Wednesday, October 29, 2014

IL-2 Sturmovik: Battle of Stalingrad Gameplay Review

I'm playing IL-2 Sturmovik: Battle of Stalingrad, a combat flight simulator by 777 Studios and 1C Game Studios.

Set during the winter snow of Russia during World War II, the campaign consists of five chapters where you must pass six randomly-generated missions in order to advance to the next set. The mission type options (intercept, escort, ground attack, ground support, or bombing) depend on the aircraft you have chosen from the roster of four for each side (two additional planes can be purchased for $40). While all of the aircraft are available from the start, successfully completing missions will unlock new skins and weapons. Despite featuring a fairly user friendly interface that can be turned off for increased realism, IL-2 Sturmovik: Battle of Stalingrad has no guided tutorials that explain the controls and lacks a manual. Quick missions, more scripted encounters, and online multiplayer are also available. The game relies on seemingly authentic plane handling and adjustable realism (manual engine and fuel control can be enabled, for example). Lethal weapons coupled with limited ammunition means you need to pick your shots, and the damage can be impressive when fire and missing wings are involved. The AI does an adequate job, although they do occasionally miss targets, run into allies, or shoot the player. While not a complete return to glory, IL-2 Sturmovik: Battle of Stalingrad is a solid entry in the combat flight simulator series.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Pike and Shot Gameplay Review

I'm playing Pike and Shot, a turn-based strategy game by Byzantine Games, The Lordz Games Studio, and Slitherine.

The game features three campaigns covering the Thirty Years War, English Civil War, and Italian Wars, plus randomized skirmishes on computer-generated maps and online multiplayer using Slitherine’s PBEM system. The interface (like a lot of the game) is essentially identical to Battle Academy 2; a number of foot, horse, and artillery units are available for both ranged and melee combat. Once a unit engages another in melee combat, it does not stop until one side routs, a game mechanic which reduces tactical flexibility. The inability to ignore “priority” enemy units or routed units and engage others nearby also makes it more difficult to flank your opponent. Casualties are very low; morale always determines the victor. While Pike and Shot takes a solid game engine to a new setting, the unique game rules produce slow and restrictive gameplay.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Door Kickers Gameplay Review

I'm playing Door Kickers, a tactical strategy game by KillHouse Games.

The game features over seventy stand-alone missions with varied objectives (clear hostiles, rescue hostages, defuse the bomb, arrest suspects, stop an execution, protect a VIP), a random mission generator, and several campaigns with linked missions. Steam Workshop support is included so players can exchange mods and custom maps made using the editor. Completing missions (successfully or not) awards experience points that unlock new classes and weapons; soldiers will gain better stats through combat experience. The interface is streamlined: soldier paths are drawn using the mouse and contextual actions can be made at doorways (use camera, flashbang, breach). Coordinating attacks through doorways can be a bit tricky on occasion, although “go” codes can be used to execute simultaneous actions. Door Kickers offers up some very challenging scenarios with solid gameplay and the potential for long-term support thanks to the map editor and randomized missions.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Heavy Bullets Gameplay Review

I'm playing Heavy Bullets, a roguelike first-person shooter by Terri Vellmann and Devolver Digital.

Featuring randomly generated levels and permadeath over eight levels, the game is fast paced with quick movement and low health for both enemies and the player. A handful of different enemy types are found, offering various challenges in the neon-colored maps. The revolver only holds eight bullets, which must be picked up and manually reloaded after they are used, adding tension. A large variety of items can be purchased using coins dropped by enemies: potions to heal, buffs for speed or collection radii, or alternative weapons like knives and rockets. Coins can also be stored at a bank for future playthroughs, or you can opt for life insurance or a last will to preserve items for next time. Heavy Bullets offers a very effective combination of fast-paced first-person shooting with roguelike elements to produce a compelling gaming experience.

Monday, October 13, 2014

TinyKeep Gameplay Review

I'm playing TinyKeep, an action roguelike by Phigames and Digital Tribe Games.

