Thursday, December 17, 2015

CITYCONOMY: Service for your City Gameplay Review

I'm playing CITYCONOMY: Service for your City, a city service management simulation by Nano Games and astragon Entertainment.

The game involves truck-based city services, starting with garbage collection; additional but extremely similar jobs like tow truck driver and street sweeper must be unlocked. While there is multiplayer, you cannot have one person drive and another person collect items in the same truck. Jobs spawn on the city map, and each task involves driving to a specific location and tapping the “F” key to perform the designated task. Experience earned by doing jobs is spent on upgrades and unlocking additional occupations. New vehicles and buildings can be purchased with money earned by doing jobs as well. Jobs can be given to employees, but they earn no experience and the trucks they use don’t actually move around the city and perform the actual job. All of the jobs in the game are slow, repetitive, and tedious (much like a real job, I suppose); bad AI drivers make navigating around the city annoying (although you can break any traffic rule like speeding, running red lights, or driving on the sidewalk, just don’t hit any cars). CITYCONOMY: Service for your City is a poorly designed, repetitive, limited, and bland simulation.

Monday, December 14, 2015

DiRT Rally Gameplay Review

I'm playing DiRT Rally, a racing simulation by Codemasters.

The game features a large variety of events to partake in: championships (both offline, custom, and online playlists), online events (daily, weekly, monthly, and owners stages), leagues, and custom events covering the three disciplines in the game: rally, hillclimb, and rallycross. Custom events can be randomized or custom designed with different weather conditions and stage arrangements. Six detailed locations are included, with narrow circuits that clock in under ten minutes for “long” events. The graphics engine does a great job producing nice visuals at a fast rendering speed. A plethora of cars are available to race from the 60’s to today, unlocked in the campaign mode or fully available in custom events. The handling feels as right as I can imagine considering my lack of actual rally racing experience. There are also setup options for those whom which to tweak, and repairs are available every two stages during longer events. DiRT Rally is finally the realistic, feature-filled rally racing simulation aspiring drivers have craved in the DiRT series.

Monday, December 07, 2015

Just Cause 3 Gameplay Review

I'm playing Just Cause 3, an open-world action adventure game by Avalanche Studios and Square Enix.

Featuring an expansive map to explore, Just Cause 3 does not include multiplayer, although there are online leaderboards for a ton of stats that requires logging in each time the game is started. The main story can be ignored if desired (although some core game mechanics like fast travel and rebel drops are unlocked through the missions), and it features typical mission design like escort or timed scenarios. Outside of simply playing in the sandbox and tethering objects together to make them explode, Just Cause 3 has numerous villages to liberate by destroying key objects in each town (shown on the full-screen map, but no minimap), challenges like driving and wingsuit flying to earn upgrades, and random encounters. New to the game is the wingsuit, useful for covering ground while in the air, and more tethers (up to six, once unlocked through challenges). The physics engine is very solid, allowing for imaginative situations like strapping explosives to a cow, tethering it to a helicopter, and dropping it on an enemy base from above. The difficulty is significantly less punishing than before, making the game much less frustrating. I did not experience any technical issues while playing the game (a solid 70-100 FPS during gameplay, no glitches, no crashes), although other users do report issues. Like its predecessor, Just Cause 3 does get repetitive, so it’s best played on one to two hour bursts. While obviously borrowing a lot from the previous game, Just Cause 3 remains a fun physics mayhem sandbox with a handful of improvements.

Wednesday, December 02, 2015

Valhalla Hills Gameplay Review

I'm playing Valhalla Hills, a settlement management simulation by Funatics Software and Daedalic Entertainment.

The game features randomly generated maps on which to develop each village, with the goal to eventually engage the hostile units that spawn at the portal to the next map. A variety of production (resource collection, tool manufacturing, food production) buildings can be constructed, with extra resources required to build on a slope. Houses increase the population cap, while paths extend the network of resource delivery. Military buildings are required to fend off hostile units located within range. Although the vikings generally do a decent job performing their assigned tasks, the AI sometimes takes too long to gather the resources required to build structures or defend against enemies. Valhalla Hills features a resource chain just complex enough to keep the game interesting, although repetitive build strategy and occasionally iffy AI reduce enjoyment somewhat.

Monday, November 30, 2015

Rise: Battle Lines Gameplay Review

I'm playing Rise: Battle Lines, a turn-based strategy game by Secret Games Company.

