BftP – Uprising 2: Lead and Destroy

It’s kinda shit.

Uprising 2 is one of those odd games that could only have been made in the late 90s or early 2000s – when PC gaming was very much about throwing shit at the walls and seeing what stuck. This produced a lot of weird mashups between genres that usually didn’t work out very well. Some worked out very well and ended up being classics. This one… well, it isn’t.

What is it?

Uprising 2 is the sequel to Uprising (no, I’m serious). The premise of the games is that you play as a Wraith tank commander – your job is to fight the enemy and command a bunch of different units. Gameplay consists of completing campaign missions or various skirmishes/scenarios. Most of the time you’re charged with destroying enemy structures, wiping out various units, or protecting assets. 

The storyline revolves around a future war between humanity (the New Alliance) and the Trich (pronounced ‘trick’) along with some other traitor factions. To be honest, it isn’t very interesting, and I don’t even know what’s going on half the time or why I should care. There’s a fair amount of voice acting and backstory but none of it is particularly compelling. It’s just background noise for you to complete missions – it isn’t very entertaining or interesting.

Most missions revolve around you taking control of citadels. Citadels are massive turret towers that capture control points and allow you to build buildings. You’ll typically have to wipe out an enemy citadel first before dropping your own down. Each citadel area can contain between one and three pads for buildings. Buildings can either produce power (used as currency), units, boost existing units, or act as a missile silo. There’s an overhead map that allows you to manage your citadels, repair buildings, and even control the citadel turrets.

The Wraith is a tank – literally. It takes a lot of punishment, has very effective weapons, and is very fast. To help you out, you’ve got a number of additional units. They include infantry, light and heavy tanks, and aircraft (a fighter and a bomber). You can upgrade them through the campaign and build special buildings to provide a stats boost. Each unit has various strengths. Infantry are fragile, but can deploy explosives that seriously damage buildings, and can run under the turrets where they can’t be shot. Bombers are fragile but can rain death upon the enemy from up high. Light tanks kill infantry and not much else. Heavy tanks are the workhorse. Fighter aircraft… seem to be mostly useless but supposedly can counter heavy tanks.

Deploying units is done by the F keys, or by pressing F. Units are ‘produced’ by their various buildings which allows you to spawn in units wherever you’re aiming (up to a limit – either by the number of buildings, or by ‘command points’ that acts like a unit cap). You can autospawn an appropriate counter unit by targeting a particular unit or structure – for example, looking at a building and pressing F spawns in infantry, while looking at a heavy tank and pressing F spawns in aircraft. You can also target your own troops and direct them to move around or target the enemy. When you’re done, you can despawn them (‘recycle’) to reduce your unit cap.

What’s good and bad?

What’s good? Well… it’s an interesting mix of action and strategy. It was novel to fight alongside your units back in 1999 (when the game was released). It was great to get in there and turn the tide of the fight, watching your infantry rush in under the turrets to plant the explosives to destroy the citadel, while your tanks fought off their tanks, with bombers flying overhead. The story was fun if uninteresting. There were a few plot twists and turns that at least made it feel like there was some progression. 

What’s bad? Practically everything else. The biggest problem is that it just doesn’t work well as a strategy game. Pretty much every encounter was more easily solved by you just doing it yourself – and it’s mostly because the game has abysmal pathfinding. There’s no point keeping units after they’ve been spawned – because they’re never going to be able to make it away from where they were spawned. They’ll crawl around ineffectually (and slowly) but never really go anywhere useful. It’s much easier to just recycle them and spawn in new ones when needed. There’s absolutely no practical way to give them orders either – they’re too hard to pick, especially in the heat of battle, and there’s no way to give orders from an overhead map.

This means conflicts ultimately devolve into going into the enemy base, spamming F to spawn some random selection of units, and blowing everything else up yourself. Your units serve one purpose – soak up enemy fire. Any damage they do is incidental. There’s all this stuff about using particular units against particular targets, but it’s ultimately irrelevant – there’s not enough time to safely mess around with that stuff. Sometimes you can, but you’ll get the same results from spawning in some random units and going from there.

By far the biggest problem is that the missions are a grind after a while. The most common pattern is that you’ll capture a citadel and then fight of wave after wave after wave of enemy units – in massive numbers. Even lowly infantry are a total pain in the arse in groups of 20 or so – because your units are usually ineffectual against massed numbers, and you can’t be everywhere at once. It’s not uncommon to drop a citadel and then very shortly afterwards lose the base because of a constant respawning enemy attack wave. It gets frustrating after the 5th or 6th wave. You can deploy turrets and extra units, but the turrets die quickly and your units can’t stack up against the enemy. If your citadel gets attacked, you either rush home to defend it, or you give it up and come back later.

As a result, missions end up being a total grind – rushing back to fend of waves of spawning enemies, followed by you basically doing the same thing in the enemy bases. After a while it stops being fun.

Then there are various annoyances with special missions. Convoy missions are a total pain in the arse. Because your own units are useless unless they’re right next to the enemy, you’ll have to escort convoys yourself (or they’ll always get destroyed). But you also have to clear the way ahead of them or they’ll run directly into inconveniently placed enemy bases. Convoy missions are a mad rush to wipe out the enemy bases, before slowly escorting them to the end. One of the missions in the early campaign also has another infuriating mechanic with various teleporters, many of which kill you instantly. Why? Just for laughs, I guess.

Why did I like this?

When I first got this game, which would have been in 2001 or something, I loved it. I also loved Battlezone 2: Combat Commander (a similar premise, but basically better in every way possible). Yes, it was frustrating, but I loved playing the campaign, getting that progression, feeling like I was making a dent in the enemy. I still love those kinds of games that let me feel like I was part of the game I was playing – stepping into the boots of the units that I was commanding. Seeing the battle from the ground level, hoping to turn the tide myself. There were a few of these games in 1999 – another that springs to mind is Machines, which is really obscure these days and probably nobody remembers it (I barely do).

But looking back on it – yeah, this game wasn’t great. I hesitate to call it bad – because it really isn’t. The core game seems solid, and it’s definitely playable. It’s just that it stops being fun fairly quickly. When the frustrating spawning waves of enemies stops, and you’re able to actually catch your breath to do something outside of madly mashing ‘F’, the game becomes much more entertaining. It’s just a shame that it quickly devolves into respawning enemies.

Uprising 2 can be found on GOG (along with its predecessor).

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