Thursday, July 25, 2019

Interstellar Space: Genesis Gameplay Initial Impressions

These are early impressions of Interstellar Space: Genesis, a turn-based space 4X strategy game.
The game includes robust game customization, including randomized tech trees and custom factions. The most striking thing is very slow initial production (your first colony ship can take upwards of 70 turns), so you must invest in exploration and upgrading your starting world first. It takes about 100 turns before things really get going production-wise.  Production at a colony can be allocated between improving infrastructure (which improves production), planet quality, and construction of buildings and ships. Outposts can be built at asteroid belts (for production, trade, or research bonuses) or dead stars (for strategic resources, research, and income). Systems can be surveys using ships or remote exploration, a neat game mechanic where you designate an area of the map and after several turns, the area is explored more thoroughly. The research tree can be randomized, and additional techs in the same group and level are more expensive (requiring you to pick and choose, another neat mechanic). There are also space culture upgrades (like a culture tech tree in Civ), which is the primary way of getting ships early in the game. Straightforward diplomatic options are available with other factions. The budget is easy: just allocate a percentage of your income to research and space culture, and the rest goes into your coffers. Tax rate can also be increased, at the detriment to production. Custom ships can be designed, and there is combat between opposing ships. Leaders can be assigned to planets or ships, and they occasionally make requests. Random events also pop up every once in a while. The interface is good, providing a list of targets for expansion and your ships, and including extensive tool-tips, although sometimes things don’t update (like ship locations / destinations when changing orders during a turn). Interstellar Space: Genesis has a number of unique gameplay features and is recommended so far to fans of 4X games.

Friday, April 26, 2019

Imperator: Rome Gameplay Review

I'm playing Imperator: Rome, a real-time grand strategy game by Paradox Interactive.

Starting in 304 BC, you can start with any nation from England to India. This is a more military-focused game than other Paradox titles, as you are trying to constantly expand, thanks to easy-to-obtain casus belli. The interface has a lot of statistics, but features such as the macro builder and robust tool-tips ease the process of gathering information. The detailed map contains a ton of cities, grouped into provinces, each of which produces taxes, research, or manpower depending on the number of citizens, freemen, tribesmen, and slaves present. Each group of cities can have a governor that can dictate a policy direction. Characters in the game can also hold office in the government, or lead troops. There are a lot of Crusader Kings-like events dealing with characters that add flavor to the game, and individuals can be bribed, imprisoned, recruited from other lands, or revolt against you in a civil war (bringing their own troops against you). Each province can have a number of trade routes; each good provides a specific bonus (access to a military unit, population increases, happiness, et cetera) and income. Power points (slowly accumulated over time) can be spent on new inventions, religious omens (various bonuses), diplomatic actions like casus belli, or military tradition (more bonuses!). Diplomatic options are plentiful, though you can only ally with nations of the same size. There are several land types to recruit, and mercenaries can be an option in nations with a lot of income but not a lot of manpower. Units can be automated to assist in especially spread-out countries, or ordered to build roads, construct border forts, or reorganize (faster reinforcement rate for a cost). Despite the expansion-heavy focus of the game, aggressive expansion penalties with make the AI unite against you if you expand too far too fast. The AI provides a good opponent that will sign appropriate treaties and declare war reasonably, and barbarians can be a nuisance in large nations. Imperator: Rome is a more streamlined grand strategy experience that incorporates the better aspects of Europa Universalis and Crusader Kings.

Monday, April 08, 2019

Steel Division 2 Beta 2 Gameplay Preview

I'm playing the second beta of Steel Division 2, a real-time strategy game by Eugen Systems.

The game has moved the action to the Eastern Front of World War II. More customization options are available for battlegroups (choosing phase availability for each unit, and how unit recruitment points are allocated in each phase). Maps now feature capture points, the ownership of which is determined by the dynamic frontline, and defensive structures are available for the assault-heavy breakthrough mode. In addition, there are commander units that add experience to nearby units and leaders, and radio-equipped artillerists to assist indirect fire. The release version of the game will include 18 divisions to make battlegroups from, 25 maps, and a dynamic campaign. The game is scheduled for release on May 2nd.

Thursday, April 04, 2019

ISLANDERS Gameplay Review

I'm playing ISLANDERS, a city building strategy game by GrizzlyGames.

The game features procedurally generated islands where you must place complimentary buildings near each other. Appropriate buildings near each other earn points, which are used to level up and unlock another set of structures. Failure to accumulate enough points results in starting over with a new island. The difficulty results from limited space to place buildings, and having to decide which structures to place; the randomized islands give a lot of replay value and extend the life of the game beyond a one-time puzzle. ISLANDERS is a simple but challenging strategy game.

Tuesday, April 02, 2019

Tropico 6 Gameplay Review

I'm playing Tropico 6, a city management simulation by Limbic Entertainment and Kalypso Media.

This iteration of the series features missions with a set of mandatory and optional objectives, sandbox maps (including randomly generated ones), and cooperative and competitive multiplayer. The interface is improved, as the combination of map overlays and a comprehensive almanac makes finding information fairly straightforward and efficient. The quantity of buildings has been expanded, with many options available to provide housing, resource collection and processing, mass transit, citizen services like hospitals and churches, research, tourist destinations, and military outposts. Citizen detail is high, as individual walking paths are needs are tracked. Different political factions and foreign powers will frequently offer objectives to improve relations and earn a reward, giving you intermediate objectives, even in the sandbox mode. The broker offers missions to increase your Swiss bank account, the funds of which can be used to instantly research new buildings or provide other nefarious benefits like improved relations or ignoring ultimatums and demands. Research can be done to unlock new edicts to issue or alternate work modes, while the constitution sets country-wide policies. Raids from pirates or commandos can provide new citizens, loot, or annoy foreign countries, and specific trade routes can provide bonuses to income. While the brand new features (multi-island maps, raids, mass transit, revamped research and Swiss bank account usage) aren’t groundbreaking, this is the most refined Tropico experience available.