The game features both offline skirmishes against the humans or the AI and online matchmaking. There is only one bland map available in the game, although the random army draft makes the starting units different for each playthrough. Since some units are much better than others, the draft is a bit extraneous and whomever picks first gets a distinct advantage. The goal is to eliminate all enemies by moving and attacking melee, ranged, and mount units around the hex map. A unit can only attack enemies that start each simultaneous turn in range, so there is strategy in keeping units outside of enemy range so they cannot be targeted. Units near the general attack and move first, so another layer of strategy is added there as well. The AI is decent but never offers a great challenge, so the focus is clearly on quick multiplayer matches. Overall, the single map and limited unit variety inhibit replay value in this streamlined turn-based title.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Mayan Death Robots Gameplay Review

I'm playing Mayan Death Robots, a turn-based strategy game by Sileni Studios.

The game features a campaign with really annoying mid-level bosses and events that interrupt smooth gameplay and increase randomness and luck, along with quick matches against the AI or a local opponent (no online multiplayer, sadly). There is a decent selection of maps, but none are randomly generated. There is no tutorial or explicit instructions on what actually to do or how the game works. Similar to Worms and Scorched Earth, Mayan Death Robots involves flinging projectiles around in a turn-based environment. However, the goal here is to destroy the enemy core. The game lacks mouse controls and features sluggish keyboard aiming which, along with a very short time limit to make each move, makes controlling the game very frustrating. Each robot only has access to two weapons, plus the ability to jump (no movement otherwise) or place terrain Tetris-style. Super weapons are given at seemingly random intervals. Killing the enemy directly causes them to lose their turn, while blasting Mayans increases the weapon blast radius. While Mayan Death Robots tries to capture the essence of turn-based artillery games, the poor controls, random events, limited arsenals, reliance on luck, and lack of multiplayer support drastically reduce any potential enjoyment.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Anno 2205 Gameplay Review

I'm playing Anno 2205, a city building simulation by Blue Byte and Ubisoft.

In a puzzling move, this entry in the venerable series lacks multiplayer, randomized sandbox maps, and standalone scenarios, relying solely on a single, repetitive campaign. Each mission has very specific objectives that must be met in order to unlock the next map. Buildings are placed to house workers, collect resources, and manufacture goods. There are very limited locations to build structures that require mountains or water, so every play on the same map ends up looking identical. Very simplified resource flow makes it easy to meet production and citizen demands, while keeping logistical and energy supplies up is also straightforward. Resources can be traded between cities on the global map. Anno 2205 features unnecessary real-time naval battles that don’t even take place near your cities; there is no strategy during these conflicts, simply move towards the objective location and use the occasional repair or destruction power. Anno 2205 is a disappointing, limited, undemanding city builder with absolutely no replay value.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Conquest of Elysium 4 Gameplay Review

I'm playing Conquest of Elysium 4, a turn-based strategy game by Illwinter Game Design.

With small to huge randomized maps utilizing a new generation engine, the game features local play against the AI or human opposition, along with online game servers. There is a good variety in classes to choose from, which determine the starting spells, units, and resources used during the game. The archaic interface takes some getting used to, with right-clicking confusingly used to select units and basic 2-D sprites for graphics. Resources collected from owned tiles are used to purchase a diverse selection of units and cast spells. Automated battles are improved, but still hands-off during resolution. Both the environment and the opposing AI are tough adversaries, as some luck is involved in getting a “good” starting position away from powerful creeps. Neutral units roaming the map force players to defend key locations, stretching army resources thin until income becomes high enough to afford additional troops. The hostility of the environment is not as severe as in the previous version of the game, however, which makes the game and its strategic variety more approachable. Conquest of Elysium 4 is definitely an improvement over its predecessor, although the early-game difficulty curve may discourage some strategy fans.

Fuego! Gameplay Review

I'm playing Fuego!, a Mexican standoff strategy game by radiostatic.

The turn-based game has offline skirmishes against the AI, a puzzle mode, and online action. More customizations options, including the ability to increase bandito count or alter the placement time, would be welcome. The goal is to collect the most gold: banks are shot to collect gold, while enemies can be shot to steal the gold they have collected. Four randomly selected banditos are given one at a time, quickly placed on randomized maps in ten-second intervals. Their guns are aimed, and after all four are placed, the least number of guns fires first. The result is some intriguing strategy and a very fast-paced game (maybe a bit too fast), with randomization that keeps things interesting. With some additional game flexibility options, Fuego! would be a novel take on action-oriented turn-based strategy games.

