Review: Idol Hands

The god game genre has seen very little evolution in the last 30 years.  Ever since Populus every half decade or so someone tries and put out a new god game with a moderate amount of improvements.  But this is really the first time I’ve seen a god game that has taken a step back.

Idol Hands sets you running a village of idiots who are incapable of making decisions yourself.  You have to tell them their supreme destiny.  You sir, you are a farmer.  You sir you are a soldier.  You, you’re the priest.  And then there’s loggers, blacksmiths and the happily unemployed.

They will go out and collect various resources after building their little homes.  Your job is to provide them with flat land to build their facilities.  Each facility will provide a different resource with the exceptions of your soldiers.  Blacksmiths provide iron, lumberjacks provide wood, clerics provide religion, farmers provide food, and your soldiers go to war.

One of the weaknesses in the game is the very limited population cap.  In most of these games you can develop civilizations for an almost endless amount of map.  In this game you are limited to under 100 population total meaning once you max out your population, it’s a matter of spamming the enemy.

You do this with your god powers that require the religion resource.  These include volcano, earthquake, lightning, rain, and meteor.

The game unfortunately becomes very bland over time.  Initially you might get excited believing the game has potential.  But getting to the end game is all too easy.

There is a fairly long campaign but unfortunately it ends up being the exact same match up every single time.  You take on a computer player, the exact same one.  The computer player plays exactly the same way and you beat them in exactly the same way.

Overall this game is pretty weak and leaves me not expecting much from God games anymore.

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Review: Offworld Trading Company

From Civ 4 developer Soren Johnson comes Offworld Trading Company.

The game is described as being a 4X game without units, but that’s not entirely accurate.  The game is closer to an economic simulator along the lines of Port Royale, Rise of Venice, or Anno 2070.

The game is based around a dynamic open market.  You buy and sell goods on it.  After you purchase goods an item increases in value, when you sell goods it decreases in value.  With your profits you can buy infrastructure that in turn produces goods.

To keep things interesting the game requires you to have certain resources.  Consumption will draw away some of the necessities of life for your colonists.  Leveling up will require steel and glass.  Transporting goods will require fuel or energy.

As various elements of the game require more of these resources the value will go up, and as they need less the market will flood and lower the price.

Leveling up is an essential part of the game.  You can build so many buildings per level and then you are forced to invest in leveling up.  After Level 5 you are maxed.  After this the only way to build new buildings is by unlocking a black market perk to get a new zone license.

The game is multiplayer and the Black Market is your way of attacking people.  You can shut down buildings by EMPing them.  Or you can cause a mutiny and have a facility begin sending goods to you.  The underground explosion will shut down one building.  But all of these perks cost money that you need to have in hand.  They will scale up in cost over time and although you may be able to hurt one person, you are also taking a small hit yourself which will give you a disadvantage against the other two players.

The way in which you win is all about the money.  The value of your company is decided by your total assets against your debt.  Debt is earned by not being able to supply yourself with your consumptive goods and will automatically draw to your account.  As well there are often auctions being held to try and get goods from the Black Market or new technologies slightly faster.  This also adds to your debt.

Paying off your debt will increase the value of your company.  But money is needed or expansion.  Money is also needed for buying out shares in enemy companies.  Once a company is bought out you gain control of their whole operation and can develop and trade their resources.

Playing the game means balancing off your progress as a company with making sure your value doesn’t fall so low that your competitors can buy you out.

The game is very good.  It does have the early access tag.  The main issue with the game is the balance of it.  The game is set to spend a year in balancing before it makes its official release.  When the time comes it will be worth having in your gaming collection.  Right now though you will have to deal with wonky AI and cheesie play.

Review: Grey Goo

In the future humanity finds a small keyhole.  The keyhole is not large enough to travel through but large enough to send signals through.  The keyhole hits everywhere in the universe.  A probe program is launched to create a probe small enough to go through the keyhole but that can become large enough to compile millions of terabytes of data and send them back to Earth.  The probe was a self-replicating machine.  It would start off microscopic in size and consume resources of a planet to get larger and replicate allowing the probe to travel to more locations and plot more planets.

