At the end of humanity’s darkest century, a connection emerged between humans and machines. Making it possible for humans to leave their bodies behind and sustain their brains artificially. With the longer lifespans, we started exploring space, establishing new trade routes. With the ever-growing demand for resources, humans joined the frantic gold rush on the frontiers of space. Prepare to assume Cortex Command!
Cortex Command is a hard game to describe. Part base-building and resource gathering strategy, part 2D retro sidescrolling shooter. Even with the (very minimal) tutorial, it seems to throw you into the deep in terms of learning curve. Granted, there is not that much to learn besides the basics, but it still feels odd the game only explains one aspect of itself when you start.
There’s two gameplay modes in Cortex Command. One is a barebones campaign mode, the other is a selection of simple scenarios. The game offers the ability to create and play your own scenarios as well. As far as gameplay features go, it’s minimal. Although the game is still in development, it is being sold on Steam and is going through such a slow developmental process, I think its fair to review and judge it as it is right now. The lack of content can be fixed through modding, but modding cannot be accounted for when looking at a game at its base.
During the campaign mode, you’re given several digging sites to invest in at the start of each turn. You don’t immediately start off owning any areas, so you’ll have to invest in a new area and hope the other teams aren’t funding an expedition to the same area as you.
In the case that they do invest in the same area, you’ll enter the 2D sidescrolling combat part of the game. Both you and the other team have to fight it out until one team’s brain has stopped functioning. You can destroy their brain by shooting at it. Or blow it up with bombs, rockets, and grenades. Crush it under debris. Obliterate it with a digging tool. Crash your landing vehicle into it. It doesn’t matter how you do it, so long as the enemy brain goes down, you win.
At any point during the combat phase, you’re allowed to send in extra weaponry, units, bombs, or turrets through dropships, rockets, or by dropping crates. So long as you can afford to have extra things shipped in, you can do this as often as you like. The battle won’t end until only one team still has a working brain.
If a team already owns an area, the combat phase mostly stays the same. The biggest difference lies in the fortifications already made by the team owning the area during the basebuilding part of the game.
The combat turns could be best described as Liero, but more objective based. If you’re not familiar with Liero, imagine a real-time version of classic Worms. What sets Cortex Command apart from these games is that, next to being able to destroy the environment, the character models can all get damaged as well. Once a character has taken enough damage on its limbs, they actually come off. It’s not rare for characters to fly around on a jetpack with no legs, or be literally unarmed through the course of battle. If a character has taken enough damage, they’ll often start bleeding to death, which often comes across as extra incentive to just rush through enemy defenses as fast as possible. It makes for a much more frantic game, but doesn’t completely take out the ability to camp during battles.
When a dig site has already been taken over, whatever team owns it can build a base there. Good fortifications cost a lot, but make it harder for any other team to come in and destroy your brain.
Many indie games go for fort-building gameplay mechanics sporting pixelated or retro style graphics, hoping to be the next Dwarf Fortress, Terraria, or MineCraft. Thankfully, Cortex Command is not one of these games. It has a solid concept, fun gameplay, and a very awesome soundtrack. But it doesn’t come without its flaws.
Cortex Command shines in multiplayer, allowing you to play with 3 friends, yet it doesn’t seem to have any LAN or online capabilities for it. It’s also baffling how there’s no interest in adding it to the game at any point in time because of complications with the custom engine the game is running on.
While playing against the AI, you sometimes win without even having done anything. The game is still in a buggy state, and the AI is lacking to the point that they often can’t even figure out how to land their pods at the start of the round. As fun as it can be to play against an inferior AI, it can get old when you figure out the ways you can cheese your way out of battles and then don’t even need to use these tactics because the AI just blew itself up at the start.
Despite its flaws, I’d still recommend Cortex Command. Especially if you’re a fan of games like Liero or Worms and have no problem with local multiplayer-only games on the PC. Even with the native lack of content, it’s a straightforward fun game in a sense we could use a lot more of.
- Amazing soundtrack
- There’s a Browncoat faction
- No online play
- Not much content outside of a campaign that feels more like a skirmish mode
- Crappy AI