Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Drive!Drive!Drive! Gameplay Review

I'm playing Drive!Drive!Drive!, an arcade racing game by different cloth and Choice Provisions.

The game features an array of events in the campaign mode with different victory conditions (position-only, points-based, object collection, and time trial). Progressing through the campaign unlocks new cars with slightly different stats. In addition, there is online multiplayer and the ability to create custom layouts and share them with others. The crux of the gameplay is managing several different one-lap races on mirrored tracks simultaneously. Because the AI drivers are terrible, you must switch between races to keep all of your drivers up from in each race. Controls are typical for an arcade racing game, with boost gained from drifting, jumping, and smashing other vehicles; the game is designed for a gamepad (there is no mouse support whatsoever, even for menus). The novel concept of Drive!Drive!Drive! is enough to make it stand out as an arcade racing title.

Friday, December 09, 2016

Shattered Throne Gameplay Review

I'm playing Shattered Throne, a turn-based strategy game by Checkmark Games.

The game features a linear campaign with heavily unbalanced scenarios (significantly more enemy units) and no difficulty settings, though the missions are fairly open-ended. Asynchronous online multiplayer can use Steam notifications for new turns. A skirmish mode is also available, but only with a couple of maps; thankfully, the map editor is easy to use and includes Steam workshop integration. Each turn, every unit can move then attack; successive attacks on the same unit increase damage. Mana gained from defeated units can be used to grant map-wide powers. Units include melee, ranged, healing, and mounted options with varied special abilities. Units are purchased at castles from funds earned by capturing villages. Terrain comes with different movement costs and attack/defense bonuses. The AI can surround vulnerable units and capture key structures, but not consistently, and it definitely benefits from a higher quantity of reinforcements common in the campaign. Shattered Throne is a good foundation for a turn-based strategy game, but it needs more content for long-term enjoyment.

Wednesday, December 07, 2016

Citalis Gameplay Review

I'm playing Citalis, a city management simulation by Matt Hooper and Sometimes You.

Several game modes are available with slightly different victory conditions. Housing, businesses, parks, and reservoirs are placed in districts; commercial structures can be upgraded to increase capacity or daily profit margins. Crime increases when parks and reservoirs are not sufficient. Tedious clicking is required to collect money from businesses (until automated collection can be purchased); this can become frustrating in the game’s isometric perspective, and a method to quickly cycle through structures of the same type would be appreciated. There is not much strategy in Citalis: simply place more businesses when you can afford them, complimented by water reservoirs, parks, and the occasional housing project. Citalis features shallow, repetitive gameplay coupled with a frustratingly limited user interface.

Monday, December 05, 2016

Kopanito All-Stars Soccer Gameplay Review

I'm playing Kopanito All-Stars Soccer, an arcade sports game by Merixgames.

The game features online play and a host of offline modes for cooperative and competitive play: friendlies, custom tournaments, regional cups, and full-season leagues. A typical control scheme supports passes, shots, and slide tackles; shots can be manually shaped. As an arcade sports title, games have a fast pace, with powerful slide tackles the primary means to catch up and steal the ball. In addition, randomized super moves (a ball magnet, teleportation, super shot, and wind-driven goal defense) increase scoring. The AI opponents play well at a range of difficulty settings, though friendly players don’t push up the field enough (making cooperative play much more desirable). Kopanito All-Stars Soccer is an enjoyable, accessible arcade sports title.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Townsmen Gameplay Review

I'm playing Townsmen, a city management simulation by HandyGames and Headup Games.

The game features eighteen challenging scenarios with scripted quests and sixteen more freeform sandbox levels. Coming over from mobile devices, Townsmen does offer some PC-centric interface enhancements, although the lack of tool-tips and wacky road building procedure are disappointing. Buildings are placed to collect resources, produce food, manufacture items, and meet the needs of the villagers. Using prestige will instantly build any structure, bypassing the usually steep resource requirements. Some key buildings (such as the marketplace and church) are entirely too expensive to build, resulting in a lot of waiting for resources to accumulate instead of doing something meaningful. There are some moderately sophisticated resource chains involved (wheat to flour to bread, as a typical example), and excess resources can be sold at the marketplace (assuming you can afford to build one, of course). Happier citizens, made so by meeting food, water, and entrainment thresholds, work harder and can be taxed more. Nearby bandits can be eliminated by building a network of barracks and guard towers. Completing quests earns prestige, and upgraded buildings can be researched. Terrible early-game resource balancing and some interface limitations aside, Townsmen is a decent city builder.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Killing Floor 2 Gameplay Review

I'm playing Killing Floor 2, a first-person shooter by Tripwire Interactive.

