Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Production Line Gameplay Review

I'm playing Production Line, a car factory management simulation by Positech Games.

The game features varied map dimensions (plus a simple level editor) with sandbox (AI competition that will research new components), scenario (with objectives), and freeplay modes. Cars are made by progressing through production slots in a specific order; each station takes a different amount of time to complete, so minimizing waits will maximize efficiency and profits. Many research options are available: new car components, car body designs, and individualized production slots (to break up a single process into multiple steps) give you a ton of strategic options. In addition, parts and power can be produced in-house to increase profits, in addition to late-game marketing and varying your builds. While the basics of factory construction are the same every time, the sheer amount of research options and semi-random order in which AI competitors start using specific parts (so they are “expected” to be included in your vehicles) make the focus of each playthrough slightly different. Production Line is a satisfying management title with steadily increasing difficulty and complexity.

Monday, March 04, 2019

DiRT Rally 2.0 Gameplay Review

I'm playing DiRT Rally 2.0, a racing simulation by Codemasters.

The game features career modes for both rally and rallycross, plus daily and weekly online challenges. These community events use money earned in the career mode to purchase additional vehicles, so new players are prevented from participating in any events that do not use the lone car unlocked from the outset. Money can also be used to upgrade cars and hire additional staff to improve repair times. Custom events and championships can be created using any track and vehicle without unlocking them. DiRT Rally 2.0 has a fine selection of vehicles across multiple classes, and features six locations for rally and eight rallycross tracks. Each location has six tracks (plus their mirrors), which is less content than the procedurally generated (but overall lower quality) rally courses from DiRT 4. The handling is improved, and tracks become worn during the course of a rally (though my novice driving ability can’t feel a tangible difference). More tire options are available, but the damage model is still very forgiving. DiRT Rally 2.0 is definitely geared towards experienced players, and if you prefer better handling over the randomized tracks of DiRT 4, this may be the better simulation for you.

Thursday, February 21, 2019

Bannermen Gameplay Review

I'm playing Bannermen, a real-time strategy game by Pathos Interactive and 2tainment.

The campaign is typical for a strategy game (defend against waves of enemies, attack enemy bases, use only hero units against a lot of foes, stealth) with nothing innovative. The skirmish mode only has a handful of maps and only one faction, though online play is available. The interface needs the ability to repeat build queues, and building descriptions would be useful. Workers collect the two resources (wood and gold) automatically once assigned; there is a unit limit per building and a resource quantity limit, so expanding out to a second or third base is a necessity. Numerous houses must be constructed to increase the population cap, though there is a hard cap of 200; after this point, researched upgrades will improve units. Spells can be cast by heroes or on the map by building a temple on an appropriate location. Creep locations can be raided by your hero to level up, but these are ultimately unnecessary since combat happens so quickly that spells can only be used once or twice. The AI is extremely inert and rarely attacks your position in skirmish games. Defenses are strong (and cheap) enough that any army that is below the 200-unit threshold will be repelled, and since everything takes so long to build, you really need to ensure that your first assault is your last. Bannermen has interesting streamlined resource collection, but shortcomings in the AI, campaign, skirmish mode, and repetitive gameplay mechanics lose the battle overall.

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

SNOW Gameplay Review

I'm playing SNOW, an open-world winter sports game by Poppermost and Crytek.

The game is free-to-play, but not really: the free version acts more like a demo, with access only to the tutorial mountain and the main peak for one week. The Ultimate Edition unlocks everything for $20, including custom outfits and all 13 locations. The settings consist of an impressively large mountain and a smaller village, but are filled out with tiny stunt-focused areas; one additional large mountain to explore would be appreciated. There are a number of events to play (time trial, freestyle, half pipe), but they are focused on experienced players and cannot be customized in any way. Multiplayer is also available, but only takes place on the large mountain and events can’t be played with others. Both skiing and snowboarding are available, although the controls (typical for an action sports game) are identical. Mountains can be customized with props like jumps and rails in free roam mode. There are noticeable bugs in the game (input occasionally not accepted in menus, crashes to the desktop, clipping through the terrain, and server issues where progress will be lost). While SNOW can be enjoyable, it is ultimately buried under an avalanche of shortcomings, including having only one large mountain, the lack of custom events, limited multiplayer, and bugs that should have been fixed in over five years on early access.

Monday, February 11, 2019

Evolution Gameplay Review

I'm playing Evolution, a board game adaptation by North Star Games.

The game features a very interesting campaign mode with variations on AI strategy and card availability. The interface is good, with animations that do not slow the game pace down, easy-to-read values for population and body size, and tooltips for cards. The board game itself is fantastic, offering a good combination of strategy and luck as you use cards to create new creatures, give them varied attributes, increase their population (to earn more points), and increase their body size (to deter predators). The AI also offers a nice challenge, and online human opponents are also available. Evolution is about as good as a board game adaptation can be, with formidable AI, a decent interface, online play, and an intriguing campaign.