Thursday, May 29, 2014

Imagine Earth Early Access Beta Gameplay Review

I'm playing the early access beta of Imagine Earth, a planetary colonization management simulation by Serious Brothers.

The game currently features a campaign of three scenarios where you are given objectives in developing each new world. Three resources are required by the ever-expanding civilization (food, power, and goods), produced by buildings placed onto the terrain. Some terrain types are better for collecting specific resources, and placing certain of buildings next to each other may reduce production. You can also research new items and building upgrades, and must worry about sea level rising when greenhouse gas output becomes too large.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Minimum Early Access Beta Gameplay Review

I'm playing the early access beta of Minimum, an online first person shooter by Human Head Studios and Atari.

The only game mode (for now) involves players killing creeps and then defending gigantic robots that assault the enemy base. Experience earned during each online match can be used to unlock new weapons and items to create custom loadouts. The pace of Minimum is fast; kill streaks make you weapon progressively more powerful until your next death. Resources gathered from fallen players can be used to craft balanced armor (and eventually, once enabled by the developers, other items) during a round.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Freaking Meatbags Early Access Alpha Gameplay Preview

I'm playing the early access alpha of Freaking Meatbags, a real-time tower defense strategy game by Wild Factor.

The game features a series of scenarios with more traditional tower defense missions interspersed with action-oriented adventures. Money earned during missions can be used to unlock new items and better abilities. Your dumb human minions will collect the resources required to build offensive and defensive structures that are usually not restricted in their placement. You can mix the DNA of existing units to produce new units, combining their abilities. Freaking Meatbags is planned for release in late 2014.

Monday, May 26, 2014

War, The Game Gameplay Review

I'm playing War, The Game, a real-time strategy game by Gabber Games.

The game features slightly over twenty scenarios that are played out on a stylized globe. There are significant problems with the balance in most scenarios: either a short time limit is given, or the enemy has too many units. There are no skirmish games and no scenario editor to extend the content. An obtuse interface allows for grouping of nearby units and attacks against enemy groups. For simplicity, all units have the same attack value (except for infantry defending a city): infantry, tanks, fighters, bombers, battle fleets, transports, and aircraft carriers. Buildings are scattered around the map that can produce new units. Combat victory is given to the side that has the most units; since units cannot retreat from battle, War, The Game becomes a matter of massing as many units together as possible and hoping the enemy can’t gather more. With such simple game rules, tactics and strategy lack depth. The issues with scenario design and overly simple mechanics mean War, The Game cannot be recommended.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Tropico 5 Gameplay Review

I'm playing Tropico 5, a city builder by Haemimont Games and Kalypso Media.

The game features a more scripted campaign, single missions, and a sandbox mode with copious custom game settings and plausibly randomized maps. Tropico 5 takes place in five eras (colonial, world wars, cold war, and modern times), each of which offers different buildings and abilities. Tropico 5 also introduces online multiplayer that can be played cooperatively or competitively. The thorough interface provides lots of easily accessible information through tables, graphs, and map overlays. Detailed building and citizen attributes can be tracked as the island grows. Buildings can be placed to produce resources or fulfill housing, entertainment, tourism, religion, police protection, health, media, research, education, foreign relations, or military needs. Budgets for each building can be adjusted for maximum efficiency, and new areas can be scouted for future exploitation. Goods produced on the island can be exported to specific foreign powers using trade routes. Research can unlock new abilities, rival political factions must be dealt with, tourists can be hosted, and new edicts and even a constitution can be drafted. Your extended family dynasty can help manage the island, and successors are born with varied attributes. Finally, random events and missions provide variety during your reign. Offering a handful of significant enhancements (such as multiplayer, eras, and the family dynasty), Tropico 5 is a high-quality city builder.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Imperium: Arena of Death Gameplay Review

I'm playing Imperium: Arena of Death, a gladiator management game by Derek DiBenedetto and Grey Dog Software.

