Thursday, May 30, 2013

Skyward Collapse Gameplay Review

I'm playing Skyward Collapse, a turn-based god game by Arcen Games.

The goal is to allow both warring factions to survive by carefully balancing their resources while allowing them to cause some damage (there is a score requirement based on mutual destruction) and avoiding obliteration at the hands of the neutral bandits. Games can be customized in several ways, including the overall difficulty, map style, and event frequency. Cooperative multiplayer is available as well. The interface makes it too difficult to figure out which buildings you have already constructed and where they are located; these shortcomings prevent efficient gameplay. You are given a limited number of actions per turn (plus free placement during setup): placing buildings, rallying troops, repairing structures, spawning new land tiles, and placing loot. Raw resources are shared between towns, but buildings to produce finished goods must be repeated in each new village. Destroyed buildings leave ruins that cannot be built upon, restricting further development. Military units are automatically produced as resources become available, and units will automatically attack enemy and neutral units. You can also recruit powerful mythological units to help balance the conflict. Eventually, a powerful god appears for each side, and basic orders can be given to direct its actions. Random events called “woes” make games a lot more unpredictable and increase replay value. The gameplay is unique thanks to the goals: you must allow the sides to fight and increase your score while always maintaining a balance between the foes. Skyward Collapse has an interesting concept that produces a challenging, inexpensive ($5) game with a limited interface.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Reus Gameplay Review

I'm playing Reus, a real-time god game by Abbey Games.

The game features three tutorials, a time-based mode that unlocks advanced structures by completing objectives called “developments”, and an achievement-free sandbox. The smooth interface allows for efficient control, with mouse-wheel zooming, click-and-drag panning, quick giant access, land tile information, and village and project displays. Giants are your method of interacting with the game world, and they can perform several tasks: morph the landscape, place plants, animals, or minerals, buff resource locations with “aspects”, and attack naughty humans. Your first step is to turn wasteland into fertile areas where resources (food, wealth, technology, and nature) can be placed; humans will automatically settle pleasant regions. The goal is to maximize resources by placing specific items near each other, which will increase the benefits of each through the “symbiosis” system; more resources will increase the prosperity of the world. Humans will need lots of resources to complete projects; when finished, they provide an ambassador whom will unlock one “aspect” buff for a giant, and a specialization which will increase resource income even more. These “aspects” can be used to transmutate existing resources into more beneficial forms. Over time, villages that expand quickly without nearby dangerous exotic animals will become greedy, and will attack nearby towns. You must then use your giants to attack the armies or lose your carefully crafted cities. While Reus is not a challenging game, the complex additive relationships between resource locations and multiple avenues for development do provide some depth and variety. The limited scope may inhibit the enjoyment for some, as each game generally follows the same pattern with very broad objectives, but Reus is a well-executed god game.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Cubemen 2 Gameplay Review

I'm playing Cubemen 2, a real-time tower defense strategy game by 3 Sprockets.

The game features a single player campaign consisting of tower defense levels, or you can play online or against the AI in rescue (escort), skirmish (multiple tower defense), capture the flag, and territory control modes. Each game mode has a wide range of customization options, and matchmaking is provided for online contests. Cubemen 2 also comes with a robust level editor, and you can easily download new levels from within the game. Cubemen 2 differs from more traditional tower defense games by allowing you to move your units: infantry with flamethrowers, mortars, rockets, sniper rifles, and mines can be moved freely around the terrain, playing more like a real-time strategy game and allowing you to change your tactics on the fly. Cubes, earned by killing enemy units, are used to purchase new units, and existing units can be upgraded to recover health and expand attack power and range. Units will automatically attack nearby enemies, although you can designate specific targets. The interface only allows single-unit selection (thus no box selecting) and the mouse camera controls can be sluggish. Map designs can have interesting features like teleporters, healing spots, and packages that can temporarily increase damage. The AI is pretty good, offering a good challenge during the competitive modes. Overall, Cubemen 2 is an enjoyable light real-time strategy game with a nice amount of content.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Anomaly 2 Gameplay Review

I'm playing Anomaly 2, a real-time tower defense game by 11 Bit Studios.

The single player story mode is a retread of the original game: playing offense only with scripted enemy encounters. The missions can be very difficult with lots of enemy towers. You still cannot save your game mid-mission, and the game also lacks a map editor. Multiplayer is new this time around, however, where one player controls the squad and another places turrets, both sides earning points by destroying enemy units. Collected resources can be used to purchase new units and improve the technology level, unlocking more advanced units. The interface allows you to change squad movement paths and purchase new units pretty easily. The ability to accelerate time reduces potential tedium. Both units and towers have various attacks, and Anomaly 2 has a nice strategic balance with good counters for different adversaries. The squads can now morph units for quick tactical changes, and the towers have complementary attributes. Both sides can accentuate their efforts with different abilities (health, decoys, damage, build speed). While the single player game is a lot of the same, the multiplayer of Anomaly 2 is a big draw: it adds a lot of replay value and solid strategic competitive gaming.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Race The Sun Beta Preview

I'm playing the beta of Race The Sun, a procedurally-generated racing game by Flippfly.

