Monday, June 29, 2015

Star Hammer: The Vanguard Prophecy Gameplay Review

I'm playing Star Hammer: The Vanguard Prophecy, a turn-based tactical space strategy game by Black Lab Games and Slitherine.

A mostly linear, repetitive campaign unlocks missions based on an aggressive or defensive method of beating scenarios; crew skill ratings also improve over time. Custom or randomized skirmish games are also available, but online play is not. The interface provides decent access to the entire armada, from small corvettes to huge dreadnoughts. Movement orders are simple to issue, and vessels can also be moved vertically incrementally. Ships with automatically target the closest enemy within a targeting arc, or specific antagonists can be targeted for slightly more accurate aiming. Energy can be distributed between the engines, shields, and weapons, while shield energy balancing can be adjusted for each side of the ship, a feature I really like. Still, the game could use one or two more things to do to spice up the battles. Capable AI rounds out the package. Despite some assorted shortcomings, Star Hammer: The Vanguard Prophecy is one of the better tactical games available.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Galactic Inheritors Gameplay Review

I'm playing Galactic Inheritors, a turn-based 4X space strategy game by Crispon Games and Argonauts Interactive.

The single-player title has limited options when setting up a new game. The interface is not great, with several information displays that take up the entire screen. Exploration is a multi-turn process: move, explore, survey for resources. Jumpgate movement means the next system is always one turn away. Entire solar systems are colonized at once, and every system is colonizable without penalty (only starting production and resource values differ). Private businesses are contracted to build military vessels; ship upgrades can be applied as experience is earned. Exploration ships can be used to exploit resources in systems after they are finished exploring, an interesting use for them. Excess commerce is used to unlock empire-wide bonuses, while a deficit in money is borrowed against the research rate. Diplomacy is accomplished by undertaking positive or negative media campaigns against the other races, a slow, gradual process. War is always the end result, and combat is automated. It can take a long time for something to happen, which is less of a problem in a turn-based game but still notable. Despite a couple of novel features, the substandard interface and glacial pace of Galactic Inheritors hinder its appeal.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Primal Carnage: Extinction Gameplay Review

I'm playing Primal Carnage: Extinction, a first-person shooter by Pub Games and Circle 5 Studios.

The online-only game features team deathmatch, an objective mode, cooperative play against the dinosaurs, and free roam. Five human classes come equipped differently: shotguns and flares for the pathfinder, a sniper rifle and sensor mines for the scientist, the assault-rifle wielding commando, a flamethrower unit (my personal favorite), and a trapper with a netgun. Likewise, the dinosaurs are large, pouncers, flyers, spitters, or chargers. Both sets of classes are seemingly well-balanced and encourage teamwork. However, combat isn’t entirely engaging and the finicky nature of aiming (especially with the dinosaurs) wears thin. While Primal Carnage: Extinction is not a bad remake of the original game, it doesn’t elevate the genre beyond “a shooter with dinosaurs”.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Scourge of War: Waterloo Gameplay Review

I'm playing Scourge of War: Waterloo, a real-time tactical strategy game by NorbSoftDev and Matrix Games.

Ten historically-based scenarios are present for each side, allowing the user to control brigades up to the entire army. Both the campaign (where units are moved between towns and battles are resolved) and skirmish modes feel incomplete and unbalanced, though multiplayer is available. The redesigned interface incorporates a nifty right-click menu for issuing orders, but the icons in the information bar are a mess: the difference between buttons and status icons should be more verbose. Realism can be adjusted, integrating the use of couriers to deliver orders on horseback if desired. The AI is problematic: it routinely overrides your orders with major adjustments that ruin any sort of strategic cohesion. While units can be directly controlled, this is a logistical nightmare in larger scenarios. Scourge of War: Waterloo, thanks to half-baked skirmish and campaign modes and the domineering AI, is a very disappointing sequel.

Friday, June 12, 2015

Highlands Gameplay Review

I'm playing Highlands, a turn-based strategy game by Burrito Studio.

