Thursday, May 18, 2017

Endless Space 2 Gameplay Review

I'm playing Endless Space 2, a turn-based 4X space strategy game by Amplitude Studios and SEGA.

The game features customizable galaxy options, truly varied factions, and a stylish interface. Stars are connected by lanes, which allows for chokepoints to develop; arduous movement can be performed between detached constellations. Exploration ships can probe curiosities on planets, uncovering special resource bonuses or other loot. Colonization involves placing an outpost first, which eventually grows into a full colony. Planets may already be colonized by minor civilizations, whom can be traded with or assimilated into your empire. Cooperative and competitive events also appear, giving side objectives to achieve during empire growth. There are five resources in the game: food (for population growth), industry (for production), dust (cash), science (for research), and influence (for laws and diplomacy). In addition, there are strategic and luxury resources that are used for specific ship components and trade, respectively. Buildings are shared among each planet in a system, which enhance the default resource production attributes for each world. Each race in the game also gives different bonuses applied to each planet. The research tree offers many options; unlocking a scientific era (by researching a specified number of technologies in a category) grants bonus abilities. Heroes can lead a system or a fleet of ships, and unlock skills with experience. Every twenty turns, there is an election which drives a political party into power; this determines which laws are available across the empire. Diplomatic options between factions are typical. Custom ship design is straightforward (simply drag-and-drop attack, defense, or support modules where allowed) and tactical combat is automated. The AI plays the game well enough, though online play is also available. Overall, Endless Space 2 offers acceptable improvement in the series.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Bounty Train Gameplay Review

I'm playing Bounty Train, a locomotive management action game by Corbie Games and Daedalic Entertainment.

The game features a campaign mode that offers story-based missions and a more freeform sandbox mode. Access to new cities on the map of the Eastern United States is gained by purchasing them; money is primarily earned by transporting passengers, mail, and goods to specific locations, though goods can also be shuttled between destinations for a tidy sum. Money can also be used to upgrade your train, purchase guns, and hire characters to defend against attacks. The tactical battles are similar to FTL, and they become more interesting when special abilities have been unlocked through experience. Although the game can get repetitive (modest profits make for a lot of grinding), the setting and premise of Bounty Train is engaging.

Thursday, May 04, 2017

Dawn of Andromeda Gameplay Review

I'm playing Dawn of Andromeda, a real-time 4X space strategy game by Grey Wolf Entertainment and Iceberg Interactive.

The game features a number of scenarios on pre-designed maps and custom games in randomized galaxies. Each race has slightly different attributes that may alter the general strategy of each match. The interface is a mess: ship and planet lists are both full-screen, making it entirely too difficult to select and issue orders quickly. In addition, there are too many pop-up notifications (the frequency of which cannot be customized), no main screen indication of idle ships (and the ship list says vessels are idle when in fact they may be colonizing or mining), and auto-exploration of two separate ships is uncoordinated. Step one is to explore the galaxy with scouts, revealing colonizable planets, items that can be surveyed (like in Stellaris!), and mining locations. Planet management is almost entirely automated: simply choose which fields (food, population cap, research, defenses, production) to invest extra cash into, and the stats improve on their own. Characters can be assigned to the council for empire-wide bonuses (like in Stellaris!) or to specific worlds as a governor. Policies can be adapted as well. Technologies, artifacts, and foreigners can be studied (like in Stellaris!) through research, and trade of valuable goods can bring in extra money. Diplomatic options are typical, but features vague feedback on why a deal was not accepted. The AI is passable, but combat is uninteresting once war is declared. Dawn of Andromeda is held back by its woeful interface and features stolen from better games.

Monday, May 01, 2017

Tank Warfare: Tunisia 1943 Gameplay Review

I'm playing Tank Warfare: Tunisia 1943, a real-time strategy game by Graviteam and Strategy First.

