Crush Your Enemies Review
Take an old school real-time strategy game, replace the units with angry Scottish barbarians who like to drink, swear and fight, and add a hearty supply of good beer. Welcome to Crush Your Enemies.
Crush Your Enemies has a fairly simple premise: Take everything you love about real-time strategy games like Starcraft or Command & Conquer, and distill it all down to a compact experience focusing more on action rather than planning.
Crush Your Enemies looks and feels like an overlooked gem of the MS-DOS era — its charming pixelated sprites and rudimentary UI hark back to the dawn of real-time strategy titles, and the gameplay is very easy to pick up and run with; no hours wasted learning typical RTS mechanics like diplomacy or tech trees here.
Each mission in Crush Your Enemies uses a common three star (or in this case, three skull) system, with every mission having three progressively more difficult objectives to achieve. Skulls unlock more villages ripe for plundering, and each conquered village yields beer after every successful mission.
Beer acts as the currency of the land; it can be spent on buying additional items, such as damage-boosting potions or explosive bombs, which can be brought into every future mission.
While starting out simple, Crush Your Enemies soon starts to offer a challenge with their objectives. Goals such as completing a level within two minutes or with a minimum remaining barbarian count often end up surprisingly tricky to achieve, with most levels requiring multiple retries for those seeking perfect marks.
While Crush Your Enemies is at heart a real-time strategy game, it’d be more accurate to call it tactical. With the removal of common RTS mechanics such as scouting for enemies, developing bases, or improving tech, the focus of the gameplay shifts towards more immediate decision making.
The entire battlefield is visible with no fog of war, and fits squarely on-screen, so you’ll always have a clear idea about what’s happening around you. The game even lets you soak in the map before gameplay starts, waiting for you to be ready, so you’ll have plenty of time to plan out how you’ll tackle each level.
You’ll start with one or more groups of basic barbarians who can be directed around the battlefield, which is divided into orange friendly turf, green enemy turf, and unclaimed territory. Moving through owned terrain is instant, but moving onto unowned turf means your barbarians will work to claim that land before they’re able to move forward.
Most maps have buildings scattered throughout which offer various tactical advantages to your savage little buddies — defense posts from which to fire upon approaching enemies, huts for breeding additional troops, or training buildings for swapping to a different troop type. Barbarians will change profession depending on where they’re sent; sending them to huts switches them to simpleton laborers, who (when not breeding) can claim land or fetch resources much faster than their combat counterparts, but they’re more vulnerable in a fight.
Barbarians can swap roles at any time simply by moving them to the relevant building, and later missions will definitely test your ability to juggle different roles at once.
Combat in Crush Your Enemies has a slight rock-paper-scissors flavor. Warriors will easily roll over a bunch of simpletons, but archers will stop them in their tracks, pinning and stunning them under a hail of arrows. However, bring a troop of taunting shield bearers, and they’ll reflect those arrows right back. As you unlock more roles, combat gets progressively more complex, and it can be surprisingly difficult to build and maneuver strong, balanced barbarian packs.
In the second single-player campaign, resource harvesting mechanics appear: building and repairing structures requires wood, and breeding expends food. This leads to a massive spike in difficulty as you struggle to continually revisit trees and farms for resources as well as breeding barbarians, expanding territory, and fighting off a well-supplied enemy.
While the first campaign gets difficult towards the end, especially if you’re aiming for three skulling all missions, the second campaign is far more brutal, with new unit types and items to handle, on top of the new fetching and management of resources.
While the game has its frustrating moments — missing an objective due to one more death than necessary, or the final enemy troops suiciding to your warriors moments before you’ve captured the last building you need — Crush Your Enemies does feel enjoyable to play. Daft humor and playful items, such as an inflatable dummy barbarian, keep the game firmly rooted as a wisecracking game for fun.