Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Gratuitous Space Battles 2 Gameplay Review

I'm playing Gratuitous Space Battles 2, a strategy game by Positech Games.

While the game only features eleven enemy fleets to battle against, more content comes from user-submitted challenges that can be downloaded. Gratuitous Space Battles 2 also has mod and Steam Workshop support, and the new graphics engine looks marginally better than before. More hull types are found in the robust ship design editor, where components such as weapons, defenses, engines, power supplies, and fighter bays are placed; visuals can also be altered. Winning a mission grants honor (more of which is earned by using less ships), used to unlock new parts. All of the strategy is done before the battle begins, where formations are forged and attack priorities and ranges are tediously set. The AI then does its best to execute your fool-proof plan. In the end, Gratuitous Space Battles 2 is a gratuitous sequel that lacks any major new features.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Brother Against Brother: The Drawing of the Sword Gameplay Review

The game comes with twenty-five scenarios spread over five maps (four battles); the goal of each scenario is to capture victory locations within the time limit. Online server-based play-by-e-mail is available, as are a large range of difficulty levels. While the interface utilizes handy color-coded boxes for easier order of battle identification, the rest of the presentation is very dated, with poor, low-resolution graphics. General orders may be given to an army, corps, division, or brigade, such as a combat focus or rally command. In addition, regiments may be issued movement, formation, and facing commands; firing upon enemy units is handled automatically. Terrain, weather, line of sight, fog of war, unit activation, supplies, and morale all figure into the complex combat calculations. The AI isn’t the sharpest opponent, playing the game far too cautiously as a whole. Despite the use of some innovative interface and command options, Brother Against Brother: The Drawing of the Sword is not as appealing as other strategy games that cover the American Civil War.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Dungeons 2 Gameplay Review

I'm playing Dungeons 2, a dungeon management game by Realmforge Studios and Kalypso Media.

Featuring a bland campaign and a skirmish mode limited to only four maps, Dungeons 2 also supports online multiplayer. The interface is poor: selecting specific units or objects in a crowd is nearly impossible, it is difficult to click on the vague notifications, and placing objects requires a multi-step process. In order to keep the dungeon running smoothly, workers are hired, areas are dug out for resources (mainly gold) and new rooms, objects are placed, fighters are hired, and research is done. Occasionally, hero units venture into the dungeon and they must be dealt with, along with the general management of the dungeon by providing the workers with wages and alcohol. Units will eventually engage enemy units, but less micromanagement in this area would have been appreciated. In the end, Dungeons 2 is a fairly unimpressive sequel.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Convoy Gameplay Review

I'm playing Convoy, a tactical roguelike action game by Convoy Games.

The goal is to collect parts to repair your damaged spaceship. Resources used to purchase new items or vehicles and fuel your convoy are earned by completing missions and surviving encounters with the warring factions present on the game map. During combat, the main convoy vehicle cannot be controlled directly, but support vehicles can be issued move and attack orders. However, the main vehicle does have access to abilities that can be placed. The difficulty is high, and the somewhat randomized loot makes each encounter slightly different. Similar to FTL, Convoy introduces another unique take on the roguelike.

Monday, April 13, 2015

StarDrive 2 Gameplay Review

I'm playing StarDrive 2, a 4X turn-based strategy game by Zero Sum Games and Iceberg Interactive.

The single-player game offers a campaign against other races, vying for supremacy in the galaxy. The interface offers a useful empire management screen and a pleasing zoomed-out view, but needs automated exploration. Each colony’s population can be allocated towards food, production, or research; colonies can construct ships or buildings. Freighters will automatically shuttle food to colonies that need it; they are also used to invade enemy planets or trade with other factions. Ships have a finite amount of fuel that is diminished outside of friendly territory, limiting surprise attacks on far-away systems. Ships can be customized with different weapons, defenses, and systems in the shipyard, and a command point limit serves as a population cap. Research allows one tech choice per level; the others must be traded for. Diplomactic options include trading treaties, technologies, colonies, and cold, hard cash; diplomatic tolerance prevents making multiple deals in quick succession. Real-time space and land battles are too simplistic, but the strategic AI has a good handle on the game rules. StarDrive 2 has a couple of nice ideas in a polished 4X game.

Friday, April 10, 2015

VoidExpanse Gameplay Review

I'm playing VoidExpanse, an open-world space adventure action role-playing game by Atomic Torch Studio.

Various factions fight over control of a randomly-generated galaxy, one of which can be joined. The game features both single player and online multiplayer modes, and also supports user modifications. Eight classes grant different starting abilities and slight different skill trees. The game is played from an overhead perspective, and the ship is moved using the WASD keys and spacebar to stop, while the interface supports both hotkeys and direct mouse-clicking. The mouse aims while the mouse buttons shoot weapons, and can be customized into weapon groups. A fussy autopilot and cruise mode are used for faster travel amongst the stars. Space stations serve as centers to repair, refuel, get new missions, and purchase or install parts. Experience and cash can be earned by destroying plentiful pirates, mining, trade, and completing missions (bounty hunting, escort, rescue, deliver and item). Experience is used to unlock new skills, which improve ship performance and enable more advanced components to install on the ship. Overall, VoidExpanse is a solidly executed space adventure game.

Wednesday, April 08, 2015

Star Ruler 2 Gameplay Review

I'm playing Star Ruler 2, a 4X space real-time strategy game by Blind Mind Studios.

Several races with different attributes vie for the domination of the galaxy both against the AI and online. Each planet produces a single resource that can be exported to other planets; planets will level up when required resources are imported, so setting up trade lanes is an important and interesting aspect of the gameplay. Easy fleet construction is done by building flagships and support vessels simultaneously; they then are ordered as a single permanent group. Custom layouts can also be designed for each ship, incorporating researched components for more effective vessels. Ships will automatically attack the enemy, and various forms of FTL travel provide quicker access to far-flung worlds. Diplomacy relies on proposals made to the galactic council, which then are voted upon using influence points. The research tree is a gigantic, confusing mess. Still, Star Ruler 2 adds some innovative ideas to the 4X game with resource trade and ship customization.

Monday, April 06, 2015

Out of the Park Baseball 16 Gameplay Review

I'm playing Out of the Park Baseball 16, a sports management simulation by Out of the Park Developments.

The latest version of the franchise introduces actual MLB and minor league team logos, 2015 opening day rosters all the way down to rookie leagues, a couple of new leagues, and the ability to play as either the manager or GM (or both). The interface adds player information pop-ups, but the 3D game presentation still lags well behind in terms of quality and signability filters or sorting during drafts would be very helpful. The team owner now gives more specific and interesting short-term and long-term goals for the squad, and coaches now have personalities that affect their performance. Games can be rained out as well. The addictive, detailed gameplay remains from previous years, with robust roster management, game tactics, player stats, and historical league support. Out of the Park Baseball 16 adds enough new features and improvements to make the latest edition worth it for fans of the series or sports management games in general.

Thursday, April 02, 2015

Out There: Ω Edition Gameplay Review

I'm playing Out There: Ω Edition, a space exploration adventure game by Mi-Clos Studio.

In a randomly generated universe, planets are visited for resources as the ship ventures further through space. Fuel, oxygen, and hull levels must be kept high, and specific resources are used to resupply, repair, and craft components. Random encounters can provide new technologies to add to the ship, or cause destruction. Abandoned ships can also be found and boarded. There is no combat, thus keeping resources on hand is the primary directive. Out There: Ω Edition is a lighter take on the space adventure game in the vein of FTL.