Thursday, January 28, 2016

Homeworld: Deserts of Kharak Gameplay Review

I'm playing Homeworld: Deserts of Kharak, a real-time strategy game by Blackbird Interactive and Gearbox Software.

Serving as a prequel to the space-based Homeworld games, Deserts of Kharak features a fairly short campaign with mostly unskippable cutscenes where units carry over between missions. Limited skirmish and multiplayer modes only feature five maps for up to six players. The interface adapts the overview sensors manager, but has sluggish camera controls. The game also lacks repeating queues and tool-tips are slow to appear, although the game does indicate which enemy units are being engaged. Resources are used to produce units and unlock more advanced versions. A simple countering system is present, with strike, armored, ranged, missile, and air units each being effective against one other kind. The game does reward attacking from higher terrain and experienced units receive bonuses. While Homeworld: Deserts of Kharak is a potentially interesting adaptation of 3D space combat to a desert setting, the limited features, interface, and strategy prevents it from making a complete transition.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Draft Day Sports: Pro Football 2016 Gameplay Review

I'm playing Draft Day Sports: Pro Football 2016, a sports management game by Wolverine Studios.

The game supports both local and online leagues, with historical rosters available back to 1920 (although NFL league formats aren’t complete to accompany them correctly) and various rules for league format and finances. The usual options found in management games are available: free agency, draft, training regiment, and roster management. Adjusting the depth chart is tedious, as the same basic lineup can’t be copied for multiple formations. While strategic options are available to adjust run/pass percentage and preferred formation for different downs and distances, there is no play design. Game simulations are generally realistic, although there is no interaction at all during a game. In the end, Draft Day Sports: Pro Football 2016 is just an average sports management game with no outstanding features.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Tharsis Gameplay Review

I'm playing Tharsis, a turn-based survival strategy game by Choice Provisions.

The objective: get to Mars. The crew must scramble each turn to repair rooms and counteract ship damage and other negative events. Each room can provide different bonuses, from food production to ship repair and health increases. Each crew member has a class that determines their special ability, health, stress level (higher stress makes for worse decision choices), and dice supply (replenished with food). Dice are rolled in each repair event, used to simply repair the calamity, activate the crew member’s class ability or room module ability, or undertake research projects for instant benefits. Each repair mission can have hazards that will cause crew damage, locked dice, or lost dice if specific numbers are rolled; hazards can be automatically countered with assists. Tharsis excels in crisis prioritization: there are never enough crew to do everything, and placing the right combination of crew in the right rooms in the right order produces intriguing strategy. An interesting setting and compelling strategy makes Tharsis a distinctive, albeit very challenging, survival game.

Monday, January 11, 2016

Blood & Gold: Caribbean! Gameplay Review

I'm playing Blood & Gold: Caribbean!, a pirate role-playing game by Snowbird Games.

The game features both single player and multiplayer adventures where a designed character takes to the seas in search of riches. The campaign maps includes all of the important towns in the Caribbean, where different factions vie for supremacy. Each city includes a tavern where subordinate leaders can be recruited, a shipbuilder for purchasing or repairing ships, a market for trade, a mansion for missions, and a town hall to purchase and manage factories. Party members gain experience and earn upgrades through combat, which can take place both on land and in the sea. Terrestrial battles mirror those found in Mount & Blade, while naval combat is fairly traditional: movement using the wind to position cannons towards the enemy, with different types of shot available and boarding actions once crews have been diminished. Blood & Gold: Caribbean! feels and plays like a somewhat substantial modification of Mount & Blade (which it is), with all of the pluses (freeform living world) and minuses (many rough edges) that particular game engine entails.  

Wednesday, January 06, 2016

Militia Gameplay Review

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

The game features two game modes with slightly different rules, but the primary objective being to eliminate the enemy captains (indicated with stars). Each level is randomized, with different friendly units and initial enemy positions. Similar to chess, every unit has specific movement and attack rules, so gameplay involves planning out where the enemies might move (their movements are randomized within the rules set) and where friendly units can attack. The game can get quite difficult, and losing a match knocks the difficult level down too far, requiring several successful campaigns to compensate. Still, Militia is an engaging, straightforward turn-based strategy game.

Monday, January 04, 2016

SimplePlanes Gameplay Review

I'm playing SimplePlanes, an aircraft design simulation by Jundroo.

The game features a number of challenging modes where aircraft can be imported (using the Steam overlay) or designed from scratch in order to achieve the racing or combat objectives. A sandbox mode also allows testing of any aircraft. In the design mode, parts are attached together, including structural elements, wings, propulsion, landing gear, cockpits, and weapons. Most components can be reshaped and painted. The planes are flown in a bland island setting, with plenty of mountains to crash into. There is seemingly realistic physics involved in the game, and the relatively intuitive plane designer makes SimplePlanes an effective simulation with reduced complexity.