But in all the time of the probe, not a single intelligent life was found.  Various countries sent out expeditions to try and colonize various planets, but that only ended with humanity going to war with each other.  So humanity created a permanent peace among themselves and stopped the probe.

But the probe didn’t stop.  It continued on with its mission of finding everything in the world.  But now it had one major directive, Consume, Adapt, and Survive.

The probe would eventually find one alien species, but by this point it was no longer reporting back to Earth.  This group called The Beta developed a whole civilization around avoiding the probe.  They found a way to open a hole in the key and teleport to a new planet, hopefully untouched by them.  They named them “The Silent Ones” mainly because of how you could not communicate with them.

A human ship accidentally falls into one of these holes in space to find themselves where The Beta have called their home world.  As the two factions have a very bad first contact, the probe arrives, except now it has a new hankering for destruction.

The game focuses around the conflict of these three factions on the beta homeworld.

The single player campaign focuses on the misunderstandings between the three factions with 15 missions.  Each faction gets 5 missions in which they are the hero protagonist and the other factions are aggressive misunderstanding aliens.

The game plays very similarly to Starcraft 2, but then you get a sense that Command and Conquer was involved.  And it was.  The founders of Petroglyph Studios were involved in the production of the original Command and Conquer game.  What you get is a vastly unique game with very intricate factions and a well polished campaign.

The Beta are a group of aliens that are the only people who can construct buildings anywhere.  They build hubs anywhere and attach buildings to them.  Hubs increase in size and allow for new constructions.

The Alpha have one central structure of which all buildings are built on it.  Like the beta they build attachments.  Unlike the beta they have the ability to teleport their structures anywhere meaning that attachments can be re-used.

Units in both factions are created by using combinations of attachments.  Maybe you will need a Artillery Attachment and a Stealth attachment to get a Howitzer in one faction.  While in another faction you only need your artillery attachment to get your artillery unit.

Each attachment also unlocks a free tech.  The free tech come in one of each category in which you are limited to 1 tech out of 3.  Choosing wisely is important although some fair better than others.

The Goo however work completely different.  The building structure for the goo is a unit, the mother goo.  The mother goo harvests resources and grows in strength.  It can gather resources by sitting on nodes, eating up units and eating up buildings.  After gaining so much health it can split off into one of three units, small, large, and mother goo.  Small goos build light units.  Large goos build heavy units. The mother goo can also sacrifice health to invest in one research point in 5 various categories.

Each size goo also has a unique combat ability.  The mother goo snares.  The small goo heals.  The large goo applies a attack speed decrease.  This makes these structures also very aggressive in nature.

This all sounds too good to be true… and for the most part it is.

The game launched with very bad network problems.  People were disconnecting from games left and right.  The game was region locked so the population in smaller regions just didn’t exist.  As well there appeared to be a unique bug in which a visual effect that people couldn’t see was being applied to every single unit causing additional graphics lag that would carry across the multiplayer connection.

So the game lost its multiplayer community before it ever had a chance to get one.  You are essentially just buying a single player game.

The campaign is only worth about 10-12 hours of pure gameplay.

The game has some real shames.  It is a very beautiful game with a lot of love put in it.  But it didn’t have an authentic beta testing that could have addressed all of the problems they had at launch.  But unfortunately in its current state it is just not worth the price tag.  Wait for a price drop at the summer Steam sale.

Review: Song of the Myrne: What Lies Beneath

Sometimes I think that people playing PC are drinking the koolaide.  Everyone says it’s not about the graphics it’s about the gameplay.  This line relates to games that are very pretty but have shitty gameplay.  This line was never intended to describe games that has crappy graphics and plays really well, it was always a denouncing cry against really pretty games that don’t offer much.  The line was never intended to be a point where people should really aim for the bottom of graphics.