The game features three campaigns (one short and two main ones, one for each side) set in the sands of Tunisia. Units are moved around on the campaign map, which then spawns battles (which cannot be automatically simulated) when opposing units get too close. Quick battles can be made by placing units in the battle editor, and smaller tutorial scenarios are also included. The interface is identical to Graviteam Tactics: Mius-Front: a lot of information with tons of icons and a bit unwieldy. Basic orders can be given to individuals and groups of units (move, fast move, covert move, march, recon, attack, assault, and defend), or further customized with formation density, smoke use, and other attributes. Specific tactical behaviors can also be issued (hold fire, unload units, fire in a direction), but the AI does a pretty good job micromanaging the units, choosing appropriate targets and finding cover when necessary. The command level system prevents spamming of commands. Like its predecessor, the game is very realistic: weapon ranges, armor penetration, vehicle damage, line of sight (including out of windows in each vehicle), communication methods (wire, radio), and troop morale produce a very plausible battlefield. That said, Tank Warfare: Tunisia 1943 is more like an expansion to last year’s Graviteam Tactics: Mius-Front, with the same interface, game mechanics, and realism of the previous title, only set in a different location.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Shock Tactics Gameplay Review

I'm playing Shock Tactics, a turn-based tactical strategy game by Point Blank Games and EuroVideo Medien.

Essentially a clone of XCOM, the single-player game features leading a team of troops across an alien world, engaging hostile troops along the way. Base building involves spending resources earned by completing missions to unlock new equipment, level up soldiers, and heal more quickly between sorties. Missions typically do not allow any friendly troops to die (they can be rescued by other units, however); doing so results in immediate campaign failure, a devastating victory condition when random numbers and lots of enemies with superior weapons are present, The turn-based combat is typical for the genre: action points are used to move and shoot, or sprint across the terrain. Special abilities can also be used, and cover is needed to survive. Most game maps have large open areas with no cover and enemies are usually dug in in defensive positions behind cover. Luckily, the AI is really stupid and will constantly get out of cover and move around for no apparent reason; simply placing your stationary troops on “overwatch” behind cover is usually enough to win each match, Because of that, there is a lack of actual tactics in Shock Tactics, and you would be better served simply playing XCOM or Xenonauts instead.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Man O' War: Corsair Gameplay Review

I'm playing Man O' War: Corsair, a naval adventure game by Evil Twin Artworks.

Set in the Warhammer universe, the game features a single player campaign where you sail between ports populated by Skaven, Orks, Dwarves, Elves, and the like, with lots of AI ships wandering about. Most money is made by undertaking quests, which typically involve attacking a specific ship or taking something to another port; quests become repetitive very quickly. You can also trade goods for a source of minor income; items manufactured by a specific port are clearly indicated, making it easier to buy low and sell high. Money can be spent on repairing, upgrading, or purchasing new ships, hiring crew (whom level up and unlock new skills), or equipping people with better weapons. Combat is typical for the setting: sail with the wind to go fast (helpfully indicated in green on the compass) and fire cannons off the side of the ship (the range of which is helpfully indicated with a giant red arrow). Ammunition types can be changed (grape shot for enemy crew, chain shot for sails), and other ships can be boarded for hand-to-hand and ranged combat. Combat is usually very enjoyable, and the AI provides a typically capable opponent. The Warhammer setting doesn’t offer a lot more than a traditional age of sail adventure game (Orks and crazy looking ships notwithstanding) and the title has nothing to do with its tabletop namesake, but Man O' War: Corsair is still a strangely compelling game despite the occasional bugs.

Forts Gameplay Review

I'm playing Forts, a physics-based real-time strategy game by EarthWork Games.

