Monday, July 31, 2017

Kingdoms and Castles Gameplay Review

I'm playing Kingdoms and Castles, a city building simulation by Lion Shield.

The game plays out on randomly generated maps at several difficulty levels (which adjusts the length of the growing season and the frequency of enemy invasions), but lacks a tutorial. The interface could be better: while tool-tips are plentiful, it is hard to find specific buildings. Basic resources (wood, stone, iron) are gathered from the map, while food must be grown at farms and orchards. More advanced structures require manufactured goods like charcoal and tools. Eventually, defenses and various services must be constructed to keep the villagers happy and safe. It can be easy to outgrow production, so steady growth is key to prevent an economic collapse. Overall, Kingdoms and Castles is an acceptable simplified city builder.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Epic Little War Game Gameplay Review

I'm playing Epic Little War Game, a turn-based strategy game by Rubicon Development.

The game features a series of scripted missions in a campaign that routinely gives superior numbers and defenses to the AI. Online and skirmish games are also present, with lots of maps available plus the ability to generate randomized ones (although you cannot customize the size of the map or the number of players while making it). The AI also gets a significant money advantage in skirmish games on any difficulty level beyond “easy”. Epic Little War Game tries to achieve a level of humor through its presentation, but I found it to be repetitive and unfunny. The interface is decent but lacks a “next” or “idle” unit indicator beyond the colored hex beneath each unit. The goal is to eliminate the enemy headquarters, using oil to purchase things and power to keep things running. Buildings include unit-producing structures and defensive turrets, allowing for infantry, vehicle, air, and sea attacks. Units can both move and shoot each turn (including moving, shooting, and moving again). Skirmish games become a race towards the center, building oil derricks along the way and placing unit-producing structures close to the enemy base because of extremely slow unit movement. Games also tend to drag due to high building health against most units and potent automated defenses; in addition, units that actually can destroy buildings can be easily and cheaply countered by a defender. There are some favored units (grenadiers and artillery) that offer powerful splash damage against all targets. The AI opponent is better in the campaign mode, constructing appropriate counter units, but utilizes the same general strategy in skirmish games (and loves power plants to a fault). While the randomized maps and simplified mechanics of Epic Little War Game are appealing, the slow gameplay, limited strategic options, spotty AI, and repetitive attempts at humor grow weary with successive play throughs.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Aven Colony Gameplay Review

I'm playing Aven Colony, a space colony building simulation by Mothership Entertainment and Team17 Digital.

The game features nine scenarios with numerous specific, helpful objectives to complete on the way towards ultimate victory; the same nine areas are used for the sandbox mode, as there are no randomized maps. The interface has a lot of information to display, and it does so through its plentiful overlays and data tables (with keyboard shortcuts to access specific screens). It can be difficult to tell the difference between minable resource locations and simple decorations. The basic resources to gather are food (grown at farms), water (extracted from the ground), electricity (made at power plants), and nanites (used to build stuff, converted from mined minerals). You’ll also have to keep an eye on the air quality (improved by placing filters), storage space, housing, and citizen happiness (place bars to get them drunk!). Structures must be placed within the range of a construction drone (other drones can fight alien infections or provide police protection), and tunnels connect all the buildings. Excess resources can be traded, additional technologies can be researched, and elections occur every so often (so you must keep happiness up). You can also explore the area outside the colony, although it’s simply ordering a ship on a static map to different waypoints. Aven Colony strikes a pleasing balance of difficulty, providing the user with enough tasks to keep busy and requiring constant supervision to maintain the delicate balance of the colony. The result is a compelling management game that only needs additional maps to further replay value.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Solar Settlers Gameplay Review

I'm playing Solar Settlers, a card-based space exploration strategy game by BrainGoodGames.

The goal is to colonize a randomized map within the eight turn limit. Colonists can explore new tiles around the map, collecting resources in a location once. Hydrogen is used to move, oxygen to keep colonists alive between turns, and metal to build stuff. Locations can also be developed using cards, which will grant new abilities (such as different resources, a production ability at the end of each turn, increased military value to allow for exploration further out, or habitat space). There is definitely strategy involved on where to move, when to move, which order to move in, which cards to use, which resources to spend,  which tiles to develop, and how to settle the system (focusing on the interior or expanding outward). Solar Settlers is an intriguing turn-based strategy game that is challenging, features randomized maps, and allows for layered strategies to attain victory.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Behold the Kickmen Gameplay Review

I'm playing Behold the Kickmen, an arcade sports game by Size Five Games.