Designed for online cooperative play, the game also supports less desirable offline play. A nice selection of twelve fairly large, detailed levels is available; enemies spawn near the team during each wave, and chokepoints are present to funnel the enemy threat. Each of the ten classes has a selection of different starting weapons, preferred weapons to upgrade to during the match, and passive perks to help out the team. The classes include melee-focused, support, area attack, and ranged options, giving all types of players something to choose. Ten enemies, some with special abilities must be dispatched of during each wave. Doors may be welded to hold back the horde, while healing syringes can stave off untimely death. Each map has preferred, more easily defensible locations, and while the quantity and specific arrangement of enemies is different every playthrough, you still encounter the same types each game. That said, the chaos of combat is confusing and exciting. Killing Floor 2 is an enjoyable, albeit repetitive, gore-filled cooperative first-person shooter.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Planet Coaster Gameplay Review

I'm playing Planet Coaster, a theme park management simulation by Frontier Developments.

The game features twelve scenarios with starting layouts, varied terrain, and different objectives. In addition, there are sandbox and challenge missions, which take place on flat terrain that is not randomly generated, a bit disappointing. A strong aspect of the game is Steam Workshop integration: it is easy to find and import lots of custom rides, buildings, and scenery made by other users. All of these items were made in-game using the creation tools, which allow for a wide variety of impressive structures. Coasters, monorails, trains, log flumes, river rapids, and gentle and thrill rides can be added to the park, each with ratings for excitement, fear, and nausea that will appeal to different guests. Each guest travels in groups that have different needs and desires while in the park, and make comments to assist in future design decisions. Shops for food, drink, and souvenirs will satisfy the varied needs of the guests. New rides and buildings can be researched in the non-sandbox modes, staff can be hired and leveled-up, and marketing drives can be purchased to increase attendance. While the management aspects of Planet Coaster are fairly easy to master, the creative elements of the game make it a compelling theme park management simulation.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

The Ship Remasted Gameplay Review

I'm playing The Ship Remasted, a first-person shooter by Blazing Griffin.

This new version brings new graphics and some minor game rules tweaks (namely longer sleeping requirements). Online play is preferred because the AI bots don’t hide their intentions well enough to produce compelling offline gameplay, though the number of players online have been small. The game mechanics remain intriguing: money is earned by killing a target; the cash amount is determined by how rarely used that particular weapon is. This encourages swapping out weapons and not sticking to any specific item for the entire game. Your target’s location on the ship is updated every 30 seconds, and there is also a player hunting you. While this is going on, needs (such as sleep, drinking, going to the bathroom, taking showers, talking to others, reading books) must be taken care of as well; these cause periods of vulnerability that make it easier to kill your quarry. Being spotted with a weapon by security or other players can result in a fine and jail time, although security can be bribed. The core gameplay remains very fun, although The Ship Remasted has some technical issues (attacking while sprinting doesn’t seem to be effective, and some graphical glitches are present, such as the occasional inability to see other passengers). If these issues are resolved, then The Ship Remasted would become an acceptable update to an outstanding game.

Tuesday, November 08, 2016

Transport Fever Gameplay Review

I'm playing Transport Fever, a transportation management simulation by Urban Games.

The game features two campaigns of seven missions each (one for the US, one for Europe) in addition to the randomized maps that were featured in the last game in the series (Train Fever). The interface could use some minor enhancements, namely showing goods production when making lines and making tracks connect more easily. Ferries and airplanes are new in Transport Fever, although they accomplish the same task of transporting people or goods around the map. Tracks or roads may be placed for trains and buses, stops and stations are positioned, lines are laid out, and depots are purchased to house the vehicles. There is a fairly sophisticated production chain in the game, and taking advantage of it to transport the flow of goods to its appropriate destination is the core of the gameplay. Transport Fever has an extremely slow pace even on the fastest setting, so there can be significant waiting for additional funds once the starting lines are designed. Transport Fever is improved over its previous iteration due to its scripted scenarios and additional transportation options, and should appeal to transportation management fans.

Wednesday, November 02, 2016

Political Animals Gameplay Review

I'm playing Political Animals, a turn-based strategy game by Squeaky Wheel and Positech Games.

Game customization options include candidate selection (including traits and special abilities), political platforms, game map (caricatures of real-world locations), staff members, and opponent. A variety of map overlays are available to show different data, but some areas of the map are crowded. Funds and logistics (actions per turn) are used to execute orders: move to a new district, rally to promote a specific issue, campaign for votes, buy a gift to increase a patron’s rating, raise funds, bribe for votes, or a special action. Higher patron ratings make fund raising, campaigns, and other actions more effective in a district, while captured districts (80% patron ratings and 80% of the vote) are harder for the opposition to claim. Beyond initially claiming a couple of districts, strategy involves promoting issues in additional districts to persuade undecided voters and taking advantage of enemy scandals to swing the vote. Events create unpredictability that can unravel any strategy. The AI is good at the game, although it does perform unncessary actions (like performing actions in districts they can’t win, or raising money on the last turn). Although the theme makes it look like a casual game, Political Animals does have some sophisticated political gameplay.

