IV Productions RIOT: Civil Unrest is a port of an inventive strategy game originally launched on Steam, and the result of a successful fundraising campaign on IndieGogo.
Riot: Civil Unrest gives players the chance to experience real-life Riots as either protestors or police in locations such as Greece, Spain, Italy, and Egypt. Upon loading the game, users are met with a reminder to verse themselves in the history behind the riots on which the game is based.
While gamers often lament Triple A titles for lacking in political commentary, indie titles like Riot: Civil Unrest give users a chance to experience a game that inserts itself in the real world, offering to educate people on issues that they may not be aware are going on in the world.
A non-traditional strategy game in every sense, Riot: Civil Unrest gives players the opportunity to play as either the police or the protestors in various politically charged situations. Missions can have varying objectives, however, most involve occupation or clearing of space by either faction, while minimizing violence and winning the battle in the court of public opinion.
Each faction plays very differently, so much it’s like playing two separate games. Protestors use the strength in numbers approach, while police use a tactical loadout and the ability to use escalating means of force. Within the game, smaller groups within the faction are controlled by a leader. Each leader has a number of special abilities that can do anything from rally a group, cause them to sit peacefully, arrest, fire tear gas or throw firecrackers. In fact, I was quite surprised by the variety of abilities at each faction’s disposal.
At the outset, it would seem as though protestors are the easier to play of the two. While their weapons are crude (and often unnecessary if you’re trying to win the public over, and avoid violence), most of their objectives revolve around protecting an area or occupying space. The sheer volume of the crowds each leader controls makes this task more manageable.
The Police, on the other hand, features a lot more complexity in the game. Prior to launching a level as the police, you are given the option to choose tactical loadouts of your different crowds. When in game, you can also select a different style of formation and whether you want to play a defensive game or offensive game, based on the crowds in front of you.
The game offers three modes – Story mode allows you to play through four separate campaigns as either faction. A Global mode, once again split via factions, splits up all of the campaign’s individual levels and factors in level performance as you progress. Finally, a multiplayer mode allows for some couch co-op with up to 3 friends (4 players).
Riot offers some unique gameplay, but the console version is hindered by a wonky control system and a lack of information. Certain special abilities are click and activate, while others are meant to be held down and have your group directed towards the pointer. The truth is, it feels as though it was designed for a mouse and keyboard, and the same thought wasn’t put into the control scheme when using a controller.
Furthermore, a tutorial mode could do wonders for the game – simply for gaining familiarity with the crowd control systems and special abilities within the game. Of course, the game does truly feel like something unique, and perhaps having the player learn as they go along is part of the Riot experience, however, I would have appreciated even a control or special ability guide in the menu.
Graphics and Sound
Riot: Civil Unrest is a surprisingly pretty game. The 8-bit isometric graphics lend themselves well to the game type, and within the game are some nice visual effects with each different special ability. The game is reminiscent of the old Syndicate series on PC and fits with the overall theme of the game. Intros to levels can feature some brutal cutscenes, all done with the in-game engine, and there’s also a number of memorable quotes and sayings strewn through the game for good measure. Riot features an ’80s style soundtrack, though within the level the music is replaced by a hum of crowd chatter.
So what are my overall impressions of Riot: Civil Unrest? First off, I think it’s truly commendable that a small team has put together such a unique game. I remember when Far Cry 5 hit last year, many lamented the lack of true political commentary, especially considering the setting of the game. Riot: Civil Unrest makes no bones about it – and encourages a discussion about the events within the game.
While there are certainly issues with the control, and the foreboding sense of organized mass confusion within some of the levels, the game does feel unique – and it’s certainly one I can see myself recommending to others.
RIOT: Civil Unrest
- Crowd physics were a lot of fun. A very unique game.
- The Isometric 8-Bit graphics are beautiful, as are the settings within the game.
- A truly unique experience.
- A number of different modes.
- Developer suggests a level editor could be on the way in the future... could add a lot more content to the game.
- The console control port needs improvement... or mouse and keyboard support at the very least.
- Lack of tutorial means you're going in blind a lot of the time.