The game features a career mode (where all the team names end in “United”) where you spend money, earned by scoring goals after making passes and tackles, on team-wide upgrades in skill. Quick custom games against the AI are also possible, though there is no multiplayer. Controls are performed better with a gamepad. Players move significantly slower with the ball, placing an emphasis on passing (though players can sprint for a limited time). Both kicks and tackles can be aimed, and tapping the tackle button again when near the ball will take possession. Dashing left or right is also available, though you are not able to manually switch players (which makes the game more challenging and exciting overall). This is not a serious depiction of the sport: there are no throw-ins, goalies barely get in the way, you score more points by kicking further out, extra time is added by running over clocks scattered on the field, and offsides penalties are given randomly (well, that part is realistic). The AI is just good enough to provide a decent opponent while adhering to the silly nature of the game. Although Behold the Kickmen is not the best arcade soccer game available, it does offer good gameplay mechanics befitting of its casual approach to the sport.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Gettysburg: The Tide Turns Gameplay Review

I'm playing Gettysburg: The Tide Turns, a turn-based strategy game by Shenandoah Studio and Slitherine.

The game features scenarios covering the entire three-day battle, each day individually, the intense fighting of the second day, and Pickett’s Charge. The Confederates must capture locations on top of Cemetery Ridge, while the Union must inflict more casualties. The battles can be fought against the usually capable AI (the computer opponent does sometimes move unnecessarily as a defender), locally against another player, or online using Slitherine’s nifty play-by-e-mail system. The interface has a stylish map, and makes it fairly easy to find units. Each turn represents an hour, and units are activated for movement in a completely random order each turn. In addition, combat happens randomly as well (although the side with initiative can cause combat to happen anytime they wish), which adds a layer of uncertainty to the game that is not found in more traditional I-go-you-go wargames. Units include infantry, cavalry, and artillery units in their historical orders of battle. Consolidating large units together, the game never feels unwieldy to control and is appropriate for all experience levels. Combat consists of several phases (cavalry screening, artillery bombardment, attacking withdrawal, firing, retreat, and pursuit); splitting fire between two adjacent targets reduces the effectiveness of an attacking unit, and this is a good abstraction of the effectiveness of flanking maneuvers. Units lose strength when attacked (denoted by easy-to-see icons for each unit), and are removed from the game when depleted.Thanks to the approachable nature of the game and the unpredictability of the randomized turn order, Gettysburg: The Tide Turns is an entertaining turn-based strategy game.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Megacity Builder Gameplay Review

I'm playing Megacity Builder, a city building simulation by Andrew Rowe.

The game features a campaign mode where you manage a nation by constructing cities (each on its own randomly generated maps) that produce different goods; single map games and scripted scenarios are also available. The interface is very laborious: it doesn’t keep the last action selected (which makes placing repetitive things, especially roads and power lines, annoying), it is difficult to de-select things if you select them accidentally (there is no keyboard shortcut, just a build menu button), left-click is used to both place objects and scroll the map leading to lots of mistakes and heavy use of the “undo” button, it is hard to precisely place objects using the mouse pointer, there is no clock to keep track of time for budgetary reasons, and the full-screen budget immediately interrupts what you are doing. Most of the game is typical for a city builder: place residential and commercial areas, connect the road, water, and power lines, and construct services like police, fire, gyms, pools, and schools. There is no traffic simulation in the game, but you can export goods produced in each town for a profit, which gives another source of income and goes beyond simply making industries for jobs. Megacity Builder has some interesting ideas with manufacturing, trade, and having multiple cities to control that work together, but it is severely held back by its awkward interface.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Dead Purge: Outbreak Gameplay Review

I'm playing Dead Purge: Outbreak, a first-person shooter by Microlith Games.