Monday, October 31, 2016

Civilization VI Gameplay Review

I'm playing Civilization VI, a 4X turn-based strategy game by Firaxis Games and 2K.

The game features both single player and online multiplayer modes with a number of victory conditions (domination, science, culture, religious, and overall score). The randomly generated hex-based maps contain special resources, varied terrain, natural wonders, very feisty barbarians, and independent city states that grant envoys to receive bonuses when specific missions are completed. Cities are now made up of districts that can build different structures (like a bank in a commercial hub); the map layout goes a long way in determining what the overall city build strategy should be, as adjacency bonuses for districts (such as building a campus next to a mountain tile) are powerful. A range of different military units can be constructed, including melee, ranged, scouting, support, naval, and air units. Builders now instantly build improvements, but are limited to three builds per lifetime. Research is split up into two trees (one for technology, one for culture), and eureka moments are a fantastic addition: performing a specific task will cut research time in half (for example, building a quarry speeds up masonry research). Governmental policies are cards that can played to provide nation-wide bonuses, and great people spawn to provide bonuses as well. Religions are formed using Great Prophets, and spread using missionaries. Diplomatic options are basic (resource trade, embassies), though Civilization VI does introduce some casus belli for declaring war. The AI is bad at diplomacy because it sticks to its hard-coded overall strategy too much, while making questionable decisions (especially regarding military combat) regularly. Civilization VI has a number of significant new features weighed down by the poor AI.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Clockwork Empires Gameplay Review

I'm playing Clockwork Empires, a colony management simulation by Gaslamp Games.

The game features randomly generated maps in different biomes with no overall objective, other than survival and expansion. While the interface allows for multiple ways of finding information (like building queues), being able to queue up multiple projects on the same module would be helpful. In addition, being able to search for resources on the map would be a welcome feature. Overseers perform as managers, working in a building or picking available tasks (like chopping trees, foraging for food, or mining surface rocks) on a specific daily schedule; laborers are attached to an overseer and will automatically assist. Each colonist has extensive memories of past events that dictate their levels of happiness, despair, anger, and fear, which in turn affect their ability to work. Colonists will also level up at specific skills they routinely perform, making them better at their job. Raw resources are collected from the landscape, grown in farms, or mined. These are processed in different buildings on various pieces of equipment; the building layouts are custom designed by the player, allowing for different plans based on current needs and giving a more varied look to the colony. Multi-step production in Clockwork Empires is interesting, although the steps and equipment required for make a specific good may not be intuitive. Other factions in the area may be friendly or hostile; trade can be initiated to secure goods that are not plentiful at your location, and enemy factions can invade your colony. Strange beasts roam the landscape and terrorize the colonists, and cults may form when citizen behaviors warrant them. While the early game is fairly repetitive (the same initial structures are used every time) and some aspects of the user interface could be improved, Clockwork Empires is a very compelling management game thanks to its distinctive theme, detailed citizens, customized building layouts, multi-step item production, and hostile environment.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Unloved Gameplay Review

I'm playing Unloved, a first-person shooter by BlueEagle Productions.

The game features multiple game modes that focus on cooperative play; the default mode involves collecting crests to unlock doors, filling blood machines (which reduce precious health), and retreating back to the elevator. Each level consists of randomly arranged rooms, and mission success results in useful permanent upgrades. There are only five weapons in the game but they cover all of the necessary types (pistol, shotgun, submachine gun, railgun, nailgun). It takes time to pick items (health and ammunition, mostly) up, a process that also may spawn more enemies. Weapon mods and totems may also be collected for in-game upgrades. The enemies are repetitive but plentiful and may spawn from anywhere. Unloved is a fast-paced, old-school shooter full of action with replay value thanks to its level layout randomization and online cooperative play.

Friday, October 14, 2016

Farabel Gameplay Review

I'm playing Farabel, a turn-based strategy game by Frogames.

The game features a thirteen-scenario campaign that features highly scripted missions with low replay value. The scenarios are fairly challenging (the game lacks difficulty settings) and are played in reverse: after each mission, you must choose which attribute point to lose for the next mission. It’s a simple premise that becomes the defining feature of the game.There are no skirmish missions or multiplayer modes. Units consist of melee, ranged, mounted, and other units that can have special abilities: cavalry can charge, mages can summon elementals, scouts can teleport, and guards can push. In addition, you can turn back time during a match, which allows units to attack (or use their abilities) more than once in succession. The AI benefits from lots of units spawning from predetermined locations. Time travel serves as a good hook in what is otherwise a fairly basic turn-based strategy game with low replay value.

