Monday, March 30, 2015

The Spatials Gameplay Review

I'm playing The Spatials, a space station management simulation by Weird and Wry.

The game consists of two phases: space station construction and away missions on planets. Rooms connected by corridors are placed to satisfy the needs of the crew and visitors: sleep, food, and entertainment. In addition, resources collected from planets can be used to manufacture goods and more advanced meals. Officers gain experience during missions, and better skills acquired as loot can be applied. Randomized planets each have missions that usually involve killing specified objectives; the rewards are experience and access to that planet’s resources, which can be used on the station for both life support and profit. Officers are ordered around as a group, left-clicking to both move and attack. Special abilities can also be activate using the number keys. Assigning officers to a system’s embassy results in faster resource collection. The Spatials enhances the basic management game by offering missions, officer upgrades, and randomly-generated content.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Worlds of Magic Gameplay Review

I'm playing Worlds of Magic, a turn-based fantasy 4X strategy game by Wastelands Interactive.

This Master of Magic clone features single player games against the AI or hot seat multiplayer on the same computer. A cumbersome interface requires more work than it should to do simple tasks. Gold, food, and research are produced at cities by assigning citizens to gathering tasks; cities also construct buildings and units. Units and heroes can carry forged items into battle, and magic spells can be researched and used on the strategic map or in tactical turn-based battles. The diplomatic interface fails to show what to offer to make the AI accept a deal. The AI is decent enough, and tactical battles offer a minor diversion. Worlds of Magic fails to introduce any innovation to the fantasy 4X genre, and there are far better alternatives available.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Etherium Gameplay Review

I'm playing Etherium, a real-time strategy game by Tindalos Interactive and Focus Home Interactive.

The game features a conquest campaign mode where three factions vie for control of a solar system. Victory points are earned by completing random objectives, and fleets can be ordered around to engage the enemy or invade planet surfaces in real-time skirmish battles. Technology points are used to unlock new battlefield units, while political cards can be played to enable special actions. Skirmish games can be played individually or online, where the objective is to destroy the enemy base. The interface grants easy access to units, build menus, air transport, and special abilities. Sectors are captured with specialized infantry units and used to harvest resources and spawn a single outpost. Extensions can be placed on bases to allow for a number of abilities, from increasing the population cap to bringing in units and improving the technology level. Infantry, armored, air, and super units gain experience during battle and join defensive turrets on the battlefield. Neutral secondary factions can be recruited by building a specific extension. Units automatically attack nearby enemies, and the AI is aggressive. Offering a couple of unique features, Etherium is a better-than-average real-time strategy game.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Reassembly Gameplay Review

I'm playing Reassembly, an arcade space shooter by Anisoptera Games.

The game involves exploring a large, procedurally-generated universe for fun and profit, unlocking new spawn points and achieving tutorial-like objectives along the way. Controls are typical for a top-down shooter (WASD to move and the mouse to aim), but initially obscure keys are used to access various menus (such as “1” for the ship customization screen and TAB for command mode). Gathered resources can be returned to stations for cash, which can then be spend on unlocking new items for the ship; credits can also be earned by destroying enemy ships. Ship customization is intuitive thanks to automatically snapping to existing items: hull blocks, weapons, generators, and thrusters can be added with ease. Design power limits can be increased with credits. The game universe is populated with both friendly and enemy ships (identified by their color schemes); allies can be recruited into fleets for more epic battles. Combat is fast and location-specific damage is offered. Reassembly elevates itself above the typical arcade shooter thanks to the robust ship customization options.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Vietnam '65 Gameplay Review

I'm playing Vietnam '65, a turn-based strategy game by Every Single Soldier and Slitherine.

