We're big fans of Warcraft III here at Gamereactor. Some of us even hold it as the best game in its genre and, at the same time, as the beginning of the end of the genre. Sure, it's not dead in any real sense of the word, but it's definitely not what it was a decade ago. In the midst of what has become an eternity of waiting for Warcraft IV - or at the very least Warcraft III: Reforged - to arrive, Daedalic Entertainment has taken matters into its own hands and developed A Year Of Rain. It feels like a love letter to the type of games that many of us grew up playing, and it just landed on Steam Early Access.
The story can be seen as fairly standard for the genre. Various regions in a fantasy universe are mid-conflict and good and evil forces are fighting each other. The world houses magic, dwarves, lizard people and brave knights, with exotic environments that vary from barren wastes to ancient ruins. The game is set up much like Blizzard Entertainment's Warcraft III, with cutscenes rendered in the in-game engine that zoom in on the battlefield, focusing on characters during dialogue sequences. It's effective, surprisingly cinematic and a great way of putting forth all of the game's unique characters in a way that makes it easy to get to know them and understand their motivations. A Year Of Rain contains a heap of interesting characters and the narrative is well-written and worth playing the campaign for. Just like in Warcraft III, you'll also need to upgrade your heroes by battling it out against your enemies and levelling up their abilities.
The campaign missions are also great and most of them are varied in a way that makes what comes next a mystery, and the developers have done an excellent job in teaching new players how to manoeuvre each unit and prepare them for multiplayer battles. Early on in the game, we were in the middle of a mission with two of the game's heroes, one of which was stealth-focused while the other could conjure fireballs as well as a little fire demon called a 'Spark Mage'. To succeed in our quest, we had to learn how to combine their abilities. In this aspect specifically, it was clear that A Year Of Rain is meant to be played in co-op with a friend to ease the hectic act of micromanaging everything solo.
The aforementioned mission is manageable in single-player since it involves two characters, but during a later mission, we had six heroes to take control of and trying to find the team healer in the heat of the moment was, during that particular mission, quite the tough task. If you're playing with a friend, that tough task becomes easier since the heroes are then split up. You'll also control separate bases and economies. The difficulty is also rather challenging even on the easiest difficulty setting, so we highly recommend that you play with a friend if you can.
We have two issues with how A Year Of Rain is played. The first is with the pathfinding, which is essentially the way the units travel around the map based on your commands. The pathfinding is, as of right now, really rough. We've failed missions or had our asses kicked in the multiplayer mode after units kept getting stuck on each other on their way to an enemy's location. It's rather extensive and noticeable, especially when controlling close-combat units. It's extremely frustrating. It's such an important aspect of a game in this particular genre that it's strange that this wasn't fixed pre-Early Access release. The developers have said that they're working on a fix though and we're looking forward to playing the game once this issue is no more.
The second issue is exclusive to the campaign, namely the inability to save your game. Usually, when playing strategy games, we tend to save our game when we're about to enter a big skirmish or before trying something experimental, so if it goes wrong we don't have to replay 30-40 minutes of the same mission. In A Year Of Rain, you simply can't save your game at the moment. There's a button ready for the implementation of it, but the feature isn't enabled. It's coming though, and we hope it's coming soon.
It's clear that Daedalic Entertainment is focusing on the multiplayer aspect of the game and gain an audience there. A Year Of Rain comes loaded with ranking lists and placement matches for those wanting to truly compete. During our time with it, it's been rather difficult finding a game, but the game is in early access, after all. From what we've played, however, the multiplayer matches have been intense and fun. The balance between the different races and their units seems good, even though the developer clearly needs more time to truly perfect it.
All-in-all, we're really enjoying A Year Of Rain. Its campaign is great, its characters are interesting, its missions are exciting, and its multiplayer mode is a lot of fun. It's most definitely a co-op experience at its core, which makes the campaign more fun but also pretty frustrating if going at it alone. As it's an Early Access title there's a good chance that Daedalic Entertainment will improve on what's here, but when you consider the lovely design, well-voiced characters, and high production value, with think this game is full of potential.
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