Thursday, February 28, 2013

Aeon Command Gameplay Review

I'm playing Aeon Command, a one-dimensional real-time strategy game by Bat Country Games.

In the game, you produce ships that automatically move towards the enemy mothership and attack any enemies encountered along the way. The game features three short campaigns that serve as skirmish missions with the occasional specific objective. Aeon Command also features multiplayer, and upgrades earned by playing can grant universal ship upgrades transferable between all game modes. With no direct control of your units, your role is to purchase ships, order research upgrades, and use abilities. The ships can collect resources, attack from short or long ranges, or provide support roles. User abilities usually involve repairing ships or causing area damage, and research options increase the weapon and hull ratings for specific ships. You must also click on resources dropped from enemy ships, and the game’s pace means you’re usually busy ordering new ships or picking up items. The strategy involves the balance of new ship construction with existing ship upgrades. The interface allows for efficient ship production using the keyboard, but does not provide tooltips for ship information. The AI is fairly adept at playing the game, providing a good challenge on normal difficulty settings. While Aeon Command lacks a lot of depth due to its simplistic mechanics and lack of direct interaction, it does provide for quick, relatively inexpensive strategic gaming that might appeal to a casual audience.

Monday, February 25, 2013

A Valley Without Wind 2 Gameplay Review

I'm playing A Valley Without Wind 2, a platform game with a dash of turn-based strategy by Arcen Games.

The sequel is free to all owners of the original (and A Valley Without Wind is given to anyone who orders this version as well). The game still features randomly generated levels (although each world tile now only consists of one section) and cooperative multiplayer. Each character can choose from one of ten classes at each level, each of which comes with a set of four spells. Experience gained during combat can be used to choose new perks that add bonuses, while new feats (like double jump) can be stolen from research facilities placed around the game world. Firing in only eight directions using the keyboard or a gamepad makes precise aiming difficult, and the recently-patched-in ability to use the mouse makes using all four spells cumbersome. You can cause more damage if you go a while without being injured, and treasure chests can contain equipment to further alter your abilities. The enemy variety and patterned AI are generally the same as before. As for the turn-based strategic portion of the game, you must defeat the boss before he kills all of your NPC allies by reaching a certain experience level and learning specific skills. Food (for morale) and scrap (for buildings) must be collected by NPCs, which you can order around the map to scavenge resources, construct buildings, or defeat low-level monsters. Your job is to purify darkened regions by destroying the wind generators, slowly improving your character until he or she is capable of taking on the boss directly. The graphics and music have definitely been upgraded, but an effort to reduce complexity results in a more approachable, but less diverse, game that I found to be less enjoyable than the original.

Friday, February 22, 2013

March of the Eagles Gameplay Review

I'm playing March of the Eagles, a real-time wargame by Paradox Interactive.

The game covers the Napoleonic Wars in Europe from 1805 until 1820, a relatively short period of time that results in quicker, more heated matches (for a Paradox-developed title). Eight major powers are the focus of the game, although you can play as any minor nation as well; each empire is given a set of province objectives (different for each nation) that, when held, results in victory. The focus of attacks are cities, defended by forts that must be sieged. Your leader’s ratings modify tax income, manpower, supplies, reinforcement rates, and morale, and each nation can also research ideas to further customize your bonuses. The national budget is easy to balance and money rarely becomes an issue. Diplomatic features are fairly standard, although war declarations can be made with no restrictions. In addition, temporary coalitions can be formed (the primary belligerent pays its members), while war subsidies and expeditionary forces can be donated. Units of varied types in several categories (infantry, cavalry, artillery, naval warships) can be recruited from any core province and sent automatically to a rally point, which significantly cuts down on micromanagement, especially in large countries. Armies are split up into center, left flank, right, flank, and reserves, and you can manually place units into specific roles and adjust some troop behaviors and flank tactics for battle. Each portion of your army is (hopefully) led by a leader, who gains new traits with combat experience. March of the Eagles has a much larger focus on warfare, but is definitely more approachable than, say, Hearts of Iron due to its streamlined mechanics. It is very important to keep supply lines open for both reinforcements and the supplies themselves. It can be difficult to defend territory against small, mobile enemy units, since non-urban provinces are instantly captured and units rarely completely disappear from the map after defeat. The AI is capable, although it sometimes doesn’t accept peace until total victory is almost achieved, and it does not appropriately shift its manpower reserves or existing forces during war on multiple fronts. Overall, March of the Eagles is an accessible wargame with near-constant combat and an uncluttered focus.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Impire Gameplay Review

I'm playing Impire, a dungeon management game by Cyanide Studio and Paradox Interactive.

The game features a lengthy campaign that can be played cooperatively, along with a competitive skirmish mode for up to four human players online. Each mission involves the same general structure: going to a specific set of locations and killing all of the enemies along the way. The interface has some good features (icons that display important units and locations, as long as they aren’t close to each other) but is cumbersome overall, preventing totally efficient management of units. The first priority is placing rooms in your dungeon that produce units or resources, provide upgrades, or affect enemy hero units. Collected resources can be used to recruit units, place new rooms, and organize more squads, while mana allows you to spawn workers units, teleport squads, or attack enemy units. Impire uses an innovative achievement-based unlock system, granting new units, rooms, and upgrades while you reach simple intermediate goals. Units are organized into four-monster squads, gaining experience over time and attacking nearby enemy units automatically. Low-level units are very frail and should be upgraded as soon as possible. Heroes are usually easy to defeat if you surround them with more than one squad, and defeated heroes can be farmed for resources or training experience. Off-map raids for resources or mission objectives are disappointingly non-interactive. Impire is generally an easy game thanks to instant teleportation around the map: you can easily deal with invading heroes and retreat units back to heal. Overall, the repetitive mission design, straightforward build progression, limited unit control tactics, lack of tough decisions, and occasionally unwieldy interface fail to make Impire a truly engaging title.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Special Forces: Team X Gameplay Review

I'm playing Special Forces: Team X, a third-person online shooter by Zombie Studios and Microprose.