The objective is to destroy the enemy fort. The game features a campaign mode that serves as a tutorial and contains somewhat scripted scenarios, a skirmish mode that lacks random maps, a more freeform sandbox mode, and online multplayer. Once the enemy reactor is destroyed, you win. Each structure may be made out of wood or armor, with doors and ropes offering other options. Metal (collected from mines) and energy (collected from wind turbines) are used to build everything in the game, including defensive shields and sandbags. The workshop, factory, and upgrade center unlock new weapons. Those weapons include machine guns (primarily used for defense), mortars, snipers, missiles, cannons, and lasers. Since machine guns automatically fire at incoming projectiles, getting past the line of defense is tough (snipers are intended to take out machine gun emplacements). Offensive weapons must be manually fired in real time, which takes away from base building too much; you also cannot set a weapon to continually fire at a specific power and trajectory, increasing the micromanagement. Any damage can be repaired by simply holding down the “R” key and moving the mouse around; this process is too quick and results in rapid recovery before a fatal blow can be levelled. Thus, most games drag out far too long. The physics are plausible and the AI is generally a skilled opponent. Forts is a fine concept, but a number of shortcomings in gameplay (defensive advantages, repetitive aiming, fast repair) hold back ultimate enjoyment.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

FlatOut 4: Total Insanity Gameplay Review

I'm playing FlatOut 4: Total Insanity, an arcade racing game by Kylotonn and Strategy First.

The game features a career mode with car purchases and upgrades; third-place finishes in each cup (a series of races on specific tracks) is required to unlock the next set. The FlatOut mode includes a mix of non-traditional game modes, and quick play and multiplayer modes are also available. In addition to traditional races, FlatOut 4 features assault races (with powerups), carnage races (where you score is based on damage caused), a variety of physics-based stunts (including long jump, high jump, golf, and curling), and destruction derby arena modes (including capture the flag). Causing destruction will award nitro, which can be used for quick bursts of acceleration. It is sometimes difficult to tell what is considered a “solid” object and what is not (Telephone poles? Destructible. Trees? Not). The handling is a bit loose, and there is occasionally questionable physics when hitting objects, causing spins that result in poor finishes. The AI is good enough for an arcade racer, piloting through each track appropriately and being aggressive with human drivers and other AIs. While not approaching the high mark set by FlatOut 2, FlatOut 4 is certainly a competent arcade racer and successfully eliminates the odorous smell left by FlatOut 3.

Wednesday, April 05, 2017

After the Empire Gameplay Review

I'm playing After the Empire, a space strategy simulation by Goatee Games.

The game features randomized maps populated by factions with different religions, cultures, and ideals. A significant portion of the strategy involves the initial faction customization options, ensuring to choose complementary attributes. Taking place in either real-time or turn-based modes, most of After the Empire is automated (namely ship and building construction), so a lot of the interaction involves choosing the next territory to invade and where to focus defenses. Construction can be focused on specific buildings in each territory, while tax rates and government policies can be altered. The AI plays the game using the same rules you do, and does a good job maximizing bonuses to increase production and income. After the Empire plays more like a simulation than a traditional strategy game, since most of the important decisions are made before a game has begun and a lot of the mechanics are automated. That said, it can be engaging once you comes to grips with the interface and simulation rules.

Monday, April 03, 2017

Day of Infamy Gameplay Review

I'm playing Day of Infamy, a first-person shooter by New World Interactive.

The games features cooperative missions, battles involving assault and defense, and location capture on ten very detailed maps online or against occasionally competent AI bots. Each side comes with the same classes: officers who use radiomen to call in airstrikes, assault troops with submachine guns, support troops with machine guns, flamethrowers, engineers with explosives, machine gunners with heavy weapons that must be used with the bipod on the ground or a surface, snipers, and regular riflemen. Weapons appear to be well balanced, with each option useful in a different situation. As in Insurgency, supply points are awarded in a single match to unlock attachments and more equipment, but reset each new game to give everyone even footing. Gameplay is much like Insurgency as well: a fast pace and quick deaths. Bolt-action rifles, small magazines, and long reload times do make Day of Infamy play more intensely than its predecessor, however. In the end, Day of Infamy does differentiate itself from Insurgency thanks to the map quality, class variety, and World War II-era weapons.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Old Time Hockey Gameplay Review

I'm playing Old Time Hockey, an arcade sports game by V7 Entertainment.