Thursday, October 06, 2016

Carton Gameplay Review

I'm playing Carton, a town management game game by Calepin Studio.

The game takes place on randomly generated terrain for increased replay value, but there is only one saved game allowed at a time. The translation shortcomings and lack of tool-tips make learning the game more difficult. The objective is to build a town and defend against nightly goblin attacks. Resource producing structures are placed and allow for citizens to collect specific items from the world, such as wood, straw, fruit, and stone. Buildings need to be placed on a road (but the road doesn’t need to be connected to any other roads), and houses can be built to increase the population. Town limits can be expanded using gold, which can be traded for using spare resources. Citizens have an assigned job, and need milk and fruit to survive. Defenses can be placed to fend off goblin attacks, or an army can be recruited to invade the goblin castles in a platformer-like setting. Carton is full of good ideas for a management game (random worlds, resource production, defending against nightly attacks, action platform mini-game), but it’s not polished enough to be totally engaging.

Tuesday, October 04, 2016

Unclaimed World Gameplay Review

I'm playing Unclaimed World, a space colony management simulation by Refactored Games.

The game features only a couple of maps and some bare tutorials; Unclaimed World would benefit greatly from randomly generated sandbox levels. The interface contains a lot of information, and the game struggles to show it in an efficient manner. The production list needs a search function (on top of the filters already present), though the task list is useful and clicking on an item clearly shows the components needed to produce it. Unclaimed World has very deep, multi-tiered production chains, but designating tasks could be easier: a square area must be defined first, then an order given (scout, gather, examine, attack, hunt), rather than simply saying to collect needed items from any location. Citizens will undertake tasks automatically, however. Goods can be traded with other towns, and additional technologies can be unlocked by a vote. Citizens need food, security, and shelter, and will leave the settlement if their desires are not met. While the mechanics of Unclaimed World are quite detailed, the feature set and general approachability could be improved.

Monday, October 03, 2016

Particle Fleet: Emergence Gameplay Review

I'm playing Particle Fleet: Emergence, a real-time strategy game by Knuckle Cracker.

The game features sixteen scenarios in a story-based mode; they are fairly open ended maps where you can choose your own spawn point and have access to multiple paths towards victory. In addition, there are nine standalone scenarios, a robust skirmish game mode with tons of options, and the ability to make and share missions. The interface could have been more efficient; as an example, the use of the mouse wheel to both rotate ships and zoom out means ships must be deselected before getting a larger view. Energy collected from various sources and mined from asteroids is used to construct a large variety of ships (which can be custom designed in the editor) and replenish their weapons supplies; ships must be near an energy mine to sustain an attack, or refueled mid-battle using tankers. This restriction results in more nuanced strategy than simply selecting all the ships and sending them towards the enemy. Enemy spawn points constantly create a steady stream of adversaries, and they must be destroyed. Particle Fleet: Emergence is an engaging real-time strategy game with unique mechanics and high replay value.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Sorcerer King: Rivals Gameplay Review

I'm playing Sorcerer King: Rivals, a turn-based fantasy 4X strategy game by Stardock Entertainment.

This standalone expansion (half-price if you own the original game) features a new victory condition: defeat the Sorcerer King by becoming a god yourself. This is simply accomplished by casting expensive spells using mana, so the strategy is to try to capture as many mana shards as possible and save up for the ascendancy spells. In addition, the undead and dwarves are playable factions, and the game has support for quest editing and sharing through Steamworks. The remainder of the game is the same as before: explore the random maps, found cities and outposts, fight creeps, gather items to craft weapons and armor, research new spells, and fight tactical battles on your way to saving up enough mana to win. Because Sorcerer King: Rivals does not offer any significant gameplay enhancements (just another avenue towards victory through mana production), it is a tough sell as an expansion to the original game.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Lew Pulsipher's Doomstar Gameplay Review

I'm playing Lew Pulsipher's Doomstar, a turn-based strategy game by Large Visible Machine.

The game features a small campaign full of unbalanced missions (the AI is given powerful ships in greater quantities), more fair skirmishes against the AI, and asynchronous online multiplayer. Doomstar incorporates the basic game rules of the classic board game Stratego (simple attack ratings, unknown ship attributes until attacked, highest ship number wins) with a reduced number of units for faster gameplay. The goal is to destroy the enemy command ship with any vessel. Mines don’t  move but destroy everything except light fighters and carriers. Fighters can move as many spaces as they want across the board. Battle cruisers and dreadnoughts are the most powerful units on the board. Black holes allow units to move multiple spaces in a single turn, and two set of fighters can attack the same enemy in the same turn. The AI is decent enough at the game to provide a good challenge, although online multiplayer is where the true action lies. Fans of Stratego will enjoy Doomstar, but the feature set is fairly basic.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Cossacks 3 Gameplay Review

I'm playing Cossacks 3, a real-time strategy game by GSC Game World.

