Sunday, July 22, 2007

Mayhem Intergalactic Review

Mayhem Intergalactic, developed and published by Inventive Dingo.
The Good: Very straightforward mechanics, fast pace, rally points are extremely useful, challenging AI, multiplayer browser
The Not So Good: Planet swapping is really annoying, needs to indicate whether you’ve upgraded a factory this turn, luck regarding native strength levels, may be too simple for some
What say you? A fun, easy, and fast-paced turn-based strategy game: 7/8

There are numerous types of strategy games. Those that focus on realism, those that focus on extremely large battles, and those that are more straightforward and simplistic. I've reviewed a number of these games recently, such as Galcon and AORoyal. For some reason, a lot of strategy games take place in space, and Mayhem Intergalactic is no exception. Leaning more towards the Risk side of the equation in terms of complexity, Mayhem Intergalactic is all about sending ships to enemy planets and taking over new worlds. This is very similar to the real-time game Galcon; will Mayhem Intergalactic prove to be equally entertaining?

Mayhem Intergalactic uses what can be called “utilitarian” graphics: they just do enough to make the game playable. The planets are slightly textured circles, the backgrounds, while containing some color, are generally bland and forgettable for a space game, and the battle effects are underwhelming. There is only one ship model in the game as well. However, the game is very easy to navigate thanks for an intuitive user interface. All of the pertinent data is displayed on the screen: ship levels at each planet, production levels, and which planets have upgrades available. Ordering units around is a snap, and creating rally points is a simple affair. The game also displays how many ships survived every battle on the map so that you can scale your next attack appropriately. So, for what Mayhem Intergalactic lacks in visual flair it makes up for in ease of use. The sound is average for a game like this, with a repetitive battle explosion and overly dramatic background music that is alternates between annoying and pleasing. Mayhem Intergalactic is exactly what you would expect for an independent game, though the user interface makes up for some of the other shortcomings.

In Mayhem Intergalactic, you produce ships at planets and send them to other planets to increase the reach of your empire. The game features quick matches and custom games against the AI. You can customize the map style (from random planet placement to a lattice or spiral shape) and size, which is really the spacing between each planet (you can define a number of neutral planets, which is odd because you’d think that’s what the size definition is for). There is no team play in Mayhem Intergalactic, but you can set turn and game time restrictions designed for online play. You can also adjust the production rates, native strength, and ship speeds to further adjust how long you would like a game to last. There are fog-of-war options that can show ships in orbit or traveling between planets, but these options make the game far too easy. I would like the game to show the native strength on each planet but not enemy strength to take some of the luck out of choosing good planets to invade early in the game. The AI is a great opponent (usually an afterthought in games like this), and it’s downright ruthless at higher difficulty levels. Mayhem Intergalactic also features some nice multiplayer options, including an in-game browser. Although I rarely found other games to join, Mayhem Intergalactic would make an excellent multiplayer game.

Mayhem Intergalactic consists of two actions: sending ships to planets, and upgrading factories. And that’s it. While some people will deride the gameplay as being too simplistic, Mayhem Intergalactic is very straightforward and will appeal to all skill levels. The lack of a tutorial was strange, until I found out how easy the game is to play. The overall goal is to eliminate all of the enemy empires, and this is done by defeating the native populations first and then moving on to the real opposition. The native population grows each turn, a great touch that prevents you from waiting until you are more established and plowing right through neutral planets. Each planet produces a number of ships per turn, and this number can be increased by upgrading the factory. You can upgrade one factory per turn, and upgrading a factory prevents producing new ships at that planet, so there is a strategic trade-off there. When your empire grows larger, you can introduce rally points to automatically send newly produced ships to a planet of your choice. This is a very useful tool later in the game when you have a lot of planets to tend to, and makes the game manageable. I would like to see arrows on the rally point lines to show which direction ships are going at a glance, as well as a “send all” button to send every ship from every planet to a particular destination. Despite the simplicity of the game mechanics, Mayhem Intergalactic is entertaining and the straightforward nature of the game works towards its benefit. The rally points make controlling a large empire easy and you don’t have to continuously worry about each planet as production is automatic. Mayhem Intergalactic is much easier to handle than, say, Lost Empire, where complexity dominates the game. Mayhem Intergalactic is less intense than Galcon because it allows you to think and plan more due to its turn-based gameplay. I actually prefer the more casual pace of Mayhem Intergalactic over Galcon’s insanity. The game isn’t without its annoyances: since you can invade any planet you wish, the end-game becomes a lot of chasing people down as they pick off your planets. The lack of static defenses makes preventing a determined enemy attack impossible: there is no point in keeping behind ships if they are sure to be defeated, and you might as well send everyone on the attack. There is too much chasing down of enemy units, and it’s really a matter of luck to defeat the stragglers when they run into a highly defended planet. Eventually you will prevail, but it’s still annoying.

Mayhem Intergalactic is an entertaining casual strategy game. The user interface makes controlling the game very straightforward and the simplistic mechanics
Mayhem Intergalactic doesn’t have the depth of more complex strategy games, but it does offer some good fun. The multiplayer matching browser makes joining games (if they were available) easy as well. Everything in the game is about ease-of-use, and it makes Mayhem Intergalactic approachable to a wide audience. The game is very similar to Galcon, though I prefer Mayhem Intergalactic. This game is more my speed, as Galcon was a little too hectic for my tastes. People looking for a simple strategy game will find a quality title in Mayhem Intergalactic.