Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Polaris Sector Gameplay Review

I'm playing Polaris Sector, a real-time 4X space strategy game by SoftWarWare and Slitherine.

The single-player-only game features some realistic galaxy arrangements and different races that, while providing varied starting attributes, don’t offer unique ships or technologies. Unique features include automated colonization and planet management where the AI determines buildings to construct based on the overall policy of the world. Six resources are shared between planets automatically, so individual worlds can be specialized. Research is innovative in that there isn’t a tree, just technologies that are continuously researched and can be prioritized. Customized ships can be designed using researched components, but more default ship ideas would be appreciated. Diplomatic options are generally basic, as is the real-time combat. Opposing AI players are usually good adversaries. While Polaris Sector is notable for its automation features and unique research, the game is not quite as engaging as other 4X titles.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Graviteam Tactics: Mius-Front Gameplay Review

I'm playing Graviteam Tactics: Mius-Front, a military real-time strategy game by Graviteam.

Sequel to Operation Star and Achtung Panzer, the game features a turn-based operational mode where units are moved around a strategic map and a tactical mode with real-time battles. There is a focus on realism, with historical orders or battle, topographically accurate maps, and true-to-life communication and ballistics. There are two campaigns (with different start dates) that can be played from either side, plus randomized or hand-crafted quick battles. There is online play, but IP addresses must be known beforehand. The interface gives a lot of information (paths and orders, line of sight, a radial right-click orders menu, a list of all units) but is confusing for new players. The operational mode is fairly basic (comparatively), with the main mechanic simply to move troops around and trigger battles. However, generals can prescribe reinforcement strategies for each unit. Most of the game is played in the real-time battles, where deployment positions and initial orders are given first. Units can be instructed to fire at will, halt, delay, defend, fire in a specific direction, move, march, fast move, covert move, recon, attack, assault, or defend; most of these orders can be further customized with specific formation and movement properties. The command level prevents spamming orders (it is essentially a cool-down timer for orders) and requires more careful planning. Units are modeled realistically, with morale, ammunition levels, communication support, stamina, and varied conditions (suppressed, panic). There is no micromanagement in the game, as actions such as choosing specific targets and taking cover is done automatically by the tactical AI. Off-map artillery and aircraft can be called in, and the enemy AI is varied in its approaches. While Graviteam Tactics: Mius-Front prides itself on realistic brutality, an obtuse interface makes it less accessible to more casual strategy gamers.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Battlestation: Harbinger Gameplay Review

I'm playing Battlestation: Harbinger, a space exploration game by Bugbyte.

While exploring randomized sectors, enemies are destroyed to earn resources to manufacture weapons, repair the ship, or upgrade existing components. Additional ships can also be recruited into the fleet, and completing missions grants additional rewards. Aiming is automated during combat, as long as the enemy is within range, so only ship positioning is important. Loot collection is also automatic. The redesigned interface (altered from the mobile version) is adapted well for desktop screens and mouse pointers. A difficult game, Battlestation: Harbinger uses roguelike mechanics to produce an initially engaging, but repetitive and not terribly deep, space exploration experience.

Friday, March 11, 2016

Obliteracers Gameplay Review

I'm playing Obliteracers, an arcade combat racing game by Varkian Empire and Deck 13.

The game supports up to sixteen players on the same screen; racers that fall too far behind the leader are eliminated. In addition, any internet-enabled device, such as a smartphone, tablet, or laptop, and act as an input device; while the phone controls could be improved, the ability to support so many players on the same machine is notable. Online play is also supported, and all local players can join the same online event. Four game modes are included: survival (last racer standing), knockout (rounds with one point per kill), endurance (continuous racing with one point per kill), and leader (first place earns all the points for kills). Obliteracers also includes lots of interesting modifiers to the game rules, and four maps with varied weather conditions. Games are very quick, as the focus is on shooting rather than traditional racing. Weapons can be picked up and cover a typical array of usage options. Shields can be used to block any incoming shots (at the expense of control) or absorb a weapon pickup to repair. The “floaty” physics means lots of racers are eliminated by falling off the tracks. Large chaotic races, adjustable game rules, varied racing modes, and support for alternative input devices make this combat racer really stand out.