The single-player game is quite unforgiving, as heroes cannot be killed and the enemies gain strength rapidly. Hero units are moved around the map to engage enemies and capture territory; heroes can also build defenses and heal units. Enemies will automatically attack territories that are not adequately defended. Captured territories provide resources that are used to recruit additional units, heal existing units, or craft items. Extremely careful balance of healing and construction with forward advancement is required to have any chance at victory. During combat, dice rolls deal out damage each turn, and one character is designated to receive all of the enemy attacks. Items can be used during combat as well. While Highlands has some engaging mechanics, the difficulty level is very high, even with a patched-in “casual” difficulty level.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

ARK: Survival Evolved Early Access Beta Gameplay Preview

I'm playing the early access beta of ARK: Survival Evolved, a survival game by Studio Wildcard.

The game currently features both online and offline play; players can join tribes to share pets and a common respawn point. Thirty extinct creatures, from dinosaurs to dodo birds, roam the landscape (more than seventy are planned for release); animals can be captured and domesticated (or simply hunted for food), then used to carry goods, provide transportation, or attack rivals. Resources such as wood and stone are collected and used to craft weapons, clothing, tools, and building components; experience points can be used to unlock a large assortment of new items to construct. Food and water concerns must also be taken care of. ARK: Survival Evolved is scheduled for release in the summer of 2016.

Monday, June 08, 2015

The Masterplan Gameplay Review

I'm playing The Masterplan, a tactical strategy game by Shark Punch.

The game features different missions where the crime gang steals money and unlock new levels. Additional goons or weapons can be purchased between missions, and the generally free-form level design is supported by multiple solutions to each heist. The interface relies on mouse-driven commands (left-click select, right-click move or interact), and actions can be queued with the shift key. While you can box-select multiple people, there is no keyboard shortcut to “select all” (such as the tilde key) for faster selection. The real-time action can be paused. The game prefers the use of stealth over action; pointing a gun will threaten civilians and allow you to directly control them, which is a really neat mechanic. The Masterplan ends up being a satisfying crime-based tactical strategy game.

Friday, June 05, 2015

Rebuild 3: Gangs of Deadsville Gameplay Review

I'm playing Rebuild 3: Gangs of Deadsville, a post-apocalyptic city building game by Northway Games.

The story mode moves through a series of cities where buildings must be reclaimed from the zombie horde; a quick play mode is also available. The game’s tiny resolution is more appropriate for mobile devices, and while overlays are available for resource and zombie levels, the lack of tool-tips on the map makes quick building identification impossible. Each survivor can be assigned one task at a time: guard, build, scout, kill zombies, scavenge for resources, reclaim territory that is zombie free, trade or attack other factions, recruit new members, research new technologies, farm or fish, and craft items. Each of the game’s five classes (soldier, scavenger, engineer, builder, and leader) specialize in different areas; weapons and items can increase stats in the five attributes. Food is an important resource that is consumed each turn; other resources are utilized for various tasks. Random events and zombie attacks round out the game. Overall, Rebuild 3: Gangs of Deadsville is a very solid casual themed city builder.

Wednesday, June 03, 2015

Carmageddon: Reincarnation Gameplay Review

I'm playing Carmageddon: Reincarnation, an arcade racing game by Stainless Games.

A career mode allows drivers to earn credits between sixteen chapters to unlock cars and customization options; freeplay and online multiplayer are also available. Races can involve checkpoints, laps, deathmatch, running over pedestrians, king of the hill, or the “classic” combination of wrecks, laps, and peds. Handling is sluggish and unresponsive. The game features extremely poor performance (considering the mediocre quality of the graphics), random crashes, long load times, and locks up when switching between songs. Carmageddon: Reincarnation does feature an impressive number of power-ups (both positive and negative) that helps to spice up the races. The AI drivers are terrible with a constant focus on wrecking each other, even during a lap-based event. Poor handling, braindead AI, and stability and performance issues make Carmageddon: Reincarnation a remake to skip.

Monday, June 01, 2015

Catlateral Damage Gameplay Review

I'm playing Catlateral Damage, a first-person feline destruction simulation by Chris Chung.

An objective-based mode tasks the feline protagonist with knocking down a specific number of objects onto the floor within a time limit. These difficult scenarios feature procedurally-generated houses, random events, and power-ups to vary the gameplay somewhat. A more freeform litterbox mode is also available. Controls rely on jumping and swiping objects, and while the game lacks variety as a whole, the silly nature of the theme does provide some attraction.