Riot: Civil Unrest
Time to fight the power or bash some heads; it’s your call. Play as the police or the angry mob in Leonard Menchiari’s Riot – Civil Unrest. An innovative simulation of several large scale historical civil disturbances provoked by a variety of groups and causes.
Release Date: February 5, 2019
Developer: Leonard Menchiari
Publisher: Merge Games
Platform: PC, Xbox One, PlayStation4 and Nintendo Switch
Price: $19.99 (on sale at $16.99)
Today we look at Riot: Civil Unrest, for the Nintendo Switch, an original and somewhat daring concept that deals with politically fraught issues and even manages to teach you a bit about the events it depicts. A very small bit as they are simultaneously trying to avoid appearing to be an advocate for any of the various sides depicted. They aimed for the sky pulled the trigger, and shot themselves in the foot.
Scrape everything away, and what we have is a real-time strategy (RTS) game about police tactics. You control either pixelated rioters or equally pixelated police, seeking to control the streets. It focuses on real-world uprisings and protests in places like Italy, Spain, Greece, and Egypt where you will be dishing out or facing different levels of violence or equipment and balancing the level of violence your side uses vs the political optics.
The police are made up of specialized units. The assault units (Wait for it) assaults rioters with batons or charges in an attempt to get them to disperse, shield-bearing units clear space by advancing Roman Legion style in formation forcing rioters to move while ballistics units can fire CS gas or smoke, plastic bullets and sometimes live rounds. By comparison, rioters are less complicated. They have numbers but are only classed as violent or non-violent limiting what they can do. Only violent units can throw rocks or Molotov cocktails. Rioters can also sit with their hands raised to hold the field. This is important, as your objective is usually about controlling an area or slowly pushing down a street, against a time limit. It sounds like good old RTS fun, sticking it to the man or bashing some heads but sadly it not, it flops harder than a fat guy in a YouTube fail video. The artwork is good, intentionally pixelated to resemble a monitor. Crowds surge, flames burn, the ground becomes littered with debris. But that’s where the good stuff ends, and the suck begins. The game's mechanics are simplistic at best a shoving match with enough button pushing to give you carpal tunnel.
Visually, it's like watching groups of ants trying to sumo wrestle. When groups of units merge, it becomes a tangle of arms, legs, and heads, with individual units hard to pick out. Not that it would help if you could because the mutinous little scamps usually ignore orders anyway. Adding to the frustration, I never did find a way to control groups of units; I ended up selecting them one at a time. I have more control over a spreadsheet than I do over my team in this game.
The battlefield is also problematic, a simple left-to-right plane, so you end up with the previously mentioned sumo match. It becomes constant a back-and-forth shoving match. Police move in a rigid square formation, while rioters move in uncontrollable blobs. Yes I know they are a disorganized rabble but for the love of bricks and bottles give me some control. Its supposed to be a game after all. If I had a bit of control, I might be able to flank…. Oh, wait.. they don’t have a flank because the map is a left-right plane.. well go back to pushing.
Technical note: I reviewed this title on the Nintendo Switch. According to the press kit, the PC version of this game includes a two-player mode that the switch version lacks.
Bottom line, The concept is innovative, the artwork is good, but the game is poorly designed. I realy wanted to play this game. The developer had a good idea, they took it, ran with it, and ran right into the wall.
limited field of play