A team of three warriors will fight the opposition, undergo training, and go on quests. Fighter stats change over time, and contracts are negotiated at the end of each season. Combatants can be helped with purchased potions, favors, and promotion. The fights are text-based, giving descriptions of the action as the health ratings tick down and mid-fight strategy adjustments are made. Although it features a unique setting, Imperium: Arena of Death lacks the depth of other management titles.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Destiny of the Cubes Alpha Gameplay Preview

I'm playing the alpha of Destiny of the Cubes, a real-time strategy game.

The game currently features two game modes (normal and survival) offline against the AI, although online play and additional modes are planned before release. The randomized maps give the user lots of options to choose from. Resource gathering with workers is the first step. There is no population cap, but food constantly dwindles based on the size of your population. Buildings improve or produce units, and nighttime brings an increased fog of war. Units attack the enemy automatically, reducing micromanagement, and combat is fast and brutal. Already containing some interesting ideas, Destiny of the Cubes is scheduled for release in 2015.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Vertical Drop Heroes HD Gameplay Review

I'm playing Vertical Drop Heroes HD, a roguelike platform game by Nerdook Productions.

As with most roguelikes, the game features randomly generated levels and permanent death. You start out by choosing one of three randomized heroes with different weapons, abilities, and powers. Coins collected during your adventures can be spent to upgrade starting hero stats or unlock new skills. The variety of abilities gives Vertical Drop Heroes HD a lot of replay value, as varied tactics are possible with the many different attributes that can be combined. Controls are fluid as the action moves downward; there are plenty of enemies to deal with, and allies can be freed to engage on your behalf. The fast pace, chaotic gameplay, mixture of skills, and randomized content make Vertical Drop Heroes HD an enjoyable platform game.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Jet Car Stunts Gameplay Review

I'm playing Jet Car Stunts, a racing platform game by Grip Games and bitComposer.

The game features around forty levels divided between precision platforming, lap-based time trials, and collecting stars in obscure locations. The low resolution graphics and lack of a level editor are indicative of mobile development. The controls involve careful management of jet fuel, necessary to traverse wide chasms. While precision is required to navigate through each of the game’s challenging levels, you can’t adjust your heading accurately while in the air. For the PC, Jet Car Stunts offers no positive alternatives to other arcade racing games like Trackmania.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Men of War: Assault Squad 2 Gameplay Review

I'm playing Men of War: Assault Squad 2, a real-time military tactics game by Digitalmindsoft and 1C Company.

The game includes five campaigns (the United States, the United Kingdom, Germany, Russia, and Japan) of forty missions total, twenty-five of which are imported from the first Assault Squad game. The repetitive skirmish missions design (defend, assault, defend) does feature detailed maps with lots of cover. However, the generally difficult scenarios cannot be skipped to access later missions. Multiplayer is now handled by Steam (instead of now-defunct Gamespy) and features five online modes, including new massive 8v8 battles and over sixty maps. The interface has been slightly improved to include space efficient infantry icons in the unit list, though you still can’t click directly on the minimap. Command points are used to call in a huge variety of additional units and vehicles, and you can directly control individual units if you choose. The AI does a good job engaging enemy threats and taking cover automatically, allowing for large-scale combat with reduced micromanagement. While Men of War: Assault Squad 2 continues a satisfying series of tactical military games, the additions made here are not significant enough to warrant a full-priced sequel.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Sir, You Are Being Hunted Gameplay Review

I'm playing Sir, You Are Being Hunted, a first-person stealth exploration game by Big Robot.

The game features procedurally generated levels of British countryside, consisting of five different biomes and containing buildings that act like treasure chests, full of useful and useless items. Progress can only be saved at the starting location and at boats that offer transport between the five islands. The mission is to gather fragments scattered amongst the islands while avoiding robot guards; there is a choice of several professions that grant different starting items. The limited inventory space must be carefully managed, as there simply isn’t enough space for everything. Items can include food to maintain vitality, bandages to stop bleeding, or (more rarely) weapons like revolvers, axes, traps, and shotguns. Alarm clocks and empty bottles can also be used to distract nearby robots, and high grass can be used to decrease visibility. Robot behaviors are randomized and enemies become more formidable later in the game. Despite procedurally generated levels, interesting items, and capable stealth mechanics, Sir, You Are Being Hunted features repetitive encounters that reduce enjoyment.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Supreme Ruler 1936 Gameplay Review

I'm playing Supreme Ruler 1936, a real-time grand strategy game by Battlegoat Studios.

