Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Safe House Gameplay Review

I'm playing Safe House, a spy management game by Labs Games.


The story mode tells the tale of American operatives in a central African country, while an endless mode is more freeform. The game suffers from terrible interface: scrolling across the safe house is very slow even on the fastest setting, the game does not recenter the display so you can see the entire building after an interaction (requiring constant, needless scrolling and zooming out), and mouse input is frustratingly lagged where sometimes a single click is registered but sometimes you need to double click. Money is earned by successfully completing mini-games across various rooms that are placed in the building. Most of these games involve finding words on a list: checking a valid code from a list, picking the right medicine from a list, checking names on a list, picking bomb ingredients from a list, putting together a fake passport (not involving a list!), responding to a phrase with a specific word, and a simple shift cipher. These are relatively entertaining but ultimately repetitive. Agents can also be given missions during each day, but these involve no mini-games or interaction at all, just a percentage chance of success based on stats. In the end, Safe House has some potentially interesting but ultimately repetitive mini-games surrounded by an inelegant interface.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

MachiaVillain Gameplay Review

I'm playing MachiaVillain, a haunted house management simulation by Wild Factor and Good Shepherd Entertainment.


The goal is to lure people to your mansion and eat them. Minions with randomized attributes and abilities are available to collect resources, build structures, put out fires, clean up blood, and manufacture food, research, or processed goods (like steel plates or planks of wood). There are only six different rooms to construct, and each has a limited number of structures that can be placed in them; in addition, most items beyond the basics require a lot of resources, meaning adding new items to your mansion becomes very infrequent after the initial setup. Workers must be kept happy with plenty of specific foods (some monsters like bones, while others prefer brains or blood). In order to attract visitors to your evil abode, letters must be written and sent out to potential victims. Combat is the weakest part of the game: units move too fast in the slowest real-time mode, so constant pausing to issue commands is required. Also, it can be impossible to target specific victims if they are closely spaced; this results in simply not seeing a victim obscured by other objects until it’s too late and they run off. Killing victims outside or letting ones escape will increase suspicion; once the value crosses a certain threshold, heroes and mobs will come to attack you. Following the rules of killing (kill all victims only when alone, kill the virgin last, don’t hurt the dog) also grants crypt points used to unlock new monster types and recruit new workers. MachiaVillain is a great idea that mostly works, but it is a bit repetitive due to the limited, expensive room items and inelegant combat.

Wednesday, May 09, 2018

Starship Corporation Gameplay Review

I'm playing Starship Corporation, a spaceship design company simulation by Coronado Games and Iceberg Interactive.


The game features a campaign mode, which is mostly the sandbox mode with fixed starting conditions. The same map is used each time, along with the same missions, resulting in low replay value. Running your corporation consists of accepting contracts, designing ships appropriate for those contracts, and testing them out. Ships can be moved around the galaxy map to research new areas, mine asteroids, perform roadwork, or engage in combat against pirates. Ship design involves placing rooms (the bridge, navigation, sensors, engines, power, cooling, weapons, shields, storage, crew quarters, mining equipment, medical bays) and connecting them with hatches and corridors. New items can be researched for an up-front fee or paid for monthly. Design is essentially free-form, although some rooms must be placed along the outer hull. Generally, it is very difficult to physically fit all of the components required by a contract while staying under budget. After the design is complete, a real-time “crew management” phase tests your ship in a variety of different scenarios. The efficiency of your design (namely, how long it takes the crew to get from room to room) determines your rating and whether it is sufficient to fulfill the contract. The interface makes it tedious to place rooms and interact with your crew, although the verbose error messages during the design phase are useful. While Starship Corporation is a great idea with high levels of detail in certain areas, tedious construction, tough building requirements, and a lack of polish hold the title back.

Monday, May 07, 2018

Battle Fleet Ground Assault Gameplay Review

I'm playing Battle Fleet Ground Assault, a turn-based strategy game by Mythical City Games.


The game features a campaign mode where units are moved around to capture territory during World War II. Also available are custom battles with randomly generated maps (though the map dimensions do not adjust for the force size) and user-selected unit rosters, plus online multiplayer. One tank moves at a time (based on XP), and each unit can move, then attack or move again. The major new feature of Battle Fleet Ground Assault (compared to its predecessor) is line of sight: units can hide behind buildings, trees, and terrain, making targeting impossible until they are spotted. Much like in Battle Fleet 2, shots are performed by adjusting the angle and power; while angle indicators are , range rings are widely space, leaving for a lot of error and educated guessing. The AI is deadly accurate (even on the easiest difficulty setting where the AI misses more, it can occasionally perform a salvo of precise shots at long distance), making the campaign and quick battles frustrating unless you are skilled enough to land ~80% of your shots. Because of this, the best strategy is to hide your units as much as possible to gain the upper hand and shoot first. Online play does not suffer from the same outrageously skilled computer opponents, though people with game experience can estimate ranges well. Apart from line of sight and taking place on land with tanks, Battle Fleet Ground Assault is the same as Battle Fleet 2, with approachable gameplay but unmistakably cheating AI opponents.

Friday, May 04, 2018

Murderous Pursuits Gameplay Review

I'm playing Murderous Pursuits, a stealth action game by Blazing Griffin.


Taking inspiration from The Ship and Assassin’s Creed, the game features capable AI bots and online multiplayer matchmaking with no server browser. Most favor wins, earned by killing your quarry or stunning your hunter. Proximity indicators show the direction of your target and whether hunters are nearby; the displays are imprise enough to not give away too much information if you are not paying attention to your surroundings. All weapons are one-shot kills, placing more emphasis on detection rather than aiming skill. As you move, exposure level increases, which can be brought back down by standing in vignettes (large dashed areas scattered around each map, also utilized to blend in with the NPCs). Additional favor can be earned by killing with low exposure levels or swapping weapons out for new implements. Infrequent guards are placed around the maps that will arrest anyone who brandishes a weapon, instantly causing them to be exposed. Two abilities (from a list of five) can be chosen prior to each game: counter attacks, remove exposure, reveal nearby targets, humiliate a target (for bonus favor but instant exposure), or stun everyone nearby. Murderous Pursuits progresses at a much faster pace than The Ship, with needs replaced by a more intuitive exposure system that still allows for trailing a target and sneaking up on them for an attack. There are some occasional issues with lag (who clicked first?) and aiming when people are placed close to each other, but overall Murderous Pursuits is quite enjoyable and more accessible than its predecessor.