A Year of Rain – Steam Early Access Preview

A Year of Rain is a real-time strategy from Daedalic Entertainment currently in Steam Early Access. The game features easily recognizable colorful stylized art, three unique factions, a story-driven campaign and a variety of heroes packed with unique abilities to lead your troops into battle. One of the more surprising additions of A Year of Rain is that the game has been built from the ground up for a team of two players – or one player and an AI-controlled ally – also allowing for the ultimate co-op experience in 2v2 skirmishes.

Gameplay

The moment I launched the game and jumped into the campaign, I let out a contented sigh – A Year of Rain feels like coming home. The game is obviously heavily inspired by WarCraft III and follows its classic gameplay model: you have workers to gather materials and construct buildings, upgrades to grab at a local smithy, a variety of units with their own strengths and weaknesses, and tough Heroes to lead your armies. As you battle your enemies, your Heroes will level up, allowing you to learn new or upgrade already known abilities. You will also be able to find consumables and equipment for your Heroes, such as armor, potions, scrolls, etc. that will come handy in tougher fights.

The game features three unique factions: House Rupah, The Restless Regiment, and The Wild Banners. While all three are available to try out in the Skirmish mode, the campaign so far only features House Rupah.

One thing in universal, however. In A Year of Rain, you cannot just turtle down in your main base and go into deep defense, biding your time. The mines of Anorium (the game’s version of Gold) have a very limited supply of the resource, and if you do not expand in the early game, you will easily burn through it. In fact, that is exactly what happened to me in one of the early campaign missions, and soon I found myself under the increasing attacks from the AI while trying to scout out a new mine.

Heroes mostly do not use mana and are limited by the cooldown on their abilities. In the early campaign missions, you could have only one consumable item per hero.

If you are new to the RTS genre, A Year of Rain features a two-part tutorial to set you up to speed. Over the course of the two training missions, you will learn everything you need to know: from how to move your Heroes and map, to building, to upgrading and more.

Story

After an introductory mission that has you killing undead around the map, the campaign takes you to a faraway land for… some reason. In a grand speech, a Hero we have recently met passionately tells us of his plans to conquer that unclaimed land and make a name and a legacy out of that. Of course, nothing goes according to plan and the entire expedition crashes on the shores of this unknown land. From that point on, the campaign follows the struggles of Jaidee Rupah and his companions.

I am on board with the plan regardless of its early failure, but it would have been nice to be eased into the world of A Year of Rain and introduced to the characters at a slower pace.  The Heroes you meet in the Tutorial are a duo of Paladins with obvious shared history – but that is about all the info you get. Besides voicing the usual Paladin stuff, like being merciful or protecting the weak, the two never mention what/who they believe in, or the name of their Order or why are they even there to deal with a local warlord, to begin with.

The first campaign map – largely serving as an introduction – has your characters fight against the undead. Where are those coming from? Are there devious necromancers lurking in the shadows? Is it a big problem on the continent or just a local flavor? No one knows.

Who is Jaidee Rupah, besides being “the third son”, and how does he know the Paladin Hero? What is his family known for and who are they? Why do we need this other unclaimed land with its “Anorium”, and why is the arm of another Hero made out of lava and no one acts concerned about it?

As the campaign moves onward, the questions pile up while answers are provided very infrequently. Altogether, I got a feeling as if I was playing a sequel and thus lost on important story elements or even some very basic world-building details.

Problems

A Year of Rain is in Early Access stage for a reason, and it goes beyond balancing changes. Currently, the game has a few serious problems, and the chief among them is the unit pathing. Your army and Heroes have a collision with each other, and that leads to issues with controls. One of my Heroes got pushed far enough to actually fall between textures because of collision. Thankfully, the map did not require the Heroes to reach certain points and I was able to move forward.

Melee units tend to flock and prevent Heroes and other melees from attacking. Frequently, you will have to control a unit at a time to better the positioning so that your entire army manages to lend a hand.

Ranged units suffer from this, too. Sometimes two or three units would advance alongside the melee to attack while the rest will circle around outside of range and keep colliding into each other.

Beyond pathing, the game also has moments where performance dips down or altogether stops for a few seconds.

To sum it up, anyone who enjoys the RTS genre will have a lot of fun in A Year of Rain – but you might want to wait until the developers roll out some of the fixes or get the game to a full release stage. It is extremely fun when it is working well, but also extremely frustrating when it does not, especially in the later stages of a map where a freeze or a pathing issue can cost you a victory.

The developers have revealed that an improved Pathfinding System is in progress and they can’t wait to roll it out after some testing and tweaking. The optimization enhancement is also on the table. You can find out what else is in plans for the game by checking out Daedalic’s roadmap for A Year of Rain.

Pros:

  • Aesthetically pleasing
  • Three diverse factions (the Story Campaign so far is only for one)
  • Solid classic gameplay canvas

Cons:

  • Pathing issues
  • Performance spikes and dips
  • AI is not very smart

Note: the Early Access key was provided by the developers for the purposes of this preview.

Written by
While growing up in the wilds of Russia, Catherine learned to talk, write and game at almost the same time. You can follow her attempts at latter two at MMORPG.com and GameSpace.

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