The game features a story mode that follows a local hockey team’s tale of redemption. Each match has objectives requirements (either learning controls or achieving specific statistics) that are ridiculously difficult to meet; this results in extremely frustrating matches that must be replayed over and over until you luck out and roll easier semi-random objectives. In addition, the advanced control scheme doesn’t unlock until you have progressed far enough in the campaign, restricting your options in the exhibition mode. An easy solution would be to remove mandatory objectives and simply reward any achievements with experience points (a mechanic already in the game). The game also lacks custom seasons and online multiplayer. The control scheme (designed for a gamepad) involves somewhat complicated procedures for shooting, passing, defensive maneuvers (hook, slash, check, block), and fighting; more simplified control schemes are also available (though the story mode requires the advanced controls to be used). Player movement in the game is satisfying, and the hockey itself is entertaining to play. Line changes are automated, and penalties are rare. Momentum may be gained by leveling the opponent three times in a row or gaining a power play, which allows for more powerful shots and hits. The friendly players lack intelligence on defense, although this is possibly by design. Despite the generally solid gameplay, frustrating mandatory campaign objectives cast a dark shadow over the rest of the title.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Afghanistan '11 Gameplay Review

I'm playing Afghanistan '11, a turn-based strategy game by Every Single Soldier and Slitherine.

The game features a series of campaign missions based on real-life events and a skirmish mode on randomized maps. The objective is to win the hearts and minds of the local population by destroying hostile units (militia and the Taliban), clearing IEDs, visiting villages, connecting towns to the road network, and providing UN aid. Units can be purchased using political points, including basic infantry, special forces (which can train units and scout rough terrain), MRAPs to transport infantry, the Buffalo to build stuff (roads, waterworks, FOBs), the Husky to detect IEDs, supply trucks to transport goods, and a variety of helicopters for fast but expensive movement. Each unit has a specific amount of action points available each turn, which are used to move and perform orders. Ending a turn outside of a friendly base of FOB spends food or fuel; units without these precious items are immobilized and destroyed. Entering a village with an infantry unit may gain intel on the position of enemy units, while recon drones, airstrikes, and emergency supplies may be deployed. FOBs can be constructed in strategic locations in order to extend supply lines and serve as a launching point for future offensives. Combat is straightforward with easy-to-decipher winning percentages displayed before the fight begins. Elections can provide useful bonuses if the “right” candidate wins. Afghanistan '11 is unique because of the asymmetrical nature of the gameplay, and the different ways of approaching each scenario give some strategic variety and replay value.

Battle for Orion 2 Gameplay Review

I'm playing Battle for Orion 2, a real-time strategy game by Infinite Loop Games.

The game features a campaign where the AI opponents are given progressively more systems to start with, increasing the difficulty. More fair randomized skirmish matches are available, and a map editor is available for a customized experience. The interface provides a handy system summary when zoomed out, while providing an appropriate amount of automation (resource gathering, unit production, attack and defense) to ease management of a large empire in real time. Each planet in every solar system can be surrounded by modules: refineries to collect metal, factories to produce ships, relays to increase the population cap, turrets for defense, and research stations for upgrades. Different planet types offer varied module bonuses. Ships can be somewhat organized into formations and will automatically attack nearby enemies, but friendly ships don’t prioritize threats appropriately. The AI is just OK and definitely benefits from having a resource income advantage in most campaign missions. Overall, Battle for Orion 2 offers a streamlined, fast-paced strategy game that still supports multiple strategies for victory.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Reflex Gameplay Review

I'm playing Reflex, a first-person shooter by Turbo Pixel Studios.

