TPG Second Look: Oil Rush

By – Kyle Johnson

I have commanded thousands of fleets across space and time, ranging from charging chariots in ancient Greece, antiquated infantry across the plains of South America, and capital ships cruising through the battlefields of the future.  If there is anything that my experience has taught me, it’s that Oil Rush plays fast and loose with the definition of “strategy,” and doesn’t do a good job of executing what it attempts, either.

Oil Rush is a game developed by the fine folks at Unigine Corp., and while it stems from an independent group of people, it is clear that the game was designed to show off the engine’s capabilities.  Having sufficiently played around with the settings, the graphics look polished at the higher resolutions and settings, though the resulting framerate made it unplayable on my system.  Instead, I opted to run it in an 800×600 window at the lowest settings, in order to maximize my tactical capability.

It is precisely this tactical capability that makes the game a somewhat creative representative of the “strategy” genre.   One part tower defense and one part “mass units and go” game (think Galcon Fusion, or any number of similar games), ships are produced by capturing various structures on the map, which then pump out units until a certain cap is reached.  To defend these structures, the player builds one of three types of towers which are built using oil, the sole resource in the game.  Thus, the game works in a circular pattern: capture bases to produce units, use units to capture oil rigs, use oil to defend bases, slowly advancing towards your goal.

This goal can vary from map to map, but typically, victory conditions are that one player captures all of the points on a map.  Though the multiplayer mode is and likely will remain untested, due to a lack of players on the server, I did test out a few custom games easily routing the Medium AI.  By and large, the majority of time spent on Oil Rush will be in the game’s campaign.

Detailing a world wracked by nuclear war, the campaign follows the adventures of a young man known only as Kevin as he commands fleets in an organization known as the Sharks.  If the story was intended to be campy then the team at Unigine did a fantastic job, right down to the flat characters, atrocious voice acting, and overall bland story.  However, the seriousness that the game world is presented with would suggest otherwise leading to the player to question why they care about the plot at all.

Instead, the AI ends up being the most memorable part of the campaign, and not in a good way, either.  While the earlier missions gently introduce you to tactics and strategies for defeating the AI, it’s well balanced to the point where you won’t get frustrated if things don’t work out, somewhere in the third chapter this changes.  Facing down superior numbers and tech would normally lead to a situation where skill would inevitably come into play, but it ends up becoming an exercise in frustration.  With the ability to continuously spawn waves of units offscreen, tactical positioning becomes almost pointless, as the AI will just drive right around the majority of your fleets.

Without any way to micromanage ships or groups thereof, it can be painful to watch fleets slowly gather themselves into a mass for travel, sail to a point under attack, and watch the AI suddenly swoop in and capture an oil rig.  With the game limiting you to send 25, 50, or 100% of your ships at a location elsewhere at a time, you have to gamble on the hopes that what you’ve sent is enough to break their defenses, yet what you left behind is enough to hold them off in the inevitable counterattack.

Of course, this would all be much more acceptable if the AI was actually reasonably intelligent, turning the game into a serious strategy game.  Based on the number of idiotic mistakes that it would make at the times when it wasn’t abusing the system, I would say that in order to make up for the AI’s ineptitude, Oil Rush seems to have gone the “artificially inflated difficulty” route.  This subsequently makes a game that should be somewhat challenging on medium difficulty a test of your patience, if not to see how long you can last before you lower the difficulty level.

As for any sort of technical issues encountered in the game, on occasion, the game would refuse to start in fullscreen at my desired resolution, instead choosing to launch in a window at 1280×720.  This may be due to my display more than anything, as it was hard to reproduce the error multiple times in a row.  Also, when forwarding cutscenes, it would also occasionally grey out the game screen, usually being resolved by pausing and unpausing.

Is It Worth Your Money?

In case it hasn’t been made obvious so far, the answer is a solid “no.”  With the floundering campaign and lack of a multiplayer community, there aren’t enough good points for Oil Rush to outweigh the rather present flaws.  With hints at a sequel in the game’s ending, hopefully the team at Unigine learns from their mistakes, leading to a much more polished game in the future.

Oil Rush Technical Summary:

  • Time Played – 12 Hours
  • Widescreen Support – Yes (Detailed Report via WSGF)
  • 5.1 Support – Yes
  • Bugs/Crashes – Yes
  • Control Scheme – M/K
  • DRM – Activation Key
  • Game Acquisition Method – Review Copy
  • Platforms – Windows, Mac and Linux
  • Demo – No
  • System Specs – 2.2 Ghz Core 2 Duo, 4GB RAM, Intel Express Mobile Chipset
  • Availability – Official Site (Purchase includes Steam and Desura keys)

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2 thoughts on “TPG Second Look: Oil Rush

  1. I was thinking about trying this game on Kubuntu 12.04 with the proprietary AMD HD 6000 series drivers. It seems like a good way to test the capabilities of a Linux gaming machine.

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