Wednesday, March 09, 2016

Airship Asunder Gameplay Review

I'm playing Airship Asunder, a turn-based strategy game by Sally Rough.

The objective is to manage towns, recruit an army, and defeat the pirate king. The ship is an armed dirigible, capable of transporting goods and people and firing upon the enemy. Once a camp is formed, the surrounding eight squares can be used to produce food, wood, rock, iron, ammo, fuel, or mana. In addition, schools can be constructed to produce military-focused villagers. There aren’t enough squares around a single village to produce everything, so expansion is required. The interface is very unintuitive, and it is extremely difficult to find information quickly. Towns grow slowly, which is problematic because the enemy units are very aggressive at all times in the game. A lot of effort is spent swatting enemy forces from taking over villages, which can be difficult since ground and air units move at the same speed (one square per time unit), and the remaining time is spent tediously shuttling resources between towns and the ship. When enemies are encountered, different stances can be used in a simple countering mechanic. Airship Asunder has potentially interesting gameplay tarnished by an unwieldy interface and tedious gameplay mechanics.

Monday, March 07, 2016

Last Days of Old Earth Early Access Beta Gameplay Preview

I'm playing the early access beta of Last Days of Old Earth, a turn-based strategy game by Auroch Digital and Slitherine.

The game is a spiritual successor to Armageddon Empires, and shares a lot of the same gameplay mechanics and features. Using procedurally generated maps with different terrain types, an initiative roll (where excess resources can be spent to roll more dice) determines who goes first and gets an action point bonus. Action points are used to move units, recruit new units, and draw more cards. Extra action points can be used to purchase resources required to recruit units. Collectors gather resources from fixed locations on the map, and outposts extend the supply range of the empire. Hero units lead armies and build structures, while new units must be placed on an outpost or HQ. Turn-based battles determine the victors of combat. The game is currently functional and offers skirmish games against a functional AI and online matches, but future plans for Last Days of Old Earth include deck building, stealth mechanics, air units, and a campaign mode.

Friday, March 04, 2016

Life in Bunker Gameplay Review

I'm playing Life in Bunker, a management simulation by Flox Studios.

Sealed underground for 200 years, the goal is to survive. Rock is removed to make room for walls and the floor (which also places ceiling tiles). Electricity, water, and oxygen must be produced and then carried to the items that need it. Citizens are grown in the incubator and assigned a job when matured: worker, janitor, cook, engineer, farmer, or scientist. Each citizen has several needs to fulfill, achieved by using beds, showers, toilets, sofas, and exercise bikes. Food grown by farmers at designated locations is processed at the kitchen. Scientists can heal sick citizens at the infirmary or produce research points at a station, allowing for upgrades. Ore deposits can be mined for building materials. There are no complex resource chains or sophisticated requirements to build things or fulfill needs. Life in Bunker is a very simple management game, similar in style to space colonization sims, just underground.

Wednesday, March 02, 2016

Acorn Assault: Rodent Revolution Gameplay Review

I'm playing Acorn Assault: Rodent Revolution, a turn-based strategy game by High Tale Studios.

The game features a very repetitive campaign of twenty-five levels. The initial setups are very unfair, favoring the AI opponent by granting them superior numbers of units and defenses; it does not take long in the campaign to reach the point where the enemy advantage is too great to progress any further. Multiplayer games can occur both locally and online, but there are no balanced skirmishes against the AI. Each turn, a selection of basic units and defenses are drawn at random; placing three of the same type of unit next to each other will combine into one upgraded unit. This action also awards acorns, which can be spent on one-turn buffs to attack, defense, or base health. Strategies are limited due to the small roster of units available. Once one side has a numerical superiority, the game is over as it’s impossible to come from behind. As a bland strategy game with severe campaign balance issues and limited unit variety, taking part in the Rodent Revolution is not recommended.