The game takes its inspiration from Quake, offering multiple game modes (1v1, 2v2, free-for-all, team deathmatch, capture the flag), mutators from Unreal Tournament (instagib, unlimited ammo, melee only), automatic map downloads through Steam Workshop, and matchmaking and a server browser. The fast-paced shooter features the usual gameplay style trappings, with double jumps, rocket jumps, and the like. Seven weapons (basic burst gun, shotgun, grenade launcher, plasma gun, rocket launcher, ion cannon, and bolt rifle) lack alternate fire modes but each serve a different role and can be effective. Health, armor, and damage bonuses can be picked up around the map. Occasionally capable bots are also present to practice against. While Reflex offers fine old-school gameplay, it doesn’t offer anything truly innovative to expand upon the formula established by Quake.

Wednesday, March 08, 2017

X-Plane 11 Beta 13 Gameplay Review

I'm playing the Beta 13 of X-Plane 11, a flight simulator by Laminar Research.

Several notable new features highlight the latest release of the venerable flight simulation. First, a set of interactive tutorials (called “Flight School”) teach the basics of flight; additional tutorials covering the idiosyncrasies of each included aircraft (namely their differences in how autopilot and GPS are handled) are needed. Three new aircraft are included and all planes have 3-D cockpits and IFR support; plentiful additional planes can be downloaded and imported. Most notable is the vastly improved interface, complete with resizable and movable GPS and ATC displays. Better scenario selection options are present, and a searchable list of controls is immensely useful. Other improvements include improved regional scenery (like European roads and buildings), service vehicles are airports (that provide push back, baggage, and fuel), and improved sound design. More streamlined networking is included as well. A couple of minor bugs aside (namely ATC periodically forgetting about you and transparent taxi lines), which will most likely be fixed in future beta updates anyway, X-Plane 11 is a very worthy upgrade, more significant in scope than previous steps in the series.

Monday, March 06, 2017

Seasteader Gameplay Review

I'm playing Seasteader, a city management simulation by Cosy Goat.

The game features a campaign mode that offers different objectives (income, population) for each scenario and an open-ended sandbox mode. The interface is very basic, allowing for access to construction menus and trading values, with simple overlays for resource locations. There is a limited number of buildings to choose from that either gather resources (fish, sand, oysters, oil, fruit, cotton, corn) or process them into other things (glass, plastic, gasoline, alcohol). You will end up building the same general structures in the same order each time through, based on which specialized areas (sand or oil deposits) are available. Once you are able to export enough goods to offset your daily maintenance, expansion is easy. Eventually, entertainment structures must be built or people will start to leave. There are random missions that pop up occasionally, but they involve simply producing a set amount of a specific good. Despite the unique setting, Seasteader doesn’t offer enough gameplay variety or innovation to make it stand out.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Constellation Distantia Gameplay Review

I'm playing Constellation Distantia, a space adventure game by Skånerbotten.

The game features a very exposition-heavy, completely linear campaign with no replay value and only one saved position. The controls are initially confusing, as you are only able to pilot the shuttle jet and not the mothership. A lack of concrete distance markers makes it far too easy to inadvertently run into planets and asteroids. The gameplay consists of achieving very specific objectives in each system before moving on to the next (there are no side missions or jobs to complete), usually involving mining resources, flying to checkpoints on the map, engaging enemy vessels, restrictively trading with other ships (simply swapping resources instead of selling mined goods for a profit), and researching ship upgrades. Constellation Distantia lacks an open-world feel, and the restrictiveness of the campaign with no room for improvisation is not inviting.

Monday, February 27, 2017

911 Operator Gameplay Review

I'm playing 911 Operator, an emergency dispatch simulation by Jutsu Games and PlayWay.

The game includes both a career mode and free missions; real world cities can be easily imported into the game, a neat feature. Between missions, new equipment and personnel can be purchased. The job entails assigning police, EMT, and firefighters to emergencies around the map; scripted calls require some work in determining the location and severity of each event. 911 Operator is quite challenging, due to the limited resources and number of simultaneous events that occur. The ability to play in any city around the globe is a very appealing feature in a generally acceptable management game.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

RimWorld Early Access Alpha Gameplay Preview

I'm playing the early access alpha of RimWorld, a colony management simulation by Ludeon Studios.