The goal is to survive as long as possible before the sun sets. The game features procedurally generated infinite maps divided into regions, each of which has many different paths to follow; these help to keep replay value high. Controls are very simple: left and right arrows to steer, plus a button to activate an ability (jump). Collecting triangles increases your score multiplier, and boosts increase movement speed while delaying the sun’s inevitable journey below the horizon. Completing specific objectives (like collecting a number of triangles) unlocks new items and abilities. The difficulty is unforgiving: one head-on collision ends the game, although you can side-swipe objects (which resets the score multiplier). Despite its simplistic nature, Race The Sun has appealing score-chasing gameplay at a fast pace, and the randomized levels extend the value of the title. Look for the game to be released near the end of May.

Thursday, May 09, 2013

Leviathan: Warships Gameplay Review

I'm playing Leviathan: Warships, a urn-based naval strategy game by Pieces Interactive and Paradox Interactive.

The game features cross-platform (mobile and desktop) multiplayer skirmish and cooperative campaign options. You can also play the nine-mission campaign offline, but it is much less enjoyable alone. Leviathan: Warships has asynchronous turn-based gameplay where you can have multiple active matches at a time and switch freely between them (although most players seem to concentrate on one game at a time). There are robust ship and fleet customization options: you can place cannons, beams, rockets, mines, smoke, shields, and cloaking items on several ship hulls, and none of these components are locked from new players. A points limit allows you to design small, medium, and large fleets, and the results are somewhat balanced (railguns are too powerful when spammed) with many options. Controls are mouse-driven, with click-and-drag movement and targeting. The interface is limited in several areas, however: it is difficult to determine when items are active (such as radar), and inactive periods after weapons fire and their cooldown timers disappear are simply confusing. Action plays out ten seconds at a time, and since each weapon has effective minimum and maximum ranges, the tactics of Leviathan: Warships have some depth. Individual weapons and systems (vision, movement) can get damaged and are automatically repaired over time. While the interface shortcomings of Leviathan: Warships are discouraging, the ship customization and action-oriented gameplay are welcome features.

Sunday, May 05, 2013

Surgeon Simulator 2013 Gameplay Review

I'm playing Surgeon Simulator 2013, a surgery “simulation” game by Bossa Studios.

The game has three surgeries (heart, kidney, brain), both in a hospital setting and in an ambulance (with randomized bumps and turns that move everything around haphazardly). There are very lenient objectives: you only need to place the new organ near the correct location, and can discard all other “unnecessary” organs. It would be nice if more operations were available, but there is some additional fun to be had in the main menu. The controls are awkward on purpose: separate keys for closing each finger, while the mouse moves your arm and holding the mouse buttons lowers your arm and rotates your wrist. The result is hilarity, as you fumble about trying to complete even the simplest task; objects will “stick” to your fingers (whether you want them to or not) to assist in grabbing things. Various surgical instruments are available (scalpel, saw, hammer) to expedite untimely death. The game ends when your patient bleeds out, but you can stop the bleeding by poking them (in the eye, preferably) with a green syringe (just don’t poke yourself). Your score depends on the time the surgery takes and how much blood is left; online leaderboards would have been a nice touch. The physics engine is good enough to make everything as clumsy as possible. There isn’t much depth or longevity in Surgeon Simulator 2013, but the humor that permeates throughout the game will be worth the $10 price tag for some.

Wednesday, May 01, 2013

Don’t Starve Impressions

I'm playing Don’t Starve, an exploration survival game by Klei Entertainment.

(FRAPS does not play nice with Don’t Starve, so I had to use an alternative recording program which does not work well, resulting in poor framerates and short videos)

You start by selecting a character (unlocked by playing, with different attributes) and customizing a randomly generated map where you must find five items to progress to the next level. Don’t Starve also features an adventure mode with more scripted levels, and permadeath to act somewhat like a roguelike. The interface displays crafting recipes for items, which helps to alleviate a lot of confusion. Collecting various resources allows you to create tools, fires, traps, weapons, magic staffs, research items, farms, and more. You must keep an eye on your hunger, health, and sanity; you can get easily distracted doing tasks in the game and forget to eat or camp. The environment is quite hostile, providing ample opportunities to die. There is a wide range of strange animals and monsters to encounter, plus several avenues for resource and food production for some flexibility. While the initial start is very repetitive each new game, the compelling, challenging gameplay of Don’t Starve has a lot to like.