Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Robot Arena III Gameplay Review

I'm playing Robot Arena III, a robot combat simulation by Gabriel Interactive and Octopus Tree.

The game features a career mode that is simply a series of bracket-style tournaments against AI bots. Strangely, once a tournament are finished, you cannot replay it again without joining another team and losing all of your robot designs. Exhibition matches against the AI and online events are also available. The bot lab needs more documentation, but it is a flexible method of creating a wide range of robots. Designs can be easily shared through Steam Workshop. Controls are assigned for each robot by the designer and can vary wildly. Camera controls are very poor, and the physics are inconsistent (sometimes hilariously so). The AI is just good enough to be a semi-intelligent opponent. If its shortcomings can be excused, Robot Arena III is a fairly entertaining simulation.

Friday, June 24, 2016

Space Run Galaxy Gameplay Review

I'm playing Space Run Galaxy, a ship design tower defense game by Passtech Games and Focus Home Interactive.

This sequel adds several multiplayer features: online players can offer custom challenges and trade proposals in addition to the more traditional scenarios the game presents. Goods must be transported between worlds (sometimes requiring intermediate stops along the way); a successful delivery is rewarded with credits and crafting materials that are used to purchase new weapons. The spaceport allows for custom ship layouts, but it’s not very flexible. The game mechanics remain the same: place weapons and items on the ship to fight off enemies, with minor micromanagement to rotate some weapons and use special abilities. Space Run Galaxy focuses on generally unnecessary multiplayer features and other minor upgrades that would have been better served as an expansion at half the price.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Feudalism Gameplay Review

I'm playing Feudalism, a turn-based strategy game by IV Productions and Merge Games.

The objective is to become the most powerful family in medieval Europe. Creating a new game can be done quickly or using a large number of customization options; multiplayer requires manually distributing a saved game file to the other players. The interface is absolutely atrocious: it is difficult to find units, select armies, see building queues, give orders, and identify idle buildings or units. With a potentially large kingdom to manage, having an inadequate interface kills the game. Three resources are produced at villages, which can be placed at plentiful locations on each of the regions of the game world. It is far too easy to have an abundance of resources, eliminating any interesting decisions involved in where to found new villages and what to build in those towns. The research tree is linear and uninteresting, as are the diplomatic options. Children can be assigned to concentrate on jobs throughout the kingdom (I’ll have my baby help with research!). The inaccessible, frustrating interface of Feudalism, along with a general lack of polish, overshadows any minor highlights the game has to offer.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Ground Breakers Gameplay Review

I'm playing Ground Breakers, a turn-based strategy game by United Indie.

The game features a number of different game modes: the campaign takes place on a world map where territory is captured and upgraded for increased income, scenarios are against a rival CEO and increase in difficulty, and the infinity mine allows for new parts to be unlocked. In the lab, robots can be crafted from parts scavenged from missions; however, an arbitrary “correct” combination of parts must be discovered using trial-and-error before unlocking a new bot. In addition, truly custom robots cannot be created: instead, pre-existing blueprints must be followed. Online multiplayer is also available. The objective of each match is to capture “tactic” points (which start hidden on the map) or eliminate enemy units. Each robot has different damage, range, speed, movement, and accuracy ratings, along with special abilities that can be unlocked and upgraded with experience during a match. Units do have a variety of uses and abilities, which increases the strategic options. While the game is nominally turn-based, “time points” are used so that units can move at different paces. The interface does a good job showing where units can move and where they could be under threat. The terrain can change during a match, providing new pathways while eliminating others. Destroyed units do respawn, although it takes some time and there is a respawn limit. The AI does a good job engaging vulnerable units and retreating injured ones. Ground Breakers has some interesting gameplay and multiple game modes, but an overall sense of inelegance and a lack of robot design flexibility hold the title back from mass appeal.

Friday, June 17, 2016

Last Days of Old Earth Gameplay Review

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

A spiritual successor to Armageddon Empires, the game features a campaign of skirmish games set on pre-scripted maps, where new cards are added to the player’s deck after each round. Skirmish games against the AI on randomly generated maps are also available, in addition to online multiplayer that is limited to 1v1. There are two slightly different factions in the game, and card decks can be customized for each. There are only a couple of generic starter decks, but making a new one is easy enough. The objective is to capture the enemy base. First, the two sides roll for initiative: whoever goes first gets more action points, so resources can be spent to increase the odds of moving first. Action points are used for recruiting units, moving units, creating armies, building stuff, and drawing cards. Resources are used to recruit units (heroes, units, facilities, and aircraft) and build structures (collectors gather resources while outposts extend supply and allow for unit recruitment). Map terrain can affect movement and combat odds. Units have varied abilities, while facilities grant passive bonuses and aircraft can scout and attack within a large radius from their base. Combat can be automatically resolved, or performed on a square battlefield, where units can use special abilities while attacking the enemy. While slightly improved since the beta, the AI still lacks aggression when they could cripple another side’s economy. Once one side gains a resource advantage, they can afford to win more initiative rolls, giving them more action points to recruit more units and gather more resources, creating an avalanche towards victory. That said, Last Days of Old Earth is still an engaging turn-based strategy game with a variety of minor shortcomings.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

