Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Valknut Gameplay Review

I'm playing Valknut, a city building simulation by Dyrnwyn Games.



The game features a ten-mission campaign, randomly generated skirmish modes, and a three-scenario tutorial (although you can’t access the third mission). The interface is entirely too small at high resolutions, there a limited keyboard hotkeys for performing actions, you have to manually rotate buildings (it won’t figure out the correct orientation on its own), and informative tool-tips about population and resources are not present (I have no idea what half of the icons mean, nor how many people work in a building or live in a house). Raw resources (wood, iron, stone, clay) are collected at certain buildings and processed at others (pottery, jewelry, rope, tools); only certain resources can be produced on each island (typically limited to specific crops), which may have had interesting strategic repercussions if the rest of the game was better. People randomly die due to hypothermia or starvation before you have a chance to build the appropriate buildings and even if sufficient supplies are available. Also, resource stocks can fail to grow (especially wood) with no indication as to why (is the wood being used? do you not have enough population to collect wood? is there an extra processing step?). Valknut is an unfinished game that doesn’t provide enough information on how your town is running.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Nantucket Gameplay Review

I'm playing Nantucket, a role-playing seafaring strategy game by Picaresque Studio and Fish Eagle.




Taking place during the height of whaling, the core of the game is business management: hunt whales, earn money, trade goods, hire crew, and upgrade the ship. Quests are available to search specific locations for new whales or find lost ships. Whaling areas are not randomized each game, which drastically reduces replay value (my only major complaint about the game). Naval encounters are resolved using cards and dice rolls: each crewmember has a chance of rolling a card each turn, which can attack enemies or buff friendly units. More experience crewmembers will have access to more interesting options for their cards, and striking a good balance of offensive and defensive possibilities is a core strategy of the game. Overall, Nantucket offers a unique setting for the business management game with satisfying, though repetitive, card-based battle resolution.

Monday, January 15, 2018

Sky Is Arrows Gameplay Review

I'm playing Sky Is Arrows, a role-playing action strategy game by 2,000 Damage and Sometimes You.



NOTE: The "P" key pauses the game. I am not good at reading directions.

A mixture of roguelike, action role-playing game, and real-time strategy game, the goal is to explore randomly generated levels to find the enemy castle that must be defeated before moving on to the next map. In each map, there are enemy encounters, loot chests, and items to provide bonuses. Gold can be spent to recruit new troops or improve your castle (to defend against the occasional enemy attack), and experience points are used to upgrade the stats of the hero. The game is light on features (you can’t save or pause the game (though each match is short, 15 minutes at the most), the maximum resolution is 1080, and hotkeys cannot be changed), though there is a selection of heros with different spells and the maps are different every time. Real-time battles are chaotic, namely because it is difficult to control troops (partially because they move on their own, and partially due to the control scheme that can’t be altered) and using spells can be imprecise. You never feel like you are totally in control of the battles, which makes them lose some appeal. While Sky Is Arrows has a unique combination of mechanics, the features and battles are lacking.

Monday, December 18, 2017

Orbital Racer Gameplay Review

I'm playing Orbital Racer, a space racing simulation by PaweĊ‚ Dywelski and Movie Games.


The single-player-only game features checkpoint racing on twenty-four tracks in eight locations around our solar system; there are no randomized tracks, which would be seemingly easy to do in space. A career mode where race earnings can be spent on vehicle upgrades accompanies simple custom races. Handling can be done in either action or simulation mode, the latter of which has more realistic thruster-based flying and lacks powerups. The interface clearly indicates upcoming checkpoint locations for easier navigation. Powerups in the action mode are randomized and are given out every three checkpoints to all racers, which means everyone uses their weapons at the same time; a more interesting method would involve pickup locations away from the main racing line. Impact (causing damage) and EMP (causing controls to stop for several seconds) weapons come in launched missiles or dropped mines. A completely destroyed craft respawns at the last checkpoint. The AI is very good at handling both racing modes and provides a good opponent. Orbital Racer has a unique setting and simply needs some tweaks (random tracks, improved powerup distribution) to stand out.





Thursday, December 14, 2017

Post Human W.A.R Gameplay Review

I'm playing Post Human W.A.R, a turn-based strategy game by Studio Chahut and Playdius.



The game focuses on online multiplayer, although there is no asynchronous multiplayer (a notable shortcoming for a potentially small community). In addition, there are three campaigns of six missions each that lack adjustable difficulty, and practice games against the AI (or a local player) on fourteen maps (but none are randomized). Units are purchased before battle: melee, ranged, flying, and support options are available that differ in health, movement, attack range, attack strength, defense strength, and special abilities. One unit is chosen by the player as the champion: if it is killed, that side automatically loses (no matter how many other units remain). This is an intriguing concept that involves how you choose who to be the champion, who you try to make the opponent think is the champion (it is kept a secret), and who you think their champion might be. Spare resources left over from unit recruitment (and later gathered from boxes scattered across each map) can be used to buff a unit’s attributes for one turn, adding to the pre-game strategy and in-game strategic options. The enemy totem can be destroyed to cause damage to opposing units each turn; this results in quicker games with less grind at the end. The AI is very good on the higher difficulty level, as are the human opponents found online. Post Human W.A.R has interesting factions and some unique gameplay elements.