One of my favorite game genres is RTS games. The satisfaction that you get from building up your empire, setting up an economy, and preparing yourself to defeat the enemy. It can be such a rewarding feeling. Games like Age of Empires II, Rise of Nations, or Rise & Fall – Civilizations At War are just three of the amazing games I have played to death when I was a kid. Now, when I got a mail from the fine folks over at Skydome Entertainment with a press code for The Hive and full freedom with my article, I was extremely excited. This game has been under development for several years now. The first development blog posts on the Steam Store page date all the way back to December 2014 and the latest patch has been released on March 9th, 2020, which is version 1.203. This is the version I’ll talk about in this article, so if this game got an update, it’s possible that some things in this article or no longer relevant. So, without further ado, I think it’s high time that we take a look at this game and it’s worth your time or if you should skip this game. And as usual, feel free to leave a comment with your opinion on the game and/or the content of this article down below.
War With Bugs
Something happened to the world. The story of this game starts off in 2175, where our planet Earth got attacked and destroyed. Humanity was able to build a ship and leave Earth before it was completely destroyed and went off a journey to look for a new planet to life. After a human lifetime of searching, a new planet in a new solar system was found. The humans were taken out of their cryogenic sleep to start-up life anew in the harsh climate. But, something is alive underneath the crust of that planet. Something awakens in the City Of Ancients that might prove a big issue for the humans and the catch is, it’s you that takes control of the new species and try and help to find it’s old glory.
You play as The Hive and you are the leader of bugs living in The City Of Ancients. The story gets more interesting in the further chapters but I’m not going to spoil it. To be honest, I got some Overlord vibes from the story. Maybe because both games are about minions you control and have their own unique abilities. The atmosphere is similar to a certain degree. The plot of this game is quite enjoyable and it didn’t disappoint at all.
One thing I should mention is that this game has no skirmish mode as far as I know. So, that means if you finish the 12-ish hour-long campaign, you basically have beaten the game. You could try to beat it on a higher difficulty to challenge yourself but outside that, the game has no real replay value after defeating the campaign.
Now, this game also has voice acting. The voice acting in this game is quite impressive. The production value is impressive for being an indie title. It feels that the voice actors put their heart and soul into the characters and gave them a nice personality. I especially liked the effects they put on the voice for the Insect Advisor.
While this game takes place in a magical universe, there isn’t a lot of technobabble. For those who don’t know that term, it means that everything has its own name and there are a million exposition dumps. If you have played an RTS game in the past, you will know right what to do and the war of the bugs can begin.
War of Bugs
So, the gameplay loop in this game is that you have to explore the caves underneath the planet to find a way up. You learn a lot about the War and the fight against the other species that took place. While most levels use the usual RTS gameplay loop of build city, build the economy, build an army, find enemy, attack the enemy army, destroy enemy base; a few puzzles and unique twists are thrown into the mix.
In terms of gameplay and mechanics, I have a mixed feeling. There are things that I enjoyed quite a lot and there are things that baffled me. Let’s do a round of good thing – bad thing to sum a few things up.
So, while building your empire, you can not only rotate around the camera but the buildings as well. Man, I love features like these. It makes it less awkward when I placed a barracks in a corner and my units spawn out of a wall from the building. Alas, the building of buildings has one thing that I found frustrating. I have gotten so used to the fact that you can cue up buildings to build, but that doesn’t work in this game.
The gathering of resources works in a unique way. Food doesn’t rot away and workers don’t have to walk back and forth to the hive. A special cart rides out from the nearest gathering point to collect the resources. So, your workers put all the gather resources on a pile and these carts come and pick it up. The resources don’t even rot away and you don’t have to do anything for it to collect it. The only “downside” is that you can only use one worker per resource gathering point. Now, what’s the bad thing here?
Well, there is a soft-lock potential. The resources aren’t infinite. Now, imagine this scenario in the Age of Empires II. There is no more wood on the map but you need wood for your archers. What can you do? Well, you can build up a ton of farms and trade that food over for gold to buy wood at the market. This avoids the issue that if everything of one resource is gathered, it’s impossible to get. Now, in The Hive, there is no such thing as a market or a farm. Meaning that every decision counts. Thankfully, you really have to make bad decision after bad decision in order for you to soft-lock yourself but the fact that the potential is there always worried me.