The game is the ugly side of the 8-bit world, Atari.  The beautiful side of the 8-bit world is, Nintendo.  The clear distinction between the two was that Atari required imagination to think of what you were looking at whereas with the Nintendo it was clear as day.

Here is Atari 1982.

stella_outlaw

Here is Nintendo, 1991.

nintendogame

Now here is Sony of the Myrne, 2015.

myrne

Use your imagination, because a lot of times figuring out objects will be easier said than done.  Sometimes you run into an enemy and it looks kind of friendly.  You walk up to it and punch it first to see whether it takes damage, because that’s the only real way to figure out what’s friend and what’s foe.

But that’s fine because the game has about 80 weapons you can use to test them out with.  Weapons can be found all over the game, but you can also craft them out of materials you can find.  Crafting was a really big sell in the game, but unfortunately it meets a weird balance.

Crafting hardcores want tedious crafting that gives insanely high results that flow into a game that will change over time.  Skyrim is a perfect example.  You level up your alchemy to make more powerful potions to help deal with the new threats. But maybe you choose to go the path of the thief and you get a different set of skills.  This game doesn’t have that sort of depth.  The crafting is casual and doesn’t have to be done.  The game can be completed without it making it almost pointless.

The crafting itself is rather simple.  You combine ingredients that you commonly find on the ground into an item, weapon, armor, or miscellaneous item.  Doing so raising your experience and thus raises your level.

Upon leveling up from combat and crafting you will gain a point that you can invest in one of three trees.  Investing in health gives you more health, magic gives you more mana, and stamina…. well I never did quite figure out what stamina was used for since I never once needed it.  However I did mistakenly invest two points in it, which made me feel silly.  I felt silly because by Level 6 I was finished the game.  That means almost 50% of my points were wasted with no way of refreshing it.

You’re probably thinking Level 6 makes for a short game, and you would be right.  The game has about 3 hours of gameplay.  When asked as to whether or not new content would be added to the game they said this:

I might add some content in the future giving the fact people seem to really enjoy the game. It wouldn’t be DLC but free updates because I’m not a big fan of DLC and I’d rather make a whole new game than selling little pieces of an “old” one.

I would be interested to add some co-op elements first (some simple one, like in Deathspank where the player 2 is really different than the first one, doesn’t have inventory, etc…) but I have to add gamepad support first (because aiming without the mouse is a pain) so it might take some time.

Then I’ll see how it goes from there depending on the time it takes and the funds I’ll have left after that.

So it seems there will be no effort made to add more content to the game, rather add functionality to a game that people very easily finish.  It really does seem like the people who made this game have mixed up priorities.  The reason why DLC is so popular is because it gives people more stuff to do in a game.  Adding controller support only opens up the game to be played on consoles.

The game has a huge problem, it’s very fun… but there isn’t much of a game there.  A typical RPG is going to be between 20-100 hours of gameplay.  A 3 hour gameplay basically introduces you to the RPG elements and then ends the game.  It’s so poorly paced that any mistake you’ve made has a huge effect on the end of the game.

Review: Hegemony Rome Rise of Caesar

Gaius Julius Caesar was among the most important generals in the history of man.  Much like the greatest generals of man his lust for power became so great that he became the government.  But unlike most in history, he was not lined with failure.  His name “Caesar” would become a title given to all future Roman dictators   The rise of Caesar begins when he pushes deep into Gaul and Germania with nothing but success and absolutely no failures.  He becomes respected among the army, enough to create a coup of Rome and remove his friend Pompei from power.

The game follows the trek of Julis Caesar from his first campaigns in barbarian territory.  In the back drop of the game is the politics of Rome and how every one of his victories leads to the inevitable dissolution of the Senate.

The game features an interesting mixture of Total War and Europa Universallis.  From Total War we get the generic battles.  From Europa Universallis we get an intricate economic system.  While those are mainly turn based games this is all done in real time.  You can zoom in on your units at any time to see what they are doing and all resources are gathering in real time by teams of oxen.