The game features several campaigns with missions that include massive battles and tedious objectives. Random skirmishes against the AI and online multiplayer are also available. Groups of units need to have an officer and a drummer in order to be placed into formations, leaving smaller groups to be disorganized. This becomes more chaotic when units sometimes engage nearby enemies and sometimes do not. The game also does not indicate the income rate of each resource, which makes assigning peasants to collect the most needed item more difficult. Cossacks 3 is a game of resource collection: get the most stuff to build the most units. The game is extremely dawdling: collecting resources, constructing buildings, and recruiting units is all accomplished at a snail’s pace, even on the “fast” setting. In addition, resource requirements for additional military buildings (such as a third barracks) can be extremely high, which does not allow better players to outproduce their competition in terms of units, leading to stalemates during offensive maneuvers. Cossacks 3 plays identically to the previous games in the series, a massive sense of scale with some graphical upgrades. However, a slow pace, limited interface, and game balance issues hold Cossacks 3 back.

Monday, September 19, 2016

TOXIKK Gameplay Review

I'm playing TOXIKK, a first-person shooter by Reakktor Studios.

The game shares a lot of similarities with Unreal Tournament, its obvious source of inspiration. TOXIKK has a free edition, which does not include all the maps, the ability to vote for maps, the level editor, Steam workshop integration, a server browser, or character customization, but does include everything else. While the game focuses on online multiplayer, offline bot matches are available as well. Typical game modes are included (deathmatch, team deathmatch, capture the flag, and domination), along with a host of rules mutators. Weapons are also fairly uninspired: a melee attack, pistol, shotgun, assault rifle, sniper rifle, plasma rifle, flame thrower, and rocket launcher. All weapons have an alternate fire attack, and larger maps include vehicles (bikes, jeeps, hover jets, mechs) to get around. Game pace involves quick movement with double-jumps and dodges and expedient kills. Overall, TOXIKK is an acceptable substitute for Unreal Tournament that doesn’t add anything significantly new to the classic formula.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Space Rogue Gameplay Review

I'm playing Space Rogue, a roguelike space adventure game by Red Beat.

The game shares a lot of similarities with FTL, offering the same basic gameplay and features: random maps, permadeath, high difficulty, ship management, and crew orders. Space Rogue feature quests, which are essentially scripted encounters with enemy ships and creatures. There are plenty of game options to tweak the difficulty, although the “easiest” setting is still quite challenging. Time is given to revisit past locations, and dynamic events can change game attributes slightly. The energy system has basically been removed, eliminating a strategic aspect of FTL, and the oxygen and medical bays have been combined into one precious location (which really causes problems when it is constantly targeted by the AI). Crew members can level up, improving stats and granting new abilities. Balancing the minor new features the game adds, oversimplifications in other areas negatively impact the gameplay, making Space Rogue an unnecessary tribute.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Le Havre: The Inland Port Gameplay Review

I'm playing Le Havre: The Inland Port, a turn-based strategy game by DIGIDICED.

The game features asynchronous online play and matches against a capable AI opponent. The objective is to accumulate victory points by owning buildings; buildings produce resources that are used to purchase more buildings. Each building card displays its initial cost, victory point value, and function; the interface needs to way to zoom out or display more cards at a time. Every turn, each player can either build a new building or use an existing one; building functions move goods counters in the warehouse in specified patterns. Buildings that have not been used in several turns provide more resources. While the gameplay mechanics are enjoyable, the interface limitations make Le Havre: The Inland Port an average adaptation of a good board game.

Thursday, September 08, 2016

Project Highrise Gameplay Review

I'm playing Project Highrise, a building management simulation by SomeSim Games and Kasedo Games.

The game features challenging (without being unfair) scenarios and a more free-form sandbox mode. The skyscraper can be designed by placing new floors, stairs, elevators, storage rooms, power and phone lines, offices, apartments, stores, and art. More sophisticated clients bring in more rent, but also require more services to be placed in the basement, using up precious space and money. Consultants can also be hired to take advantage of building prestige, influence, and buzz. Balancing the budget while steadily expanding is a demanding task that requires forethought and planning. Project Highrise is a compelling management game with thoughtful scenarios, engaging mechanics, and just enough options for expansion to keep interest levels high.

Friday, September 02, 2016

The Curious Expedition Gameplay Review

I'm playing The Curious Expedition, a roguelike adventure game by Maschinen-Mensch.