Monday, November 09, 2015

Mini Metro Gameplay Review

I'm playing Mini Metro, a transportation puzzle game by Dinosaur Polo Club.

The game features a number of cities where subway lines are laid out and optimized. The interface makes altering existing lines difficult; right-click line removal and station color outlines would assist in making designs more efficient. Lines are constructed simply by dragging between stations, which appear over time on the stylized map. Additional trains, bridges, tunnels, and other upgrades increase transit system performance, and the free-form solutions are welcome. Mini Metro has novel but repetitive gameplay with a poor interface.

Wednesday, November 04, 2015

Infinite Space III: Sea of Stars Gameplay Review

I'm playing Infinite Space III: Sea of Stars, a roguelike space adventure game by Digital Eel.

As with previous games in the series, Infinite Space III involves quick games where stars are explored and death is common. Starting from the home world, travel between stars will uncover potential allies, lots of loot, enemies, and other surprises. Infinite Space III has moved to 3D, which is a step in the wrong direction: navigating the star map is much more confusing, especially when trying to figure out where nebulae are located. The 3D graphics are also not any better than their 2D counterparts in previous games. There are lots of things to find and equip in the galaxy, which, along with the randomly generated maps, increase replay value. Real-time battles are very basic affairs, as simple move commands are the only source of input on the outcome. An unnecessary move to 3D and a poor interface overshadow any improvements made in this space adventure sequel.

Monday, November 02, 2015

Chaos Reborn Gameplay Review

I'm playing Chaos Reborn, a turn-based strategy game by Snapshot Games.

The game features a number of game modes, from user-designed campaigns to online and single-player skirmishes. Different options can be enabled for each relatively quick match, which can be played in real-time or asynchronously. While the game lacks specific deck building that would lead to unbalanced tactics, equipment can be purchased (using in-game gold earned by playing matches) to preferentially select more of certain types of cards during the random draw before each match or provide a small buff. Cards are used to summon an array of creatures, activate an attack spell, put up defensive structures, or buff units. Each card has a percentage chance of success, which can be increased by players repeatedly using the same card alignment (chaos or law) during the game. “Fake” units called illusions can be summoned with 100% success, and they attack and move just like “real” units; however, they can be instantly removed from the game by an opponent using the “disbelieve” spell. But, disbelieving a “real” unit prevents playing any other card that turn, so there is definitely some intriguing strategy regarding illusions and when to disbelieve other players. Mana points, collected by killing things or moving onto mana sprites, can be used to increase the odds of a successful card play or saved up to cast a powerful spell. Combat uses the attributes of each creature (attack, defense) to display chances of success; units with low agility must stay engaged in battle against adjacent enemies across multiple turns. Terrain and light of sight also offer tactical considerations on the battlefield. Finally, the AI serves up competent opposition, although the focus is clearly on online play. Chaos Reborn features a number of intriguing gameplay mechanics that make it stand out in the realm of turn-based strategy games.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Planetbase Gameplay Review

I'm playing Planetbase, a space colony management game by Madruga Works.

The game features three planets to colonize, unlocked by achieving important milestones. The interface does grant access to most stats through a couple of screens, but it needs to indicate how many of each structure has already been built. A number of buildings are available to generate water, power, and oxygen, mine raw resources, grow food, manufacture goods, and fulfill colonist needs. Each new structure needs to be connected to an existing building, and components can be added to most structures to specialize the production in each. Colonists and bots will automatically undertake the tasks required to keep the base running, eliminating micromanagement. Random disasters will strike the base, and additional colonists and trade vessels will arrive over time. While Planetbase is fairly entertaining the first time around, there isn’t enough variety in the buildings and components for subsequent colonies.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Ashes of the Singularity Early Access Beta Gameplay Preview

I'm playing the early access beta of Ashes of the Singularity, a real-time strategy game by Oxide Games and Stardock Interactive.

The large-scale game features both single-player and online skirmishes, where players attempt to collect the most “turinium” resources or defeat all opponents. Each map has a fixed arrangement of supply lines that must be connected to the home base in order to collect resources; this convention allows players to cut-off enemy resource production. A huge number of units can be built, resulting in massive battles across expansive maps. Due to the high unit count, micromanagement is kept at a minimum. Ashes of the Singularity is planned for release in 2016.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Rogue State Gameplay Review

I'm playing Rogue State, a geopolitical simulation by Little Red Dog Games and Black Shell Media.

