart, state the developers, but they will still be implementing online play as well. On or offline, players will be able to partake in multiple game modes, including a co-op or solo campaign, Endless Mode, where the enemies never stop, and a competitive mode that will allow 4v4 battles. To allow for this many players to be on screen at once, the game employs a dynamic splitscreen, which you have to see in the video to understand. I wasn’t able to experience it myself yet in-game, but it looks great.