The latest iteration of the series goes to World War II, offering four campaigns (Germany, Italy, Japan, and the United Kingdom), several historical scenarios covering a region of the global map, and a sandbox mode where you can control any country. The interface displays notices for important events and health bars for units, although the reasons for some in-game events (like resource shortcomings) aren’t obvious. Your leadership is divided between the state department (for diplomacy and espionage), finances (including taxation and social spending), production of commodities, researching new technologies, and manufacturing new and military units. The game can handle a lot of units on a global scale; the AI can direct both tactical and strategic decisions to make management easier, although it may do things you don’t want it to. While not the most accessible grand strategy game, Supreme Ruler 1936 strikes a respectable balance between control and automation with high attention to detail.

Wednesday, May 07, 2014

M.A.V. Early Access Alpha Gameplay Preview

I'm playing the early access alpha of M.A.V., a mech combat game by BombDog Studios.

The game features both single player against bots and online play against other humans. A big part of the game is mech design: you can choose weapons, armor, cockpits, generators, tracks, legs, and wheels and attach them together to construct the ultimate killing machine. You can then assign weapon groups and paint your monstrosity. An “auto generate” option is also available to provide a randomized design to get quickly into the game. There are two control styles: one where movement follows your aim (like in traditional first-person shooters) and another where the chassis moves independently of your weapons. M.A.V. features part-specific damage during methodical combat . The game is scheduled for release in late 2015.

Monday, May 05, 2014

Endless Legend Early Access Alpha Gameplay Preview

I'm playing the early access alpha of Endless Legend, a turn-based fantasy 4X strategy game by Amplitude Studios and Iceberg Interactive.

The game currently features a number of innovative features. First, the randomized maps are divided into regions, and only one city can be built per region, reducing city spam. Each region also contains a minor faction that must be pacified through military action, a bribe, or a quest. You can then assimilate the faction into your empire and gain its bonuses. Every twenty turns, you can spend influence points on your empire plan, applying bonuses in four areas. The game world offers quests (both a branching main story and side quests), ruins to explore, and seasons that affect movement and production. Each tile contains basic resources (food, production, money, research, and influence); additional strategic (for forging items for your units) and luxury (for bonuses) resources can be discovered. Your cities grows over time, allowing for improvements and regional expansion. Each race starts with access to three of the five (infantry, ranged, support, cavalry, flying) unit classes (the other two can be unlocked by assimilating minor factions); basic units can be customized with weapons, armor, and items. Your heroes gain experience over time and can be assigned to lead an army to apply their expertise to a city. Battles take place on the world map; while you do not directly control units, you do issue movement and attack orders with behavior modifications. Finally, Endless Legend has a non-linear technology tree divided into eras, and diplomatic options are present. The game is scheduled for release when it is released.

Friday, May 02, 2014

Daylight Gameplay Review

I'm playing Daylight, a first-person horror game by Zombie Studios and Atlus.

The game features procedurally-generated maze-like levels of exploration interspersed with light puzzle sections (flipping a switch or moving a box). The game takes a couple of hours to finish and is restricted checkpoint-only saved games. The always-on-screen smartphone map is useful, although it should differentiate between unexplored doorways and dead-ends. You can collect glow sticks to highlight secret areas (although opening everything you come across is a viable tactic) and flares to defeat shadowy monsters. In each maze section, you must collect a number of artifacts, active a special location, and find the doorway to the next set of rooms. Even with randomized layouts, Daylight is repetitive because the simple objective remains the same in each portion of mazes.