The task at hand is to run a newly-formed government, by appeasing the people through policies, construction, and military force. There are a number of different policies to enact and adjust, all of which have both positive and negative effects on the country and the four faction groups represented in the game. Infrastructure improvements will consume the majority of the cash flow, as new buildings will provide bonuses and increased relations. Diplomatic relations, including trade and intelligence, must also be maintained with other nations in the region and around the world. Military units can be purchased and deployed to quell the populace or invade neighbors. Rogue State has a unique setting for a political sim, but lacks that key feature to make it stand out among more comprehensive competition.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Ancestory Gameplay Review

I'm playing Ancestory, a card-based turn-based strategy game by Kajak Games.

The objective is to reach the point limit first by capturing and holding totem locations and killing the enemy shaman. The game has a multiplayer focus, although there is a single player skirmish mode against an inconsistent AI opponent. The interface makes it difficult to rotate the camera and see around objects; there is also no “next unit” hotkey. The shaman cannot attack, but it can summon minions by playing cards. Mana fully refills each turn and the limit steadily expands, leading to quick games and a lack of stalemates. In addition to summoning minions, cards can also play spells or buffs onto the game board. While the AI needs improvement and there is limited card variety, Ancestory does offer some fast-paced, light strategic gaming.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Concrete Jungle Gameplay Review

I'm playing Concrete Jungle, a card-based city building puzzle game by ColePowered Games.

The game features a challenging campaign mode along with custom games (single player, competitive against the AI, or local multiplayer). The objective is to clear lines (similar to Tetris) by placing point-producing buildings and then collecting those points with houses. The cards have a variety of positive and negative point value zones, in addition to occasional side effects. Each card played steadily increases the number of points required to clear new rows, while some cards increase the economy to allow the purchase of specific cards. Adjacent buildings of the same type form blocks, which earn a point bonus. The game requires planning strategy and a bit of luck in getting the “right” cards, which can be mediated by deck building. Concrete Jungle is a unique take on the puzzle genre thanks to a neat theme and an original combination of familiar game mechanics.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Beyond Sol Gameplay Review

I'm playing Beyond Sol, a grand strategy action game by Praxia Entertainment.

Featuring both single-player and online gameplay, victory conditions include reacting economic, military, or diplomatic dominance in the galaxy. The interface uses the mouse for movement (right-click to change facing, middle mouse for thrusters, left-click to target) and the keyboard to activate abilities of the capital ship: a low precision, somewhat awkward scheme. The base city can be expanded by placing and upgrading buildings, while the empire territory is grown by constructing stations for mining or defense; each structure has specific monetary and resource requirements. Resources can also be spent recruiting intelligent wingmen or improving the ships. Empire strength escalation is relatively easy to attain as long as resources are dedicated in the right directions. Frequent, though repetitive, random events offer resources or battles against pirates. Each star system contains several AI factions that must be dealt with, but diplomatic options are very basic. Beyond Sol is a unique, though not completely satisfying, marriage of grand strategy and top-down action gameplay mechanics.

Tuesday, October 06, 2015

Prison Architect Gameplay Review

I'm playing Prison Architect, a jail management simulation by Introversion Software.

The game features an open sandbox mode (with optional, money-based objectives), a story mode that serves as an extended tutorial, and an escape mode that allows players to break out of others’ prisons. Prisons are laid out by placing foundations, walls, doors and objects, then designating rooms (offices, cells, kitchen, canteen, yard, shower, infirmary, and lots more). The interface does allow for planning before construction begins, but the inability to add text to a plan is a notable omission. Various rooms have electricity and water demands that must be met, and staff-only areas can be defined. Personnel can be hired to run the jail, from guards to psychologists to janitors, with additional options unlocked through research. Each inmate has numerous needs, such as food, hygiene, exercise, family, and recreation, that are met by adjusting the daily routine and constructing the appropriate rooms. A variety of reports gives information in the prison. Prison Architect is a detailed management game that could have a more user-friendly interface.

Monday, October 05, 2015

Blood Bowl 2 Gameplay Review

I'm playing Blood Bowl 2, a turn-based fantasy sports strategy game by Cyanide Studio and Focus Home Interactive.

