Tychoid Oct 1, 2012 @ 9:02am
Realistic review/thoughts of Cortex Command 1.0
I bought Cortex Command a few years ago back in its alpha stage. This is, however, a review as if I had bought the game at its current version and Steam price point.

Editing: grammar / ease of reading / further relevant info
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Story: Largely non-existent. Intro video sets up the world fiction pretty well. But after that, there is no story or character or story progression to speak of.


Music: Pretty great music all around, and appropriate. But only a few tracks. Only one track ever plays during actual gameplay. Example: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wgPes4wY8vE&feature=related


Game Modes: In the menu, there are two modes to choose from;

#1. Campaign - Lets you choose to play through a short single-mission tutorial, then makes you customize a few variables such as game length, starting gold, etc. After that, players take turns allocating funds to the various landing sites, building bases, then fighting over the sites for more resources to spend. Every battle is won by destroying the opponent's "brain" unit, or lost by having yours destroyed. I won't go into much detail of the campaign mode, suffice to say that it really doesn't play to the game's strengths very well in its current state. More on that later. I also ran into an unfortunate bug that made my campaign effectively un-finishable. Other users have reported many bugs.
Advice: skip campaign mode for now unless the game is patched and the mode gets more feature-heavy and polished.

#2. Scenario Battle - Lets you choose from a little over a dozen somewhat-premade scenarios. These range from anything like luring out and fighting a giant crab monster to building your own base and surviving as long as possible. I HIGHLY recommend starting here for new players (after playing the tutorial, of course). I personally feel this is where the game has more of a chance to shine, but opinions may vary.


Interface & Controls: The interface can take a little learning & getting used to, but is not particularly difficult or complex. Play the tutorial for this, if nothing else. The in-game menu system is particularly finicky, and I find myself selecting the wrong option in the radial-menu occasionally even after dozens of hours of practice with the game. I'd recommend keyboard and mouse, but the game is almost as easily playable with a good gamepad (xbox 360 controller, or similar). Controlling a character precisely could potentially be a bit frustrating for a new player - particularly something like flying a heavily laden unit out of a hole in the ground. Gets easier with practice.


Combat & Gameplay: All combat is real-time. The only pause is exiting to the main menu. You control one unit at a time. You can give your other units various simplistic commands which they attempt to do when you are not actively controlling them, such as digging for gold (if they have a digging tool), patrolling an area, or shooting anything that comes into sight.

Gameplay is really the area that will make or break the game for everybody. The physics engine (as old as it is) is what sets this game apart. The physics effect everything from unit weight & movement to weapon explosions. Its per-pixel physics really give it a unique feel to weapons and their impact on terrain. It can also break the game quite badly in many cases. Leave your brain-robot in a corridor thats too short for him to stand in? He'll spontaneously explode for no reason. Try landing a rocket on a completely flat surface? Don't be surprised if it unexpectedly gets a leg stuck, tips over and explodes. Leave a unit patrolling one of your hallways for more than 2 minutes? Turns out he's just eaten through the entire floor by walking back and forth on it like it was made of styrofoam.
Don't buy the game expecing a well-balanced or polished challenge. There are dozens of ways to "game" the system and bug out the AI (either intentionally or unintentionally), making winning any of the short skirmishes inconsequential.

If you can get past the rough edges (make no mistake, they ARE very rough), the sheer brutality and hilarity of combat is what makes Cortex Command fun. In one scenario, I found myself losing dozens of units in a futile attempt to breach an enemy's base. So I decided to fill a rocket with about twenty metric tons of explosives to try and carpet bomb my way an entrance into his concrete mountain complex. Turns out, a Rocket Mk II's thrusters aren't powerful enough to even slow its descent from orbit when its filled with 1,000x its weight in grenades, napalm, cluster mines, and crabs (those came free). The innocent robot guard on my own dropship landing pad never knew what hit him when that Rocket Mk II flattened his tiny metallic body and proceeded to disappear in a brilliant series of explosions that both obliterated all life (robotic or otherwise) on the surface of the map, and sent flaming shrapnel and crab bits three stories deep into my fortified bunker - killing at least 3 hall guards in the process.

Base building can also offer a lot of added fun when it is available in certain scenarios/modes. It can be a bit clunky, but offers plenty of variety. Building modules come in anything from a simple hallway, to blast doors which open for friendly units, to elevators and teleporters.


Visuals/performance/AI: Cortex Command is completely CPU dependant. Even the absolute top-of the line modern processor will have a hard time running this game at 1080p without slowdown. I recommend lowering the resolution until you achieve a setting where the slowdown doesn't bother you. The longer a match runs, the more it will slow down as well, due to the physics engine slowly taking on more load. You'll probably notice huge drops in FPS with large series of explosions.

I personally haven't experienced any crashes with 1.0, but have run into a few interface glitches and plenty of AI bugs. Units controlled by the AI will frequently get stuck in/on terrain, or exhibit generally suicidal behavior. On the other hand, the AI can also behave surprisingly intelligently at times. Your mileage may vary.


Multiplayer: Split-screen multiplayer / co-op only. No LAN or internet capabilities, and the developer has stated he has no possibility or intention of adding them. If you're in a position where you have a controller or two, and have a big enough screen/tv to play on, multiplayer can be a lot of fun. But the vast majority of people probably aren't in a position or don't have the right setup to play splitscreen enjoyably.


Modding: The game is relatively well set up for modding, with Lua object scripting capabilities and drop-in-folder installation. A large variety of mods are available at the Cortex Command official forums ( http://forums.datarealms.com ). Mods range from single units/weapons to entire factions to fully scripted scenarios. Steam Workshop support is supposedly coming.

