Riot: Try to overthrow the government
Riot: If one peasant like you can’t do anything, perhaps a hundred peasants can
Me: Hey! Who you calling a peasant?
These are the first lines in the Readme.txt that accompanies the download of Riot from Itch.io. I don’t think I’ve ever been abused so early on in a game. Riot was made during the Brackeys Game Jame 2021, and received a fair amount of praise upon submission. This off-hand, jaunty attitude runs all the way through Riot. It opens with a pirate sea shanty and a bunch of faceless characters being hurled by trebuchets (a catapult to you non-historians) into the wall of a fort and exploding.
I’m not sure why these little fellas explode but there we are. It’s slightly comedic and sends the message….we’re here to have fun. I haven’t seen that many medieval games in 2021, and I would be hard pushed to list the best medieval games for PC. But I’m thinking I’d probably include Riot.
Reverse Tower Defence
Riot is a sort of reverse Tower Defence or a simplistic reduction of an early Total War game, where you play as the attackers and you get given hundreds of them to throw into the breach. You must begin a short distance from the settlement, you are always attacking a small circular settlement, which will be increasingly well defended; towers, turrets and double walls all making more frequent and dense appearances as each level passes.
You choose a spot to attack from and press the left mouse to begin deploying your men. They appear and immediately and lemming-like, charge at the nearest building to begin attacking it (which seems to mean clubbing it with their fists). You end up with a long line of synchronised running guys all heading for the palisade.
The goal of each level is to break into the fortified medieval style village and storm the ‘Town Hall’ at the centre, although it looks little more than a barn. In compensation for the increasing fortification of each level you are afforded an increasingly large mob of peasants to deploy, an ability to place trebuchets and eventually the addition of ‘bombers’.
The medieval trebuchet will only engage action if some of your men are attacking a structure and then it will fling a single fella through the air to land on top of the building roughly every five seconds or so. The unfortunate volunteer seems to like it as the little flung men ‘wheee’ with excitement, they land however, with the visible splat of a pancake and motionlessly slide off the structure like Wylie Coyote hitting a rock wall. The bombers on the other hand appear to be flaming mummies that run straight to the nearest building and explode like some sort of bandaged, possessed suicide bomber.
There is an element of managing your resources to Riot as the trebuchet costs 15 peasants to place, but does not seem to deplete your reserves with the men it flings (there’s an exploit here) and the bombers costs 5 peasants. The only other strategic element is where you choose to drop your mob, because this matters. We’re not talking Terra Invicta level of strategy here, of course.
The little fellas are programmed to charge at and attack the nearest eligible structure and when they destroy it they charge the next nearest one from there. So where you place and launch attacks from matters.
This all sound wonderful fun and it is, but…
Whilst classes of men might differ the overly simplistic AI your peasant mob is endowed with is does not. For example, having breached a wall they do not head for the next wall or the tower blocking the way to the town hall…no they just start to attack the next segment of wall, because it is the next nearest eligible structure. All the while the towers defending the cities are bombarding your idiot crew. Even if you reserve men and dispatch them later when a gaping breach in the wall has been made in front of you they will still head off at a 50° angle and attack a pointless barn off to the right.
You will shift around the gap trying to find the sweet spot to stop them running that way and then all of a sudden the men you lay start running off at a 50°angle to the left now.
Best Medieval Game 2021 Nominee: Riot
The Trebuchet’s just follow suit and so do the bombers. It is frustrating and there are few more annoying things in a game than controls which result in an action you did not input or want and there being little you can do about it.
This does promote a disengagement with the game in the latter third, which is a shame, because I began by thinking this was reasonably fun.
Riot offers 12 levels of increasing difficulty and can be completed in an about two hours. There are not many decisions to make or much variation in play; make a choice of where to start, release the mob, watch for results, move and repeat. Simply calling Riot a medieval game is doing it an injustice. I mean, I did compare it to Total War not long ago.
With improvements Riot might become something more interesting, it has character, charm and appeal. I do love the menu soundtrack, but overall Riot is a nice idea that starts well and does not really develop.
Somewhat spoiled by poor AI, Riot still has enough about it to make a decent, lunchtime distraction; a surprisingly relaxing and unstressful one for a game named Riot.