Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Tempest Citadel Gameplay Review

I'm playing Tempest Citadel, a strategy game by Aartform Games.

Similar in approach to X-COM, the game features a campaign with scripted events but (I think) randomized maps for combat. The interface presents a lot of information but organizes it well. While the game progresses in real-time, it can be paused at any time and will automatically when important events occur. The citadel base offers building slots for housing, food production, engineering (namely building structures and performing upgrades), medicine, and research. Crew can be woken from cryogenic sleep and placed in any available job; crew will level up with experience and can be given equipment and medical augmentations. Missions will regularly appear in the game world, and you can choose which crew members partake in the action. Combat is the weakest aspect of the game, as the action happens too quickly (in real-time) and is too automated (orders can only be given to the entire fireteam, not individuals) to make any tactics matter. Resources can be scavenged after combat. Despite the shortcomings in combat, Tempest Citadel offers feature-rich base and crew management options and a decent story.

Thursday, April 05, 2018

Jalopy Gameplay Review

I'm playing Jalopy, a driving adventure game by Minskworks and Excalibur Games.

The game features a tour of Eastern Europe in a rustic automobile. Each day offers a choice of routes with randomized events (weather, road hazards) to the next destination. The car must be maintained and parts (engine, air filter, carburettor, fuel tank, battery, water tank, ignition coil, tires) can be upgraded. Money can be earned by finding boxes on the side of the road, and selling the goods they contain at gas stations in each town. There is limited storage space in the trunk, so everything needed to keep the car in working order cannot be hoarded. If things get too tough, the journey can be restarted but money and items are kept. While a simplistic game, Jalopy is effective in its limited scope.

Monday, April 02, 2018

Through The Ages Gameplay Review

I'm playing Through The Ages, a turn-based board game by CGE Digital.

The game features custom games, challenges, online matches against human opponents, and a tutorial. Despite being a port of the mobile game, the interface is modified to take advantage of a mouse; I also appreciate the ability to see the same information (how many workers are in each building, for example) or perform the same task (dragging workers, double-clicking cards) multiple ways. The goal is to accumulate the most culture points by the end of the game; this is accomplished by choosing cards from the card row and playing them by spending resources. These can be new buildings or upgrades to existing buildings; structures will produce food, resources, science, or culture based on the card properties and how many workers are assigned to the structure. More advanced cards are gradually introduced as new ages arrive. Other actions include increasing population, playing a leader, developing a new technology, declaring a revolution to switch government types, playing an action card, building or upgrading military units, or playing a military tactic. In addition, a politics phase allows for preparing future game events, declaring war against another player, or forming a pact. There are typically too many things to do each turn so you must make tough decisions on what to choose. You must also keep an eye on happiness (you need more food as you grow while staffing buildings that produce happiness) and corruption (stockpiling too many resources results in a penalty). Scouring the online forums for the board game version shows that there simply isn’t one viable strategy for the game, which is the hallmark of a well-balanced strategy title. The AI plays the game very well and uses varied strategies to achieve victory. Through The Ages succeeds at the two important aspects of any digital board game adaptation: a user-friendly interface and AI competency.

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Empires Apart Gameplay Review

I'm playing Empires Apart, a real-time strategy game by DESTINYbit and Slitherine.

The game features a skirmish mode either online or against the AI, annoyingly unbalanced challenge scenarios (one or two friendly units against several enemies), a survival mode, and a brief tutorial. There is no campaign mode of scripted missions, though the randomized maps for the skirmish mode do give a lot of replay value. The six factions in the game are pleasingly varied. The interface has many shortcomings: resource locations need bigger indicators on the minimap, there is no “select all military units” button, there is no “select only military units” option while box-selecting, and there are no repeating or infinite queues. All of these issues become magnified with the fast pace of the game; the inefficient interface really hinders your ability to play without getting continually frustrated. Finite resources (food, wood, stone, and gold) mean migration is necessary in longer games. Efficient resource collection (by placing nearby storage structures) and continually increasing the population cap by constructing houses allow for quick upgrades to higher technology levels. Military units each have a specific counter, and while formations and stances are available, combat usually just devolves into a giant mass of units chasing a single enemy around the map. The AI can be a challenge as it is good at collecting resources and producing new villagers, but it usually sends only a few units at a time instead of a concentrated offensive. Empires Apart is a solid real-time strategy game with fast-paced gameplay and varied factions, but it lacks the smooth, feature-filled interface required for true excellence.

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Golem Gates Gameplay Review

I'm playing Golem Gates, a card-based real-time strategy game by Laser Guided Games.

The game features a fifteen mission campaign with repetitive objectives (capture these locations, then defeat the enemy base), a challenge mode with much more interesting scenarios, a survival mode, and versus play against the AI or online that needs more maps. Playing any game mode unlocks new cards to add to your customizable deck of units, defensive structures, traps, and spells. Energy (collected from generators) is spent to play cards in any area within the vision range of a friendly unit. Since the cards are drawn at random from the deck, there is no static build order to follow; this really helps to vary the gameplay, a common problem in real-time strategy games. The game is quite difficult overall, and coming up with a strategy on the fly using only the cards you have is a welcome challenge. The interface makes playing cards and accessing units straightforward. Golem Gates is an effective combination of card game and real-time strategy game.