A historical figure is selected to lead expeditions to randomly generated regions around the globe, searching for the elusive Golden Pyramid. Equipment can be purchased for the arduous journey, and party members have varied attributes that can both benefit and hinder the entourage. With each movement around the map, sanity is lost, regained by resting or eating food. Various locations are revealed with exploration, which can be ransacked for treasures (upsetting the natives). Offering favorable trades at a village will lower native hostility. A limited inventory makes juggling supplies and treasures challenging. Animals also roam the lands; a combat encounter involves turn-based dice rolls that grant attacks and defenses. After a successful expedition, treasures can be sold for cash (in order to purchase equipment for the next mission) or exchanged for fame points (used to determine the victor after six expeditions). While it is fun to explore the unknown, randomized maps, engaging friend and foe, finding space for treasures, and simply not dying, the same events and locations are recycled across missions, increasing repetition. The Curious Expedition features a great theme with engaging but repetitive gameplay.

Monday, August 29, 2016

Worms W.M.D. Gameplay Review

I'm playing Worms W.M.D., a turn-based strategy game by Team17.

The newest entry in the venerable Worms series includes training missions, campaign scenarios, challenges, local multiplayer skirmishes on random maps, and online ranked and unranked matches. Customizing the team comes with fewer options than before, although the game rules can be tweaked multiple ways. The same general gameplay survives, but several significant new features are present. First, weapons can be crafted, either from parts taken from crates or from existing weapons that are dismantled. This allows for new or more powerful versions of weapons to be created, and allows for some adaptation to the current game situation. Buildings can be entered, which protect and hide worms from the enemy. Vehicles are also new, with rocket cars, tanks, and helicopters able to grant fast movement and mobile attacking. Finally, stationary turrets give additional firepower to the battlefield. All of these new features can be disabled in the game rules, so they are completely optional. The AI is a capable opponent on higher difficulty levels. With meaningful additions to the game mechanics, Worms W.M.D. is the best version of the turn-based strategy series to appear in years.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

SkyBoats Gameplay Review

I'm playing SkyBoats, a turn-based strategy game by BrainGoodGames.

The goal is to earn victory points by selling goods at specific cities before time runs out. The game features randomly generated maps; successfully completing a map results in the next round being more difficult (usually a higher victory point requirement). The interface is decent, although an indication of which cities demand certain goods could be more clear. Goods stored in each cargo hold can be used once to place wind patterns on the map that aid with movement (both saving fuel and providing an income bonus when used frequently). Empty cargo holds can also provide other powers each turn (such as additional fuel). In each city, credits earned from selling goods can be used to spawn new goods, purchase ship upgrades, refuel, or sign lucrative contracts. Ending each turn allows for every cargo hold to be used again. Successfully placing cooperative wind patterns and seeking out the best goods is the key to success. With approachable game rules and random maps that increase replay value, SkyBoats is an interesting turn-based game with multiple layers of strategy.

Monday, August 22, 2016

F1 2016 Gameplay Review

I'm playing F1 2016, a racing simulation by Codemasters.

The game features an enhanced career mode that takes place over ten seasons. Specific race goals are dependent on the strength of the team, and driver rivalries develop over time. A very neat feature is practice objectives: performing specific tests (like learning the track, conserving tires, or going on a qualifying run) will earn research points that can be spent on upgrading car parts. It is a welcome feature that gives a purpose to practice other than simply turning laps. In addition to the career mode, single seasons, quick races, time trials, and online multiplayer with full twenty-two car fields are available. A number of minor new features (the Azerbaijan street circuit, new Haas team, a formation lap, manual race starts, manual pitting, and the safety car) are also added for this year’s version. Racing physics are plausible, including tire wear, handling, and damage. Driving assists can be adjusted to support a wide range of player abilities, and flashbacks can be used to rewind time if needed. AI drivers are appropriately aggressive. F1 2016 is a slick, feature-complete simulation perfect for the racing aficionado.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Meridian: Squad 22 Gameplay Review

I'm playing Meridian: Squad 22, a real-time strategy game by Elder Games, Headup Games, and Merge Games.

The single-player only sequel has a campaign with a decent story and difficult missions featuring lots of enemies. A series of skirmish games comprises the planetary conquest mode, and short squad missions are also available. The interface does now show idle worker units, but it sometimes indicates units are idle when they are simply pausing to collect resources. It is difficult to tell the difference between friendly and enemy units at a glance, and units sometimes do not engage enemies just outside of range. The economics has the same three resources, and general strategy involves the same generally inflexible (because of the resource requirements) build order, although a larger quantity of units is available.  Outside of slightly improved graphics, a new campaign, and the conquest mode, Meridian: Squad 22 is the same real-time strategy experience.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Frozen State Gameplay Review

I'm playing Frozen State, a  roguelike survival game by Flox Studios.

