Hands-On Preview for Fantasy RTS A Year Of Rain - Niche Gamer Hands-On Preview for Fantasy RTS A Year Of Rain - Niche Gamer
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Hands-On Preview for Fantasy RTS A Year Of Rain

A Year Of Rain is a game I’ve personally been excited for since it was first announced by Daedalic Entertainment earlier this year. Good RTS games are a rarity these days, so the announcement of any new game in the genre is sure to get my attention.

The game just entered Early Access, and Daedalic was kind enough to send us a key to test the game out. Here’s my early impressions based on the first few campaign missions and a couple skirmish matches.

A Year Of Rain will be immediately familiar to anyone who has played Warcraft III. The game features bright and colorful graphics, in-game cutscenes reminiscent of the Blizzard classic, and even the core mechanics are nearly identical. Unfortunately this is an indie game, so don’t expect any of those ridiculously detailed opening cinematics that Blizzard is famous for.

The game features three factions: House Rupah, The Restless Regiment, and The Wild Banners. House Rupah is the only faction that currently has a campaign, and serves as A Year Of Rain‘s equivalent to The Alliance.

The faction mixes humans, elves, dwarves, gnomes, and other “good” fantasy races under a single banner. The Restless Regiment are your standard undead faction, while The Wild Banners are similar to The Horde in the sense that they are a loose collection of savage, tribal humanoid races.

The story of the campaign thus far revolves around the factions that comprise House Rupah being convinced by their leader, Jaidee Rupah, to embark on a dangerous trip across the sea to conquer uncharted lands in search of precious resources.

The trip doesn’t go as smoothly as planned, and the forces of House Rupah soon find themselves shipwrecked and under siege by the local warlords and their tribes of marauders and bandits.

The core gameplay consists of your usual mixture of base building and army management that you’d expect from an RTS. As I’ve said before, the mechanics are extremely similar to Warcraft III, so if you’ve played any amount of that game you’ll feel right at home.

A Year Of Rain is a hero-focused RTS. Each faction has access to three heroes that level up and gradually gain access to powerful special abilities. The early stages of a match will often consist of raiding creep camps with your hero to gain access to resources, level them up, and equip them with items like armor and potions.

Each hero has three main abilities, with an ultimate that is unlocked later on. Abilities are usually cooldown-based instead of using some sort of mana mechanic, and properly using your skills can potentially change the tide of an engagement.

While the core gameplay is already solid and functional, I must admit that A Year Of Rain is currently a bit of a chore to play due to its atrocious unit pathing. Units will get stuck on everything, including themselves, making controlling larger armies especially irritating.

You’ll need to micromanage your units a lot, because when they get stuck they have a tendency to spaz out, making them unable to attack or do much of anything until you get them unstuck. This also encourages ranged unit spam since they are slightly less annoying to babysit than melee blobs. The developers are already aware that the pathing is a mess, and its high on their priority list of things to fix in the first few patches.

The biggest twist in A Year Of Rain is that its much more focused on co-op than your usual RTS. The campaign is optimized for co-op, and skirmish and multiplayer is designed to be 2v2. To further emphasis the co-op mechanics there is a “class” system where a player can choose to be their team’s Tank, Support, or Attack to unlock extra technologies and bonuses that help them perform their role. You can also issue limited orders to AI teammates if you are playing alone.

A Year Of Rain launched with a fairly decent number of multiplayer options, even if map selection is a bit sparse right now. The game markets itself as “eSports ready,” and includes ranked and unranked modes, replays, spectator mode, and all the other important stuff you’d want from a highly competitive multiplayer experience.

Sadly, A Year Of Rain lacks the most important multiplayer component a game needs: A playerbase. This is a fairly obscure indie game that is still in Early Access, and I ended up being unable to test the multiplayer because I simply couldn’t find any matches. Users on the Steam forums have been discussing this as well, with most matches they can find usually involving the same handful of people they keep stumbling across.

The emphasis on multiplayer also led to the developers forcing in a third party account system, even if you just want to play solo. You have to sign up for a PlayFab account to even get to the main menu.

You also have to type in your password every time you start the game because all it seems to save is your email. The EULA also has a nice long list of all the data PlayFab collects before you sign up, and it’ll be worryingly extensive to the more privacy conscious PC gamers out there.

I’m not sure why they didn’t just use Steam for all of this, but if you are weary of games that require third party accounts then this will probably be an instant turn-off. The forced online is worrying in other ways when you consider what I said earlier about the lack of a playerbase. If you need a PlayFab account and internet connection to even get to the main menu, what happens when the servers are taken down?

I’ve been very negative in this preview thus far, but I want to emphasize that A Year Of Rain does feature a promising foundation. The unit pathfinding and general performance are currently the biggest flaws preventing me from recommending you check it out, though from a personal standpoint I’m no fan of the third party account and mandatory online either.

If you are looking for a solid Warcraft 3 clone, A Year Of Rain looks like it’ll scratch that itch eventually. For now, maybe just keep an eye on the patch notes until the game’s most glaring issues are solved in the coming months.

A Year Of Rain is available on Windows PC via Steam for $24.99, and is expected to remain in Early Access for at least a year and a half.

Frank Streva

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Niche Gamer’s resident indie expert. Digs through the Steam new releases so you don’t have to. Massive fan of miniature and board games as well.