author: Darius Matusiak
Silica Is The Most Unique Combination of FPS and RTS, But It Needs Lots of Refinement
Silica offers a very unique combination of FPP with RTS, but it does't mean it will be as appealing for fans of both genres. At least for now, because the game still seems to need a lot of refinement.
When news broke about the early version of Silica becoming available, I had to scour the web to learn what it even was. Silica isn’t a big production with a huge marketing campaign behind it. It's a game born of passion and dreams that were sprouting for years, created by practically only one person – Martin Melichark from Bohemia Interactive, as his personal side project. What convinced me to give Silica a try was the familiar logo of Bohemia and the Bohemia Incubator – a program meant to promote interesting and original projects.
I've spent less than 60 minutes in the multiplayer, which allowed me to feel like a soldier from Space Troopers, and that was only a part of the whole experience. Silica turns out to be an interesting attempt to combine RTS with full-fledged FPP shooter. It remains a mere attempt for now – and a promise that one day, it will turn into a solid production, because from a technical point of view, it's still quite a rough experience. I felt like I was playing a pre-alpha version, rather than an early-access candidate.
Space soldiers building a dynasty
Silica takes us to the desert planet of Baltarus, where deposits of a precious raw material called balterium have been discovered. Two hostile human factions compete for its extraction, and they're both hindered by a local alien race in the form of deadly, insect-like creatures. Hence the association with the cult Space Troopers. When we fight creatures resembling overgrown crabs and scorpions in FPP mode, shooting chaotically left and right, and we can feel like Rico or Dizzy from the Federation.
The vibe changes completely once human opponents in tanks and vehicles become our enemy. The game resembles Battlefield or Arma at that point, and the clashes are truly impressive – especially at night, when each bullet lights up the darkness. Silica also uses a commander mode, turning itself into a classic RTS. We watch the map from top-down, construct new buildings, recruit units and give new orders. The core of the game looks very promising, although it still needs lots of refinement.
RTS + FPS = RTFPSS?
I really liked some of the elements of Silica. First of all, there's the absolute uncompromising approach to combining the two genres. After switching to the trooper, we get a full-fledged FPS with sprinting, changing stances, aiming down the sights, reloading weapons, while in the RTS mode, we develop the base, build new structures, recruit units, send reapers to collect resources or scouts to uncover some of the fog of war.
What's even more surprising, switching between FPS and RTS modes happens in an instant! Just tap the commander function and after a short while, you can see everything from bird's-eye perspective. In addition, the post you release is immediately taken over by artificial intelligence – both in combat and in command. The scale of the world is also impressive. In the FPP mode, it almost feels like we were playing in an open world – the hostile HQ is somewhere over the horizon, the reaper seems as huge as a multi-story house, and the buildings in the base resemble an industrial district of a powerful metropolis.
The thing is that such a large world also entails some disadvantages – it can be difficult to reach the battle, units are usually scattered, and traveling on foot makes no sense. Vehicles, tanks, and transporters are supposed to be introduced in the future.
More shooter than strategy
Chaos and scattered units are generally a common occurrence in online shooters, and in my opinion, the multiplayer was the main reason behind my overall negative experience with this early version of Silica. As things are right now, the game would still have legs as an FPP shooter, but the connection to an RTS seems purposeless for the time being. Everyone was eager to be able to shoot or tear apart enemies as aliens. I didn't feel the essence of RTS here at all; there hasn't been any arduous gathering of resources, constructing buildings nor organizing an army to launch a full-on attack on the enemy base after a few smaller skirmishes of scouts.
The RTS part functioned in the background, managed by the AI, and if someone jumped into the commander's seat, there was no tangible difference in gameplay. And mind you, this happened in a situation where we all had voice connection with each other, so I can't imagine playing with a group of randomly selected people. In my opinion, the mix of RTS and FPS is a great idea for a long, single-player campaign, but it doesn't quite work in multiplayer. Fortunately, Silica also provides a single-player experience.
In addition, there are a few issues that should be relatively easy to improve in the future, such as buildings that all look alike. They are huge and there aren't many of them, with only two small places offering any interaction – changing the class of a soldier and teleporting. Let me tell you, finding these points after respawning is like looking for a needle in a haystack. I would much prefer smaller, but more meaningful designs that would offer a clear idea of what a given place is used for. The user interface is also lacking, and for now, it does everything possible to confuse the player. The human factions, much like the buildings, are not very different from each other. The developers have already announced specific changes for the future.
Too early for Early Access
So, Silica left me with mixed feelings. In multiplayer, it can perfectly imitate Space Troopers, but inside the clashes with the other faction, the lack of a well-designed map and various amenities, even in the form of transport, is annoying. The RTS module is underwhelming in multiplayer, and slightly more promising in the single-player campaign. In any case, you can already see the foundations that the game wants to use, but there's still a long way to go before we can see the walls, not to mention the roof. This production has just appeared in Early Access – a bit too early in my opinion, but on the other hand – maybe the players' feedback will allow it to move in the right direction? Anyway, I'm very curious about this project's future.
Darius Matusiak | Gamepressure.com