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.