The current alpha (version 16) features several initial starting conditions, three AI storytellers that guide how often hostile units and events occur, a brief tutorial (though in-game hints and notifications are present), and randomized maps on which to settle. Each colonist has a very particular set of skills for cooking, medicine, research, and the like, some of which they are passionate about and will gain experience for more quickly. Colonists automatically undertake tasks (if they are allowed to perform that specific job), including resource collection, construction, crop maintenance, moving goods around, and crafting things. Colonists also exhibit complex moods based on their traits and surroundings. Each settlement can include houses, stockpiles, kitchens, dining rooms, workshops to produce goods, hospital rooms for healing the sick, power turbines to generate electricity, research labs to unlock new options, and freezers to preserve food. Hostile enemies will invade, so defenses must be constructed (the game utilizes cover); prisoners captured after a raid can be incorporated into society or harvested for organs (among other options). Overall, the game is more approachable that a lot of colony management simulations but still features rather deep mechanics in several areas.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Winds of Trade Gameplay Review

I'm playing Winds of Trade, a maritime trading simulation by Hermes Interactive.

The game features randomly generated maps that add to replay value. Adjustable difficulty settings change the frequency of pirate attacks, and varied victory conditions are also supported. Each map is dotted by colonies that produce specific goods that can be bought, transported to other colonies, and sold for a profit (hopefully). In addition, ships can be purchased, upgraded, or repaired, and captains with different buffs can be hired. Trading prices fluctuate realistically with supply and demand, though the interface could show regional prices on the colony warehouse screen for less clicking back and forth. More money can be earned by completing contracts for specific goods deliveries and purchasing stock in corporations. When pesky pirates are encountered, you can try to escape or engage in underwhelming turn-based battles. Overall, Winds of Trade is a fairly standard trading sim, although the use of random maps does give it some extended life.

Thursday, February 09, 2017

BRUT@L Gameplay Review

I'm playing BRUT@L, a roguelike role-playing game by Stormcloud Games and Rising Star Games.

Taking its inspiration from old-school ASCII-based dungeon crawlers, BRUT@L features both single-player and cooperative modes of play in its procedurally generated dungeons (rooms are scripted but arranged randomly) with permedeath. A dungeon editor is also included for more customized death traps. The interface is designed for a gamepad (consoles are clearly the priority here), which makes navigating the game more limited than necessary on the PC. The protagonist can be moved around each level, melee attack, use weapons (once crafted), block attacks, and execute a special move. Lots of items can be picked up and used to regain health,  craft potions, or enchant items. Experience gained from smashing things is used to unlock new skills. Enemies are varied and offer different challenges. BRUT@L is a fairly standard roguelike differentiated by its theme, cooperative features, and map editing capabilities.

Monday, February 06, 2017

Sovereignty: Crown of Kings Gameplay Review

I'm playing Sovereignty: Crown of Kings, a turn-based fantasy strategy game by The Lordz Games Studio and Slitherine.

The game takes place on a single map where a realm and objectives (a storyline for that particular realm, or a conquest mode) are selected. The interface is quite average, making things like trading goods slightly more difficult than necessary. Provinces provide gold income that can be used to recruit troops or construct buildings. Special resources (like horses, wine, wool, crafts) are required to construct buildings and better units, so larger empires are heavily favored in the game. Armies consist of stacks of units (infantry, irregular, archer, cavalry, naval, or siege) of a set maximum quantity; gold income is plentiful enough to raise a large army quickly, but special resource restrictions inhibit the recruitment of better units by smaller empires. Research points can be used to unlock magic spells. Diplomatic options include trade, defensive treaties, alliances, declaring war, and espionage. Tactical battles are uninspired, while the AI seems to be a capable enough opponent. Sovereignty: Crown of Kings is a more simplified game than Dominions or Crusader Kings, and depth and replayability suffer because of that.

