Wednesday, April 30, 2014

War of the Vikings Gameplay Review

I'm playing War of the Vikings, a multiplayer third-person combat game by Fatshark and Paradox Interactive.

The online game features several modes: team deathmatch, pitched battle (one life per round), conquest (capture areas), and a smaller arena mode intended for a reduced player count. The focus is on melee combat with swords, axes, and spears, although bows are available for the aspiring archer. Three basic classes are given primary and secondary weapons, shields, and four perks; playing the game awards experience points to unlock cosmetically different items and coins used to purchase them. The controls uses the mouse to both aim, block, and look around simultaneously; this method is inexact and disorienting during the action-packed battles. Attacks can be charged up to cause more damage, resulting in methodical but deadly combat. With “friendly fire” active, no armor, and the aforementioned control scheme, swinging wildly near teammates can be a poor decision. Stunned enemies must be finished off or they can be revived to full health by their teammates. While more approachable and aesthetically dissimilar to its predecessor, the laborious and awkward combat of War of the Vikings lessens its appeal.

Monday, April 28, 2014

The Last Federation Gameplay Review

I'm playing The Last Federation, a grand strategy game with tactical turn-based combat by Arcen Games.

The last member of your race, you perform missions for various factions and (hopefully) unite the victors in an alliance. A quick start mode provides a decent tutorial and gradually introduces new concepts to players; you can also customize the starting conditions and separately adjust the difficulty for the strategic and tactical modes. A detailed solar system simulation is present, shuttling goods and armadas back and forth as the eight races vie for supremacy. The interface is a mixed bag: while lots of useful data is presented, it can be difficult to find key objects during battle and none of the tables can be sorted. Performing tasks and helping out races will earn credits and influence; you can perform both friendly and hostile acts that will alter the economic, medical, environmental, public order, or military ratings of each planet. You can also engage in political deals with planetary leaders to further your cause. Technologies can be gifted (and stolen) to advance friendly factions, and new weapons and abilities can be equipped to your flagship. The turn-based tactical combat is pleasingly chaotic, with lots of enemies and bullets flying across the screen. Each turn you can either use a special action (such as calling in support fighters, using a super weapon, or cloaking) or move and attack. Targets need to be selected (or have the ship auto-fire) using an appropriate weapon that will cause the most damage to your foes. Power can be divided between weapons, shields, and engines for added tactical depth. The AI is good enough at tactical combat and planning on the system map. While the battles and planetary actions do become repetitive, The Last Federation is an satisfactory mix of grand strategy and tactical combat.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Wargame: Red Dragon Gameplay Review

I'm playing Wargame: Red Dragon, a military real-time strategy game by Eugen Systems and Focus Home Interactive.

The game moves to Asia, adding campaigns and units from Japan, China, North and South Korea, Australia, and New Zealand. The maps are significantly improved, with much more realistic changes in elevation, varied terrain, and coastal regions to support the new naval units. The solo campaign divides units up into smaller divisions for more flexible strategies. The same engaging multiplayer remains with several game modes to determine victory, and skirmish games are available against the AI. All units are unlocked again for building your decks, although the naval units needs to be better organized and are too generic as the same ships are recycled for every nation on a side. The naval units are disappointing overall: the best strategy is to mass a bunch of units together and shoot down all incoming missiles. There is no cheap, effective counter to groups of naval units like there is for powerful tanks and planes, which makes naval spam difficult to avoid. That said, the strong aspects of previous Wargame entries remain: scouting with recon, using cover, the effectiveness of infantry in urban areas, resupply, and morale. Despite the naval shortcomings, Red Dragon is another improved entry in an excellent real-time strategy series.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Out of the Park Baseball 15 Gameplay Review

I'm playing Out of the Park Baseball 15, a baseball management game by Out of the Park Developments.

The latest edition of the venerable baseball simulation franchise includes 2014 rosters, new international leagues, 3D ballparks (eventually), a reworked interface, and a host of minor features. In addition to using the opening day rosters for 2014, you can play out any historical season starting from 1871 or customize a league. Your inbox fills with important messages as you peruse intricate team stats and league schedules and results. The 25-man major league roster, 40-man roster, disabled list, and minor league rosters can all be adjusted for injuries or performance, or you can just manage a minor league team and deal with the roster changes made by your major league GM. Meticulous player ratings are used to adjust the pitching rotation, bullpen structure, lineup, and depth chart for your team. You can also adjust strategy options for game simulations. Games can be managed manually (choosing specific pitching or batting strategies and making substitutions), or you can watch the results as they happen in real (or accelerated) time across the league. Games progress at a good pace, although making pitching substitutions should be easier. The AI managers and simulation results both seem to produce plausible results. Much like in previous versions, Out of the Park continues to be the go-to baseball simulation.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Luna’s Wandering Stars Gameplay Review

I'm playing Luna’s Wandering Stars, a physics-based puzzle game by Serenity Forge.