With procedurally-generated dungeons and permadeath, TinyKeep features limited controls that can’t be changed, a limited fixed viewing perspective, and an unclear minimap. Combat is a repetitive mix of blocking and attacking. Other prisoners can be freed, and they can either help or attack the protagonist. Taps and hazards can be used against the rudimentary AI. The unnecessary physics engine can make for funny deaths, but usually just places things in the way of fluid movement. Coins dropped from killed enemies can be spent on random buffs, and the game is difficult until a lot of these random buffs are unlocked. TinyKeep is a limited roguelike that strips down the successful formula too much.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Front Page Sports Football Gameplay Review

I'm playing Front Page Sports Football, a sports management game by Cyanide Studio.

The game includes official or randomly-generated leagues, the former of which includes the 2014 teams and players from the NFL (albeit with the names changed to protect the innocent). You can customize your team name and colors, but not that of any other team; you also cannot rename players or player ratings. Finances and drafting are as you’d expect. Your depth chart and roster can be adjusted, using confusingly-colored overall rating cues to determine the best players. Training between games can increase stats in specific areas or team performance on specific plays, a neat idea. Custom playbooks can be designed, although the interface makes this a tedious process. Lengthy simulation times coupled with the inability to save or pause during a match elongate the season. The game gives you sixteen plays (out of eighty in your playbook) to choose from during any down. The in-game experience is lacking: you can’t decide what to do on fourth down (the game automatically kicks or punts for you), you can’t onside kick, you can’t go for two points after a touchdown, the substitutions can’t be manually adjusted, the clock stoppage rules are wrong (and there’s no two-minute warning), and penalty yardage is frequently incorrect. The game also suffers from a multitude of bugs, from occasionally locking up when starting a game to refusing to simulate random games during a season. Front Page Sports Football is a title that was released too early and it has too many problems to recommend.

Wednesday, October 08, 2014

Ancient Space Gameplay Review

I'm playing Ancient Space, a real-time strategy game by Creative Forge and Paradox Interactive.

The single-player-only game features a campaign with outrageous difficulty (even on the lowest setting) due to the sheer number of enemy ships in each scenario; you cannot skip missions and single scenarios are locked until you defeat them. Units and attributes can be upgraded between missions, and officers can activate special abilities during a mission. The three “skirmish” modes aren’t really actual skirmishes, simply placing you against superior enemy numbers just like in the campaign. The interface becomes problematic: while a nifty list displays your entire fleet, the unit icons are too small and selecting appropriate ships quickly to respond to an incoming threat is difficult. Confusing camera controls and inconsistent mouse wheel zooming also complicate things. Fixed space station locations can be captured to accumulate resources and increase the population cap, and then outfit with a defensive or support structure. Resources can be spent to unlock new technology tiers, although the roster of units is limited and units are only effective against specific sizes. The AI benefits from sheer numbers, rarely throwing a well-organized assault at you; friendly units also have issues engaging nearby enemies after their current target is destroyed. Ancient Space offers low value due to the lack of a true skirmish mode, limitations of the interface and AI, unwavering unit counters, limited base construction options, and the repetitively unfair design of the linear campaign.

Monday, October 06, 2014

Meridian: New World Gameplay Review

I'm playing Meridian: New World, a real-time strategy game by Elder Games and Headup Games.

With a campaign lacking innovation and feature-limited skirmish games for singles only, the game has an outdated interface that prevents selecting idle or combat units, seeing what types of units are actually selected, zooming the view in or out, and changing the keyboard commands. The main resource is slowly mined from the map by workers; power and food are required to run a handful of structures and raise the population cap, respectively. A small variety (two per building) of infantry, light vehicles, heavy vehicles, and flying units can be produced, along with defensive turrets and laboratory upgrades for units. Friendly units are very aggressive in engaging nearby (and not-so-nearby) enemies, though the skirmish AI could be better at expanding. Overall, Meridian: New World lacks the strategic variety required for long-term enjoyment.

Thursday, October 02, 2014

Wrack Gameplay Review

I'm playing Wrack, an arcade first-person shooter by Final Boss Entertainment.

The game includes a ten-level campaign, quick play access to any level, and competitive time attack and score attack modes. The game lacks cooperative online play, but user-made levels and mods are supported. The game has a quick pace, with fast movement and relatively quick enemy disposal using the game’s five weapons (sword, pistol, shotgun, pulse gun, and bazooka). The enemies feature simple AI and are mostly there to explode into bloody bits. Low health and ammunition, coupled with numerous well-equipped enemies, give Wrack its high difficulty. The limited number of weapons and levels prevents Wrack from being a more compelling arcade shooter.