Friday, February 03, 2017

Eador: Imperium Gameplay Review

I'm playing Eador: Imperium, a role-playing turn-based fantasy strategy game by Snowbird Games.

This game improves little over Eador: Masters of the Broken World: just a new campaign and a couple of new units. Randomized maps give replay value, though multiplayer has been removed. Heroes lead armies around the map, gaining experience and items as battles are won. Spells can also prove to be useful during combat for magic-focused leaders. Most buildings are constructed in the stronghold, although the occasional structure can be placed outside of the starting castle to enhance resource income. Locations in each province can be explored for loot and experience, but usually are guarded by powerful foes. Tactical battles are uninteresting until magic gets involved, and the AI seems to be competent enough. As Eador: Imperium adds nothing of great value to the series and problems from the previous game remain (namely an extremely unbalanced early game), this entry into the Eador series can be skipped.

Wednesday, February 01, 2017

Minos Strategos Gameplay Review

I'm playing Minos Strategos, a turn-based strategy game by BrainGoodGames.

Utilizing a rank system that steadily increases difficulty with each victory, the objective is to capture locations before the enemy does. Each turn, one soldier can be moved or a new unit placed onto the map. In addition, a command card can be played to perform a special action (some combination of attack and unit placement), but only if soldiers are in a specified formation. Different enemies behave in varied ways, increasing the strategy required to be successful. Minos Strategos is a challenging strategy game that features a good variety of cards and enemies.

Monday, January 30, 2017

Warhammer 40,000: Sanctus Reach Gameplay Review

I'm playing Warhammer 40,000: Sanctus Reach, a turn-based strategy game by Straylight Entertainment and Slitherine.

Utilizing the Battle Academy engine, the game has two campaigns that pit the Space Wolves versus the Orks, consisting of a series of skirmish games with intermittent larger battles. Customizable skirmish games take place on randomized maps, and asynchronous online multiplayer is available. Units from the Warhammer 40,000 universe can move and fire each turn, deploying melee attacks, ranged fire, and area bombardment. Units can also guard an area and automatically fire on enemies that venture into their territory. Successful attacks will lower the enemy morale and make subsequent attacks more effective. The use of special unit abilities and terrain advantages (namely cover) are key. The AI is inconsistent (it sometimes ignores victory locations and routinely engages in battles it can’t win) but benefits from huge advantages in numbers. Warhammer 40,000: Sanctus Reach isn’t a completely new experience due to its obvious derivation from Battle Academy, but much like its predecessor, it is a solid enough turn-based strategy game.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Stars in Shadow Gameplay Review

I'm playing Stars in Shadow, a turn-based 4X space strategy game by Ashdar Games and Iceberg Interactive.

The game features reasonable varied factions and randomized maps supporting up to 12 players. The mechanics are standard for a 4X game: explore new systems, colonize suitable planets, place buildings to produce resources, construct a fleet of ships, and attack the enemies. Some minor differences: Food must be transported to colonies that lack it, and large quantities of metal (extracted from mines) is required to build ships. Also, each planet can only support a small number of resource-producing structures (based on physical size), so specialization is key to long-term success. A fairly open-ended technology tree allows for many research paths to be taken, and custom ship designs are possible. Diplomatic options are typical; influence is used to purchase agreements. Turn-based tactical battles arise when factions clash, and the AI plays well enough at the game to make it a decent challenge, though it could provide more meaningful feedback on diplomatic trades. Stars in Shadow is a fine 4X game that neither stands out nor has detrimental features.

Friday, January 20, 2017

Urban Empire Gameplay Review

I'm playing Urban Empire, a city management and political strategy game by Reborn Interactive and Kalypso Media.