The game was an Early Access title for a few months, and then went live.  It was actually rather weird to see.  But it made a lot of sense.  This is a game that is trying to pretend like it’s an indie title when it’s not.  It’s published by Kasedo Media.  Kasedo Media is a subsidiary of Kalypso Media, one of the largest publishers in the Europe.  The goal was to make a game that feels very indie, but where the profits go to a giant corporation.  As far as I know there were little to no changes in the early access to the main game, the whole experience was just a marketing scheme.  This is something we’ll have to look out for in the future as it will become more and more common.

The game itself is just a campaign, one full campaign.  There is no multiplayer and there is no skirmish.  You have the option to continue a level after you have finished it, but it’s finished by that point.  Truthfully for how the game is designed this is the only way it could function.  Any multiplayer match would go on for far too long as you are expecting each campaign to last between 3-8 hours.

The power of the game is exactly how open it is.  Most games like this are very linear.  You just go down one narrow path and that’s it.  In this game you have a lot of threats on multiple fronts and there are many ways to deal with those problems.  For me it meant capturing all towns and enslaving every single one of my enemies so they wouldn’t return.  But for others there are options for ignoring them and pushing, setting guards around the clock, or pushing into their territories and conquering them.

The campaigns are also very broad in their scope.  You start off with a very small province that might have two cities.  You have to balance your soldiers with your income (how you pay the soldiers).  Your soldiers need to be fed or they will lose morale and become functionally useless.  You need wood in order to build structures.  These are the three resources on the map and these have to be connected to a town in order for you to be able to use them via a trade route.  Forts in turn can be loaded with wood and food to build defensive structures and supply your units with food to aid you in laying siege to towns.  Resource piles can be worked by workers or slaves to give them higher output.

Cities themselves can be linked and as you grow and grow and grow you need to worry about continuously having more resources and dealing with the armies of the enemy that increase in size.

Armies themselves can be very complicated in nature.  You will gain legion forces that only you can have.  Then you can conscript skirmishers from the general population.  Archers and slingers provide ranged support.  There is an anti-archer unit.  There is a cavalry unit.  There are sea units.  There are siege towers.  There are anti-infantry siege tools.  There are spearmen for cavalry.  You need the right mix of units to deal with a large number of possibilities.

Each unit gains experience and can upgrade various support classes that provide large benefits.  As an example one support class is “Hunter” which will provide you with a hunter in the squad to gather food for you.  Another support class the Centurion will increase your melee damage.  Each squad can have a maximum of four support classes.  After each unit dies they return to the place where they were created and slowly regenerate over time.  Even this regeneration is part of the logistics of the game.  You can build structures to increase the rate that they can recruit men into the squad and there are various settings in the towns that will allow them to focus towards this.

Conquering towns and cities is the objective of most maps.  When you capture a city there is unrest.  You need troops staged in.  But you also have the option of building a structure to deal with this or take hostages.

The game does have its dark side, mainly hostages and slaves.  Hostages are built as a military unit and are effective only when you move them out of the city, to hold them hostage somewhere else.  This stops unrest as people are now in terror of someone’s wives and children being executed.  Slaves can be made as free replacements for workers by right clicking on a defeated enemy that has been trapped from escape.  Capturing slaves is necessary as those defeated soldiers will otherwise just retreat to base, regenerate and gain their support support classes to become stronger.

It gets insanely complicated and if anything your downfall will often become your empire becomes too military and not enough resources.  Every single hostage, slave and worker requires food.  Every single unit gains food from whatever area they happen to be.  If not enough food is coming to the front and too much is consumed by the locals, your soldiers will starve and be unable to push any further.

So why is this game not amazing?

It comes with a lot of problems with pacing and time.  You will spend a lot of your time waiting around on things.  You will be waiting on food to replenish.  You will be waiting on soldiers to replenish.  Even if you micro manage every single small aspect about your empire, it still doesn’t leave you with enough to do to fill in the gaps of waiting for real time.  This is one advantage turn based has because it can set pacing right.

