The traditional real-time strategy game goes something like this: you gather resources. You build some buildings. These buildings produce different types of military unit to smack your opponent over the head with a wet fish.
Different units have weaknesses to different types of fish. This leads to manuals and helpsites displaying them in messy diagrams with lots of arrows on them, like a food web where the alpha predators are eaten by the Sun.
You need to work out what types of fish you need ahead of time, make sure you have the resources and breeding pools for it, make sure you have the resources for the breeding pool, make sure your opponent isn’t getting the fish that can cave in your units’ skulls, and so on.
Perimeter thinks this is far too much planning for such a simple pleasure as giving someone a good fish-whacking, and you should be able to take a mackerel and a few salmon and turn them into a tuna that summons sharks.
Unfortunately, Perimeter is a bit of a numbers nerd when it comes to terms like “a few salmon”.
There are three types of units you build, called the Basics. Soldiers shoot. Officers suppress enemy fire. Technicians heal things. None of this matters much, because you will seldom use them as they are, they die if something so much as breathes at them and their production cost is almost nothing.
Here a Soldier and a Technician stand on a large tree trunk, while an Officer flies into position from above. Those flaps on the Officer lift up when it goes into the air – it’s a nice detail, considering that if you’re not zoomed in like this these units are barely visible.
When you have a squad selected you get a small group of panels, each with a different unit on them. Each unit requires you to have built different types of Weapons Labs. Once you have those Labs, you can turn the squad into that type of unit. For example, a Laser lab lets you use Snipers. Snipers are listed as requiring 3 Officers each. What does that mean? It means if the squad has a couple of Officers, they will break down and combine like this:
You get one Sniper per three Officers. They have decent range and they hit things faster than the basic soldier. They’re pretty decent all round. Alternatively, you could build a different lab and convert Soldiers into Rockers, mobile missile launchers that can attack buildings and are much better at taking out anything in the air.
Let’s say you want the unit that summons sharks. That wasn’t just an awkward metaphor – there is a unit that does this. They’re in the green circles at the back:
Sharks are pretty nifty to watch and great for taking down buildings. What Basics do you need to make them? Let’s mouse over the panel.
This is where Perimeter can be hard to get used to. Each of the Combo units require a certain ratio of Basics each – Basics left over in a squad effectively disappear. They still count towards totals and will reappear if you break the squad back into Basics, but for fighting they might as well not be there. You’re also never going to have many of the really powerful units, because they need a lot of Basics and the limit on how many Basics you can have at the same time is quite tight. Even worse, some of them can’t fight by themselves very well and will need support.
This means Perimeter takes the forward planning you’d normally do for your opening in the game and spreads it over the entire battle. Starting build orders aren’t that complicated, but you’re never going to be in the position where you’re gathering resources quickly enough to build units without paying too much attention – you’ll always have to keep track of how many of each Basic you have where.
However, the tradeoff is that you have a lot of flexibility. If the enemy base is susceptible to a certain type of attack, morph into something that uses it and in you go. If the enemy brings over defenders good at countering your attackers, morph into something else and run away. There’s a limit to how frequently you can switch around, but it’s a very different dynamic to the traditional strategy of “Focus on two types of unit and make as many of them as you can”. There’s also room to bluff the contents of your squads, even when they’re in plain sight. “I can counter that squad at the moment, but if they’ve got some extra Technicians hiding in there they could turn into something that will wipe the floor with me!” You get the idea.
So much for units. I’ll probably come back and spotlight some of the more interesting ones as we go. Next up, we’ll look at buildings, why this game is called Perimeter, underground units irritating everyone, and how destroying one building can let you capture half of your opponent’s base.