The game features a campaign as an extended tutorial, online and offline leagues with custom format support, and friendly matches that lack permanent injuries. The match length cannot be altered from eight-turn-long halves. The interface could utilize hotkeys in addition to mouse-driven selection. The objective is to carry the ball into the end zone; each turn, every player can move or attack (one player can “blitz”, which allows for both). A turn ends when an unsuccessful action occurs, so it is important to complete more likely actions first. In addition to running, the ball can be passed once, players can be injured, and random events occur. Dice rolls are used frequently to determine blocking outcomes, dodging success, and extra movement. The AI seems fairly competent at the game, although they don’t block or attack offensive players often enough. With improved graphics and online league support, Blood Bowl 2 is exactly what you would expect to see in a sequel.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Train Valley Gameplay Review

I'm playing Train Valley, a railroad management puzzle game by Alexey Davydov, Sergey Dvoynikov, and Timofey Shargorodskiy.

Featuring both objective-based and open sandbox missions, the game involves placing track and then managing the movement of trains from their origin to destination. Laying track is a bit more cumbersome and less precise than I would have liked. Dispatched trains must be sent to the correct color-coded destination by throwing switches and halting locomotives that might collide. The click management aspects of the game provide stress, and the ability to design the layouts adds another layer to the puzzle game. While certainly not a typical management game, Train Valley provides approachable though repetitive thrills.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Armello Gameplay Review

I'm playing Armello, a role-playing strategic board game by League of Geeks.

The turn-based game features skirmish games against the AI and online contests with four anthropomorphic players; the game lacks games rules customization options. The victor can attain the highest prestige, collect spirit stones, or defeat the king directly. Action points are used to move between randomly-generated tiles, which offer different bonuses or penalties (income, health regeneration, health penalty, defensive bonus). Location-based quests offer safer and dangerous options, the latter of which grants powerful items or cards. Dungeons can also be explored (resulting in a simple dice roll for an outcome) and perils played by other players offer roll-based challenges. Cards include items that can be equipped for better dice rolls, spells, and “trickery” options. Each combatant is rated according to attack, health, card hand size, and spell capacity. Gold and mana are used to play cards, while rot damages each turn. Combat involves luck-based dice rolls that can be enhanced with cards. The AI makes some unintelligent, desperate moves and can be routinely defeated. While Armello does incorporate a lot of luck in getting the right cards and the right rolls, the presentation is unique and there is some underlying strategy to usurp the king and become the ruler of the land.

Wednesday, September 09, 2015

Renowned Explorers: International Society Gameplay Review

I'm playing Renowned Explorers: International Society, a strategic adventure game by Abbey Games.

The game includes some roguelike trappings, with randomized maps and optional permadeath. The crew includes three characters of varying abilities, all of which will come in handy during exploration. Resources are collected during expeditions; while maps are randomized, the same locations are utilized each game, which becomes repetitive. Supplies are limited as the team pushes across the island searching for the main treasure, and team resolve must be kept up as members are defeated. Each map includes locations that can grant random events, resources, perk-based challenges, shops, treasure, or encounters. The turn-based encounter battles utilize role-playing mechanics, with different attacks and buffs, but there is no “undo” button to alter erroneous movement choices. Between missions, resources are spent to increase stats and abilities: gold is used to purchase new equipment (weapons, armor), status is used to recruit an entourage that gives extra resources during missions, research unlocks other bonuses, and insight gained during missions is exchanged for resources. Renowned Explorers: International Society can be a challenging game, and while the theme is fantastic, repetitive locations and gameplay grow tired after several playthroughs.

Monday, September 07, 2015

Act of Aggression Gameplay Review

I'm playing Act of Aggression, a real-time strategy game by Eugen Systems and Focus Home Interactive.

The game features two campaigns with very standard (make a base, defend a base), very scripted mechanics and no real tutorial. A good selection of maps are available for skirmish and online play, and each include semi-randomized resource locations to increase replay value. The interface is insufficient: while you can control+right-click to make units in a group all move at the same speed, but there are rarely hotkeys for selecting specific buildings and units and it is very difficult to find upgrades (they are located in a specific upgrade building rather than at the building that produces the unit...most of the time). Refineries are placed on resource locations to gather oil (converted into cash), aluminum, or rare earth metals to fuel the economy; they are automatically shuttled back to the base using vehicles.  Buildings also include unit-producing structures, research facilities, and defensive placements. New buildings must be placed next to existing structures, and better units and structures (including nuclear weapons) are unlocked through technology tiers. Cash can also be earned by capturing enemy units or occupying banks. Units include infantry, jeeps, armored personnel carriers, tanks, helicopters, and off-map jets. Act of Aggression also lacks micromanagement of units, which is good considering how many other things must be tracked. The AI seems strong on appropriate difficulty settings. Act of Aggression is a potentially interesting take on the real-time strategy game plagued by accessibility problems stemming from the interface.

