Thursday, March 15, 2018

Surviving Mars Gameplay Review

I'm playing Surviving Mars, a space colony management simulation by Haemimont Games and Paradox Interactive.

Difficulty options are determined by choosing a mission sponsor; these grant varied attributes like funding, the number of rockets available, and the customizable initial payload. The number of resources to collect is pleasingly limited (for easier management): power, water, oxygen, food, concrete, metal, rare metal, polymers, electronics, machine parts, and fuel. These are either extracted from the environment at exhaustible locations or manufactured from other goods. Drones will automatically carry resources within their range and repair broken structures; transports can also be told to shuttle resources between bases. Sectors on Mars must be scanned for resources and anomalies, which then can be surveyed for a research boost. The research tree is quite extensive and comes with interesting unlocks and bonuses. Eventually, humans can be brought to the planet, living in domes and manning the more complex factories. Needs (such as social, medical, gambling, relaxation) can be met by constructing the appropriate support facility. Random events (cable faults, dust storms, meteor showers) break up the potential monotony of a smoothly-running base. Rockets must be refueled (making fuel, and thus water, a very important resource to focus on) and sent back to Earth for new supplies and colonists. Surviving Mars focuses on the fun aspects of resource management (larger-scale production and supply chains, not micromanagment), delivering a very enjoyable space colony management game set in a compelling environment.

Monday, March 12, 2018

Northgard Gameplay Review

I'm playing Northgard, a real-time strategy game by Shiro Games.

The game features a linear campaign with different mission objectives and a skirmish mode (both online and offline against the AI) featuring random maps and varied clans that give different bonuses. Attaining victory involves conquering the map, mastering trade, defeating a powerful boss, reaching the end of the tech tree, or simply accumulating a high score. The interface is very well done, displaying lots of pertinent information without taking up a lot of space. It is easy to see how your citizens are assigned and where gaps in resource production lie. Each citizen can be assigned a job at a particular building: scouts (to explore new map areas), woodcutters, farmers, healers, fishermen, hunters, merchants, soldiers, researchers, and brewers (to raise happiness levels). You can also place houses to increase the population cap and silos to store food for the winter. Each province can only support a small number of structures, so tough decisions are made regarding what to build where. You will also have to carefully balance the economy so any particular resource does not become scarce. Beyond food and wood, krowns earned from merchants are used for upkeep and military recruitment, stone and iron and mined for unit and building upgrades, and lore is researched at specific locations. Adjacent territories can be captured once defending units are disposed of by the military; units placed in the same province as an enemy will automatically attack. Northgard strikes a good balance between automating certain tasks (resource collection and transport) and giving the user control (assigning workers ad building placement), although the game has a slow pace with noticeable waiting for new citizens or winter to pass. Northgard is a challenging, unique real-time strategy game with a focus on careful management and tough decisions.

Thursday, March 08, 2018

Crest Gameplay Review

I'm playing Crest, a god game by Eat Create Sleep.

Taking place on randomized maps, the crux of the game is to create commandments to give orders to your followers. This is accomplished by choosing a group of people, selecting an action for them to do, and choosing a target for them to do it to. Issuing commandments costs precious influence points; this restricts the focus of the commandments to only the most important needs. Issuing commandments that both satisfy needs and align with the goals of each village is key to running a harmonious civilization. Commandments will eventually get associations (modified interpretations of each commandment), which can be blessed or condemned to show favor. There is a somewhat sophisticated ecosystem present on each map as well, with different animals interacting with the environment and each other. Beyond simply keeping the villagers happy, another goal of the game is to ensure the long-term survival of the ecosystem through careful balance of resources. Still, because of the limited number of commandments that you can issue, there are large periods of the game with nothing to do other than watch society collapse. Crest is an innovative, unique game that doesn't offer enough regular interaction to maintain high interest throughout.

Thursday, March 01, 2018

Citystate Gameplay Review

I'm playing Citystate, a city building simulation by The Citystate Development Team.

Featuring randomized maps, the game allows you to choose a starting government (from a couple of multiple-choice questions) and design a flag. Low, medium, and high density housing can be placed, but Citystate lacks zones for any commercial properties and industries other than mining operations and farms. All roads are multi-lane highways, but zones can be three squares away and still count as being connected to the road system. Parks can be placed to increase the seemingly random land values for surrounding areas. Exploring the land for minerals (mountains for iron, desert for oil, and jungle for gold) is expensive but necessary to balance the budget through exports; each square has a percentage chance of success (clearly shown before excavating) each time you drill. Citystate allows you to sculpt the nation by choosing policy options for each legislative topic that comes up; these decisions affect ratings in each income demographic, and overall national indicators for “freedom index”, culture, and lifestyle. Citystate has a seemingly sophisticated economic simulation with trade, bonds, and tax rates, but choosing appropriate funding levels for education, health care, and security is not obvious at all. Citystate is a strange combination of detail (laws, trade, citizen demands) and oversimplifications (no commercial zones, no small roads, no government services (like power and water or fire and police) beyond a budget slider, vague feedback) that just doesn’t work.

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Space Tyrant Gameplay Review

I'm playing Space Tyrant, a turn-based strategy game by Blue Wizard Digital.

The campaign features a collection of skirmish games on random maps with different victory objectives and increasing difficulty; standalone skirmish games are also available. The overall goal is to capture planets by sending a fleet to its orbit, defeating the defenders, then sieging the world. Planets will grant various bonuses (gold income to purchase ships, research points to unlock better attributes, crystals to play cards, or new commanders) when captured. Combat with opposing ships is done in real time; your vessels will automatically fire upon the enemy, but special abilities are manually triggered. Before each match, a one-use tactic can be chosen (from a randomized list of three). If combat is successful, a simple dice roll is used to siege a planet. After a planet’s defenses are reduced to zero, a random event with a decision may trigger. Commanders gain experience with combat, unlocking more ships in their fleet and better abilities. Crystals are used to play cards that may provide more ships or other bonuses. A tyranny rating ensures that you are always on the attack, as you must keep capturing planets or lose. Scenarios become more difficult with increased quantities of enemy ships to deal with. Space Tyrant is a fast-paced 4X space strategy game that is very accessible without sacrificing too much depth.