Harvest: Massive Encounter
Harvest: Massive Encounter, by Oxeye Game Studio, is a survival-based real-time strategy game with several modes of play that lend a free-form tower defense feel to the experience. You play the humans defending an expanding plot of land against swarms (and I do mean swarms) of alien UFOs, mechanized bots and other baddies. It's an extremely frantic game that's usually more nerve-wrecking than brain-stretching.
When compared to most real time strategy games, Harvest is light on the strategy and depth of unit abilities but heavy on arcade-style action and swarms of enemies. Set in the distant future, you play the role of a new worker on the planet Hephaestus who must build a defense network against invading aliens. You won't fight just one or two at a time, however. Expect each wave to number in the hundreds, all of which must be dispatched before you can take a breather. Saying this game is intense doesn't do it justice.
To build units in Harvest you must first mine the hills for minerals. With enough cash in hand, place buildings with a simple click of the mouse. Then, supply units with energy by distributing tiny waypoint nodes throughout the battlefield. The massive network of energy being exchanged will form a glowing web that's quite impressive to look at, especially when you get an idea what a strong feed is compared to a weak one. The more energy a building gets, the faster it's erected, the faster it reloads, and the faster it repairs itself when damaged.
In general, your first task should be to establish several harvesters to bring in minerals, then place a few energy waypoints before plopping laser towers or missile bases on the ground. There are only six building types, each with a few upgrade or optional modes of operation, but it's quantity that counts in this game, so build lots of them. Many times I found myself just scrolling and clicking the landscape at random to place towers.
There are five main modes to play in Harvest: Massive Encounter, each with a slightly different shade of strategy/tower defense/arcade action. All modes are available on three unique planets: Hephaestus, Aries, and Poseidon.
- Normal: Establish a stable base to defend against an ever-growing army of aliens. Earn as many credits as possible and try to top your best threat level with each try.
- Wave: The most tower defense-like mode, prepare your defenses for as long as you like, then unleash the waves of aliens. Defeat all ten increasingly massive waves as quickly as possible.
- Insane: True to its name, Insane forces you to build a base deep in enemy territory. You start with extra resources, but the aliens aren't too pleased with you...
- Rush: Resources are plentiful, but the enemy is fierce. The goal is to deal 50,000 points of damage as quickly as possible while defending your base from the aliens.
- Creative: A sandbox-style mode where you build a settlement and have full control over attacking swarms of aliens.
Analysis: While it does favor swarms instead of strategy, once you dig your nails deep into the game you'll learn subtle strategies necessary to polish off the toughest challenges Harvest throws your way. It's about long-term survival, not packing a powerful one-two punch and calling it a day, placing the game in a slightly different category than most in the genre.
The variety of modes in Harvest do wonders for replayability, but after spending a lot of time with the game you'll suddenly realize it's a one-trick pony. Sure, that one trick is amazing and will keep you busy for weeks, but the variety of units and enemies just doesn't support a long, progressive experience. Think of Harvest as a series of very polished casual Flash games packaged together and you'll have an idea of what to expect.
The free time-unlimited demo contains the first two modes of play on the planet Hephaestus. Download, run through the excellent tutorial, then start your career as alien swarm obliterator.