Friday, August 17, 2018

Forged Battalion Gameplay Review

I'm playing Forged Battalion, a real-time strategy game by Petroglyph and Team17.

The game features a lazy and tedious campaign with a bland story that simply features more enemy factions simultaneously fighting as you progress. The skirmish modes (both online and against the AI) only has fifteen maps and no procedural map generation, though more are available on Steam Workshop. Experience points earned by playing any game mode are used to unlock new weapons and create custom units with different weapons and armor. Only four units are available for each chassis (infantry, light vehicle, heavy vehicle, aircraft) and more advanced units can only be built when high-level structures have been placed, which helps to balance out those who have unlocked more items. Forged Battalion is a simplified real-time strategy game, though that does make it more approachable: constructing units is fast and efficient with the handy keyboard shortcuts, and placing additional factories speeds up production at your main hub. Structures can only be placed near existing ones unless an outpost is captured, making enemy building placement predictable. The limited unit roster and building selection does result in a repetitive build order, with the same options executed every game. The AI is barely passable and only mounts a challenge when they outnumber you. A disappointing campaign, limited content, and oversimplified mechanics subdue the custom unit creation features of Forged Battalion.

Friday, August 10, 2018

Madden NFL 19 Gameplay Review

I'm playing Madden NFL 19, an American football simulation by Electronic Arts.

The first PC version of Madden in 11 years, this edition is likely not as mod friendly as in the past, but performance on the PC is smooth and flexible. The game features an underwhelming “longshot” story mode, one-off exhibition games with generally lag-free online play, an “ultimate team” mode where player cards are purchased using in-game cash or real money to assemble a team, and a franchise mode with weekly gameplay strategy training, free agency, draft, player experience upgrades, and flexible game simulation options (including my favorite: you can play only important game events like 3rd downs and red zone trips). Madden NFL 19 comes with three game styles: simulation, high-scoring arcade, and a competitive mode that favors user input for jukes, stiff arms, and the like. The AI skill level can also be adjusted, from “fair” to “clearly cheating”. Controls involve a host of buttons to adjust pre-play hot routes, defensive line shifts, jukes, aggressive catches, power moves, dive tackles, and lots of others. While the commentary gets repetitive quickly, Madden NFL 19 has some nice details like occasionally very detailed comments and player-specific celebrations. The AI provides a good opponent if you’d prefer not to match up against random humans online. While Madden NFL 19 is not wholly different for players of recent console versions, its reappearance on the PC is welcome and it’s still an enjoyable game to play with an acceptable list of features.

Wednesday, August 08, 2018

Circle Empires Gameplay Review

I'm playing Circle Empires, a real-time strategy game by Luminous and Iceberg Interactive.

The game features procedurally generated maps that varies the resources and enemies in each region, the quantity of which depends on the difficulty level. Leaders provide different starting resources and bonuses when capturing a new territory. The main game mode involves finding and killing an enemy boss, but a full conquest mode and games against AI empires are also available. Food, wood, and gold are collected and used to recruit new units, build defensive structures, or unlock upgrades. Circle Empires has a good roster of available units, and the composition of your army largely depends on which resources dominate the map you are playing on. Unit control can become cumbersome as units overlap; friendly units will also occasionally ignore enemies that are located in the same circle, and the game could use an attack move order. Circle Empires becomes very challenging on higher difficulty levels due to the large initial enemy count. Despite limited shortcomings involving the user interface, Circle Empires is an approachable real-time strategy game that has high replay value thanks to its randomized map layouts.

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Graveball Gameplay Review

I'm playing Graveball, an action sports game by Goin’ Yumbo and 3D Realms.

The game focuses on online 3v3 matches: while there is a practice mode against AI bots, the game lacks a league or career mode and game customization options (such as game length or rules tweaks). The goal is to keep the ball in the end zone for two seconds or shoot the ball through a ring. Opponents can be attacked and killed, turning into ghosts that move quickly and invisibly around the map and can respawn anywhere. You can also commit suicide to turn into a ghost and quickly traverse the arena and sneak up on the opposition. Additional options include throwing weapons, jumping and diving to avoid attacks, and sprinting. It is sometimes hard to tell what’s going on (likely on purpose), and Graveball never features any lulls against the competent AI. While Graveball is an action-packed, albeit chaotic, sports game, the reliance on an online community and deficiency in single player features potentially hurt long-term enjoyment.

Friday, July 27, 2018

Train Sim World Gameplay Review

I'm playing Train Sim World, a locomotive simulation by Dovetail Games.

The game is a collection of the base release plus three expansions, for a total of four routes with eight trains: Leipzig, London, New York, and Pennsylvania. A total of twenty-five scenarios are included, which last from 20 minutes to several hours. There is no time acceleration in the game, so a three-hour scenario lasts three real hours. In addition, if a scenario is finished ahead of schedule, you still have to wait at the station until the full time expires. Very simple tutorials are included for each train, and help is not extended to the scenarios: the game won’t tell you why the train is not moving, for example. Beyond the scenarios, there are many services that can be completed, but you can’t customize them and they usually involve the entire lengthy route, just at different times of day. Controls are performed using the mouse to click on the actual levers inside each train, keyboard shortcuts, or a gamepad. Each train is similar (throttle, brake, reverser) but also different enough to allow for confusion when changing models. While there is track switching, adding or releasing cars, using the turntable, and (of course) blowing the horn, most of the scenarios simply involve following the speed limit, stopping at certain places, and watching the scenery pass. The in-game map lacks any sort of detail to immerse you into the game, just showing the route and surrounding trains. Train Sim World is a seemingly accurate simulation, but a lack of time acceleration, no scenario flexibility, abbreviated help, and less content compared to other, more established simulations keeps the game at the station.