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.