In the campaign mode, you’ll lead a mayoral family from 1820 until (hopefully) 2020. Although the general mechanics play out the same each time, a large variety of events make each game slightly different. The main difference between Urban Empire and more traditional city builders is that most everything is put to a vote, so politics and relationships with parties matter. Districts are placed with zoning layouts, services, and infrastructure support. The city council must approve new districts through a vote; they also will vote on tax rate changes, modifications to existing districts, edicts, and service funding levels. Goodwill can be spent persuading parties to vote your way. A research tree contains inventions that unlock new services and edicts. Citizens have needs in several areas (such as social life, environment, health, and fun) that can be fulfilled by placing services. Urban Empire is a challenging game: it is difficult to consistently turn a monthly profit and still satisfy the needs of the citizens, and getting votes passed requires balance and skill. With an injection of meaningful political considerations, Urban Empire stands out as a city management game.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Siegecraft Commander Gameplay Review

I'm playing Siegecraft Commander, an action strategy game by Blowfish Studios.

Two campaigns provide the single-player content: exhausting missions with numerous enemies in opposite directions that spread forces too thin. Multiplayer on five maps is available in either  turn-based or real-time modes, but no skirmish matches against the AI (it appears the AI doesn’t actually know how to play the game, as the campaign missions rely solely on pre-scripted structures). Gameplay is unique, as buildings are placed by aiming and firing. Outposts are used to expand, and other structures are placed that produce troops, defensive weapons, or magical items. Buildings that are connected together can be destroyed by taking out the central hub, but troops cannot be instructed to move to a specific rally point. Siegecraft Commander has unique gameplay mechanics, but a lack of a skirmish mode and tediously designed campaign missions reduce appeal.

Thursday, January 05, 2017

Little Kingdom 2 Gameplay Review

I'm playing Little Kingdom 2, a real-time strategy game by Andreil Game.

The game features a campaign mode with unbalanced scenarios (many hostile factions), a robust skirmish mode with random maps supporting up to twenty-seven players, and four-player local multiplayer. The interface is simple (left-click and right-click only) and the game is played at a low resolution with no map zooming. The goal is to capture the opposing territory; borders are expanded by placing towers (which cost food), and more territory brings in more food. Towers enhanced with wood have a larger radius of influence and can capture more hexes. Successive structures of the same type are more expensive, so intermediate buildings that are no longer necessary should be removed. Special buildings can be placed to extract wood, stone, and iron, while markets can be place to trade goods and embassies will increase the rate of trade. Simple diplomacy is present: gifting items will increase relationships (though the quantity required is quite high) leading to alliances, while stealing resources will decrease them and lead to war. The game is fast (it is played in real-time, and resources come in quickly near the end of the game) and the AI is good at finding weak points in tower layout strategies. Little Kingdom 2 is an accessible, albeit rough, real-time strategy game with straightforward mechanics and a quick pace.

Monday, January 02, 2017

8-Bit Invaders Gameplay Review

I'm playing 8-Bit Invaders, a real-time strategy game by Petroglyph Games.

The game is brimming with various game modes: two campaigns featuring scripted missions, online cooperative missions, a multi-map domination mode where territories are invaded and new units unlocked through research, and skirmish games both online and against the AI. Factions from previous 8-Bit games can be used if purchased. The interface is decent, allowing for easy access to building and unit production, but limiting advanced actions like queuing varied units well in advance. Resources are automatically collected by harvesters, decreasing tedious micromanagement. Buildings produce or unlock units; placing more than one building of the same type will speed production, but keep units flowing out of the first structure (allowing for easier rally point management). Buildings also require power produced at plants, and resources are consumed as things are built instead of an up-front cost paid in full. Units consist of faster, lighter units and slower, heavy units, with a mix of air vehicles and support units. There is a very fast pace with many units produced rather quickly, resulting in massive, chaotic battles. The game doesn’t have the depth of some other titles, but at least the matches are quick. The AI is OK at the game, but more enjoyment is found with human opponents. 8-Bit Invaders is a feature-rich, approachable real-time strategy game.