RedSun RTS does not quite bring back the Glory Days

The real-time strategy genre is often hailed as a dead one or at least as one whose golden days are long gone. RedSun RTS, developed by Yuri Eletskikh and published by Redsungames, aims to change that.

According to its own Steam blurb, RedSun RTS has already done this, and declares itself “a prime example of the genre classic RTS”. A real-time strategy game it certainly is — complete with base building, resource gathering and army management.

The basics are lifted from the Command & Conquer series: you start with a construction vehicle that unfolds into a headquarters at a location of your choice. The headquarters allows you to construction additional buildings, mainly refineries, power plants, production facilities and base defences.

The basic gameplay formula is not the only thing that RedSun RTS lifts from the Command & Conquer franchise. The three factions — Alliance, USSR, and Japan — are almost identical to the ones from Red Alert 3, and the buildings and units are also heavily inspired by Red Alert 2 and 3.

The resource, regrowing blue crystals that need to be picked off the ground, seems to be courtesy of the Tiberium games instead. Or StarCraft — you decide! Even Age of Empires II gets a cameo, having provided the cliffs. Speaking of which: stay away from the cliffs. Units tend to get stuck on them, unless they phase through the cliffs entirely.

The rest of the game isn’t much better: the controls are awkward and unreliable, the interface does not scale well on larger monitors, scrolling is needed were enough space is available and any new building ready to be placed always appear in the centre of the screen first. That’s more jarring than you might think.

Fine control or micromanagement of units is almost impossible, but also unnecessary. A massive tank blob is all that RedSun RTS ever asks of you. The unit roster is quite large, but does not offer too much variety. Building overpowered aircraft or the biggest tank available generally gets the job done.

The reason for the large amount of clunkiness in RedSun RTS is its origin: it’s a mobile port. Based on a statement from the developer, the game’s Windows version was build from scratch, but even taking that into account, it retained all its bugs and flaws. Including vehicles with no animated wheels or treads, gliding over the ground like vampires.

RedSun RTS has a couple of DLC units available, but they are all redundant. This may sound disappointing, but at least this means that there is no DLC giving you an easy way to beat all the campaigns.

Instead, the key to victory is a little bit of patience during the earlier campaign missions. One of RedSun RTS’s most interesting features is the large tech tree. In addition to the basic units, the tech tree allows you to permanently unlock new units and upgrades. This is a neat concept, but has one fatal flaw. While upgrades are fairly expensive, almost all maps have unlimited resources.

Thus, nothing prevents a player from purchasing a bunch of useful upgrades straight away. Even those who do not deliberately accumulate wealth to spend in the tech centre will find themselves with a lot of spare change, usually during the cleanup phase of a mission. RedSun RTS often requires you to find and exterminate every single enemy soldier on a map, giving you plenty of time to mine those crystals.

The missions are nothing to write home about either. They are mostly serviceable, but suffer from the AI being weak — provided with plenty of resources, base defences being too effective and some maps having no protection against certain threats, like bombers or helicopters.

The story of RedSun RTS is a bit of a sad one. The elements are all there but the execution is severely lacking. RedSun RTS does not live up to the bold claims it makes and ends up as little more than another mediocre mobile port.

RedSun RTS is available for PC and Mac via Steam.

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