Wednesday, September 02, 2015

Hegemony III: Clash of the Ancients Gameplay Review

I'm playing Hegemony III: Clash of the Ancients, a real-time strategy game by Longbow Games.

The game features two scenarios (one small, one very large) set in Italy. The interface is largely the same as in previous versions of the game, with an equal proportion of handy features and odd mechanics. Cities recruit units and can be upgraded with structures; resource locations surrounding cities are connected by supply lines, and bring in wood, food, or gold. Large numbers of hostile rebel units make initial expansion very difficult. Units gain experience and can unlock skills over time, and battles consist of a gigantic mass of opposing units flailing too and fro. The two biggest issues from the previous game, messy, tactically-bereft battles and randomly-spawning hostile troops, both remain, making Hegemony III: Clash of the Ancients a disappointing follow-up.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Satellite Reign Gameplay Review

I'm playing Satellite Reign, a role-playing tactical strategy game by 5 Lives Studios.

A spiritual successor to Syndicate, the game plays out in a large, detailed city with lots of missions to complete. Controlling the four operatives in real time involves using cover, picking out targets, and switching between numerous weapons. Each of the four classes (soldier, support, hacker, and infiltrator) have different abilities and a skill tree that steadily unlocks with experience. Weapons can be modified with augmentations, and prototypes can be researched. Regular citizens and be hijacked and cloned to provide a steady supply of replacement characters. Most missions involve going into heavily defended strongholds, hacking gates and avoiding security cameras and patrols. Until weapons are unlocked and upgraded, stealth is the optimal means of successfully completing missions. With an open world to explore and the option to proceed with action or stealth, Satellite Reign is a fine, updated homage to Syndicate.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Axis Football 2015 Gameplay Review

I'm playing Axis Football 2015, an American football simulation by Axis Games.

The game features a season mode comprising of twelve random games and the top eight teams making the playoffs. Quick matches are also available, either against the AI, another player on the same computer, or a coach-only mode where only plays are called. Games always have five-minute-long halves with substandard graphics and poor, repetitive commentary. There are only six plays per formation, greatly limited varied gameplay. The mouse-based passing system is novel, but difficult to execute consistently. Running the ball needs a gamepad for more precise control. There are no penalties, AI defensive backs are too good, and blocking is permanent for the entire play. The lackluster gameplay and limited features of Axis Football 2015 make it impossible to recommend in its current form.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Nightside Gameplay Review

I'm playing Nightside, a real-time strategy game by Omnidream Creations.

The game features a fourteen-mission campaign and twelve maps for one-versus-one skirmish against the AI or online matches that support up to four players. The three races feature two similar, traditional factions (Nova and Human) along with the Yx that spawn every building and unit from cells. The interface is well done, with one-click access to the mothership, unit producing structures, research buildings, and all units. Handy icons also show whether units can attack land or air units. Nightside features classic mechanics: extract resources, build buildings, make units (only air and ground, but no unit cap), research upgrades, and fight! There is little micromanagement, although pathfinding is poor (especially when a large group is given the same destination) and the lack of formations means units all move at different speeds. Units also won’t routinely attack enemies within their sight range, and the AI needs a resource bonus on any difficulty above “easy”. Nightside is an average real-time strategy game with a handy interface but little innovation.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

RymdResa Gameplay Review

I'm playing RymdResa, a role-playing exploration space adventure game by Morgondag.

Each chapter gives slightly different objectives, from visiting locations to collecting materials and gathering keys. The procedurally generated worlds provide some replay value. Resources are used for both moving and damage, and running out causes untimely death. Planets can be explored for resources, while materials are used to upgrade the home planet or mothership with new abilities. Experience points earned by collecting dust or simply surviving is used to unlock new abilities and increase skills levels. Items can also be found to change the attributes of the vessel. There is no combat, but space is a dangerous place filled with objects to run into. Death causes the ship to be destroyed, but items and upgrades are persistent. RymdResa is a relatively relaxing take on the space adventure game.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Cosmonautica Gameplay Review

I'm playing Cosmonautica, a space adventure game by Chasing Carrots.

