Wood is, appropriately enough, everywhere in First Wood War. It's the key currency, gained by harvesting local resources and upgrading your wooden lumber mill. Wooden soldiers and wooden archers march across a forest battlefield, raining woody hell upon anything that stands in their way. Your castle - wooden - represents the ultimate last-man standing in this top-down strategy game.
Whether you're playing in the singleplayer campaign, or doing online battle against real human opponents, the objective is the same. To the left is your castle, to the right is your opponent's - the first one to fall to a determined onslaught is declared the loser. To emerge victorious, you need to very carefully balance resource income with expenditure, respond to pushes from your enemy, and counter with attacks of your own.
Once created and pathed, your units march forward without any further guidance, leaving you free to either spend wood on unit and building upgrades, or simple fire the long-range cannons of your castle if your troops are coming under particularly heavy fire. As you play, you'll level - slowly - and be rewarded along the way with skill points that can be invested in your troops to make them stronger, faster, and possessed of a little more health. You'll also unlock new character types from Mages to hulking Titans, and each one has its own strengths and weaknesses in any given scenario.
It's fun in the early days, as you're able to trounce the enemy rather easily, but there's an unresponsive feel to the interface that often leaves you wondering whether your action has been registered. The castle long-range assault weapons are painfully slow, so by the time you've reacted to a pressing threat, and the missiles have traveled to their destination, more often than not your threatened forces have already been turned into toast. These, and other issues with balancing and the pace of general gameplay, often leave you feeling as though you have little to no agency over proceedings.
All of this is a bit of a pity, because the developers have lavished no shortage of love on the production of the game - the graphics are superb, the individual units are crafted with great detail, and there's a sprawling tech tree of enhancements to explore. But not long into the game you'll likely find yourself lacking the motivation to continue - combined with meager XP gains, it all soon comes to feel like a bit of a chore.
There's fun to be had in the short term with First Wood War, and we suspect that a little more balancing and refinement of the machinery beneath the surface will result in something much better in the long run. Let's hope that a future update gives that underlying gameplay the chance to breathe it deserves.
What's Hot:Solid RTS gameplay, fantastic production values, and a deep upgrade system.
What's Not:The pace of the core gameplay and progress is slow. The interface itself is often unwieldy.