With the release of every new Command & Conquer game there comes the old question of "is it balanced?"; and, as past experience has told, Westwood usually manage to balance their games well. But mistakes are always made which are later fixed in the patches. In my opinion, and the opinion of many others, there are several key points in Yuri's Revenge that could result in it being called "unbalanced". This article will talk about some of the issues in regard to balance and examples of imbalance.
Many Westwood fans instantly dismiss people when they say "This game is unbalanced". They believe that Westwood can't be wrong, can't make a few mistakes here and there. I would imagine that Westwood would be the first to admit that a game cannot be properly balanced until it has been in the hands of the public for at least a few months and hence allowed for the general consensus of public opinion to be noted. The reason why I believe Yuri's Revenge is harder to balance than other C & C games is quite a simple one; the addition of the third side. Attempting to balance two sides (whilst giving them different units, structures and styles) is a feat in itself; but to attempt to balance three sides is bordering on the impossible. But Westwood Studios thrive on taking up challenges such as the aforementioned; hence the brave addition to introduce the third side.
If you look at the Red Alert 2 Tournament Ladder then you will, if you have knowledge of the Red Alert 2 Ladder, recognise many top Red Alert 2 players who have still not switched over to Yuri's Revenge, or in many cases, switched over, didn't like what they saw and decided to go back to Red Alert 2. Admittedly many of these players will be annoyed that their "killer tactics", lovingly honed for nearly a year in Red Alert 2, don't have the same effect in Yuri's Revenge. Tank rushers are the players who have had to make the most drastic changes to their game. I was a rusher in RA2 and had good success, in Yuri's Revenge the same tactic just won't cut it any more. There are too many anti-rush units, structures and effects. As a result I have had to adapt my game drastically - and still am. The basic reason for this being that tanks take longer to build, considerably longer. Gone are the days where three tanks could be out within three minutes. Come are the days when it is more likely that only one will be produced within three minutes.
In my opinion, the decision to increase tank build time was a poor one. One which Westwood went ahead with as a result of the poorer players, who favour defending, complaining en masse. Westwood gave all the sides several units and structures in order to stop the tank rush - examples are the Guardian GI, Brute, Battle Bunker and Tank Bunker. I do not believe that it was necessary to decrease tank build time - and neither do many top players who have abandoned Yuri's Revenge already so as they may return to their beloved tank rushing. I for one miss the familiar tank rush. Whilst games are still exciting, I feel that they, in many cases, lack the pace and ferocity of Red Alert 2. Returning tank build time to what it was in Red Alert 2 would be one way in which to put some more speed into Yuri's Revenge.
As of yet I have not even touched on the units or structures that people may argue as being "imbalanced". The first unit/structure that I will tackle is that of the Slave Miner. The Slaver Miner costs 1500 when built as a structure; the allied and soviet ore refinerys cost 1800. That is an immediate advantage of 300 credits to Yuri at the start of the game. When two skilled players are fighting each other, 300 credits could make all the difference. Next we have the fact that the slave miner can be repaired like a structure with an engineer; allowing it to be repaired to full health anywhere on the map. People may argue that "But Yuri has no repair depot so that's fair!" but the basic fact is that Yuri doesn't really need a repair depot. The main reasons for building a service depot (which you don't see too often lets admit), is to clear your miners of terror drones. Yet the slave miner is immune to drones, so Yuri does not have that problem. Another factor that I feel is imbalanced with the slave miner is the fact that it takes longer to destroy than an Allied Miner or a Soviet Miner. There is no logical reason for it to have a larger health bar; it already has a strong machine gun for protection, why should it be any harder to kill than the chrono miner or war miner? In terms of the mobility issue, I think that there is little that Westwood can and would do - the slave miner is always going to be (along with the chaos drone in my opinion), one of the two most talked about Yuri units in terms of advantages/disadvantages. Another argument that lovers of the slave miner like to state is that "Slaves are the weakness"; maybe they are. But the slave miner regenerates them at such a rate that killing them could be deemed a waste of your time. Another issue that definitely has to be addressed is that of its build time as a structure. Due to its cheaper price when compared to the Allied and Soviet Ore Refineries it can be placed down several seconds before the first Allied and Soviet Refineries. The Yuri player instantly has an advantage; and as the Slaver Miner is no weaker than the Soviet or Allied refinery/miner I believe that this is unfair. My suggestion? Make the cost of building a slave miner from the MCV 1800 and make the build time the same as the Soviet and Allied ore refineries; this would not effect the price of the slave miner from the war factory.
