Crush Your Enemies (Switch)
Crush Your Enemies has arrived on the Nintendo Switch, where its simple mechanics and irreverent humor belie a surprisingly deep and addictive RTS experience. Come inside to check out my full review!
If you've been following my writing for any length of time, I've made it pretty clear how big a fan of real-time strategy (RTS) games I am. It's my favorite gaming genre and one I continue to follow avidly. I've long held to the idea that the Nintendo Switch, with it's touchscreen and on the go nature, is an ideal place for RTS/general strategy games.
Sadly, there aren't a whole lot right now for it, but games like The Banner Saga has made it clear the strategy genre on the whole can work incredibly well on the system. As such, when I saw Crush Your Enemies advertise as an actual RTS for the Switch, where you control various units around the map, I was instantly intrigued. Thankfully, it's a lot of damn fun.
[Note: I know the game originally released on the PC in 2016, but it wasn’t until the Switch version launched I managed to hear about it. As such, my review is from the perspective of an all new game and won’t be comparing the two versions.]
Crush Your Enemies presents itself as a no-nonsense, barebones RTS game. You won't be building your bases in the typical sense and for the most part keeps the focus on battling it out. The game itself references this quite a few times, and pokes fun at the genre itself in some humorous fourth-wall breaking cutscenes.
The story centers on a group of Barbarians, whose only goal is to "crush their enemies" and reclaim some lost land. They're rude and crude (this game is NOT for kiddos) and their mentality makes for some hilarious moments. The game plays out with a large overworld map, showing you various castles to take over, and villages to pillage. Selecting a location takes you to the battle screen, with three objectives.
You only have to complete ONE of the objectives to consider it a "victory," but trying to hit all the objectives improves your "respect" count (which takes the form of severed heads). On the map, you'll find certain towns, and even main missions, locked behind gates that require a specific amount of heads you've collected. If you're lacking in those, you won't be able to move forward. While this can feel like grinding at times, more often than not the secondary objectives offer up unique challenges that change the way you think/play through a battle; making it an all new experience.
The RTS battling itself is an interesting take on the genre. There are familiar ideas, but they've been shifted a bit to feel simple, while offering some surprising depth. As I mentioned, you're not building up a base in the traditional sense. You don't have a "build tree" and plot out land to place facilities. Instead, you start off with a set amount of warriors who can traverse the map. There are buildings, but they're in preset locations, and serve different purposes.
There's a building that allows you to produce more units (this one's pretty essential), while the others are used to convert those units to different warrior classes. You have archers, shieldbearers (that can reflect arrows back on units), and knights. To change a unit, all you have to do is walk them over to the building and it instantly happens. What this means, is you aren't stuck with the class you choose. You can take the same units to another building and change them to something else. This opens up a lot of strategy options and allows you to adjust to an enemy's tactics. Other buildings, like farms (which come in later) and guard towers are exactly like you think. They allow you to harvest food and keep enemy forces at bay respectively.
Movement is handled a little differently in the game. You don't have free reign over the map. Instead it's divided into equal squares of terrain. Each side gets their own color (Orange or Green) with neutral squares lying about as well. In order to move across a tile, you have to "claim" that terrain. So if you find yourself in enemy territory, you'll have to work fast to claim tiles before they attack.
It was a little weird at first, coming from traditional RTS games where you can move about freely (for the most part). The more I played, however, the more I loved the idea. It's a system that essentially prevents an opponent from rushing you right off the bat. Since you start with units ready to battle, it could easily happen and every battle would come down to a race across the map, rather than using any sort of strategy.
You can move quickly, as how fast you claim terrain is impacted by how many units you have in a square. This is another mechanic within the game that will keep you on your toes in every battle. You can only have 50 units in a group/tile at any one time, but the more you have, the quicker things happen. Whether it's taking over terrain, capturing an enemy building, or even recruiting more units. For example, if you have 5 people sitting on your unit structure, the rate of new recruits is super slow. Put 25 on there, and you'll be up to the 50 limit in a snap.
This balance of how many units to commit to a task, forms a key aspect of your strategy in every battle. Is it worth it to take things slower in other areas to have a larger group ready to attack/defend, or should you take the risk and use a big group to build your resources up quicker? It's something you'll have to figure out in the heat of battle and, oftentimes, those needs will change in the middle of it.
Like I said, it's a very simple idea, that cuts out the base building/tech tree aspect that's typical of RTS games but it doesn't take away from the amount of skill and strategy you'll need. It challenged the way I typically choose to play RTS games, and forced me to get out of my comfort zone to try new approaches. Crush Your Enemies embraces that "adapt or die" mentality and most of your battles won't play out the same way.
As you progress, new mechanics are thrown your way that will force you to adjust your strategy overall. The entire first "world" is all about combat and just as I got comfortable with some strategies and attacking certain ways, the second world introduces a kind of resource management system (wood cutting and food). Like most things in the game, it's a deceptively simple addition, but its sudden inclusion through me for a loop and I had to adjust my play style to account for it.
The simplified mechanics and overall structure of Crush Your Enemies is designed for one main thing: quick play action. Most battles range from the 10-20 minute range (some missions I spent more time THINKING about it than playing), so it's ideal for the portability of the Switch. For me, with four kids of various ages in the house, this structure helped me out a great deal.
This meant, even if I only had a few spare minutes, I'd be able to pick it up play through an entire mission in a few minutes and put it back on rest mode. Because the story is basic and the controls simple, it doesn't matter if you take a lengthy break from it, you'll be back up and battling in short order.
If you're able to play for extended periods of time, however, it's still just as fun. I took it with me on a recent flight and spent almost the entire three hour trip crushing my enemies. I never grew bored, because the strategy system makes each encounter different and fun in their own way. Combine all of this with some cheeky humor and it's just a lot of fun all around and I haven't been able to stop playing it.
There are some other features, including co-op and multiplayer battles, but I haven't been able to test those out in time for this review. As it stands, the core game itself is still worthwhile on its own.
The bare-bones approach makes it simple to control and play on a console, but also forces you to play in a totally different way. There's still plenty of strategy to find along with a surprising amount of depth. Between the gameplay and quick battles, Crush Your Enemies makes for a highly addictive RTS title that you'll be sinking plenty of hours into.