A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this game.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Brass Tactics is a downloadable virtual reality real-time strategy (RTS) game for the Oculus Rift. Players control a variety of clockwork units across a battlefield with hand gestures. While violence is the focus of the gameplay, with units firing arrows, cannonballs, and fireballs and using other weapons, there's no blood or gore, as units are clockwork robot soldiers. Apart from the use of the word "s--t" that occurs once in dialogue, there's no inappropriate content to be found. While the controls are easy to learn and there's frequent explanations about what units can do, the sensors of the Rift can sometimes disregard your unit commands or tower placement, which can be frustrating. Parents should also be aware that virtual reality equipment makers don't recommend VR experiences for kids under 12 because of the potential impact the technology may have on younger players' physiological development.
What's it about?
In BRASS TACTICS, players take on the role of a nameless, faceless military commander marshaling troops on a large war table representing the territory of various kingdoms. These soldiers are directed by a combination of gestures and button commands, allowing players to direct their forces to attack troops, guard locations, or capture territory by occupying "sockets." Once players capture sockets, they can place towers, which are barracks-like installations that can churn out units to strengthen their army or their hold on the land. A dozen basic unit types are available, and these can be further customized with a tech tree to give each unit abilities like stealth, fire arrows, or exploding shields. Players can take on skirmishes in cooperative or competitive modes against the computer or opponents across more than 20 different world maps, or they can take on the campaign mode, which casts players as a long-lost heir to a noble house that was long thought to be destroyed. With the help of an adviser who teaches you the ropes behind each unit, it's up to you to restore your family name and seek revenge on the houses that tried to eliminate your kingdom. Can you prove yourself to be the best clockwork commander in the realm?
Is it any good?
This accessible, fast-paced real-time strategy (RTS) game proves that anyone can become a capable clockwork general, commanding entire armies with the tips of their virtual fingers. Instead of having to memorize complicated keyboard and mouse commands, Brass Tactics distills gameplay controls down to point and trigger controls. For example, placing towers is as simple as grabbing them and putting them on the table, while squeezing a trigger near troops is enough to select them all before you literally point to a location to tell them where to go. It's simple, it's intuitive, and it takes all of 30 seconds to get used to, which is part of the point. See, Brass Tactics really wants you to focus on developing strategies for conquering land and countering enemy attacks based on the classic "rock, paper, scissors" formula. But don't let this simplicity fool you, because it's got a surprising amount of depth with its units and customization. The game's tech tree allows you to customize your troops to give them special abilities that you'll need to take into account as well, which is important when you decide to take on opponents or crank up the difficulty. Although, veterans of RTS games should be forewarned: The AI will definitely take no mercy on some maps, even on Normal difficulty.
All of this said, there are still some issues that crop up. For one thing, the tech tree, which is tied to your castle, can feel extremely limited, especially since there are 30 possible upgrades and only eight upgrade slots on your base. This does mean that if you've chosen some upgrades that don't give you the right advantages, you could be out of luck against a better-prepared opponent. It also means that on longer skirmishes, fights can sometimes turn into wars of attrition where you wish you could max out your upgrades and won't have the option. One of the other issues that occurs is that the tracking of your commands can sometimes get lost, given the placement of your sensors in your space. Most of the time, the commands work flawlessly, but it's that five percent of the time when you try to place a tower and it goes awry or units don't move where you want them to because the camera thinks you're pointing at one location when you mean a different one. Finally, while the campaign is interesting, it's way too short, and can easily be beaten by some RTS veterans in a few hours. But these are minor issues for a game that's easy to get into but hard to put down. If you're even mildly interested in strategy, Brass Tactics needs to be on your game list.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about violence in video games. Is the violence in Brass Tactics acceptable because there's no blood or gore and the units are robotic, or is the focus on combat problematic by itself?
Talk about redemption and revenge. Characters in Brass Tactics focus on the events of the present to solve problems and issues from the past, but is this a healthy way to address problems between people? Is one more acceptable than the other, depending on the methods used? Why?
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.