The campaign features a series of missions at each planet in our solar system. Each planet comes with a unique way of controlling your asteroid, which is used to collect other asteroids and proceed to the next level. You can also create and share custom puzzles from within the game. The game has Newtonian physics where gravity, mass, and velocity all interact realistically. Puzzles can consist of some clever designs and multiple solutions are usually possible. While Luna’s Wandering Stars is a challenging game, fans of physics-based puzzles should find a pleasing experience.

Monday, April 14, 2014

UFHO2 Gameplay Review

I'm playing UFHO2, a turn-based strategic board game by Tiny Colossus.

The game includes a story mode which offers slightly over twenty matches against the AI. You can also play the game locally against others or the AI; online cross-platform multiplayer is planned for the near future. Each game takes place on a map of hexagonal areas filled with hexagonal rooms. The goal is to collect gems from around the map; each turn, you can complete six moves consisting of rotating areas, rotating rooms, or moving your alien. Various power-ups are available to prevent room rotation, grant additional moves, or grant other abilities. The AI is quite adept at the game, providing a very good challenge. UFHO2 is a straightforward computerized board game with interesting mechanics and capable AI.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Warlock II: The Exiled Gameplay Review

I'm playing Warlock II: The Exiled, a turn-based fantasy 4X strategy game by Ino-Co Plus and Paradox Interactive.

This sequel is very similar to the original game, especially in the sandbox mode. The major new addition is the Exiled campaign, where you must conquer a series of maps connected by gates, leading up to a showdown with a massive boss. The game rules have been tweaked to decrease city spam (through both a numerical city cap and more aggressive monsters), leading to more exploration and less settlers. Hero units can now be recruited and given weapons and items, and a revised spell tree allows for less random, more structured research. The quality of the AI opponents, both rival mages and non-playable monsters, has been improved, although your adversaries still love to found cities and inefficiently move units. Featuring minor additions for owners of the original game, Warlock II: The Exiled is a pleasant turn-based strategy game on its own merits.

Monday, April 07, 2014

Cubesis Gameplay Review

I'm playing Cubesis, a turn-based god game by Jan Horacek and Jindrich Pavlasek.

The game has a ten-level tutorial plus over twenty additional puzzles; however, you must complete each level in order (including the tutorials) to progress in the game, effectively locking out content if you can’t successfully beat each level. Each level has several objectives to meet, usually collecting hard-to-reach treasure chests with usually some minimal level of resource collection. While most levels don’t have a specific path to the solution, it can be difficult deciphering what the developers had in mind. The interface makes it difficult to see around buildings and other objects, which creates a problem when the map becomes crowded and uneven. Citizens can be spawned at cities and moved elsewhere to construct a variety of objects: fields to make grain, cities to make gold and more citizens, churches to stop the rising seas, granaries to store grain, menhirs to stop global warming, weathervanes to change wind and water directions, plugs to halt rising seas, and altering the landscape up or down to mine stone or reach inaccessible areas. Balancing resources requires constant, careful attention, as ignoring one aspect of the game will quickly lead to defeat. While there are some good ideas in Cubesis, the inelegant interface and finicky difficulty makes this god game somewhat inapproachable.

Friday, April 04, 2014

Age of Wonders III Gameplay Review

I'm playing Age of Wonders III, a turn-based fantasy 4X strategy game by Triumph Studios.

The game features two campaigns, the first of which serves as an extended tutorial. There are also scripted scenarios, impressively designed random maps with lots of options for game customization, and online multiplayer. The interface does a decent job putting control at your fingertips, offering up summaries of your heroes, armies, cities, and spells off to one side. A list of actions to take is provided each turn, and searchable in-game help is provided. Age of Wonders III has a quick pace, giving you something to do each turn. Each map has a large number of independent areas to find during exploration (though they usually do not post a threat), and quests can be provided by autonomous villages. City management is simplified to place focus on the military; buildings can be built to provide resources or unlock new units. Your leader can research new spells and empire-wide bonuses, and unlock new abilities through combat experience; additional heroes can also be hired to lead your troops. Units have a good amount of variety in attributes, although the same types of units are repeated across races and classes. Diplomatic options are limited with the ability to align or declare war with others. Tactical battles are intriguing, offering depth through unit abilities. The AI is passable: while computer opponents occasionally exhibit questionable strategies and tactics, they will take advantage of wounded units and undefended villages. Overall, Age of Wonders III is a dazzling sequel worthy of your time.