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Acorn Assault: Rodent Revolution

Platform(s): PC, Xbox One
Genre: Strategy
Publisher: Black Shell Media
Developer: High Tale Studios
Release Date: March 2, 2016

About Brian Dumlao

After spending several years doing QA for games, I took the next logical step: critiquing them. Even though the Xbox One is my preferred weapon of choice, I'll play and review just about any game from any genre on any system.


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PC Review - 'Acorn Assault: Rodent Revolution'

by Brian Dumlao on May 5, 2016 @ 7:00 a.m. PDT

Acorn Assault is a quirky, tail-bobbing turn-based strategy game where you embark on a historically inaccurate retelling of the French Revolution with squirrels.

There's nothing wrong with being simple. Often, a game that is a simplified form of its genre is a great way to introduce the genre to those who would likely be intimidated by it. This can ring especially true for the strategy genre, which is seen as having a steep learning curve. Acorn Assault: Rodent Revolution is a very simple strategy game, and while some may complain that it takes things too far, it's enjoyable if you accept this shortcoming.

The story can be summarized as the French Revolution by way of squirrels. The king has become a tyrant, believing it's his right to take away everything from his people even though he squanders acorns without a second thought. For years, the people have been taxed incessantly while he and the queen live a lavish lifestyle. One day, a peasant named Charles DeMontesquirrel declares that he has had enough, and after fighting off the tax collector, he leads the rest of the squirrels in a revolt.

The story flows along quite smoothly, and the diorama style cut scenes do a very good job of effectively setting up every leg of the tale. While the plot works when it is being told in a straightforward manner, it doesn't feel as good once humor is added. The jokes either don't hit as hard or, in the case of the guard in the second chapter, all of the bits have been recycled several times over. It's fine, but you wouldn't be faulted if you don't pay attention while these scenes play.

The mechanics are quite simple for a turn-based strategy title. On your turn, you're given a set number of tokens that are divided into two categories. Barrels act as your defense while squirrels make up your offense. You place the items on your side of the board in the order you're given. Once you finish setting up, you're given the chance to spend your acorns on buffing up your offensive or defensive stats as well as fortifying your base. Then you proceed with your attack, wait for the opponent to do the same, and repeat the process but with your stats reset. Since your items are infinite, your goal is to aim for the base and not the soldiers, so you can deplete its energy before the enemy does the same to you.

The only wrinkle is that you always start with the basics on both offense and defense, and there's no way to place a powerful item from the start. Instead, powering up items requires you to place three of the same type next to each other, letting it form into a much stronger item at the spot where the last piece was placed. Defensive items can go from barrels to sandbags to proper fortifications. Soldiers start with pistols, but you can upgrade them to riflemen and demolitions experts. As expected, each incarnation increases in strength, so there's a definite advantage to trying to get more powerful items as early as possible.

The straightforward objective of going after the base makes the game simple to grasp ¾ so much so that your enemies generally ignore thinning your numbers in favor of damaging your base. The strategy falls on preventing one side from strengthening its troops while putting in as much damage as possible during your turn. As a result, defense rarely factors in, so aggressive play often yields better results.

The simplicity does backfire the further you get into the game. You'll notice that the five match fights between characters can feel rather long since the only thing that changes between rounds is a map layout that is more limiting to you than them. Additionally, their powers increase while you get nothing out of the exchange. The randomized nature of your items per turn causes situations where you'll get a bum draw while the enemy always draws in its favor. Also, the inability to cancel choices or reposition your items on your side of the board is an odd omission. You'll eventually get used to it, but you'll also feel like this should have been addressed better.

The game features a multiplayer mode to lengthen its lifespan once the campaign has been finished. It plays out in exactly the same way as the solo game, except that the bosses you defeated in the campaign are now playable ¾ complete with extra abilities that can make the game fun and challenging, depending on if you're playing as or against them, respectively. The option for local multiplayer is available, which is good since there's no one to be found online. The strategy aspect isn't that deep, but the mode is welcome since it isn't feasible to get local multiplayer going on one machine for games of this genre.

From a presentation standpoint, the game is fine. The music is good even if it isn't memorable, and the sound effects play out in a similar way. Graphically, the environments look quite nice, and the effects are a nice touch, like the sparks when declaring victory and some of the lighting effects that are present. The character models look nice and animate rather well, even though they don't display a wide range of them. Overall, there's nothing great or terrible here.

In the end, Acorn Assault: Rodent Revolution isn't anything truly special. The basic mechanics don't tax the player as far as strategy goes, and while the match-three mechanic is a nice touch, the inability to correct your infantry and item placement as well as the randomized draw of what you have at your disposal can be an annoyance. Still, the simple mechanics are easy to understand and pretty solid if you can deal with the inherent limitation. For those looking for the simplest possible strategy game that's also easy to understand, give this one a shot. Veterans might want to take a peek, but don't expect to stay with it for very long.

Score: 6.5/10

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