The game contains three maps (with some time-of-day variations) that are small and consist of narrow pathways that make it far too easy to funnel zombies in a line. The difficulty and game length (using the same number of waves as Killing Floor 2, though without the boss) can be adjusted. The is no multiplayer available. The weapon variety is very limited, and there are no classes for special abilities. Researched upgrades can be done between games to improve accuracy and health. Health packs are useful to heal, and grenades are very powerful against the groups of zombies. There are only two enemy types in the game (walking, and crawling on the ground), and zombies can be easily lead into certain death by sprinting back and forth down the same straight path and then aiming for the head. Bullet time is stolen directly from Killing Floor 2, and the gore is not as convincing. Dead Purge: Outbreak is a direct clone of Killing Floor 2 that is worse in every area and doesn’t offer anything new or different.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Antihero Gameplay Review

I'm playing Antihero, a turn-based strategy game by Tim Conkling and Versus Evil.

The campaign serves as a tutorial, followed by a series of increasingly unfair scenarios, involving more victory conditions for you and/or better starting conditions for the opponent. For skirmish games against the AI or online play (featuring both real-time and asynchronous games), only a handful of map layouts are available, but specific business locations are randomized for more replay value. The goal is to earn a specific number of victory points, earned by blackmailing churches, bribing guilds (both of which simply involve having the maximum number of units inside), or assassinating neutral characters (plus other alternative methods depending on the map). There are two resources in the game: gold, earned from buildings and burglary, is used to purchase units, while lanterns (from different buildings) are used to purchase technology upgrades. Units include the master thief, used to scout and burgle houses, the urchin to infiltrate businesses, the thug to block paths, the gang to attack enemies, the saboteur to plant traps on buildings, the assassin to instantly kill any unit, and the truant officer to evict all urchins in an enemy building. There are multiple strategies you can employ towards victory, and ways to counter each plan as well. The AI is generally a good player (which makes the concessions it's granted in the campaign unnecessary), choosing a varied strategy each game. Antihero is an approachable turn-based strategy game with a unique setting and compelling gameplay mechanics.

Friday, July 07, 2017

Dead Exit Gameplay Review

I'm playing Dead Exit, a card-based strategy game by RadiationBurn.

The game features both a single-player solitaire mode and online multiplayer, where the goal is to stockpile a vehicle, survivors, food, and fuel before being overrun by zombies. Three moves are made each turn, placing cards inside or outside the base, on the stockpile, or the trading block. Where each card is played determines the action it triggers; there is good variety in card abilities. Cards can also be sacrificed to utilize an additional ability. Cards can be taken from the deck, but come with a zombie. Events can drastically alter each game. The game is challenging (especially on higher difficulty settings) but the multiple uses of each card means there is usually a method of dealing with each threat. Dead Exit is a fine card game with varied cards in a unique setting.

Monday, July 03, 2017

The Golf Club 2 Gameplay Review

I'm playing The Golf Club 2, a sports simulation by HB Studios and Maximum Games.

This version of the game adds more customization options in the course designer (additional environment themes, multiple tees and hole locations, more scenery objects). The Golf Club 2 still supports making a fully functional course in seconds, or single holes in three clicks, though multiple tee or pin positions are not automatically generated. There are also more options in course attributes (fairway width, green slope, et cetera), and the game allows for more detailed courses for those who wish to invest the time. The interface is more polished, including hole maps and a fairly extensive tutorial system, but the commentary remains hokey at best. Online leagues (called societies) are also present, and the ability to play “with” other players using ghost balls returns. The gameplay is mostly the same, although this version supports three different club types that trade distance for accuracy and it is harder to dial-in exact distances, making for more interesting golfing. There is still no power indicator, which makes shots made less than full power (namely chips, putts, and some approach shots) difficult and requires a lot of practice to execute consistently. Mouse control is improved but still not great (backswing sensitivity can be adjusted, but the downswing animation still lags behind actual mouse movement), and clicking to swing is not supported; playing with the gamepad is preferable. Still, The Golf Club 2 is definitely an improvement over its predecessor, with its addition of new course creation options and a slicker presentation, but requires a lot of practice to master its swing mechanics.