Thursday, August 24, 2017

F1 2017 Gameplay Review

I'm playing F1 2017, a racing simulation by Codemasters.

This latest version of the franchise includes rules and tracks from 2017, eleven classic cars from the 90’s and 2000’s, four shorter versions of existing tracks, a nighttime Monaco event, female drivers, an AI difficulty slider, and additional pitting assists. The detailed career mode includes all of the fine features of last year, plus more car upgrades, practice programs, and engine management. In addition, invitational events are included as a part of the career mode that provide short, objective-based scenarios (like overtaking a certain number of cars, or checkpoint races). A championships mode includes a large variety of compelling multi-race events with alternate rules (like field inversion or multi-heat races). An online event mode provides race scenarios to conquer as well. The inclusion of the varied championship mode races, and small enhancements across many areas, offer reasonable, though not significant, improvements for a yearly franchise.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Super Blood Hockey Gameplay Review

I'm playing Super Blood Hockey, an arcade sports game by Loren Lemcke.

The game features several game modes (exhibition, an eight-team tournament, and a challenge mode with alternate game rules like 12v12) with the ability to adjust game length (2-minute periods seem best), player speed, and puck attributes. Players are placed in three classes: enforcer (best at checking and fighting), sniper (skating and shooting), and playmaker (balanced, but good at faceoffs). The graphics and soundtrack do well to evoke a retro theme. Controls are simple (one button each to change player, check, pass, and shoot), and there is no button overlap, which could lead to potential input confusion when switching between offense and defense. Skater handling is done well, and the lack of a “sprint” button leads to a lot of breakaways, making for more exciting games. Fights work like penalties: the loser surrenders a player from the game for a couple of minutes (due to them convulsing on the ice, of course). The AI is a capable opponent (both friendly players and the opposing team), and it can be challenging to win consistently. Super Blood Hockey is a very enjoyable arcade sports title that benefits from fluid, approachable controls and an emphasis on action-packed, fast-paced gameplay.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

StellarHub Gameplay Review

I'm playing StellarHub, a space station management simulation by Casualogic.

The game features a number of different worlds with varying difficulties and layouts (plus a randomized sandbox mode). Raw resources (oxygen, power, ore, and minerals) are extracted from the map, and then can be converted into more sophisticated goods (metal and plastic, leading to spare parts and ammunition) in a processing plant. In addition, crops and animals can be farmed and then processed (into food, medicine, vaccines, or alcohol) as well. Additional building options include research labs to unlock new structures, trade ports to bring in new crew or sell manufactured goods, and defensive structures to protect against asteroids and pirates. Each member of the crew can be assigned one job and gain experience by completing their work; some have previous experience in particular fields that will result in less accidents during the day. Crew members are mostly automated, but require some micromanagement when they become sick as they must be manually ordered to report to the medbay. StellarHub offers choices on what to do after the fairly inflexible initial build (due to the limited starting resources), and has enough random events (disease, asteroid impacts, pirates) to break up the potential monotony of choosing research, placing new structures and assigning jobs to newcomers. The result is a compelling, challenging space station management simulation.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Sudden Strike 4 Gameplay Review

I'm playing Sudden Strike 4, a real-time strategy game by Kite Games and Kalypso Media.

The game features three campaigns of seven missions each for the Soviets, Allies, and Germans; there are also two-mission Dunkirk campaigns for the Germans and Allies. Each mission has a more difficult “challenge” version with less support or an additional side objective. Choosing a leader doctrine before each map grants different buffs for infantry, armored, or support units. While using the typical structure of a real-time strategy campaign (attack here, then defend here), the missions are usually balanced well enough, providing challenge while remaining mostly fair. Skirmish and online modes are more disappointing: only four maps supporting 4v4 matches that involve a huge clash in the first minute of each match, followed by combat between two or three units at a time, due to a combination of the fast overall pace of the game and the slow speed that reinforcements can be brought in. Units include infantry, tanks, and artillery units that can be ordered into formations by holding down the right-mouse button. While medics and repair trucks will automatically heal surrounding units, Sudden Strike 4 is hindered by very inconsistent pathfinding: units routinely collide with other units (getting temporarily stuck), and while they sometimes engage enemy units within range, sometimes they do not, resulting in a need for constant micromanagement of your units. Because of the fast pace of the game, this can be an impossible task. The best feature of the game is occupying buildings with infantry: each structure has a specified number of windows that can be fired from, providing a layer of convincing realism. While the campaign scenarios are generally entertaining, the pathfinding issues (compounded by the fast pace) and underwhelming skirmish mode make Sudden Strike 4 come up a bit short.

Wednesday, August 09, 2017

Casus Belli: Battle Of Annihilation Gameplay Review

I'm playing Casus Belli: Battle Of Annihilation, a turn-based strategy game by Viny Game Studios.

Similar in approach to Advance Wars, the game features twelve maps of varied sizes, all of which provide significant resource advantages to the blue player (the AI by default, but it can be switched). This eliminates any balance for hot seat games, and the lack of a map editor (no random maps, either) means no alterations can be made to make things more fair. Locations around each map can be captured to provide resources (towns) or produce units (one land, air, or sea unit per location each turn). Units can move and attack each turn, and certain units perform better against specific enemies. The AI is a capable opponent, capturing locations and engaging with appropriate units, which makes any resource advantage seem unnecessary. While Casus Belli: Battle Of Annihilation offers approachable, simplified turn-based gameplay, the map design and lack of other features hold the game back.

Friday, August 04, 2017

Strategy & Tactics: Dark Ages Gameplay Review

I'm playing Strategy & Tactics: Dark Ages, a turn-based strategy game by HeroCraft.

The game features a small number of scenarios (eight); while the missions have plentiful secondary objectives that add some replay value, the general plan in each is fairly scripted based on the fixed starting conditions. Most scenarios give a huge economic, territory, and military advantage to the opponent; there is no skirmish mode where each faction is given equal footing to begin with. The benefits for the AI cannot be adjusted, as there are no difficulty settings. The only resource in the game is silver, accumulated each turn by occupying provinces around the map and spent on new infantry, cavalry, and archery units. Heroes whom lead each army can only perform one action per turn (move, attack, or recruit), which adds some strategic choices to the game. While combat is completely automated, units can be placed in formations before the battle begins, which does make a difference in attack and defense attributes. Because of the low unit cap (only seven heroes are allowed, and each hero can only recruit a specific number of units), it can be impossible to quickly finish a scenario even after it’s clear you will be victorious. Strategy & Tactics: Dark Ages is an approachable turn-based strategy game hindered by its small assortment of unbalanced, tedious scenarios.

Thursday, August 03, 2017

Community Inc Gameplay Review

I'm playing Community Inc, a city building simulation by T4 Interactive and tinyBuild.

The game features randomly generated maps on which to create a thriving village able to export expensive manufactured goods. The interface provides some useful information, but it makes it difficult to designate and switch the profession of the villagers (I had to print out a hard copy spreadsheet for each game to keep things straight). In addition, you cannot queue crafted items you do not have the resources for (and there are no repeated or infinite queues), which makes planning for the future difficult. Basic resources (wood, stone, plant material) must be manually designated for removal (including food from plantations). Using these resources, tools, food, furniture, and weapons can be crafted, and buildings for livestock, housing, trade, and storage can be placed. Citizens will level up with experience, unlocking additional jobs and more efficient work ethics. Newcomers also arrive with traits that make them more suited for specific occupations. Other factions can be traded with or fought against, and random events (sometimes good but usually bad) arrive at inconvenient times. Due to some interface shortcomings and tedious gameplay mechanics, Community Inc comes up short of being a fulfilling city builder.