(Images from Zillion Whales’ press kit)
Name: Mushroom Wars 2
Developer & Publisher: Zillion Whales
Platform: PC, PS4, XBOX ONE, Android and iOS
Released: 6th of October 2017 on Steam
Mushroom Wars 2 is a simple RTS (Real Time Strategy game) published by indie studio Zillion Whales on Steam, PS4, XBOX ONE, Android and iOS. The game became available on steam on the 6th of October and features two single-player campaigns as well as an online multiplayer mode and a competitive multiplayer mode.
At its core, Mushroom Wars 2 is an RTS about troop management. You send armies of tiny mushrooms between your structures, or to enemy structures to initiate attacks. Your mushroom troops are also used to upgrade or change structures, and such become the main currency of the game. Additionally your “hero” has a set of abilities that can influence the field of battle, and these use an energy bar that fills up over time.
The game thus becomes a series of consideration of how to best use your mushrooms. Should you use your large force to invade hostile territory? Or are they better spent upgrading this defensible position with a turret? Maybe your hero’s abilities are best utilized on large armies? These are the sort of considerations that have to be made in order to outsmart and eventually overwhelm your opponent.
Unfortunately, there is a limit to the depth of these mechanics and it can quickly start to feel like you are just waiting for troops, and then winning through sheer numbers. Can’t capture that building? Wait a few minutes and throw more mushrooms at it. In early portions of the game this is remedied by introducing new buildings and environmental hazards, but in my opinion it is never quite enough to introduce enough depth. That said, higher difficulties hide more information (such as how many troops an enemy has, or whether you can upgrade your buildings) and thus introduce a second layer of holding onto information and guessing at your opponent’s strengths and weaknesses, which helps a lot. Still, the later levels of the single player campaign can start to feel like a bit of a slog.
If you enjoy the core gameplay of Mushroom Wars 2 there is tons of replay potential. Each level has 4 difficulties and the campaign can be played with different heroes and abilities. Additionally there is the multiplayer mode which can definitely be fun if you’re the competitive type, and also introduces even more heroes with interesting abilities.
The controls of Mushroom Wars 2 are excellent. Being developed for a wide range of platforms with interfaces ranging from gamepads to touch screens, the control scheme is surprisingly elegant. Everything can be done with the mouse, but there are useful keyboard shortcuts to execute actions faster when necessary. Clearly a lot of design work has gone into making controls intuitive and easy to grasp and it really shows. On top of it all, the user interface is elegant and responsive, making it feel good to send your mushroom troops running across the map with their little war-cries.
Graphics and Aesthetics
The art style of Mushroom Wars 2 is very cute. The mushrooms are positively adorable at every turn, even as they meet on increasingly deadly battlefields. This contrast of cutesy art and brutal wars is shown clearly in simple cutscenes between some of the story missions which often contain dramatic scenes of battle, made somehow palpable by the wonderful character art. The tone is also set by the soundtrack, which fluxes well between cutesy mushroom-folk themes and epic battle music.
The story presented, however, leaves a lot to be desired. Consisting only of a handful of cutscenes with no dialogue, it is clear that Zillion Whales did not set out to craft an engaging story as much as a backdrop for the action. The art primarily serves the role of setting a tone and presenting gameplay, which it does rather well.
For players coming from the original Mushroom Wars, the sequel offers several new features. First and foremost it is an upgrade in presentation with new art, animation and music. It also introduces heroes and their ability to swing the tides of battle, as well as co-op multiplayer and a competitive queue.
Mushroom Wars 2 is a fun simple take on the RTS genre. By simplifying mechanics, wrapping them in a very cute style, and giving the game fantastically simple controls, the genre is made accessible and fun on several platforms. If you are looking for a deep strategy game or an engaging story, this is not the RTS for you. Still, Zillion Whales have crafted a very good game full of endearing details and fun takes on the genre.
Replay Value: 6/10