Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Insurgency: Sandstorm Gameplay Review

I'm playing Insurgency: Sandstorm, a first-person shooter by New World Interactive and Focus Home Interactive.


Primarily designed with consoles in mind, this new version of the game does offer some new features for PC gamers. More classes (with more weapons) are available, including a commander who can call in strikes (artillery, helicopter) with the help of an observer. Maps are wider with more paths to objectives, and rare vehicles are also available. Finally, there is character appearance customization, more lines of voice dialogue, and improved graphics. The qualities that made the original Insurgency great are intact: objective-based game modes, lack of persistent unlocks, one- or two-shot kills, and no aiming crosshairs. The AI isn’t fantastic but superior numbers make them challenging. While Insurgency: Sandstorm is undoubtedly improved from the first game, the relatively minor changes make this not quite an instant buy, but still a very compelling first-person shooter.

Friday, November 30, 2018

Age of Civilizations II Gameplay Review

I'm playing Age of Civilizations II, a turn-based grand strategy game by Ɓukasz Jakowski.


The game lets you control any nation starting in 1440, though the starting options can be customized. The interface features a lot of map modes, but they are difficult to scroll through and movement orders can be issued by mistake. Movement points limit the number of actions per turn, though this only becomes an issue with very large empires. Units can be recruited and moved, while buildings are placed to increase growth and research rates. The budget can be adjusted to produce more taxes, production income, or population growth. Research points are used to provide a bonus in several areas (population growth, administrative overhead, military upkeep) and unlock better buildings. Diplomatic options with other nations are standard (alliances, defensive pacts, sending insults or improving relations), and the AI is decent enough. Age of Civilizations II is more approachable than the Europa Universalis series, but its relative simplicity means there is less to do during times of peace as you wait for research to complete.

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Armored Brigade Gameplay Review

I'm playing Armored Brigade, a real-time tactical strategy game by Veitikka Studios and Slitherine.


Taking place during the Cold War, the United States, USSR, both Germanys, the United Kingdom, Finland, and Poland are doing battle through fifteen pre-made scenarios. The highlight feature of the game is the battle generator: any part of four huge maps can be selected for a user-generated scenario. Then, force type (mechanized, infantry, or armored), date of the conflict (which affects weather, unit availability, and faction preparedness), and objective locations can be set. Finally, the battle size is adjusted; units involved can be chosen manually or automatically. It’s a very impressive system that not only makes it easy to generate compelling scenarios in a couple of easy steps, but also ensures long-term life for the product. The game is controlled by issuing orders to an entire platoon or company (advance, scout, move until contact, fast move, unload); this drastically reduces micromanagement. You can also tweak the formation and standard operating procedure (pathfinding, rate of fire) for the group. Units during this time period were deadly: one-shot kills (even on tanks) are common, so scouting enemy positions is very important. Supporting your ground units are artillery and air units; target reference points are placed pre-battle for artillery strikes, which calls them in significantly sooner if the bombardment is placed near an existing point. The AI is good: scouting in advance, protecting objectives, moving complimentary units together for massed attacks, and supporting with air units and artillery. This is made more impressive when you consider the AI could be playing in any part of the four 10,000 square kilometer maps and must adjust their tactics to the terrain and random objective locations. Armored Brigade is a fantastic tactical strategy game with a unique battle generator that ensures huge replay value, along with manageable mechanics and solid AI.

Monday, November 12, 2018

Swords and Soldiers 2 Shawarmageddon Gameplay Review

I'm playing Swords and Soldiers 2 Shawarmageddon, a side-scrolling real-time strategy game by Ronimo Games.


The game features a story-based campaign mode, online play, and custom games against the AI or a local opponent. The three factions provide a good mix of units and spells, or you can create a custom faction using any item combination. Gold (collected by workers from mines, or from blocks scattered around the map) is used to unlock and purchase new units and buildings, while mana (collected differently for each faction, but also in block form) is used to cast spells. Units automatically move across the map and attack, so the timing of unit production (making sure a mass of units arrive at the enemy base at the same time) and proper use of spells to support an attack determines the victor. The game is very approachable but still allows for strategic variety (which units to unlock, when to attack, save up or spend, focus on defensive structure or more units). Swords and Soldiers 2 Shawarmageddon, like the original game, widens the appeal of the real-time strategy game by offering a fast, action-packed title that’s easy to learn.

Monday, October 29, 2018

Veil of Crows Gameplay Review

I'm playing Veil of Crows, a role-playing real-time strategy game by Arrow Face Games.


The game features a campaign on several maps with varied character customization and background options (town leader, merchant, mercenary, et cetera); the game world carries over after you die and start a new character. There is also a sandbox mode for more direct tweaking. Towns produce gold through taxation, consume food, and collect resources from nearby mines, farms, and quarries. These resources can be used to construct new buildings and raise troops. Quests can be undertaken from neutral villages, while other factions in the game can be traded with or fought. Combat involves giving orders to troops using cumbersome, non-intuitive controls that use keyboard buttons instead of interface icons. The game world is an effective setting, with other factions going about their business before you intervene. The beginning of each scenario can be slow as you wait for resources to accumulate and better units to unlock, but large battles between different factions await. Overall, Veil of Crows is very reminiscent of Mount & Blade, except with RTS-style battles in place of third-person combat, and is a mostly successful pivot of that construct.