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.