A lot rides on Fortis' price tag.
Let's just take a look at what kind of games the modern PC videogamer can pick up for £7.95. Now then, let's just have a look. Steam. Ah yes, Half Life 2. Enough said. Knights of the Old Republic. Some of the most riveting scenes of any game ever in that one. Plants Vs. Zombies, GTA: Vice City, Max Payne 2... There's plenty there to fill any gamer's electronical stocking this Christmas if you're too po' to buy them a full-price title. In fact, each of the games I've mentioned is actually under £7.
And let's not stop there! Look at Gamersgate. You can get Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory AND Splinter Cell: Double Agent for less than £7 total. Bargain! Company of Heroes is in there as well... admittedly, I'm taking a snapshot of what's on offer this week but there's ALWAYS something on offer, isn't there?
Now then. Fortis.
"36 Levels!" the blurb excitedly tells you. But let's call a spade a spade up in here. This is an Asteroids clone. A freakin' ASTEROIDS clone. In 2010. That costs more than Half Life 2. The 36 levels are broken into three subsets of 12, each of which has a single pre-rendered backdrop. So you'll be looking at the same backdrop a whole lot. And this being asteroids, each backdrop is a single screen in size. Therefore, the only thing that really separates the levels are the attack patterns followed by the baddies. Enemies are... wait, what are they? A bunch of spinning polygons? That one looks like a brown hockey puck and... some kind of star thing that shoots slow-moving bolts at you? Graphically it's delivered in what I grudgingly must agree is a charming 16-bit-style that brought warm memories of the Amiga flooding back. But even on the Amiga I'd have expected more from a game.
In terms of longevity, forget it. This will last a discerning gamer about 12 minutes. Not to complete, you understand - just until you're done with it. New weapons can be purchased and upgraded, but it does nothing to really affect the way you play. As a Java game embedded on someone's website, this might be passable. As a budget release for download? Tell ‘em they're dreaming.
Personally, I consider Fortis to be a great leap forward for Wasteland Interactive. After the hideous mess that was Air Aces: Pacific, Fortis is commendably free from bugs. But seeing as Asteroids has been around for over thirty years, you'd hope they'd have worked the bugs out by now.
I'm all for indie developers, full of pluck and verve, putting their hearts and souls into games they really care about. But Wasteland Interactive? They've put out some full-price games. This is a games studio, and although pretty much everyone involved in Fortis seem to have the same surname, this isn't exactly an indie development house. Fortis feels like something knocked together in a lunch break in order to earn a couple more quid to keep the company afloat for a couple more months while they finish their ACTUAL games.
I hope it's worth it.