Monday, January 23, 2017

Stars in Shadow Gameplay Review

I'm playing Stars in Shadow, a turn-based 4X space strategy game by Ashdar Games and Iceberg Interactive.



The game features reasonable varied factions and randomized maps supporting up to 12 players. The mechanics are standard for a 4X game: explore new systems, colonize suitable planets, place buildings to produce resources, construct a fleet of ships, and attack the enemies. Some minor differences: Food must be transported to colonies that lack it, and large quantities of metal (extracted from mines) is required to build ships. Also, each planet can only support a small number of resource-producing structures (based on physical size), so specialization is key to long-term success. A fairly open-ended technology tree allows for many research paths to be taken, and custom ship designs are possible. Diplomatic options are typical; influence is used to purchase agreements. Turn-based tactical battles arise when factions clash, and the AI plays well enough at the game to make it a decent challenge, though it could provide more meaningful feedback on diplomatic trades. Stars in Shadow is a fine 4X game that neither stands out nor has detrimental features.

Friday, January 20, 2017

Urban Empire Gameplay Review

I'm playing Urban Empire, a city management and political strategy game by Reborn Interactive and Kalypso Media.



In the campaign mode, you’ll lead a mayoral family from 1820 until (hopefully) 2020. Although the general mechanics play out the same each time, a large variety of events make each game slightly different. The main difference between Urban Empire and more traditional city builders is that most everything is put to a vote, so politics and relationships with parties matter. Districts are placed with zoning layouts, services, and infrastructure support. The city council must approve new districts through a vote; they also will vote on tax rate changes, modifications to existing districts, edicts, and service funding levels. Goodwill can be spent persuading parties to vote your way. A research tree contains inventions that unlock new services and edicts. Citizens have needs in several areas (such as social life, environment, health, and fun) that can be fulfilled by placing services. Urban Empire is a challenging game: it is difficult to consistently turn a monthly profit and still satisfy the needs of the citizens, and getting votes passed requires balance and skill. With an injection of meaningful political considerations, Urban Empire stands out as a city management game.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Siegecraft Commander Gameplay Review

I'm playing Siegecraft Commander, an action strategy game by Blowfish Studios.



Two campaigns provide the single-player content: exhausting missions with numerous enemies in opposite directions that spread forces too thin. Multiplayer on five maps is available in either  turn-based or real-time modes, but no skirmish matches against the AI (it appears the AI doesn’t actually know how to play the game, as the campaign missions rely solely on pre-scripted structures). Gameplay is unique, as buildings are placed by aiming and firing. Outposts are used to expand, and other structures are placed that produce troops, defensive weapons, or magical items. Buildings that are connected together can be destroyed by taking out the central hub, but troops cannot be instructed to move to a specific rally point. Siegecraft Commander has unique gameplay mechanics, but a lack of a skirmish mode and tediously designed campaign missions reduce appeal.

Thursday, January 05, 2017

Little Kingdom 2 Gameplay Review

I'm playing Little Kingdom 2, a real-time strategy game by Andreil Game.



The game features a campaign mode with unbalanced scenarios (many hostile factions), a robust skirmish mode with random maps supporting up to twenty-seven players, and four-player local multiplayer. The interface is simple (left-click and right-click only) and the game is played at a low resolution with no map zooming. The goal is to capture the opposing territory; borders are expanded by placing towers (which cost food), and more territory brings in more food. Towers enhanced with wood have a larger radius of influence and can capture more hexes. Successive structures of the same type are more expensive, so intermediate buildings that are no longer necessary should be removed. Special buildings can be placed to extract wood, stone, and iron, while markets can be place to trade goods and embassies will increase the rate of trade. Simple diplomacy is present: gifting items will increase relationships (though the quantity required is quite high) leading to alliances, while stealing resources will decrease them and lead to war. The game is fast (it is played in real-time, and resources come in quickly near the end of the game) and the AI is good at finding weak points in tower layout strategies. Little Kingdom 2 is an accessible, albeit rough, real-time strategy game with straightforward mechanics and a quick pace.

Monday, January 02, 2017

8-Bit Invaders Gameplay Review

I'm playing 8-Bit Invaders, a real-time strategy game by Petroglyph Games.



The game is brimming with various game modes: two campaigns featuring scripted missions, online cooperative missions, a multi-map domination mode where territories are invaded and new units unlocked through research, and skirmish games both online and against the AI. Factions from previous 8-Bit games can be used if purchased. The interface is decent, allowing for easy access to building and unit production, but limiting advanced actions like queuing varied units well in advance. Resources are automatically collected by harvesters, decreasing tedious micromanagement. Buildings produce or unlock units; placing more than one building of the same type will speed production, but keep units flowing out of the first structure (allowing for easier rally point management). Buildings also require power produced at plants, and resources are consumed as things are built instead of an up-front cost paid in full. Units consist of faster, lighter units and slower, heavy units, with a mix of air vehicles and support units. There is a very fast pace with many units produced rather quickly, resulting in massive, chaotic battles. The game doesn’t have the depth of some other titles, but at least the matches are quick. The AI is OK at the game, but more enjoyment is found with human opponents. 8-Bit Invaders is a feature-rich, approachable real-time strategy game.