Friday, October 20, 2017

Brass Gameplay Review

I'm playing Brass, a turn-based strategy game by Cublo Games and PHALANX.

Featuring both offline and online play, the goal is this board game adaptation is to accumulate victory points by (primarily) activating industries. Cotton mills and ports are activated by selling cotton at a port, while coal mines and iron works are activated once all of their resources have been used by other buildings or upgrades. Shipyards are automatically activated once built but require upgrades before they can be constructed. Money (the income of which is increased as industries become activated) is used to construct buildings in specific locations on the map, but only if a card displaying the city or type of industry is in hand. Canals, and later railroads, are used to connect cities, allow for more construction, and transport goods. Upgrading buildings will produce more victory points when activated, and loans can be taken as well. Halfway through each game, canals and level 1 buildings disappear, leading to a second scramble to develop. It takes several games to understand all the nuances of Brass, but the game does support multiple strategies for victory. The AI is good at the game as well, providing a very capable opponent. There are some stability issues with the game locking up during AI turns and crashing upon exiting, but overall Brass is a decent computer adaptation of the board game.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Stronghold 2: Steam Edition Gameplay Review

I'm playing Stronghold 2: Steam Edition, a defensive strategy game by Firefly Studios.

Free for owners of the Stronghold Collection (or available as a slightly cheaper standalone), this new edition of the classic game includes Steam-based multiplayer, Steam Workshop support for sharing maps, six new maps, and improved graphics. The defensively-focused gameplay of the Stronghold series remains intact, with both peaceful and combative scenarios available. The update is a nice way of keeping the game relevant and functional.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Ogre Gameplay Review

I'm playing Ogre, a turn-based strategy game by Steve Jackson Games and Auroch Digital.

The game features a ten-mission campaign of scenarios pitting a traditional army of infantry and armored units against a powerful enemy Ogre (essentially a super tank). Skirmish matches are also available online and against the AI, but there is only one map (with six different setups of starting units), though there is a scenario editor. There are not difficulty settings that would add (or remove) enemy units in single player mode or apply a unit handicap online. The interface is very basic, with tedious movement and arduous stacked unit selection. The game features both “classic” and “advanced” rules, the latter of which adds in stacking, combined attacks, and overrunning units. Gameplay consists of a movement phase and an attack phase, where targets and attackers are chosen to alter the combat odds. The AI is inconsistent, usually playing well using combined attacks and staying at range, but sometimes stopping for no apparent reason. While a very faithful adaptation of the classic strategy game, Ogre doesn’t offer enough enhancements in its digital form, such as a large selection of maps and a smooth interface, to appeal to many beyond those devoted to the series.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Dungeons 3 Gameplay Review

I'm playing Dungeons 3, a dungeon management game by Realmforge Studios and Kalypso Media.

Featuring a campaign that has a lot of the same hit-or-miss (mostly miss) humor as before, the game thankfully introduces random skirmish maps that can be used offline or online for vastly increased replay value. In addition, the interface is improved with an actual mouse pointer and better unit selection. The gameplay structure is the same as before: find the gold nuggets, place rooms to house units and produce resources, hire new units, and place defenses. However, new to the game is a research tree, which uses evil points accumulated by capturing locations on the Overworld map, forcing you to venture out of the dungeon in order to unlock the more advanced dungeon options required to win each scenario. While the flow of each game is the same, the random maps help immensely in creating a slightly different feel each time. The newest entry in the Dungeons series fixes the major problems from the last iteration by adding in random maps and improving the interface, finally making it a compelling management game.

Field of Glory II Gameplay Review

I'm playing Field of Glory II, a turn-based strategy gane by Byzantine Games and Slitherine.

Utilizing gameplay similar to predecessors Pike and Shot and Sengoku Jidai but with vastly improved graphics, Field of Glory II has an impressive arsenal of features with randomized maps in all modes (except for historic battles) and tons of units and armies. Campaigns are connected scenarios (three, five, or seven) with minor decisions between missions; mission success is required to move on to the next battle in the series. In addition, there are completely randomized quick battles, custom battles with more options in scenario size, epic historical battles, and online PBEM multiplayer. The difficulty setting only affects the player’s army size and doesn’t make the AI any less formidable. The in-game tutorial is poor with annoying pop-ups and lacks specific instructions. The interface is familiar to anyone who has played a Battle Academy 2-engine game, though the new “move entire command” order is extremely useful for large battles. Colors on the unit flags indicate morale, but are difficult to see if the unit is turned sideways. Units are fitting for the era, including foot soldiers, archers, cavalry, elephants, chariots, and artillery. Generals improve unit movement within their command range. Units that are engaged in close combat cannot stop until one side breaks morale; thus, the general strategy is to lower morale with ranged units, then flank units from multiple sides once they are fixed in close combat. Certain troop types perform better against others, while terrain must also be considered. The AI is very capable, knowing how and when to use units. Easily the best game by the developer, Field of Glory II is an extremely satisfying turn-based strategy game with improved graphics, a better interface, tons of content (with randomized battles and lots of different armies), fairly intuitive rules, and proficient AI.