I’ve been itching for an Real Time Strategy for an extremely long time on the switch. It’s a genre that could fit perfectly on switch as you get not only joy con controls but also a touch screen, allowing you to be precise and quick like you would want with an RTS. In the past month, 3 RTSs have come out on switch and definitely one of the best ones is Element.
Element fits a simplified but surprisingly deep strategy game in its tiny 105mb file size. In Element you are the last remnants of mankind, searching the cosmos for resources so you may leave your decaying solar system. Every map in Element is a different element based planet which you need to mine resources from and defeat any enemies living on the planet. This two pronged mission, and that you and your opponent can place units anywhere on these spherical maps, leads to the need for quick strategy. You need to make sure that you’re mining at the same time you are also trying to crush your opponent or you will lose one of these fronts and lose the match.
Flightless, the Developer for Element, describes the game as a “RTS space game for people who don’t have time to play real RTS space games”. Element accomplishes that by simplifying everything down to five actions. 3 of these actions are placing towers or satellites that either gather resources, attack your enemy or defend your base and towers. You only have so many buildings you can build, once that limit is reached you can either launch missiles or send out drones to either heal or collect supplies. At the beginning of the game you can’t figure out why you wouldn’t just place a bunch of attack towers around your enemies base and win every map that way but by the time you get to the harder planets your enemy does the same thing to you, so you have to adapt your strategy.
Not only is the gameplay simplified but the Art & storytelling are extremely simplified in a way that’s both gorgeous and satisfying. Everything is polygonal but everything is well animated and detailed if you zoom in. The controls are extremely simple too. Although I found myself wanting to constantly play this game in handheld so I could use the touch screen. There is just something about commanding a whole army from your fingertips and Element captures that. The game really lends itself to a touch screen control and I would recommend playing this way.
Element is a great time waster, you can get yourself lost in conquering every one of these planets. I didn’t even notice how much time I had put into it until I started getting to the harder planets later in the game. There is a significant difficulty jump later the game and it is kind of off-putting because you go from an easy, simple, fun game to something that you just keep getting beat down in. People better at RTSs will have an easier time than I definitely did. My only other nitpick is that Element is so simplified that some people might get bored pretty quickly cause you are doing very similar things every map. I did not feel this way but I can see how people who are not huge RTS fans would be having this problem. The lack of multiplayer in the game also feels like a wasted opportunity. The game seems tailored for at least split screen or online multiplayer but sadly there is nothing.
In a month where Crush Your Enemies and Bad North came out, Element stands above as a great little sci-fi RTS that is worth the money and time. Whether you’re there for the simple yet slick visuals, the deep strategy or maybe you just want to launch some missiles, Element is a good grab.
Rating: 8 out of 10
TLDR Review: A simplified yet engaging RTS finally launches on switch!