Thursday, August 30, 2018

Aggressors: Ancient Rome Gameplay Review

I'm playing Aggressors: Ancient Rome, a turn-based 4X strategy game by Kubat Software and Slitherine.

The single player game features historical play around the Mediterranean or randomly generated maps with good customization options but potentially unbalanced starting positions. A scenario editor and mod support are also available. The interface could be improved; specifically, the strategic overview that lists on-map objects and the political maps desperately need the ability to zoom in. Resources are collected from the map: mines, wood, and farms near cities automatically add their bounty nationwide. Cities can only produce specific units, and adding a new unit to a city’s production roster requires an investment of resources (on top of the cost of actually making the unit), leading to interesting strategic decisions and less unit spam. Buildings outside of cities (such as the blacksmith, temple, and stable) can buff resource production or allow for the recruitment of advanced units. Cities, buildings, and units can also be improved to increase stats. Units fall under the typical categories of settler, infantry, cavalry, and naval forces, but more sophisticated versions can be researched. Government type and state decisions can alter your approach. Diplomacy comes with a good number of options, but there is no feedback whether some options will be accepted (and why they were not). Luckily, trade deals can be open-ended: you can request a specific resource and the partner will come back with an appropriate counter offer. Due to the time period, combat is relatively common, and the AI does a good job producing troops, attacking vulnerable units, and working well as a trade partner and ally. While Aggressors: Ancient Rome is more simplified than some other 4X games, it does not lack significant strategic decisions and its faster, combat-oriented pace is appealing.

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Dustwind Gameplay Review

I'm playing Dustwind, a real-time tactical strategy game by Dustwind Studios and Z-Software.

The game is primarily designed for online play, but you can compete against bots or in solo missions. Game modes include cooperative missions, last team standing, team deathmatch, free for all, capture the flag, and assault/defense. The small roster of maps is exhausted quickly, but there is a map editor. Custom character design is interesting, where points are assigned to increase player stats or equip weapons. Dustwind is played from an isometric perspective, using clicking to move. Since there is no moving and shooting, the “S” key is used to halt and engage. Some of the controls are a bit cumbersome and peering into buildings can be tricky, but it’s mostly hassle free to navigate around the maps. Units will auto-engage enemies, which takes some of the tedious micromanagement away. Stealth should always be used to hide from the opposition, while crouching increases accuracy. Med packs, grenades, mines, turrets, barricades, and lockpicks can also be used. Firefights are typically quick and deadly, keeping the action constant. AI opponents and allies are not terrible. Dustwind isn’t for everyone, but should appeal to fans of classic tactical games.

Friday, August 17, 2018

Forged Battalion Gameplay Review

I'm playing Forged Battalion, a real-time strategy game by Petroglyph and Team17.

The game features a lazy and tedious campaign with a bland story that simply features more enemy factions simultaneously fighting as you progress. The skirmish modes (both online and against the AI) only has fifteen maps and no procedural map generation, though more are available on Steam Workshop. Experience points earned by playing any game mode are used to unlock new weapons and create custom units with different weapons and armor. Only four units are available for each chassis (infantry, light vehicle, heavy vehicle, aircraft) and more advanced units can only be built when high-level structures have been placed, which helps to balance out those who have unlocked more items. Forged Battalion is a simplified real-time strategy game, though that does make it more approachable: constructing units is fast and efficient with the handy keyboard shortcuts, and placing additional factories speeds up production at your main hub. Structures can only be placed near existing ones unless an outpost is captured, making enemy building placement predictable. The limited unit roster and building selection does result in a repetitive build order, with the same options executed every game. The AI is barely passable and only mounts a challenge when they outnumber you. A disappointing campaign, limited content, and oversimplified mechanics subdue the custom unit creation features of Forged Battalion.

Friday, August 10, 2018

Madden NFL 19 Gameplay Review

I'm playing Madden NFL 19, an American football simulation by Electronic Arts.

The first PC version of Madden in 11 years, this edition is likely not as mod friendly as in the past, but performance on the PC is smooth and flexible. The game features an underwhelming “longshot” story mode, one-off exhibition games with generally lag-free online play, an “ultimate team” mode where player cards are purchased using in-game cash or real money to assemble a team, and a franchise mode with weekly gameplay strategy training, free agency, draft, player experience upgrades, and flexible game simulation options (including my favorite: you can play only important game events like 3rd downs and red zone trips). Madden NFL 19 comes with three game styles: simulation, high-scoring arcade, and a competitive mode that favors user input for jukes, stiff arms, and the like. The AI skill level can also be adjusted, from “fair” to “clearly cheating”. Controls involve a host of buttons to adjust pre-play hot routes, defensive line shifts, jukes, aggressive catches, power moves, dive tackles, and lots of others. While the commentary gets repetitive quickly, Madden NFL 19 has some nice details like occasionally very detailed comments and player-specific celebrations. The AI provides a good opponent if you’d prefer not to match up against random humans online. While Madden NFL 19 is not wholly different for players of recent console versions, its reappearance on the PC is welcome and it’s still an enjoyable game to play with an acceptable list of features.

Wednesday, August 08, 2018

Circle Empires Gameplay Review

I'm playing Circle Empires, a real-time strategy game by Luminous and Iceberg Interactive.

The game features procedurally generated maps that varies the resources and enemies in each region, the quantity of which depends on the difficulty level. Leaders provide different starting resources and bonuses when capturing a new territory. The main game mode involves finding and killing an enemy boss, but a full conquest mode and games against AI empires are also available. Food, wood, and gold are collected and used to recruit new units, build defensive structures, or unlock upgrades. Circle Empires has a good roster of available units, and the composition of your army largely depends on which resources dominate the map you are playing on. Unit control can become cumbersome as units overlap; friendly units will also occasionally ignore enemies that are located in the same circle, and the game could use an attack move order. Circle Empires becomes very challenging on higher difficulty levels due to the large initial enemy count. Despite limited shortcomings involving the user interface, Circle Empires is an approachable real-time strategy game that has high replay value thanks to its randomized map layouts.