The UI of this game is pretty impressive. The options menu is something that I can only praise. An explanation of what key does what? It’s a feature I’ll miss in other games. If only, a similar explanation appeared for the graphic options, but hey, that would clutter the UI of the graphics options a bit too much. Yet, I have two things that I disliked about the UI. First of all, if I may nitpick, I found the text on the buttons on the pause menu a bit hard to read since the text color and the color of the buttons are somewhat close to each other. And second, the visual design of the menu’s that you open using the pause menu are so different in design… I mean, the pause menu has a sort of cave theming like the UI in-game, and suddenly, a more space / modern UI appears for the options menu.
The fact that your vision cone appears on the mini-map is a great feature and it even rotates with you when you rotate the camera. Yet, I do have a complaint. It doesn’t change size when you zoom and/or out and especially, it always appears a bit underneath the place where you click on the mini-map. I can understand why this happens since the location of the camera isn’t where you click but a bit underneath that spot. But, it gave me a feeling I wasn’t able to click where I wanted on the mini-map.
It’s great that you can skip cutscenes and even have subtitles. But why aren’t both possible in the opening cutscene? A minor nitpick is that there are some minor grammar errors in the game (“Click of the paintings” instead “Click on the paintings” in the second level)
There is this unique mechanic where you can find treasures to upgrade your units to dissolve them for DNA points to unlock special upgrades for your units. It’s a perfect balancing act since you need to decide if you are going to dissolve the treasures and get an upgrade or use them to improve your unit(s). If only that would be explained in some sort of tutorial, which the game somewhat lacks.
Just a bit more
If you read the previous section, it might look that I’m ripping this game a new one. That there are so many things missing or wrong with this game, that it’s not a great game to play. Well, then I think you got the wrong idea. I loved my time with the game and I found it a bit disappointing that some features I expect weren’t there.
Also, the price for this game is only 15€. So, it would be wrong of me to compare this game to big titles with way bigger budgets behind it. The thing is that I enjoy this game so much, that it frustrated me that the potential that this game has is unused.
Take for example the visual presentation. The artwork, unit design, level design… they all look amazing. You really feel like being in an abandoned cave where an old civilization used to live. The animations really make the world come alive. It’s so adorable that your workers dig into the ground to create a building and that it rises up like a sort of mole hole.
The audiovisual design is outstanding as well. This game has an orchestral soundtrack that reminds me of the reboot Tomb Raider games, Rise & Fall – Civilizations At War, and other similar games. It sounds familiar on one hand but new and fresh on the other hand. It’s a blast to listen too. The sound effects only add to the great atmosphere. The audiovisual design is so well done that I can excuse that some things don’t have sound effects or voice lines like when you click on an option where you don’t have enough DNA points for or certain interactions in your inventory are silent.
This game is a blast to play but you have to take into account that there are some things that don’t really work or work in the way you expect them to work. I have given several examples in the previous section, but here is another one. Why does your cursor not change when you hover over a resource or why don’t your worker acknowledge that interaction is going to happen?
This is why I said earlier in the article that I feel quite mixed about the gameplay. I enjoy playing this game but the final touches are just not there in certain cases. Now, I’m not saying that this game is unpolished or anything since there is a lot of attention to detail in most mechanics but not in all of them.
I think that this game could use another major content update or update that just focusses on making the game a bit more accessible. I think if a tutorial is added, something to avoid the soft lock potential and the functions that miss sound effects or voice lines are added; that this game gets even better.
So, I can’t wait to finish the final 5 levels I still have left to play. Since I really enjoyed my time with the game. I highly recommend this game to everybody who enjoys sci-fi games, RTS games, and even to people who enjoy adventure games. This game is quite enjoyable to play and experience. It’s an enjoyable RTS experience that I won’t soon forget. Congrats to the small Finnish team of 6 people who put their heart, soul, blood, sweat, and tears into this game since I have to say, the end result is something to be proud of and it shows a ton of potential for future games and/or more adventures in the world of The Hive.
And with that, I conclude my first impression. I want to thank you for reading and I hope you enjoyed reading this article as much as I enjoyed writing it. I hope to be able to welcome you in another article but until then, have a great rest of your day and take care!