“Wait for Alehkhs’s drop, then send in the Majors,” Phill made the call. From where my Soldiers were, high in the treetops, I saw my ally’s Majors approach the edge of the enemy soil. Great behemoths next to their sisters, the Majors marched on, crushing all opposition with their massive jaws.
As the Majors reached the enemy’s nest, I gave the order to my Soldiers to drop. Falling through the leaves and to the ground below, my forces landed behind enemy lines and immediately began tearing away at their structures, ripping holes into the nest and streaming inside.
The Queen. I have to find the Queen! Where the hell is she!? My Soldiers no longer have the element of surprise and are beginning to take losses.
Eggs! I spy some workers carrying eggs to a nearby hatchery, and I begin a march against their tide, my soldiers slaughtering all that get in their way. Following this river of eggs, I finally come to the Queen, her abdomen swollen from pregnancy. My Soldiers descend upon her, their crushing mandibles slashing her hard exoskeleton.
Finally, our forces execute “her Majesty,” and I watch as her body withers into the soil. The day is ours!
Wanna know more? Continue after the jump.
This is your standard game of AntRush, the premier project by Australian developer Phillip Smith. Inspired by a mix of Will Wright’s old gem SimAnt and the classic games of the Command and Conquer series, AntRush is a casual real-time strategy that pits the tiny denizens of the dirt against each other in massive battles. Players can play against the computer in a 20+ mission Campaign, Challenge missions, or simply an offline skirmish. In addition, players can also participate in online matches with up to 7 other players; whether divided up into teams or as part of a free-for-all. One interesting feature of the Server System is the ability for players to “host a future game,” which will then show up in the server list with the date and time it is planned for. Interested players can “join” this game, letting the host know how many people will be able to make it.
AntRush works like a basic RTS: You construct a base, build (or in this case, birth) units, collect resources, and in time go forth and conquer your enemies. AntRush adapts this general layout and applies it to Ants. You begin with your “factory,” the Queen, and a small handful of units, which might consist of a mix of Workers and Soldiers. The Queen is essentially the flagship of your nest – if she is killed, you are defeated. The Workers construct the nest and collect food, but are next to worthless as a fighting force when it comes to the Soldiers, which are what you will eventually use to defeat your enemies. You can order your Queen to produce more eggs of any given “Caste” of unit, and she will lay the eggs (given that there is enough food; the “money/resource” of the game takes place in the form of fallen leaves). The structures that are shared by all the playable races of the game are simple yet strategically effective: there is the Chamber (allows your Queen to hide under the ground), the Silo (where food is stored), the Bunker (heals ants that rest in it between battle), and the Hatchery (where eggs are hatched).
So, what “races” are there to select from? Smith spent a good part of the planning for the project simply deciding what species of ants would be in the final game. "I researched many of the ants that could be considered “exotic” or “bizarre” or “interesting” and came up with a shortlist," Smith says. “Those on the shortlist, I then came up with logical adaptations of their abilities, nest layouts and castes. Then I compared how one would fair against the other, does this one have far too many bonuses? Etcetera.” In the end, Smith decided on his final four:
The “Gliding Ant” (Cephalotes atratus) first appears to be a simple ant: The species only has two working castes, a Worker caste and a Soldier Caste. However, what really makes this ant different is in its namesake: it can glide. All ants can travel above the map by climbing up the trunks of trees scattered around the map into the leafy canopy. However the Gliding Ant does not need to climb back down these trunks, but can simply drop immediately from the tree, gliding to the ground directly below. This allows for the Gliding ant to make “surprise attacks” by dropping down on their foes from above. The ant is also covered in thorn-like spikes, which deal damage to any attacker.