The game takes place in a cold realm populated with hostile creatures. Randomly generated buildings and loot add replay value and a little bit of luck. The interface could be improved: while using multiple information screens (such as the map and crafting) simultaneously is a nice feature, there are confusing limitations on what can be interacted with in the game world. The camera and movement controls are very sluggish and limited, and the item list could also use more filters. In addition to dealing with hostiles, characters must keep warm, eat, drink, and rest. Some multi-step crafting recipes are present, so repetitive scavenging for resources is required. Combat is tedious and boring, with a lack of blocking and dodging. Frozen State has an intriguing setting for a survival game, but it is hindered by poor controls, a substandard interface, and bland combat.

Monday, August 08, 2016

Axis Football 2016 Gameplay Review

I'm playing Axis Football 2016, an American football simulation by Axis Games.

The game features quick matchups against the AI or in coaching mode (where only plays are called); games can be customized according to weather conditions and quarter length. A simple franchise mode consists of twelve games against randomized opponents (that can repeat with no rhyme or reason). Mod support is strong, with easily editable rosters, uniforms, and logos. An improved user interface makes calling plays look and perform better. Updated graphics and improved (though still repetitive) commentary are also new this year. There are only eight plays for each formation (a slight improvement over last year’s six), but hot routes make for more flexible options. Mouse-based passing remains engaging, where a portion of the field is aimed at instead of a specific player. Kicking controls are improved and appropriately difficult. Axis Football 2016 lacks a play clock (time runs down a specific amount between plays) and does not have player fatigue, eliminating substitutions during a game. The simulation is much better this year, resulting in more plausible results. In short, Axis Football 2016 is a vast improvement over last year’s iteration.

Thursday, August 04, 2016

Lovely Planet Arcade Gameplay Review

I'm playing Lovely Planet Arcade, a first-person shooter by QUICKTEQUILA and tinyBuild Games.

The game’s levels are divided up into four acts, which gradually introduce more complex enemy types. Levels cannot be skipped if they prove to be too difficult, and the game also lacks a level editor. Like the original first-person shooters, Lovely Planet Arcade does not have any vertical aiming, instead relying on precision timing and aiming to dispatch enemies quickly and efficiently. Most levels have a designed solution regarding whom to engage and in which order, so a majority of the game is learning what that order is. Different enemy types may come with special abilities (like pausing time or warping location) that must be used to advance to the next level. Lovely Planet Arcade is a generally effective, straightforward, and difficult skill-based retro shooter.

Tuesday, August 02, 2016

Concealed Intent Gameplay Review

I'm playing Concealed Intent, a turn-based strategy game by Jarrah Technology.

The game features a 17-mission campaign of fairly challenging scripted scenarios; ship items carry over from mission to mission, so losing a lot of equipment will add difficulties later on. A robust skirmish mode includes multiple game rules and custom ship loadouts for high replay value. Online games are also available. Concealed Intent features a great interface that makes it easy to find ships in the 3-D maps. A list of all friendly and sighted enemy ships can be used to find and target specific vessels, while off-screen ships are indicated with arrows. Orders can be issued with hotkeys or the mouse. Graphs show weapon effectiveness over range, and clear hit chances are displayed. The gameplay focuses on scanning and identifying enemy ships, while preventing detection of your own. Every action (moving, shooting, scanning) increases a ship’s signature, which makes it easier to the enemy to identify it. Thus, deciding which actions to perform each turn and when to use countermeasures to decrease ship signature is key. Probes and drones are the preferred method of scouting for the enemy, allowing for your ships to reveal and engage later. The turn-based gameplay gives you time to think. The AI is decent, although it seems to “give up” easily and stop moving before it is defeated. Concealed Intent is a very effective turn-based strategy game, thanks to its feature set, ship ability variety, and detection-based gameplay.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Defect Gameplay Review

I'm playing Defect, a spaceship design action strategy game by Three Phase Interactive.

The single-player only game features a branching campaign of repetitive missions where you must design a ship to defeat a series of enemies followed by the last ship you designed. Components for the energy core, crew, hull, engine, wings, weapons, and other accessories can be freely attached, scaled, or rotated in 2-D. Controlling the ship is performed using the WASD keys. While the crew automatically fires weapons, camera control is very inconsistent and it is difficult to aim precisely. You can take direct control of a component to repair it or improve the stats, but this usually leaves the ship vulnerable in other aspects. Scrap dropped by defeated vessels can be used to repair. AI ships is good enough to act as capable adversaries. Although Defect has a very novel concept, monotonous mission design and a cumbersome control scheme reduce enjoyment.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Soviet Monsters: Ekranoplans Gameplay Review

I'm playing Soviet Monsters: Ekranoplans, a flight simulator by Santa's & Co. and Merge Games.

