Cannon Brawl classifies itself as an RTS (Real Time Strategy) crossed with an artillery game. In short, it was a game I thought I was destined not to like. I generally have a less than friendly disposition towards strategy titles and I feared the worst as I started the game up for the first time. Luckily it didn’t take long to change my mind.
Cannon Brawl drops you and an opponent into a map with a simple task, blow each other up. Each player controls an airship that they will use to build artillery along the fully destructible map. Think Scorched Earth meets Starcraft. You’ll spend your time building cannons to attack the other player, but once they’re built you’re also going to have to hop in them and manually aim them at your opponent. After firing, the cannon will have a cooldown which allows you to hop out and continue working on your infrastructure. Once your opponent’s base has been destroyed you’ll be crowned the winner.
But it’s never that easy right? Well you might be surpsied. Cannon Brawl keeps its gameplay just simple enough that you can immerse yourself in the action without that classic RTS nagging feeling that you’re forgetting something.
The streamlining begins with controls. Despite the game’s RTS inspirations you won’t be finding a mouse cursor anywhere on your screen. Players are instead forced to use either the keyboard or a controller, and between the two I would heartily recommend the controller. I know, that probably doesn’t sound right, but just trust me here. Right now you’re only going to be playing on a Mac or PC but the creators hope to eventually land on consoles as well. Keep your fingers crossed, this game would be awesome with a touch screen like the one on the Wii U or 3DS.
Before starting a level or match players have a few choices to make. First you’ll be choosing your character. Everyone begins the game with the Princess, other characters are unlocked by progressing through the game’s campaign or spending money in the Armory. Different characters have different perks; the Princess’ units will cooldown at a faster rate, the Prince will heal buildings when his airship is near them, my personal favorite, the Driller, is able to blow up a chunk of land every 75 seconds.
You’ll unlock 5 characters via the game’s campaign but you’ll also be able to acquire 7 extras by spending experiences points in the game’s armory and 1 more by finishing the game’s campaign in Nightmare mode.
After selecting a character you’ll also be able to choose which units you’ll be building in battle. There are slots for 5 different types of armaments which means you’re not going to be able to bring your entire arsenal. Selecting which units to bring almost winds up being more important than how you play the game. Of course you’re probably going to want the standard cannon, but the game does throw other specialty items like missiles, drills, and lasers into the mix as well. You’ll also likely want to ensure that you have Mining Camps which will make you accumulate gold faster, you can eventually phase these out with banks that will not only accumulate money but also allow you to bribe enemy units into joining your side.
Limiting the number of units you can take into a fight not only adds strategy to a match before its even begun but it also takes the pressure off while you’re playing. Whereas most strategy games will saddle you with 20 different buildings to choose from at a time Cannon Brawl makes sure that your choices are always very clear and deliberate. Items can be upgraded to increase range and damage but their core functions never change.
The game’s campaign mode is brief and light on challenge. You can take down the final boss in less than 2 hours but once you’ve gotten that far there’s still plenty to do. For every two missions you complete in the story mode you’ll also find yourself unlocking a puzzle level, these levels will provide you with a specific layout and task you with destroying your enemy with a limited number of shots. I found these missions to be a nice change of pace from the game’s normal frantic speed. If the regular story mode doesn’t wind up being enough for you the game also features a “Nightmare” campaign which ups the difficulty but will also provide experience points to aid you in unlocking more stuff from the game’s armory.
Multiplayer is available to you in both an online and offline mode. Although the game’s current early access phase has made it somewhat devoid of people looking for an online match, I was able to get into a few games and get my ass handed to me. I found local multiplayer to be a little more enjoyable simply because I had other people to play with and their skill levels were closer in orbit to my own. Hopefully online matches will become more abundant as the game leaves early access.
Cannon Brawl does a great job at making strategy feel accessible. Its fast paced gameplay gives you all the stress and excitement of a strategy game without the agonizing micromanagement and learning curve. The campaign isn’t perfect, but there’s enough here to keep you going long after you finish it. If you’re a strategy fan you could certainly do a lot of worse things with the game’s 15 dollar asking price. If you’re like me and you generally write off strategy games as “not being for you” I’d still recommend taking a crack at this one.
This game was reviewed using pre-release code provided to us by the publisher.