The game features five game modes: team deathmatch, control points, capture the flag, hot zone (a single control point that moves), and high value target (a single player, and his or her team, gets more points for kills). The inaccurate server browser, which sometimes connects to the wrong server, has erroneous ping values, and doesn’t save your filter settings, makes joining games more difficult. Before each round, players vote for three pieces to comprise the next map, a neat feature that breaks up the monotony of playing the same maps over and over. The individual map pieces are designed well, featuring several paths to allow for frequent flanking of enemy soldiers. Weapons and items are unlocked with experience points, granting new assault rifles, sniper rifles, and machine guns with attachments (scopes, muzzles, magazines). You can also equip two items (grenades, attack dogs, mines, health pickups), two skills (one active, one passive), and alter your appearance. Weapons dropped by defeated soldiers can be picked up, and the game displays a stat comparison for each new weapon before you swap. Special Forces: Team X is a cover-based shooter, and sprinting towards a wall or barricade will cause you to automatically hide behind it upon arrival. Grenades and attack dogs (along with the map designs) help to dislodge defensively-minded soldiers parked behind cover. You are allowed to spawn near friendly units if they are not engaged in combat, earning an XP bonus when near teammates. The pace (both movement speed and damage incurred) of the game is balanced well. While the game doesn’t feature any truly significant innovations, Special Forces: Team X is a well-designed title with a fast pace and in-game map customization options, offering an inexpensive alternative for fans of online shooters.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Omerta: City of Gangsters Gameplay Review

I'm playing Omerta: City of Gangsters, a Mafia city management game by Haemimont Games and Kalypso Media.

Game options consist of a campaign (a choice of scripted maps with intermediate objectives), a sandbox mode with no objectives, and multiplayer (an interesting feature for the genre). The interface provides a listing of all your gang members and business, but features a small, vague (until you learn what the colors means) minimap and lacks the ability to cycle between special neutral buildings. You also cannot accelerate time, which makes waiting for actions to finish boring. Each member of your gang is rated in several areas and can have several abilities and perks that can be used when growing your illegal activities or fighting enemies. Basic resources include dirty money, clean money, beer, liquor, and firearms. These are processed into each other and later translated into “liked” and “feared” ratings which generally increase your income. Most of the gameplay consist of placing and upgrading buildings in specific locations: in general, “premises” produce resources (such as a beer from a brewery, or converting dirty money into clean money at an accountant), “joints” use resources (a speakeasy sells liquor, a weapons store sells guns for money), and construction lot options increase efficiency. The relationships are straightforward, though oddly organized, and the simplistic nature lacks the depth present in a lot of other city builders. Omerta: City of Gangsters also includes turn-based tactical battles when a scenario calls for them: units have movement and action points used to move and shoot, and special abilities may increase accuracy or award additional bullets per action. The battles are fairly simple, as units take cover and fire upon the enemy until one side is dead. Overall, Omerta: City of Gangsters offers a simplistic but relatively unique take on the city builder.

Friday, February 08, 2013

Dungeonland Gameplay Review

I'm playing Dungeonland, a cooperative action role-playing game by Critical Studio and Paradox Interactive.

Three heroes fight monsters in a theme park while a dungeon master summons units and attacks to stop them. Dungeonland is intended to be played online with human participants, but you can involve the AI is needed. Matchmaking could be improved: there is no “quick join” option, the server list lacks comprehensive filter options, and connecting to other players is unpredictable at best. Dungeonland also suffers from occasional lag (especially when new players are connecting) and bugs during both online and offline play, resulting in a less polished feel. The game is intended to be very difficult (the lowest setting is “hard” for a reason), and you have the option of introducing more challenges (no health drops, longer revive times) as well. Playing earns money that can be used to unlock new weapons, potions, perks, and cosmetic armor and hats. The three classes in the game (tank warrior, ranged rogue, and healing mage) has three specializations that can be unlocked to further customize their abilities. Opting for keyboard controls grants the use of the WASD keys to move, left-click to attack, right-click for a class ability, Q for a weapon skill (with a cooldown), E for a potion, F to pick up or revive, and spacebar to evade. Each area of the level requires you to kill the monster spawners before moving on, and transitioning to a new area refills health (and gives new cards to the dungeon master). Lives, loot, and potions are shared, which further enhances the need for the heroes to cooperate. The dungeon master plays cards from a deck that spawns powerful monsters, area spells, and other nefarious traps. The dungeon master is a fun role, especially when playing against human opponents. The AI plays one decent round followed by three or four terrible matches, ignoring spawners and not using special abilities often enough. The overall theme and ability to assist the monsters makes Dungeonland stand out in a crowded genre.

Monday, February 04, 2013

Proteus Gameplay Review

I'm playing Proteus, an exploration game by Ed Key and David Kanaga.

This is a pure exploration game, with no goals or objectives or guidance. It takes about thirty to sixty minutes to see everything, depending on how fast you travel to the next season. Each time you play the game, the world is semi-randomly generated: the same elements are used and become familiar, but are arranged in a different order. You can save a “postcard” to share your particular level with others. Controls use the WASD keys to move and the mouse to look, and the game exhibits a brisk movement speed (although I would like the have the ability to let the user change the walking pace). The game world features a nice variety of wildlife and wonderful music with accents based on surroundings. You will also experience seasonal and meteorological changes during your time on Proteus. Although there isn’t anything to “do”, Proteus offers a relaxing exploration game with neat things to discover.