Friday, June 30, 2017

Star Fleet Armada: Rogue Adventures Gameplay Review

I'm playing Star Fleet Armada: Rogue Adventures, a space exploration adventure game by Blue Blaze Gaming.

Taking place in randomized galaxies with an ultimate foe at the end of the stars, each of the races offers slightly different attributes and bonuses. Each solar system is chock full of planets, asteroids, nebulae, comets, stars, and anomalies that are explored through mini-games called encounters; these are short (which helps to counter their repetitive nature), not tedious, and challenging later in each game. Each encounter rewards resources that are used to trade for cash and upgrade ships. Ships can be equipped with varied components and increased in size to handle larger foes. Research points are used to unlock higher fleet stats, which are required to access encounters (and also provide buffs along the way). Pausible combat utilizes equipped items and weapons and is fairly intriguing. Diplomacy is bare (though it is not a focus of the game): races with good relations can be traded with, but there are no agreements other than shooting things. The interface looks archaic but actually presents information in a mostly intuitive manner, once you get past the initial learning curve. Despite appearances, Star Fleet Armada: Rogue Adventures adds interesting, somewhat varied mini-games and a lot of detail to a space exploration outline.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Carrier Deck Gameplay Review

I'm playing Carrier Deck, an aircraft carrier management simulation by Every Single Soldier and Slitherine.

The game features a campaign mode with scripted encounters (you’ll see the same events at the same time in each mission), a survival mode against increasingly more difficult threats, and randomized quick games. The interface allows you to control inbound and outbound aircraft, make missions to search and engage the enemy, and move aircraft around the carrier. There are some minor limitations: time-consuming and imprecise long-pressing is used to arm aircraft  (instead of right-clicking), and incoming threats could be easier to see on the display. Depending on the type of aircraft, planes and helicopters can be instructed to scan and destroy air, surface, submarine, and ground threats. Gameplay involves moving the aircraft around, rearming them for the next mission, performing repairs, and generally keeping things from running into each other. Missions must be completed in the order they are created, which makes a fast-moving incoming hostile problematic when three other missions are already in the queue. Aircraft can be armed in advance, which does reduce panic when multiple threats arrive simultaneously. Carrier Deck takes the click management game into a unique, stressful setting.

Monday, June 26, 2017

Blitzkrieg 3 Gameplay Review

I'm playing Blitzkrieg 3, a real-time strategy game by Nival.

The game features three campaigns (Russia, U.S., Germany) that take place on a global map. Heavily scripted missions against superior enemy numbers typically involve capturing locations or destroying specific units, and are difficult in nature. You are given some flexibility in choosing units, as new recruits are earned following victories. Research can also be conducted between missions to improve stats. Skirmish games against the AI or online are also available, but only on five different maps. Blitzkrieg 3 has the typical units (infantry, tanks, anti-tank), plus off-map artillery and air support. Assaulting buildings with infantry is mildly interesting (units duke it out indoors), and powerful units can be countered with the appropriate opponent. Games progress at a fast pace (befitting of the game’s title) and units are generally fragile, especially infantry. The AI is decent at the game on higher difficulty settings and definitely benefits from superior numbers and its initial defensive placement on the map. In the end, Blitzkrieg 3 lacks that new, defining feature to set itself apart from all the other real-time strategy games.

Thursday, June 08, 2017

DiRT 4 Gameplay Review

I'm playing DiRT 4, a racing simulation by Codemasters and Deep Silver.

Covering three off-road disciplines (rally (including historical cars), land rush (trucks and buggies), and rallycross), the game features a flexible career mode where you don’t need to pass specific events in order to progress (as in DiRT 3) or even finish on the podium, as simply completing a championship will count towards unlocking the next set (winning gives you more money, however). Money earned during races can be spent on new cars (you can drive any car at any time, but using loaned vehicles results in giving half of the earnings to the owner), hiring staff to improve repair times and sponsor options, and shop upgrades to unlock better parts and a larger garage. Additionally, DiRT 4 features online challenges (as in DiRT Rally), real-time multiplayer in any racing form, a “joyride” mode with time and smash (run into yellow barriers) attacks, and freeform events that take advantage of the track generator. Five regions are available for rallying including tarmac, snow, gravel, and dirt surfaces; the procedurally generated tracks are extremely convincing, giving DiRT 4 a high amount of replay value. Having random tracks that nobody has seen before is also fitting for the “unknown” nature of rally driving. The game also includes two handling modes (“gamer” and “simulation”) that both perform well; I use gamer mode for rallycross and land rush mods, while preferring simulation for rally. The damage model is still disappointingly unrealistic: flipping 5 times results in body damage that can be repaired in three minutes between stages (though car performance is noticeably affected while damage is present). The AI performs well in the competitive modes, driving aggressively and producing compelling racing. DiRT 4 is a must-have racing title thanks to infinite replayability through the track generator and multiple handling modes to appeal to all aspiring drivers.

A-Train Classic Gameplay Review

I'm playing A-Train Classic, a railroad management simulation by Artdink and Degica.

Based on A-Train 3D, released for the Nintendo 3DS, the game features a large number of lengthy scenarios; you can create custom missions, but only if you complete the typically difficult objectives in three scenarios. There is a large amount of dialogue in the game (especially in the tutorial) that must be clicked through to advance; this leads to inadvertent mis-clicks and overall monotony. In addition, placing objects in the game can be imprecise (especially laying track) and results in a lot of do-overs. A-Train Classic has a fairly sophisticated simulation and gives a lot of information, but lacks truly useful data, such as where cargo and passengers need to actually go and where high demand lies. Trains, buses, trucks, and streetcars can be purchased, along with their respective stations and tracks. If multiple stations are positioned on the same path, however, all vehicles assigned to that path must visit every station (changing the order of station visits, or even simply skipping a station, is not allowed): a very strange restriction. Other tasks include purchasing land, buying businesses to increase customer use of your stations, researching projects, and buying and selling stocks. Still, odd limitations and a less than helpful interface make A-Train Classic difficult to recommend.

Friday, June 02, 2017

Life is Feudal: Forest Village Gameplay Review

I'm playing Life is Feudal: Forest Village, a city management simulation by Mindillusion and Bitbox.

The game takes place on randomized maps where survival is the goal. Raw resources can be collected from the surrounding area, but more permanent buildings are preferred for long-term stability. Additional structures are used to store goods, produce food, manufacture items, and provide defenses. Explorers can be sent out from port to discover new crops and animals. Production chains are straightforward, usually involving one or two steps to produce a specific item. Town growth is only accomplished through children being born in houses with spare room (there is no immigration in the game), and keeping large stocks of food and firewood for the winter is the primary goal (along with the occasional random event). Assigning workers is straightforward using the interface, and icons usually appear to indicate troublesome conditions. You can take direct control of villagers and use their special abilities, although the appeal of this is limited. While Life is Feudal: Forest Village is not a bad game, it is very similar to Banished in many aspects, and is difficult to recommend to those familiar with that particular title.