Real-time strategy has had a bit of a tough time over the past decade, though attempts to reinvigorate the genre are plentiful. A Year Of Rain, developed and published by Daedalic Entertainment, joins the party and adds cooperative gameplay to the mix.
Superficially, A Year Of Rain strongly resembles WarCraft III: Reign of Chaos, both with regard to gameplay and style, up to the point where one could think that the game is a particularly elaborate mod. Players start a match with a headquarters, train workers to gather resources and build new structures, and train an army to destroy their enemy.
This does sound rather basic, which it is, but many of the details, such as the pace of resource gathering, a strong focus on hero units and support powers, the upkeep mechanic, and the slightly cartoonish visuals make it clear where A Year Of Rain took inspiration from. That said, WarCraft III is generally considered to be one of the greatest strategy games of all time, and itself refined the wheel instead of reinventing it.
This makes it a lot easier to glance over A Year Of Rain’s derivativeness, especially if combined with its cooperative gameplay. While also not entirely new, the focus on coop is strong, with all campaign missions being designed around it, and multiplayer focussing entirely on 2v2 matches.
In multiplayer, three factions are available: House Rupah, a noble house set to claim lands in the untamed wilderness, the Wild Banners, considered savage and bestial by others, and the Restless Regiment, an evil faction of mind-controlled beings. The three factions differ mechanically, but otherwise represent the established trinity of good, neutral, and evil, at least initially in the campaign.
Speaking of the campaign: A Year of Rain only has one campaign, despite having three factions. The game’s development was troubled, and while it has nominally left early access, A Year Of Rain is unfinished, and will likely remain so. Though playable, the cracks are visible almost everywhere.
A Year of Rain’s worst problem by a long shot is the pathfinding. Pathfinding has always been a challenge in real-time strategy games, as everyone who ever tried to lead a column of virtual tanks across a bridge knows. A Year Of Rain’s pathfinding is so bad that the AI sometimes gets stuck in a dead-end for the entirety of a mission for no apparent reason. In this regard, the game is subpar even compared to games from 25 years ago, which is simply not acceptable.
Playing with a human companion fixes this issue, but shouldn’t really be a requirement for enjoying the game. And it doesn’t fix the enemy AI, which sometimes decides to hang out in the corner of the map forever. The rest of the AI isn’t any better; at best, both CPU mate and enemy AI will build a handful of units and run into one another, at worst, they both remain idle and become easy prey. Performance issues and a lack of in-mission saves come on top of this.
At the end of the day, A Year Of Rain is a game that, while derivative, could have been great — adorable pangolin workers included — but at the end of the day, its issues remain too numerous to play it instead of already established strategy titles.
A Year Of Rain is now available for PC via Steam.