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.