Another unit of heated discussion is that of the Chaos Drone. I really dislike this unit; really dislike it. Why? Because it spoils mass battles. When you have a large group of tanks and go head to head with a large group of Yuri units (including gattling tanks for anti-air and anti-infantry), it is impossible to kill all the chaos drones safely tucked away in the middle of the units before they deploy, emit their venomous cloud and cause your units to go berserk, whilst the enemy units proceed to rip them apart. In my opinion, this is like saying that the Desolator shouldn't effect it's own units. I am not the only one who believes that the chaos drone should effect its own units; many, many players agree with me on this one - it simply makes sense. As for it's other abilities, it could be argued that it should be 100/200 credits more expensive and slightly slower. A chaos drone has the ability to waste four or five tanks on its own - which is why I believe it should be weakened. Doubtless many of you are currently thinking "But the chaos drone is vulnerable to terror drones and air attacks"; I agree with you - it is; but when backed up with a few gattling tanks you can kiss your terror drones or air units goodbye. To put it bluntly, this unit is currently far too powerful. It definitely needs toning down and should effect its own units.
As for other units/structures in Yuri's Revenge that have caused some discussion in terms of ability, the gattling tank and gun are both too effective against air units in my opinion. The fact that the gattling tank simply wipes away infantry in a matter of seconds is also cause for concern. The unit is very powerful and I do believe that it destroys rocketeers and harriers too quickly. As for the gattling cannon, the ability to place it next to an important tech building is very, very useful as it will provide both anti-air and anti-ground unit support. The fact that it costs 1000 does it balance it out though. Yet its anti-air capabilities, like the tank, are slightly too strong in my opinion. Minor toning is needed.
So, I've ripped through the slaver miner, chaos drone and gattling tank/cannon. You probably think I hate that guy with a bald head.. but that's all that needs addressing immediately for Yuri in my opinion. The only other argument with units that I have is the fact that the Allies can build SEALs with just a radar up. On island maps the aforementioned is a nightmare; the enemy can just build one or two SEAL's, swim them around the map and then just sneak them into the back of your base. They will detonate any buildings instantly and make shreds out of any infantry hanging around. The SEAL is Tanya with a dangly bit in my opinion; it's simply too powerful to have with just a radar up. The Soviet unit which corresponds to it, in my opinion, is the Crazy Ivan. I believe that this units qualities should be increased in order to compensate for the Allies having such a capable unit so early on in the game.
Another tactic that has been the great annoyance of many players (including myself), is that of the "Boomer Rush". The Yuri player simply has to dump his radar and naval pen down, pump out a few Boomers and then order them to destroy enemy structures. The decision to only give Yuri one naval unit (excluding the amphibious transport) was a bad one in my opinion. It has resulted in the boomer being too powerful early on in the game; the boomer is only slightly weaker than the dreadnought when hitting structures. It is a "high-tech" unit in my opinion - not a radar-tech one. Obviously Westwood won't introduce any new units; that's is out of the question. Preventing the boomer rush is nigh on impossible, and toning the boomer down would be less fair in a late game situation I feel. Yet it is simply too powerful a unit to build so early on. The Soviets have no real answer to an early boomer rush; even with a few Subs as defence, the boomers will always be able to hit a few important structures, run and come back for more sly attacks.
One other slight complaint that I have is in regard to Yuri's Psychic Amplifier (equivalent of Soviet Radar or Allied Air Force Command). It displays where enemy units are moving as well as giving the normal abilities of a radar structure. This structure required a battle lab in Red Alert 2 in order to build it and hence see where the enemy was moving their units. I believe that getting this advantage as soon as the amplifier is up is unfair; I think that there should be an upgrade option for the structure which allows a Yuri player to see the enemy's movements - this upgrade option should cost at least 1000 credits.
The statistics prove that Yuri's side is the one dominating the ladders; as the ladder currently stands (at 11PM GMT 08/11/01), the top fifty players consist of the following factions:
Now I'll be the first to state that the above statistics don't prove that Yuri's side is too powerful; but they certainly suggest it. Many top players have complained that "any newbie can win with Yuri's side". Micromanagement is of little importance with the economy, and driving units towards enemy units to then mind capture them or make them go berserk (chaos drone) takes little skill. This is true to some extent - yet the better players are able to use Yuri's mind capture technologies even more effectively.
So to sum it up, several units and structures need balancing in my opinion - and tank build time also needs addressing. Whilst the fact that 29 of the top 50 are using Yuri does not prove that Yuri's side is significantly stronger than the Soviets and Allies, it does show that it is slightly stronger in my opinion. It certainly has an advantage over the Soviets I feel. I hope that tank build time and a few of the other issues that I have mentioned are addressed in the next patch.
I don't want anyone to think that the purpose of this article was to prove that Yuri's Revenge is drastically imbalanced and totally unfair on the Soviet or Allied player. It is a fun game which is well worth your money and Soviet and Allied players are still more than capable of beating Yuri players - but moderate imbalance does currently exist: and it does need to be addressed. The first patch is due to be released within the next week or so; let's hope Westwood make some changes to Yuri's Revenge which will make it an even more enjoyable experience that it already is.
Update: (09/11/01) A few hours after the release of this article Westwood released the first YR patch FAQ; changes include "decrease of rhino tank build time", "increase of slave miner cost as structure", "chaos drone speed and price changed" and quite a few more. Many of the changes were ones that I have suggested; hopefully the first patch (due out November 12th-15th), will make YR fairer. There are still changes that I think need to be done; hopefully these will have come to light by time of the second patch being released.