Wednesday, November 26, 2014

WARMACHINE: Tactics Gameplay Review

I'm (not) playing WARMACHINE: Tactics, a turn-based strategy game by Privateer Press.

A single-player campaign consists of twenty missions that must be unlocked in a linear order. There are no difficulty settings and the lazy scenario design relies on superior enemy numbers. In addition, progress cannot be saved during a scenario and resumed later. Only three maps are available for skirmish and multiplayer matches. Despite being a turn-based title, there is no support for asynchronous online matches where both players do not need to be online at the same time. There are no victory locations or turn limits during skirmish games (the only objective is to defeat the enemy leader), so nothing prevents players from playing defensively and causing unresolvable stalemates. A poor interface allows for imprecise unit selection, mistaken orders, and infrequent explanations of game mechanics. The interface is coupled with an absolutely terrible camera and poor game performance. Units are allowed to make one move and one attack per turn (unless running is involved); if a unit has multiple weapons of the same type (melee or ranged), one attack can be made by each weapon. For heroes and their robots, focus points can be used to improve weapon accuracy and damage, and some units have access to powerful spells. The AI is stupidly aggressive, moving units far ahead of support, exposing units to attack, and never staying behind cover. While WARMACHINE: Tactics may be a solid board game, much is lost in the translation to the personal computer.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Death Skid Marks Gameplay Review

I'm playing Death Skid Marks, a roguelike car combat game by Studio Whisky Tango.

The goal is to reach a concert with a ticket for each passenger in the car, fighting off all enemies along the way. Achieving specific tasks (kills, running other cars off the road) earns money that can be spent on a variety of things in the shop, such as new weapons or upgrades for the car or passengers. Each passenger can carry one weapon and one (usually single-use) item, and the driver cannot attack. Passengers will automatically melee attack adjacent enemies, but ranged weapons must be manually aimed using the mouse. Deceased passengers will need to be replaced down the road. Death Skid Marks is a unique blend of car combat action and roguelike elements.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Hell Gameplay Review

I'm playing Hell, a fantasy turn-based strategy game by Hunted Cow Studios and Slitherine.

A modification of the Battle Academy 2 game engine, Hell features two ten-mission campaigns (one for good, one for evil) where you can access any scenario at any time. Unlike other Battle Academy 2 offspring, Hell does not feature randomized maps or single-player skirmish games; nine maps are offered for online play using Slitherine’s handy play by e-mail system. Melee and ranged units have a variety of special abilities and/or spells that can buff or damage other units. Combat involves placing units around the enemy to enable flanking and support bonuses; this decreases morale (called “willpower” here) and increases damage. The AI is very inconsistent (which may explain the lack of single-player skirmish games), occasionally surrounding your vulnerable units but usually sending ineffective piecemeal attacks; generally, the game has to supply the AI enemy with more units to compensate for lacking tactics. While Hell is an inspired adaptation of the Battle Academy 2 engine, the title lacks randomized AI skirmishes and a competent computer opponent.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Merchants of Kaidan Gameplay Review

I'm playing Merchants of Kaidan, a trading simulation by Forever Entertainment.

A couple of scenarios vary starting conditions as you trade your way around the empire. Cities can offer workers to join your convoy, cart upgrades, and training. Eventually, you can join a guild, invest in income-producing mines, or hire additional advisors. Traveling on the game map triggers significant random events that can severely hinder your trading efforts. Merchants of Kaidan has unfair profit margins (buy prices are well above sell prices) and seemingly random purchasing locations (food isn’t cheapest in villages, and tools aren’t cheaper in cities, for example), which makes trade extraordinarily difficult. In addition, prices shift without justification, so there is no way to rely on specific trading routes. In the end, Merchants of Kaidan is far too challenging, due to random and senseless pricing, to recommend.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Daedalus - No Escape Gameplay Review

I'm playing Daedalus - No Escape, a top-down arena shooter by Patrice Meneguzzi.

The game offers both single player skirmish games against competent AI opponents or online multiplayer across four game modes (deathmatch, team deathmatch, last man standing, capture the flag). Along with a pleasing number of maps, Daedalus - No Escape includes a map editor for community-created designs. The top-down perspective takes some adjustment for those used to first-person views; the control scheme follows traditional mechanics. Weapons must be picked up quickly upon respawning, as the default gun is generally terrible; there is a good selection of arms that aren’t completely balanced (some are clearly better than others). The fast pace feels reminiscient of Unreal Tournament or Quake, and fans of those titles might find some joy in fragging from a different perspective.