Thursday, June 08, 2017

DiRT 4 Gameplay Review

I'm playing DiRT 4, a racing simulation by Codemasters and Deep Silver.

Covering three off-road disciplines (rally (including historical cars), land rush (trucks and buggies), and rallycross), the game features a flexible career mode where you don’t need to pass specific events in order to progress (as in DiRT 3) or even finish on the podium, as simply completing a championship will count towards unlocking the next set (winning gives you more money, however). Money earned during races can be spent on new cars (you can drive any car at any time, but using loaned vehicles results in giving half of the earnings to the owner), hiring staff to improve repair times and sponsor options, and shop upgrades to unlock better parts and a larger garage. Additionally, DiRT 4 features online challenges (as in DiRT Rally), real-time multiplayer in any racing form, a “joyride” mode with time and smash (run into yellow barriers) attacks, and freeform events that take advantage of the track generator. Five regions are available for rallying including tarmac, snow, gravel, and dirt surfaces; the procedurally generated tracks are extremely convincing, giving DiRT 4 a high amount of replay value. Having random tracks that nobody has seen before is also fitting for the “unknown” nature of rally driving. The game also includes two handling modes (“gamer” and “simulation”) that both perform well; I use gamer mode for rallycross and land rush mods, while preferring simulation for rally. The damage model is still disappointingly unrealistic: flipping 5 times results in body damage that can be repaired in three minutes between stages (though car performance is noticeably affected while damage is present). The AI performs well in the competitive modes, driving aggressively and producing compelling racing. DiRT 4 is a must-have racing title thanks to infinite replayability through the track generator and multiple handling modes to appeal to all aspiring drivers.

A-Train Classic Gameplay Review

I'm playing A-Train Classic, a railroad management simulation by Artdink and Degica.

Based on A-Train 3D, released for the Nintendo 3DS, the game features a large number of lengthy scenarios; you can create custom missions, but only if you complete the typically difficult objectives in three scenarios. There is a large amount of dialogue in the game (especially in the tutorial) that must be clicked through to advance; this leads to inadvertent mis-clicks and overall monotony. In addition, placing objects in the game can be imprecise (especially laying track) and results in a lot of do-overs. A-Train Classic has a fairly sophisticated simulation and gives a lot of information, but lacks truly useful data, such as where cargo and passengers need to actually go and where high demand lies. Trains, buses, trucks, and streetcars can be purchased, along with their respective stations and tracks. If multiple stations are positioned on the same path, however, all vehicles assigned to that path must visit every station (changing the order of station visits, or even simply skipping a station, is not allowed): a very strange restriction. Other tasks include purchasing land, buying businesses to increase customer use of your stations, researching projects, and buying and selling stocks. Still, odd limitations and a less than helpful interface make A-Train Classic difficult to recommend.

Friday, June 02, 2017

Life is Feudal: Forest Village Gameplay Review

I'm playing Life is Feudal: Forest Village, a city management simulation by Mindillusion and Bitbox.

The game takes place on randomized maps where survival is the goal. Raw resources can be collected from the surrounding area, but more permanent buildings are preferred for long-term stability. Additional structures are used to store goods, produce food, manufacture items, and provide defenses. Explorers can be sent out from port to discover new crops and animals. Production chains are straightforward, usually involving one or two steps to produce a specific item. Town growth is only accomplished through children being born in houses with spare room (there is no immigration in the game), and keeping large stocks of food and firewood for the winter is the primary goal (along with the occasional random event). Assigning workers is straightforward using the interface, and icons usually appear to indicate troublesome conditions. You can take direct control of villagers and use their special abilities, although the appeal of this is limited. While Life is Feudal: Forest Village is not a bad game, it is very similar to Banished in many aspects, and is difficult to recommend to those familiar with that particular title.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

First Strike: Final Hour Gameplay Review

I'm playing First Strike: Final Hour, a global nuclear real-time strategy game by Blindflug Studios.

The game does not feature specific missions, instead just different playable and competing countries on the same globe setup. The terrible interface makes the game tedious to control: it is hard to tell what types of missiles are present in each territory, you can’t select some of your regions to fire simultaneously (it’s either one at a time or all at once), there is a limit to how often you can highlight territory borders to see who controls them (why??), you can’t queue build orders, and there is no list of currently controlled regions. Constantly wrestling with the controls removes any enjoyment that could have resulted from strategically deploying varied missile types, invading surrounding neutral regions, and researching new weapon types. The game also suffers from late-game monotony, as previously bombed territory can be reclaimed, resulting in a constantly shifting and annoying game of whack-a-mole. In the end, First Strike: Final Hour does not offer the accessibility to make it an enjoyable strategy game.

Monday, May 29, 2017

Steel Division: Normandy 44 Gameplay Review

I'm playing Steel Division: Normandy 44, a real-time strategy game by Eugen Systems and Paradox Interactive.

The game features three single-player campaigns of four missions each; the conflicts are large in scale, but they are presented in a linear order with no grand strategy on a large map of the region as in the later Wargame titles. Skirmish games against the AI and online contests are also available. There is a good number of detailed maps that scale according to the number of players. Before each match, you must design your battlegroup, choosing units (recon, infantry, tank, anti-tank, air, anti-air, artillery, and support) based on the division you are commanding. The two new innovations of Steel Division are compelling: three phase gameplay and the frontline. Each match is divided into three phases (A, B, and C) that determine which units in your battlegroup can be called into action (typically, more numerous and more powerful units can be brought in later). This adds another layer of strategy to battlegroup deck building. The frontline is displayed on the map (and used to determine victory points), giving a rough indication of where enemy units are. This is a much more effective mechanic for determining map control than placing a command unit in an arbitrary zone. Steel Division retains much of the game mechanics of Wargame (suppression, line of sight, supply, ballistics, units automatically attacking and finding cover), but operates at a slower overall pace and is thus more accessible. The AI is a quite capable opponent and will provide a good challenge offline. Through its approachable gameplay and various innovations, and despite a lackluster campaign mode, Steel Division: Normandy 44 improves upon the formula established by the Wargame series and is a must-play World War II real-time strategy game.