SteamWorld Heist Gameplay Review

I'm playing SteamWorld Heist, a turn-based strategy game by Image & Form Games.

The single player game involves exploring procedurally generated levels, gathering loot and eliminating enemies. Between levels, weapons and items (such as armor and grenades) can be bought or sold. Units gain experience by completing missions and earn new abilities over time. Movement is turn-based: units can move and then shoot, or sprint to a more distant location. Placing units behind cover is important, as is using the different weapon types and special abilities. While the game was designed with a gamepad in mind, using the mouse works OK. Overall, SteamWorld Heist is a very approachable turn-based strategy game.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Captain Forever Remix Gameplay Review

I'm playing Captain Forever Remix, a spaceship building roguelike arcade shooter by Pixelsaurus Games.

The game features a campaign mode where difficulty increases as you progress across the solar system, and a sandbox mode where any of the last 5,000 ship designs can be tested out. Controls use the WASD keys to move and the spacebar to shoot, with the mouse reserved for ship design. Parts, such as bulkheads, abilities, weapons, and engines, can be easily joined together to create an innumerable variety of space-faring vessels. Designs can be improved on the fly or after finishing a level; the custom ship design mechanics are both enjoyable and strategic. Procedurally generated enemy ships also add an immense amount of replay value, each requiring different tactics to destroy the cockpit without harming items that could be incorporated into your design. Captain Forever Remix is an extremely difficult, unforgiving game, but high replay value and a distinctive theme make it a notable roguelike.

Friday, June 10, 2016

Turmoil Gameplay Review

I'm playing Turmoil, a petroleum business management simulation by Gamious.

The game features a campaign mode where upgrades can be purchased to speed production and oil transport, and a randomized skirmish mode. First step to successful petroleum exploitation is finding deposits by using a dowser, mole, or scanner. An oil derrick is then placed, and the pipes are manually drawn downwards, hopefully intercepting a large deposit. Horse teams can then transport the goods to factories and then sold. Prices fluctuate, so storing oil to sell back later is a viable strategy during economic downturns. While the game mechanics are unique, each round is very repetitive and limited in strategy once the basics are learned. While the setting of Turmoil is engaging, the mundane gameplay keeps the game from having long-term interest.

Wednesday, June 08, 2016

The Battle for Sector 219 Gameplay Review

I'm playing The Battle for Sector 219, a card-based strategy game by Large Visible Machine.

The game features online asynchronous multiplayer and skirmishes against the AI. Games are very quick (under ten minutes), and involve playing unit cards to take over the enemy base. The interface could be improved: cards are needlessly cramped together (which blocks important information) and it would be nice to see which tiles are currently supplied at a glance. Each card has different placement rules (whether they can be put in supply or not, and in which direction), attack directions, and support directions. A card immediately attacks if they are supported by another unit that is in the correct direction (except for artillery). These relatively simple rules still allow for varied strategies, coupled with the luck of drawing the right combination of cards at the right time. Still, improvements in the interface would make The Battle for Sector 219 a more accessible game.

Monday, June 06, 2016

Planar Conquest Gameplay Review

I'm playing Planar Conquest, a turn-based fantasy 4X strategy game by Wastelands Interactive.

Given free to owners of Worlds of Magic, the single-player game has several options for new games, including fairly robust sorcerer customization. The interface is improved in several places, but icons for resource locations has been replaced by a terrible surveyor tool, some map features lack tool-tips, and allies confusingly have red icons underneath their units. Early game exploration gives way to founding cities, which collect resources (gold, food, and mana) produced by citizens that are shared within the kingdom. New cities must be defended against powerful roaming neutral armies, which places a constant emphasis on recruiting units. Units with a variety of special skills are available, while heros can be equipped with items. Spell points are used to research new spells, improve mana income, or increase per-turn spell casting. Vague diplomatic options return: AI players will not tell you what it takes for them to accept a proposal. While the AI players are adept at the game, the turn-based combat lacks innovation. While it is slightly improved over Worlds of Magic, Planar Conquest still has several other issues and remains behind other fantasy 4X games.