The game includes twenty-seven single missions (all of which are unlocked) and an extraneous career mode with the same exact missions. Between each scenario, crew can be hired and items required for mission completion can be purchased through a tedious process. Missions can’t be saved and there is no time acceleration, resulting in lengthy real-time scenarios. A terribly brief tutorial and a lack of an in-game options menu round out the barebones features. Ekranoplans don’t actually fly: rather, they cruise along a few feet above the water, resulting in a boring simulation with sluggish controls and uninspired, repetitive combat. A general lack of polish permeates throughout the title. Despite a very unique subject, Soviet Monsters: Ekranoplans is a terrible simulation.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Crush Your Enemies Gameplay Review

I'm playing Crush Your Enemies, a real-time strategy game by Vile Monarch and Gambitious Digital Entertainment.

The game features two campaigns that gradually introduce new units and game mechanics. Each scenario is finished quickly (under five minutes, typically), and achieving specific side objectives will allow further missions to be played. Crush Your Enemies does have online multiplayer but lacks skirmish games against the AI. The interface was designed for mobile devices and doesn’t take advantage of the mouse; splitting armies is particularly cumbersome, as mouse wheel input is ignored. Each unit has a different purpose: simpletons gather resources and recruit new units, warriors use melee attack, archers attack from range, shield bearers deflect arrows, scouts move quickly, and wizards buff surrounding units. Ground tiles owned by the enemy must be converted to your side first, preventing surprise attacks. In the second campaign, food and wood must be gathered to recruit new units and capture buildings. Grouping more units together will perform tasks faster; Crush Your Enemies involves interesting tactical decisions regarding where to send units and how many to send. Crush Your Enemies has some intriguing mechanics but lacks the replay value required for long-term enjoyment.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

BOID Gameplay Review

I'm playing BOID, a real-time strategy game by Mokus Games and tinyBuild.

Online multiplayer and skirmish games are both free; purchasing the game grants access to the fairly standard campaign mode. There is a map editor, but no randomized maps (there are plenty of maps included, though). The interface could be improved: tool-tips appear entirely too slowly, counters are not indicated on the aforementioned tool-tips, the minimap is useless, and you can’t zoom in or out. Units are unique in appearance, although they fall into general categories (fast, ranged, healer). There are hard counters in the game for the basic units (guns beat crabs beat scouts beat guns) and turrets that can be captured to freeze, fight, or revert enemy units to their basic form. Units auto-attack while moving, but do not move as a group, resulting in a lot of micromanagement. Difficulty in managing units is compounded by the fast pace of the game; typically, one wrong move (such as losing a large battle, or losing units to a neutral location) is enough to do you in, as the AI is adept at the mechanics. While the campaign isn’t really worth the cost, those who can handle simplified, fast-paced real-time strategy games have nothing to lose in downloading the free skirmish and multiplayer modes.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Anarcute Gameplay Review

I'm playing Anarcute, a riot action game by Anarteam.

The single player game features four cities unlocked in a linear progression; Anarcute has low replay value as solutions are largely predetermined due to obstructions and it lacks procedurally generated levels. Boss battles are particularly tedious and difficult. Controls are better performed with a gamepad, for which the game was designed. The mob can be moved around, and they automatically pick up objects that can be thrown at adversaries. In addition, nearby enemies can be melee attacked, pushed away, or ran past. Continual attacks lead to super dashes or stomps, while powers are unlocked by increasing the crowd size. Enemies are typically too numerous to attack in a straightforward manner; instead, special abilities must be utilized. Anarcute has a unique premise, but features linear, tedious levels.

Poly Bridge Gameplay Review

I'm playing Poly Bridge, a bridge construction simulation by Dry Cactus.

The game features a 105-mission campaign mode with scenarios of good variety, thanks to the event system that triggers hydraulics (for drawbridges), ships, cars, and planes. Missions can also rely on “unrealistic” bridge structures like ramps and loops, further increasing diversity. Missions may also introduce checkpoints that require cars to pass through or turn around at specific locations. While scenarios are difficult, any mission can be freely skipped. A scenario editor and Steam workshop support are also included for even more content. The interface is done well, with the ability to copy-and-paste existing bridge designs and easily make arcs. Different materials (road, wood, steel, hydraulics, rope, cable) are used to construct each bridge, sometimes in limited supplies. Red static joints are used to fix the bridge to its surroundings, while split joints (formed by double-clicking) are used for draw bridges. The physics simulation is plausible. The elaborate event system, along with the ability to create multiple solutions, makes Poly Bridge stand out.