Suffering from a name that sounds a little like it's going to be an eco-education game, Oil Rush is in fact a sci-fi strategy game about warring for precious resources and speedboat factories on the high seas of a drowned future-Earth.

While falling roughly into the build'n'bash familiarity of traditional real-time strategy games, Oil Rush eschews entirely individual control of your growing legions of boats, jetskis, planes and helicopters. Instead, you order 25, 50 or 100% of your units at a time to bounce from fixed node to fixed node, each of which automatically builds and replaces units  - praying you've sent enough to overwhelm whatever forces the enemy has at the target point, and double-praying that you haven't left one of your own nodes dangerously unguarded.

On top of that, you need to build and upgrade turrets at the nodes you control, very much in the well-worn tower defence vein. Neither of these systems is especially novel - the indirect control/percentage idea is famous from Galcon on iOS - but the combination of the two builds to an intense and frantic strategy game.

It's a game of constant movement, ushering forces this way, then ordering half of them back the other way in a panic, all the while hopping from node to node to see what hasn't been built or upgraded yet. On top of that, a slow trickle of experience points unlocks global upgrades such as increasing unit defence or temporary powers such as hobbling enemy unit construction for a few seconds.

Oddly though, you'll spend very little time looking at the main screen, even though it's full of fairly attractive explosions and jaunty little sci-fi boats haring all over the place. The bulk of the game is played solely with the mini-map on the bottom right of the screen, which clearly marks what belongs to who, what's in contention and how many units are at or en route to which nodes. The only times it's necessary to use the main screen is to place and upgrade turrets - something that swiftly becomes a fine and efficient art as it's a click'n'done affair. There is an option to activate a 'cinematic' camera and watch the action play itself out whenever you have a quiet moment - but you'll almost never have a quiet moment, so it's redundant.

Oil Rush

The singleplayer game's glacier-slow plot and play-for-the-day voice acting doesn't help make it a more aesthetically dynamic affair, although the heroic young captain you play as being called 'Kevin' at least adds unintentional chuckles. (There's nothing wrong with Kevin as a name, in case you too are a Kevin - but you'll surely admit it's not the first name that springs to mind when thinking of sci-fi heroes). So, recommending Oil Rush - which I most assuredly do - is an odd matter. I'm recommending its great concept and its laser-honed mechanics, but almost everything outside of that 1/16th of the screen with houses the mini-map elicits little more than a shrug.

Oil Rush is at its best in skirmish maps against AI or in multiplayer, where you have free access to all the units and turrets on offer (not that there are many, and nor do they need to be: this is about almost mathematical precision in what you build and send where) and none of the distractions of the sleepy plot and silly acting. There, it becomes the unfettered push-and-pull across territory that it needs to be, where every rush against a node is a desperate gamble and where the slow transformation of that vital mini-map to your side's colour elicits the proud rush of impending victory.

Oil Rush: Specs

  • OS: Windows XP, Vista, 7 (32-bit and 64-bit versions) Processor: 2 GHz Memory: 1Gb Hard Disk Space: 3 Gb Free Space Video Card: NVIDIA GeForce 8600 or better, ATI Radeon HD2600 or better Video memory: 256 Mb DirectX®: 9.0 Copyright © 200 Also available for OSX and Linux
  • OS: Windows XP, Vista, 7 (32-bit and 64-bit versions) Processor: 2 GHz Memory: 1Gb Hard Disk Space: 3 Gb Free Space Video Card: NVIDIA GeForce 8600 or better, ATI Radeon HD2600 or better Video memory: 256 Mb DirectX®: 9.0 Copyright © 200 Also available for OSX and Linux

OUR VERDICT

Oil Rush is a smart and tight fusion of two very different types of strategy game - but despite all the sturm und drang of its Waterworld-esque conflicts it might just work better as a lo-fi matter of pushing shapes around a full-screen map.

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