Monday, September 29, 2014

Stronghold Crusader 2 Gameplay Review

I'm playing Stronghold Crusader 2, a defensive strategy game by Firefly Studios.

The game features a good amount of content: a tutorial, learning campaigns, a skirmish trail, custom skirmish games, a free build sandbox mode, and the ability to import user-made maps. Stronghold Crusader 2 also supports multiplayer deathmatch games online. The interface has two nifty features: a popularity display with adjustable sliders to make your castle more appealing, and separate rally points for each type of unit. Collecting resources for food, weapons, and construction is simple (and lacks depth) because of the lack of sophisticated production chains. Ordering units is also a simple affair. While Stronghold Crusader 2 isn’t a bad game (like Stronghold 3 was), it offers little that wasn’t already present in previous games in the series.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Lords of the Black Sun Gameplay Review

I'm playing Lords of the Black Sun, a turn-based 4X space strategy game by Arkavi Studios and Iceberg Interactive.

Featuring several races with different bonuses, the game starts out with bland, repetitive, and slow exploration. Annoying pirates are entirely too powerful at the start of each game. Unit designs can be customized with researched components; new units and buildings are ordered at your colonies. Tax rates and domestic policies can be adjusted, and trade can be undertaken with other races. Research through the semi-random technology tree is very slow and diplomatic options are typical, although there are several options in espionage. Turn-based battles resolve conflict in space with no reaction fire or countering. In the end, Lords of the Black Sun offers nothing that hasn’t been featured in better 4X games, except for its tiring, tedious pace.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Endless Legend Gameplay Review

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

Featuring single-player or online skirmish games, there are extensive new game customization options, including multiple victory conditions and varied factions to command. The slick interface makes most pertinent information easy to find. A major innovation of Endless Legend is only allowing one city to be build in each map region; this greatly reduces city spam. The population of each city can be assigned to collect one of the game’s basic resources; strategic and luxury resources required for weapons and other items can also be mined. A large array of buildings can be placed to boost local resource production. Each region also includes a minor faction that can be pacified and assimilated through bribery, quests, or combat. Each faction has access to three of the five unit types (infantry, ranged, support, cavalry, flying); the other two can be gained through minor faction assimilation. Units and heroes can be equipped with weapons and items to boost their stats. Additional features include quests, ruins to explore, roaming creeps to exterminate, an empire plan to allow for bonuses every twenty turns, a non-linear technology tree, trade routes, a marketplace to buy and sell, and basic diplomacy between powers. The AI plays the game well enough, taking advantage of weak nations when given the opportunity. The multiple unique features and mechanics of Endless Legend make it an exemplary fantasy 4X game.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Battle Academy 2: Eastern Front Gameplay Review

I'm playing Battle Academy 2: Eastern Front, a turn-based strategy game by Slitherine.

The streamlined turn-based strategy series returns with four campaigns (that can be played cooperatively online) covering the Eastern Front, a skirmish mode with randomly generated maps and scenarios, and online asynchronous multiplayer; an included editor and mod support, along with the random skirmishes, help to extend the life of the game. The simplified interface (designed with touch screens in mind, no doubt) use left-clicks to select and issue orders, such as movement, attacking, laying smoke, and assaults. Hidden units can also ambush the enemy (especially infantry units), and units gain experience with successful combat. A host of infantry, artillery, reconnaissance, and armored units are available for both the Germans and Russians. Special tactical bonuses, such as airstrikes, morale boosts, or off-map artillery, can be called in. Morale, line-of-sight, and terrain are also tactical considerations. The AI does a nice job playing the game, staying outside of the range of your units, keeping defensive units hidden, but attacking the same area with waves of units that get destroyed in quick succession. Still, the approachable mechanics and extremely high replay value, thanks to randomized skirmish games and online multiplayer, make Battle Academy 2 a distinguished turn-based strategy game, especially for novices.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Cannon Brawl Gameplay Review

I'm playing Cannon Brawl, an action strategy game by Turtle Sandbox.