The Leaf-Cutter Ant (Atta sexdens) is has the most diversity of all the game’s species in terms of units. This species has 2 types of Workers, as well as 2 types of Soldiers. The larger of the Worker Castes collects the leaves for the colony’s food supply, while the smaller Workers can grow and tend a garden from these leaves which increases food revenue. Because of these gardens, the Leaf-Cutters are perhaps the most “economically secure” race in the game. The fighting units of the Leaf-Cutters are also divided by size; regular sized Soldiers, which will automatically partner up with a worker and guard them, and massive Majors, which are the largest fighting units in the game.
The third species of ants is the Slave-Maker Ant (Polyergus breviceps). These ants have no Worker Caste of their own. Instead, these ants have a fierce Soldier Caste, and a small, extremely fast Scout Caste. While these units can perform the tasks of workers, such as collecting food from leaves or constructing your nest, they are not very efficient at it. The solution to this problem is given in their name: the Slave-Make Ant makes slaves. By using their fast Scouts to locate and probe enemy nests, the Slave-Makers can rush in with their Soldiers and steal the eggs of their enemy, taking them back to their own nest and raising them as slaves (doing whatever their caste designates). Also, if a Slave-Maker Queen manages to kill the Queen of another race, all the ants under that Queen become slaves rather than simply dying. Sometimes an army of Slave-Makers can double in size as a result of one daring raid. In addition to taking slaves, Slave-Makers utilize the bodies of fallen ants, collecting them alongside leaves as a source of food. The Slave-Maker Ant is the species for risk-takers.
The final species isn’t actually an Ant. Rather; Smith felt that the title fourth race in the game was deserved by Termites (Reticulitermes). The Termites actually don’t differ from the ants too much, and have the similar structures of Chambers, Silos, and Hatcheries. However, there are several large changes that offer the Termites a distinctly defensive strength. First of all is the Watch Tower, which is a special structure that reveals a large portion of the map surrounding it, allowing the Termites to see incoming enemy forces. Then there is the King. That’s right, besides the Queen, Termites also have a King. A player needs to keep both their Queen and King alive in order to lay eggs, but if you lose one, you might be in luck: one of the units of the Termites is the Anate, which can replace either a fallen Queen or a fallen King, giving the player a second chance (or third, or fourth if they spend the resources). The other units of the Termites are mainly built for defensive purposes. There are Workers and standard Soldiers of course, but then there are the Tunnel Guards, which are fierce fighters, but cannot leave the soil surrounding the Nest, making them stay in the area. The last unit of the Termite army is even more restricted in their movement; the Elite Tunnel Guards rival the Leaf-Cutters’ Majors in size, and are superior to them in strength, but are unable to leave the interior of the Nest unless there is a large hole made for them, which is the result of a destroyed structure. This allows for the Termites to set up interesting traps, as if they position several Elite Guards underground around an unprotected structure, luring the enemy to attack and destroy it, the Elite Tunnel Guards rush out, ambushing the enemy. Once above the ground, these large fighters cannot return to the inside of the Nest.
The specialized nature of each of the four Species makes for some rather interesting play online. From desperate rushes by Slave-Makers to thought out and devious ambushes by Termites, the options presented in AntRush allows for deep strategic (yet precisely balanced) play. And while the game its self is complete, Smith is constantly releasing updated versions, which adjust the balance and alter the gameplay slightly but effectively.
What is Smith planning for his next game? “Definitely another AntRush,” he responds, “it turned out to be a great game, and it still has so much potential.” He hopes to make the jump to 3D for that game, and dreams of the gameplay that extra dimension would offer, “I envision seeing ants vertical on a tree trunk, fighting, the losing ant plummeting to the ground.”
AntRush comes in two flavors. A “Free Edition” (note, it isn’t called a “Demo” for a reason), which allows for unlimited play time and access to Online Multiplayer, 6 Campaign Missions, and 3 Challenge Missions. For $10, the player gets the full Campaign and Challenge section. Don’t let the presence of a “Paid” version fool you however; the Free Edition is a fully complete experience.
So get on over to his site, grab your version of this game, and I’ll see you online.