Thursday, May 18, 2017

Endless Space 2 Gameplay Review

I'm playing Endless Space 2, a turn-based 4X space strategy game by Amplitude Studios and SEGA.

The game features customizable galaxy options, truly varied factions, and a stylish interface. Stars are connected by lanes, which allows for chokepoints to develop; arduous movement can be performed between detached constellations. Exploration ships can probe curiosities on planets, uncovering special resource bonuses or other loot. Colonization involves placing an outpost first, which eventually grows into a full colony. Planets may already be colonized by minor civilizations, whom can be traded with or assimilated into your empire. Cooperative and competitive events also appear, giving side objectives to achieve during empire growth. There are five resources in the game: food (for population growth), industry (for production), dust (cash), science (for research), and influence (for laws and diplomacy). In addition, there are strategic and luxury resources that are used for specific ship components and trade, respectively. Buildings are shared among each planet in a system, which enhance the default resource production attributes for each world. Each race in the game also gives different bonuses applied to each planet. The research tree offers many options; unlocking a scientific era (by researching a specified number of technologies in a category) grants bonus abilities. Heroes can lead a system or a fleet of ships, and unlock skills with experience. Every twenty turns, there is an election which drives a political party into power; this determines which laws are available across the empire. Diplomatic options between factions are typical. Custom ship design is straightforward (simply drag-and-drop attack, defense, or support modules where allowed) and tactical combat is automated. The AI plays the game well enough, though online play is also available. Overall, Endless Space 2 offers acceptable improvement in the series.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Bounty Train Gameplay Review

I'm playing Bounty Train, a locomotive management action game by Corbie Games and Daedalic Entertainment.

The game features a campaign mode that offers story-based missions and a more freeform sandbox mode. Access to new cities on the map of the Eastern United States is gained by purchasing them; money is primarily earned by transporting passengers, mail, and goods to specific locations, though goods can also be shuttled between destinations for a tidy sum. Money can also be used to upgrade your train, purchase guns, and hire characters to defend against attacks. The tactical battles are similar to FTL, and they become more interesting when special abilities have been unlocked through experience. Although the game can get repetitive (modest profits make for a lot of grinding), the setting and premise of Bounty Train is engaging.

Thursday, May 04, 2017

Dawn of Andromeda Gameplay Review

I'm playing Dawn of Andromeda, a real-time 4X space strategy game by Grey Wolf Entertainment and Iceberg Interactive.

The game features a number of scenarios on pre-designed maps and custom games in randomized galaxies. Each race has slightly different attributes that may alter the general strategy of each match. The interface is a mess: ship and planet lists are both full-screen, making it entirely too difficult to select and issue orders quickly. In addition, there are too many pop-up notifications (the frequency of which cannot be customized), no main screen indication of idle ships (and the ship list says vessels are idle when in fact they may be colonizing or mining), and auto-exploration of two separate ships is uncoordinated. Step one is to explore the galaxy with scouts, revealing colonizable planets, items that can be surveyed (like in Stellaris!), and mining locations. Planet management is almost entirely automated: simply choose which fields (food, population cap, research, defenses, production) to invest extra cash into, and the stats improve on their own. Characters can be assigned to the council for empire-wide bonuses (like in Stellaris!) or to specific worlds as a governor. Policies can be adapted as well. Technologies, artifacts, and foreigners can be studied (like in Stellaris!) through research, and trade of valuable goods can bring in extra money. Diplomatic options are typical, but features vague feedback on why a deal was not accepted. The AI is passable, but combat is uninteresting once war is declared. Dawn of Andromeda is held back by its woeful interface and features stolen from better games.

Monday, May 01, 2017

Tank Warfare: Tunisia 1943 Gameplay Review

I'm playing Tank Warfare: Tunisia 1943, a real-time strategy game by Graviteam and Strategy First.

The game features three campaigns (one short and two main ones, one for each side) set in the sands of Tunisia. Units are moved around on the campaign map, which then spawns battles (which cannot be automatically simulated) when opposing units get too close. Quick battles can be made by placing units in the battle editor, and smaller tutorial scenarios are also included. The interface is identical to Graviteam Tactics: Mius-Front: a lot of information with tons of icons and a bit unwieldy. Basic orders can be given to individuals and groups of units (move, fast move, covert move, march, recon, attack, assault, and defend), or further customized with formation density, smoke use, and other attributes. Specific tactical behaviors can also be issued (hold fire, unload units, fire in a direction), but the AI does a pretty good job micromanaging the units, choosing appropriate targets and finding cover when necessary. The command level system prevents spamming of commands. Like its predecessor, the game is very realistic: weapon ranges, armor penetration, vehicle damage, line of sight (including out of windows in each vehicle), communication methods (wire, radio), and troop morale produce a very plausible battlefield. That said, Tank Warfare: Tunisia 1943 is more like an expansion to last year’s Graviteam Tactics: Mius-Front, with the same interface, game mechanics, and realism of the previous title, only set in a different location.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Shock Tactics Gameplay Review

I'm playing Shock Tactics, a turn-based tactical strategy game by Point Blank Games and EuroVideo Medien.

Essentially a clone of XCOM, the single-player game features leading a team of troops across an alien world, engaging hostile troops along the way. Base building involves spending resources earned by completing missions to unlock new equipment, level up soldiers, and heal more quickly between sorties. Missions typically do not allow any friendly troops to die (they can be rescued by other units, however); doing so results in immediate campaign failure, a devastating victory condition when random numbers and lots of enemies with superior weapons are present, The turn-based combat is typical for the genre: action points are used to move and shoot, or sprint across the terrain. Special abilities can also be used, and cover is needed to survive. Most game maps have large open areas with no cover and enemies are usually dug in in defensive positions behind cover. Luckily, the AI is really stupid and will constantly get out of cover and move around for no apparent reason; simply placing your stationary troops on “overwatch” behind cover is usually enough to win each match, Because of that, there is a lack of actual tactics in Shock Tactics, and you would be better served simply playing XCOM or Xenonauts instead.