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TLDR / Summary:
$20 might be a bit high of an asking price for a lot of people, but you can certainly get your money's worth for that price if the sandbox (create-your-own-fun) gameplay suits you. Many will say its a bit closer to a beta release than a 1.0, and I'd tend to agree with them. But if you're not afraid of a game that you have to work at a little bit (or a lot, depending on your preferences) in order to get something out of it (e.g. earlier versions of minecraft), you can easily sink dozens of hours into Cortex Command.
Last edited by Tychoid; Oct 6, 2012 @ 1:04am
Showing 1-15 of 16 comments
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Tleno Oct 1, 2012 @ 9:06am 
[Story: Largely non-existant. Intro video sets up the world fiction pretty well. But after that, there is no story or character or story progression to speak of.]

Well, I wouldn't agree that's a con. I think that only introducing to game world, and then letting you do whatever you want is a good idea. It allows you to create your own narrative experience, writing your own tale about a young brain seeking fortune on a far away planet.
Tychoid Oct 1, 2012 @ 9:08am 
Originally posted by Tleno:
[Story: Largely non-existant. Intro video sets up the world fiction pretty well. But after that, there is no story or character or story progression to speak of.]

Well, I wouldn't agree that's a con. I think that only introducing to game world, and then letting you do whatever you want is a good idea. It allows you to create your own narrative experience, writing your own tale about a young brain seeking fortune on a far away planet.

Never stated it as a con. :) Just stated that there is basically no story.
Last edited by Tychoid; Oct 1, 2012 @ 9:09am
Valdadark Oct 1, 2012 @ 9:16am 
Do you have to control all of your robots like in worms or can they defend themselves RTS style?
HighKillerDK Oct 1, 2012 @ 9:20am 
Originally posted by Valdadark:
Do you have to control all of your robots like in worms or can they defend themselves RTS style?

they can defend themselves like in a rts.
Valdadark Oct 1, 2012 @ 9:22am 
Originally posted by CandyFace*o*:
Originally posted by Valdadark:
Do you have to control all of your robots like in worms or can they defend themselves RTS style?

they can defend themselves like in a rts.
Thank you that clears that up for me. I really want to get this game and I think the review above is helpful... It's the price tag that I feel is a bit steep ;-(
Tleno Oct 1, 2012 @ 9:25am 
Originally posted by Valdadark:
Do you have to control all of your robots like in worms or can they defend themselves RTS style?
They are 100% capable of defending themselves, but better leave the super complex Splinter Cell-ish assaults or heroic one man defenses for yourself - you'll spare some bodies and will have more fun for yourself.
Gazz Oct 1, 2012 @ 9:38am 
One question:
Is this even a single player game?

Especially with indie titles you occasionally have no game at all unless you find another human to play the other side...
Tychoid Oct 1, 2012 @ 9:39am 
Originally posted by Gazz:
One question:
Is this even a single player game?

Especially with indie titles you occasionally have no game at all unless you find another human to play the other side...

Yes, it is largely a single player game. Most people probably don't/won't play multiplayer.
Last edited by Tychoid; Oct 1, 2012 @ 9:41am
NIL0S Oct 1, 2012 @ 9:48am 
Good overall review.
Tychoid Oct 1, 2012 @ 5:32pm 
Originally posted by NIL0S:
Good overall review.
Thanks!
Me Oct 3, 2012 @ 1:52am 
This a a good review, nice and honest and I totally agree with it allmost completely.
(almost coz I like campaign over the scenarios :P)
Kingy Oct 3, 2012 @ 2:02am 
Gravity might be a little high, for instance sinking into soil or getting stuck between grains may be a little much.... and maybe speed the gameplay up just a touch in places while taming the jet pack, and up'ing the auto gold digging ai, and you may just have it ;D great game, loads of gameplay and loads of potential, give it multiplayer and itll be a huge hit once polished, but definately needs a little tweaking in places, really does feel likes its in limbo between a beta and a full 1.0....!.... oh and balanced weapons with a limit on what can be bought during gameplay depending on your starting faction....
Whoopi, Slayer of Zombie Pigeons Oct 3, 2012 @ 2:43am 
I don't think you mentioned the issue with text size being too small for most people. That's quite a big issue IMO, although i don't really have that issue with text size personally, many people HAVE complained about it.

(or how most of the commands that you can tell your units to do seem to be wonky and don't always work, such as gold digging- and even if it does work the unit won't really collect that much gold)

There's also balance issues such as how the whitebot army can and will overpower just about every other faction very easily.

Also, i feel that the lack of a story is pretty annoying because it lowers the amount of hours you can play the game for before getting bored with it. They clearly were working on a story because there's 3 missions (including the tutorial) that have some kind of story behind them. That, and a document that was released in 2010 displaying a lot that had been cut from the game.
Tychoid Oct 4, 2012 @ 9:39am 
Yeah, I'd agree that the text size is too small. In the interest of keeping the already giant wall of text as small as necessary, I left it out though. Reason being - there's really not much reading to be done in Cortex Command. The only text that I would consider mildly important would be the item text in the store... and even then its fairly inconsequential. But yes, it is an issue.

I did mention the wonky AI, lack of balance, and lack of story though.
Last edited by Tychoid; Oct 4, 2012 @ 9:41am
if u dont kno now u kno nigga Oct 5, 2012 @ 11:08am 
Originally posted by Valdadark:
Do you have to control all of your robots like in worms or can they defend themselves RTS style?
They defend themselves, they don't do it to the best of their ability since they just have basic AI, but they can get the job done if they're not armed with a peashooter, it'd probably be best to just deploy some guys around your brain.
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Date Posted: Oct 1, 2012 @ 9:02am
Posts: 16