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.