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.

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

The Colonists Gameplay Review

I'm playing The Colonists, a management simulation by Codebyfire and Mode 7 Games.

The game features two introductory missions, four without combat, and four with combat. You cannot skip missions and there are no randomized maps. Each scenario is designed to take a while to complete, as key resources are usually located on opposite sides of the map; this results in lots of monotonous waiting for resource transport, even at the maximum game speed. The crux of the game is the collection and distribution of resources, starting with the basics (food, logs, iron ore, clay) and working up the production chain to more sophisticated goods (bricks, books, bread, glass, arrows). Residences are used to produce energy consumed by every building, and structures can upgrade to produce higher-level goods. The buildable area can be expanded by placing watchtowers, and the combat-focused scenarios include hostile AI opponents. There is a lot of data contained in the game concerning resource input and output rates, and keeping resource delivery travel times low and making sure you are producing the correct quantity of goods is important for success. Most resources can be produced indefinitely once you find an underground mine (with a couple exceptions, like salt), but this still requires careful expansion and resource usage until you discover those key locations. There is a significant amount of waiting for resources to accumulate (especially if your network is inefficient, which it usually is due to the scripted resource locations); this results in dull, repetitive gameplay for about half of each scenario. While The Colonists has a satisfying core of resource production and distribution, the dull, drawn-out scenarios coupled with a lack of random maps restrict the enjoyment.

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Oligopoly Gameplay Review

I'm playing Oligopoly, an economic strategy game by Viny Game Studio.

The game features three short campaigns (11 scenarios total) at various difficulties, plus five sandbox maps; there are no random maps to extend the content. The goal is to make money by collecting resources, transporting those resources to factories to produce goods, then selling those goods. There are some multi-step production chains in the game (iron + oil > plastic + steel + engine > mower) that add complexity and require planning. However, it is extremely difficult to turn a profit early on in each campaign scenario (the sandbox maps have infinite money), as goods do not earn enough money to offset the expensive monthly maintenance costs for the factories and mines required to make those goods. Oligopoly is a potentially interesting economic strategy game with intricate production chains ruined by poor early game balance in the campaign mode.