The game only features one scenario, but changes the locations around. The Americans have forty-five turns to win the hearts and minds of the natives by destroying enemy units and putting out village fires. Viet Cong and NVA units spawn randomly and raid villages, plant mines, and set up ambushes. The interface is designed with a mobile device in mind, with relatively limited input means; scrolling is especially annoying. Reinforcements are gained from political points earned by destroying the enemy; infantry, engineer, armor, artillery, and helicopter units are present. Units gain experience with combat, and helicopters must shuttle supplies forward or units will disappear permanently. Intelligence on enemy units hiding in the jungle is gained by visiting villages, so they are important landmarks to guard. A clear victory chance is displayed before engaging in combat. While Vietnam '65 has some unique gameplay, the ideas grow thin and repetitive quickly.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Cities: Skylines Gameplay Review

I'm playing Cities: Skylines, a city building simulation by Colossal Order and Paradox Interactive.

The game features nine large maps to build upon; reaching population objectives open new areas in each map to expand into and unlocks new items. Map and asset editors are available to expand the content, and Cities: Skylines relies on Steam workshop for sharing maps and mods. The interface is fairly typical, offering icons for building-specific needs and map overlays for more detailed information. Unlike other city builders, zoning residential, commercial, and industrial areas is free, as the cost is incurred when placing roads, which automatically have areas to either side ready to be designated. It is easy to upgrade roads to larger or more quiet versions (noise pollution negatively affects residences), and raising road elevation is done using the page-up and page-down buttons, allowing for multi-level highway systems. Public transportation, power plants, water pumps and drains, garbage collection, health care (including cemeteries), fire protection, police, and education must all be managed. Areas of town can be designated as a special district, where unique laws and building specializations (taking advantage of natural resources such as timber or minerals) can be de defined. A sophisticated (and completely offline, by the way) simulation of citizens, their vehicles, their homes, and places of business runs under the hood, producing a very convincing reproduction of a town. Cities: Skylines is an extremely satisfying city builder that adds some notable unique improvements to the genre.

Thursday, March 05, 2015

A Druid’s Duel Gameplay Review

I'm playing A Druid’s Duel, a turn-based strategy game by Thoughtshelter Games and Surprise Attack Games.

The game features a campaign mode with scenarios against increasingly numerous enemies. There is also online or local multiplayer across twenty-two maps for two to four players, but no skirmish mode against an AI opponent. The goal is to capture all of the land spaces; land generates mana that can be spent to summon new druids, transform druids into their animal form, or cast spells. Maps offer obstacles, fairies to capture for an instant mana bonus, or relics for a continual mana drip. Four druid classes dot the landscape, each with different movement and attack rules and various animal forms with even more strategic options. The AI opponents, although obviously benefiting from superior initial numbers in later missions, execute some thoughtful tactics. A Druid’s Duel offers quick games and streamlined rules without sacrificing depth.

Monday, March 02, 2015

Homeworld Remastered Collection Gameplay Review

I'm playing Homeworld Remastered Collection, a real-time space strategy game by Gearbox Software.

The collection includes the original versions of both Homeworld and Homeworld 2, plus “remastered” adaptations with much better graphics, a properly-scaled interface, and some improved rules. Fleets are persistent between levels in both campaigns, and the difficult adjusts based on how many ships are present in the armada. Skirmish modes against the AI can use either the new combined rules set or the parameters from the original games; the addition of capturable relics (like flags or resource nodes in other games), objective challenges, and bounties to the skirmish games make for a more varied experience. Online multiplayer is currently in “beta” because of future balancing changes based on player feedback. The interface is adapted and improved from Homeworld 2, granting easy access to build queues, research, control groups, and the large map overview. Ships include fighters, corvettes, frigates, and capital ships, each with their own strengths and weaknesses as outlined in helpful tool-tips. Resource collectors, sensors, and defensive platforms can also join the fray. Research unlocks new unit types or upgrades existing ones, and modules on large ships can grant new abilities. The AI provides a decent challenge in both the campaigns and skirmish mode, and friendly units automatically engage nearby enemies. Homeworld Remastered Collection is a good update to a great series.