The game features a campaign and randomized sandbox games with cross-platform save support. Rooms are added to ships to provide living space, recreation, weapon support, and satisfy crew needs; placement of the rooms matters for fluid movement. Crew can be hired that possess different skills (pilot, cleaner, medic, repair, scientist, hacker), and each are assigned a schedule to keep the ship operating at maximum efficiency. Missions involve delivering goods or passengers, smuggling illegal goods, or engaging in combat. The limited space for rooms in each ship (especially the beginning ones) means only one or two types of missions can be successfully completed, which becomes repetitive quickly. New rooms and planetary access can be researched, but this process is very gradual. Modest funds can be made through trade, and pirates must be fended off in the outer systems. The slow expansion and repetitive missions of Cosmonautica reduce the enjoyment of this space adventure game.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Call to Arms Early Access Alpha Gameplay Preview

I'm playing the early access alpha of Call to Arms, a real-time tactical strategy game by Digitalmindsoft.

Bringing the Men of War series to a modern setting, currently the game includes three game modes with two factions (the United States and an Insurgent opponent) on a handful of skirmish maps. A campaign is under development and available for those who purchase the Deluxe Edition. The matches include mostly infantry, with vehicles and tanks slowly added over time. Hallmarks of the Men of War series remain intact: detailed unit inventories, use of cover, realistic ballistics and field of view, destructible buildings, and direct unit control. Call to Arms is planned for release in Q1 2016.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

OlliOlli 2 Gameplay Review

I'm playing OlliOlli 2, a skateboarding platform game by Roll7 and Devolver Digital.

The game features a number of different game modes, including a career mode where levels are unlocked, shorter-length “spots”, online challenges, and local multiplayer. Tricks are performed by rotating the left stick on a gamepad and then letting go to perform the stunt. In order to land, the “A” button must be pressed right before reaching the ground. Holding the stick down will grind along a rail, while pressing left will perform manuals to string tricks together. Finally, the triggers can be used to rotate. OlliOlli 2 features a very challenging assortment of hazard-filled levels; simply making it to the finish is difficult, as almost constant perfection is required to avoid the obstacles. For the platform game connoisseur, OlliOlli 2 provides a challenging mix of skill-based, fast-paced action.

Friday, August 07, 2015

TREBUCHET Gameplay Review

I'm playing TREBUCHET, a turn-based strategic board game by iconical creative.

One or two players can play on the same computer; online multiplayer is planned for the future. The goal is to kill to opposing king by moving blocking pieces and tilting the board to slide metal balls around. A turn consists of three moves: each player must move and tilt once per turn. If two balls hit a piece, it is removed; three balls are required to kill another ball. The relatively simple rules still allow for strategic depth, making TREBUCHET an intriguing strategy game.

Wednesday, August 05, 2015

Colonial Conquest Gameplay Review

I'm playing Colonial Conquest, a turn-based grand strategy game by Argonauts Interactive.

The United States, Japan, United Kingdom, Germany, France, and Russia fight over victory points, accumulated by winning battles and controlling regions. Almost the entire map is neutral and ready to be invaded, so it is easy to accumulate territory quickly. The interface needs to display territory information directly on the map instead of requiring two mouse clicks. During the Spring, troops and ships can be recruited, forts can be constructed, information about regions can be sought, economic aid can be sent (not worth the investment), and enemy troops can be subverted (also not worth it). During the rest of the year, units can move and engage in automated combat. The easiest strategy is to pick one region to invade and then funnel all troops that way; the wide-open map makes conflict with other major nations rare. While Colonial Conquest lacks online multiplayer, the AI is decent enough at the game. Colonial Conquest attempts to expand the gameplay of Risk, but invading rarely involves conflict and the extra features are unnecessary.

Monday, August 03, 2015

The Viceroy Gameplay Review

I'm playing The Viceroy, a turn-based sci-fi 4X strategy game by Goatee Games.

The goal is to guide a sector of space after a major catastrophe; this is done by building projects on each district, planet, and solar system. New projects can be researched on the technology tree. The game provides two objectives to build each turn, and doing so adds influence points. Tax rates and policies can also be adjusted. Workers in each district, from three different classes, can be assigned to produce biological, cultural, or industrial goods (or a mixture of all three) to increase the wealth of each location. The Viceroy includes a lot of economic calculations hidden from the user. Having a well-run economy will result in approval from neighboring factions, providing a bonus. Rebels will appear over time, so it is important to have a military fleet to combat them. Battles are completely uninteresting. Although it has some uncommon ideas, The Viceroy suffers from repetitive gameplay.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Guild of Dungeoneering Gameplay Review

I'm playing Guild of Dungeoneering, a turn-based role-playing game by Gambrinous and Versus Evil.

