Published by Merge Games, RIOT: Civil Unrest takes players into a virtual simulation of several real world conflicts, where the population rose against the system. Being completely impartial, the opposite side is also playable, as we get a glimpse of the efforts by the police to protect themselves and the lives of the citizens. There’s no need to hide the reality, as sometimes things heat up way too much, and riots become violent, almost like arenas!
This game does not support one side in specific, instead, delivers an original and realistic perspective of both forces. Events available are inspired by real world conflicts; the Italian NoTAV movement, the Spanish Anti-austerity movement Indignados, the Keratea regarding Landfill construction in Keratea, Athens, and finally the Egyptian revolution of 2011, in Tahrir Square. Each event is treated respectfully, maintaining 4 global campaigns, with 4 or 5 missions each.
After completing the Global campaign, new levels are unlocked, and others are bonus maps that have been added. Areas such as France, USA, Italy, and many others that are still in development, which, thanks to Steam Works, can easily be added later, as fan work or extra content.
Strategy elements are available to be absorbed with as much info as possible, and although this game may look simple, it actually delivers a large amount of content to manage. The very first thing everyone should do is to learn how to properly play RIOT: Civil Unrest. To my knowledge, it’s actually the first time I have ever seen a game with this type of depth when comes to riots, so it’s only natural one does not feel prepared from the start. That’s why there is a Wiki in the Main Menu. This section is all about “How to” understand and play the game, learning its strategic component regarding items, objects used by both rioters and the police force, weaponry, formations, and positions.
In RIOT: Civil Unrest, players can play with their preferred side, either as rioters or police force. Perhaps the most interesting thing is how one side will have an impact on the other, like they are connected through your unique experience. Being extra aggressive with one side, might exploit earlier reactions from the other side, if you decide to play the opposite campaign. This adds a large replayability, but it’s not the only factor that will make you go back and re-act some scenarios.
Through the campaign, new gear and knowledge will become unlocked, as well as specific characters that play a significant role during the events. Some rioters are more aggressive than others, which can lead things to one side only. Same goes for the police, with a setup available to choose from, players decide how to play, by controlling the crowd, or going full force with the water cannon. Items can then be used in already complete scenarios to improve their final result based on influential points.
Thanks to the progressive unlocks, it doesn’t make you feel overwhelmed with new items and confusing tactics, instead, implants one at a time, to make the whole experience comfortable. The difficulty setting is also a great introduction to tactics, ranging from Too Easy, Challenging, to Lawless. The easier it is, the longer players have to react upon the action occurring, as for Advanced levels, it requires a high base knowledge of the events.
Throughout worldwide missions, players will have to adapt to each situation, and calculate what type of approach they want to take. Final results will influence the media and therefore the next scene will have an impact based on such influences. Objectives may vary, from guarding a position, destroying objects, or in case of the police, push back the riot, divide them, or guard specific objects, all with a time limit. Tactical plays out really well, mixing the aggressive side or the pacifist attitude, considering how tides are flowing. It’s impossible to expect the result considering how many elements are in the game.
The developers made sure to use real life tactics against either side, for objects such as firecrackers, homemade bombs, the social media interactions, the motivational speeches, fear and intimidation, and of course real police force tactics are also on display. In terms of gameplay, RIOT: Civil Unrest does not lose any points for being 2D game.
Visually, the game loses nothing except for the cutscenes, that are extremely pixelated and, when up close, it’s hard to depict what’s going on. Fortunately, these last only a few seconds, and when the show begins, it’s beautiful to see the details on the pixel art all over the place. Levels are well designed with faithful elements of each location, either by the type of roads, or backgrounds portraying very unique ambience. Groups move well within the scenery, and their interactions are very well animated. Players can also zoom in and out of the action in specific moments, but from my personal experience, having the action up and close does not look nearly as good as the standard point of view.
Choosing to use the Unity game engine, developers had to completely edit the crowd physics, to improve their realism and behavior, plus, the optimizations don’t just stop there. For a Unity game, RIOT: Civil Unrest it’s very well optimized, with graphical options varying from Simple, Good and Fantastic. The improvements over the years have been nothing but supreme, making it a very unique and enjoyable experience.
Global mode puts players through the original experience, but Story Mode lets you enjoy a specific chapter or scene randomly. Costume mode gives the extra opportunity of creating your own setting, and watch it all happening. Thanks to the crowd AI, events won’t likely repeat themselves. Included within the game, there’s an Edit mode still in Beta phase, where you can customize your level design using the predefined assets. Local Online mode is also available, as well as Co-Op!
With a good presentation, RIOT: Civil Unrest mixes simulation and strategy, as well as a fantastic yet, animated approach over real life events that changed things, and pushed humanity forward. Using this as inspiration, or just to spread chaos and havoc, that is up to you, either way, it’s a fantastic game that went through several layers of development to deliver its goal. A unique and primal 2D videogame that was on the news all over the world, and for a good reason. Feel the tension and behold dozens of confronts as they’ll make you respect and understand far more about both forces of the coin!