Fast-paced matches on destructible 2D levels, where players attempt to eliminate the enemy base, can be enjoyed in the twenty-level campaign, AI skirmish battles, or online multiplayer. Each pilot has a different ability, and your roster of five structures must be chosen before each match, adding a layer of strategy to the game. Controls use either a gamepad or the keyboard; the mouse is not supported, a significant limitation for a speedy strategy game. Resource collectors, support buildings (shields, healing, boosters), and projectile launchers (cannons, lasers, missiles) can be placed in territory captured by floating balloons. All structures must be placed manually from your dirigible, and the weapons must also fired by flying around the map, leading to frantic gameplay where building placement and unit firing occur in quick succession. Cooldown timers do decrease the pace ever so slightly, and guns can be upgraded for more powerful and more damaging ammunition. Cannon Brawl is a very quick game that supports varied strategies, appropriate for those who enjoy frenzied strategy games.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Planetary Annihilation Gameplay Review

I'm playing Planetary Annihilation, a large-scale real-time strategy game by Uber Entertainment.

The game retains the massive scale of Total Annihilation and Supreme Commander. The single player Galactic War campaign mode features randomized galaxies where the player navigates across the stars, engaging enemy commanders in each system and gathering new technologies that unlock additional units. Skirmish games are also available against the AI and online. Currently, the game cannot be played offline (even in single player mode) and a match cannot be saved mid-game. A robust system editor allows custom systems of planets and moons to be created. The interface allows for quick camera movement to other planets; it also displays unit icons when zoomed out, supports continuous build modes, and actions can be queued using the shift key. Metal is collected from fixed points on each planet, while energy can be produced anywhere. It is important to maintain a positive balance of both metal and energy, or production will be less efficient. Fabricators can be used to assist in the construction of buildings and units, allowing for the use of excess resources.Vehicles, bots, air, naval, and orbital units are made at factories; more advanced (and expensive) versions can be built at advanced factories. Defensive turrets and shields can be placed, radar can display enemy positions, and teleports can allow for quick movement between planets. Games rarely stalemate, as rockets can be strapped to smaller moons to slam them into larger planets and annihilate everything in their wake, or a metallic Death Star could be constructed to vaporize and entire world. The AI is competent and provides a good challenge offline. The fast pace, huge battles, unique end-game destruction, and varied strategies supported by Planetary Annihilation make it a very satisfying large-scale real-time strategy game.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

SPACECOM Gameplay Review

I'm playing SPACECOM, a real-time strategy game by Flow Combine and 11 bit.

Featuring a fourteen-mission campaign and eight standalone maps for AI skirmish or online multiplayer, the goal is to capture the enemy systems by invading resource-producing, unit-producing, and repairing systems. There are three ship types: battle fleets that attack enemy ships, invasion ships that capture systems, and siege fleets that disable a system for both sides. The fleet population cap is increased by capturing more system. Resources for fleets and defenses are automatically transported to the systems that need them. Fleets more faster through friendly territory, and attrition is experienced in enemy zones. Battles are all automated, so its simply a matter of having more ships. The mechanics of SPACECOM are easily approachable, but the limited strategies decrease replay value and long-term enjoyment.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

McDROID Gameplay Review

I'm playing McDROID, an action tower defense game by Elefantopia.

There are a decent number of scenarios and arena survival modes to choose from (unlocked in a linear order) that can be played alone or cooperatively online. Your manually-controlled droid can collect resources (strawberries, obviously), place turrets on fixed locations, repair and upgrade towers, or assist in destruction by mounting a turret itself. McDROID features automation in the right places (collecting resources, attacking enemies, repair), which cuts down on heavy micromanagement while still requiring interaction to be successful. Tower types are fairly basic (lasers, missiles, area spells), and tasty strawberries can also be spent on upgrades for your droid, mothership, or the towers themselves. Researched upgrades are earned across the campaign by collecting diamonds, unlocking new items to use. The game can get frantic, and the terrible minimap can result in a distinct lack of useful information at the worst times. Still, the interactive nature and relative flexibility of McDROID takes it a step above your typical tower defense game.

Friday, September 05, 2014

Train Fever Gameplay Review

I'm playing Train Fever, a transportation management simulation by Urban Games.

The game features elaborate, large randomly generated maps filled with interesting terrain, roads, towns, factories, and mines. Roads and tracks can be placed, along with depots, stations, signals, and road upgrades. Operating functioning, profitable lines requires tedious vehicle replacement that should either be automated or more streamlined. The game’s resource flow is very simple: four resources are found at mines, and then manufactured into generic “goods” at factories. The passenger and cargo simulations (they will use mass transit if its faster) are more complex. Towns will grow in response to your development decisions, although the simulation runs slowly even on the fastest setting. Train Fever is a relatively simplistic simulation that lacks the sophistication required for long-term enjoyment.