Each dungeon-based mission comes with explicit objectives and most are fairly difficult; characters (who always start each adventure at level one) must be equipped with loot taken from low-level enemies before engaging the boss. The dungeon layout is expanded each turn by playing cards to add rooms, enemies, or loot. There is no direct control over the heroes, so they must be enticed to move in the optimal direction. Thus, luck plays a big part in getting the “right” cards to slowly build up the hero. Card-based battles resolve conflicts: there is a good variety of cards to play that deal or block magical and physical damage, with some other special properties. The guild can be expanded by using gold to purchase new rooms that unlock additional adventurers and items. Overall, Guild of Dungeoneering is a unique, though repetitive, take on the dungeon crawler.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

The Swindle Gameplay Review

I'm playing The Swindle, a roguelike platform game by Size Five Games.

The objective is to avoid the guards and hack computers that contain lots of money. Each level is procedurally generated, and increase in difficulty as more neighborhoods are unlocked. Cash is spent on upgrades in many areas, including agility, abilities, tools, and sensors. Character death is permanent (but robots are replaced for no charge); losing a character doesn’t matter too much as all upgrades are retained, although keeping a robot alive for several (or more!) levels provides a cash bonus. The controls are typical for a side-scrolling platform game, with double jumps and wall grabs. Enemies comes in different varieties: guards, cameras, bots, mines, and more. The line-of-sight indicators are extremely helpful in avoiding antagonists or timing attacks. The game mechanics strike a balance between platforming skill and strategy in approaching each new scenario, and losing doesn’t hurt thanks to the roguelike traits. Incorporating randomized levels and permadeath, The Swindle is a compelling platform game with a great theme.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Executive Assault Gameplay Review

I'm playing Executive Assault, a real-time strategy game by Hesketh Studios.

The game features skirmish games (no campaign) against the AI or online on just six maps supporting two or four players. The bare interface lacks typical RTS features like hotkey groups. It is also essentially impossible to visually find important crystal locations scattered around the map. Iron is the main resource, extracted from the ground and used to construct buildings and units. Buildings must be connected to the only power plant by pylons, and the power balance can be distributed between different systems. Units include bots, tanks, mechs, and aircraft; units can be equipped with researched weapons and armor. Research involves a fairly extensive series of trees covering weapons, buildings, and special abilities. Units can be directly controlled in a first-person view; it is pretty fun to lead a mass of units to storm the enemy base. But, despite the novelty of directly controlling units, limited features, an insufficient interface, and basic mechanics severely hinder Executive Assault.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Worms World Party Remastered Gameplay Review

I'm playing Worms World Party Remastered, a turn-based strategy game by Team17.

This remastered version adds higher-resolution graphics (but only during a match; the menus remain very much low-res), improved sound, controller support, and Steam features (like cloud saves, leaderboards, and achievements). The rest of the game is identical to the original: a feature-filled smorgasbord and the best Worms game overall. Single player and local multiplayer scenarios consist of missions and deathmatch on randomized or custom terrain with flexible weapons, items, timing, and game rules. Online multiplayer utilizes antiquated IRC chat for matchmaking. The familiar weapons spread makes its return: bazookas, grenades, guns, air strikes, teleporters, melee attacks, and flying sheep all make an appearance. The AI still serves as good opposition. Still, due to the inconsistent resolutions and odd online features, Worms World Party Remastered is a meager update to a fantastic game.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Sorcerer King Gameplay Review

I'm playing Sorcerer King, a turn-based fantasy 4X strategy game by Stardock Entertainment.

This asymmetrical game involves defeating the powerful Sorcerer King, supposedly the victor of a 4X game that took place right before this scenario begins. Options include six leaders with different skill sets and randomized maps. New cities, used to produce units, can only be placed on fertile land, while outposts can be placed anywhere to gather fixed resources: magic shards (which produce research, mana, and upgrades) or crystal, metal, and horses to produce specific units. Heroes and units gain experience through battle and level up, while items for units can be crafted and enchanted. Powerful spells can also be used on the main map or during tactical battles. Diplomacy with other surviving factions is primarily conducted by completing quests; unification is essentially required to have enough power to defeat the sorcerer king. The AI is quite good and offers a unique, unbalanced challenge. Sorcerer King does offer a different take on the 4X game, but the streamlined mechanics may be too simplified for true long-term enjoyment considering other strong options in the genre.