In the first you’re looking at a game that crashes quite often.  You’ll be in the middle of a giant battle, and then the game just shuts off.  There is no crash report system.  You’ll have no idea what went on.  It just crashes and unlike most games, there’s not even an automatic start over mechanism.  On the second campaign I crashed 14 times before I eventually just gave up and moved on to the next campaign.  I saw 2 crashes in that campaign and became very sick of repeating over the same tedious stuff over and over and over.

Theses sorts of games are based around large scale tactical battles that in the giant scope of things you’re supposed to feel like a person moving pieces on a giant board, but when you zoom in it should feel real.  Total War and Wargame have done well in the past because when you zoom in it feels like exactly what they are emulating.

You don’t get that feeling with this game.  When you zoom in most of the soldiers are just stabbing the air in front of them and they all have the exact same battle animation.  There is never anything that will feel epic or grand about these battles, they are simplified and not even worth zooming in for.

Games like Total War and Wargame have terrain that interacts in some way.  When you go into a forest, your soldiers are hidden.  When you’re on a hill you gain a range advantage.  Terrain has no impact in this game.  There is no competition for powerful positions in the battle.  This has to do with how live it is.  Since the cities are the objective the only tactical advantage is by being near them… which is completely counter intuitive with the conquest theme of the game.  There should be a reason for both sides to want to go out and trump resources.  Since comptuer’s income and food is also simulated and none of it seems real, there is on incentive to send out cavalry to harass enemy supply lines like they do yours.

The game does offer flanking mechanics but they seem too entirely dominant.  Just one flank can wipe out an enemy from 100% to 0%.

But with that some things are not without their charm.  You can choose to pay for workers who will help your resources produce assets.  Or you can enslave your enemies which will allow you to gain a free work force.  Now of course no one’s enemies were slaves, Roman enemies died.  It was the populace that was enslaved.  And I dare not think that the Roman Empire would have given people the option of just being workers.

But it is an interesting mechanic.  It is also a core part of the game.  Fleeing enemies need to be tracked down by cavalry and turned into slaves, otherwise they come back stronger with more veterancy.

The campaign is four chapters long and represents anywhere from 12-30 hours of gameplay depending on difficulty setting.

Is it worth buying?  Probably not.  The game is designed to more or less scam consumers into thinking it is some indie game that is supposed to have flaws that give it charm.  Instead it’s a game that could have actually used a lot more time in early access.

Review: Crunch Time!

For some time trading card games were really popular.  And then their popularity was seemingly replaced with poker and gambling.  And now with the release of Hearthstone it’s popular again.

So with anything that becomes popular that are streams of copycat killers trying to come around and slay the top rung player.

Crunch Time! has no chance in hell of ever being a slayer of anything.

One of the golden rules with a market dominated by free games is that if people are going to pay for something, they have to be paying for a premium experience.  This is not the case with this game.  It actually offers far less than a free title would.  It’s entirely possible that the market for card games is too full of games that offer a lot for free and that little fish have no room to jump in.

Crunch Time! is a trading card game that has absolutely no trading cards.  There is nothing to collect. There are no decks to build.  There is no style or strategy.  What you get instead is a game that focuses entirely on randomness and removes strategy from the title.

Each player is given five cards to start.  Cards can either be “Talent” or Abilities.  Talent compose of video game developers, designers, sound guys, and testers.  Each has either 2 or 4 turn setting.  When a 2 turn setting is used it goes to your game.  The goal is to collect completed talent who are working on some part of your game.  As their numbers tick down they get added to your title.

To slow this process down you use ability cards.  Ability cards come in many ways and are the part of the game that most suffer from balance issues.  Some cards can shut down production of only a certain type for one turn, those are fine.  The ones that shutdown production for 2-3 turns are not.  They shut down production of all types and can be “countered” with situational cards.

Another rather over powered card is the Publisher Contact.  This full on removes a single end goal from your score and sets you back several turns.

You must have 5 cards in your hand at all time.  So if you expel 5 cards, you get 5 cards.  If you have 5 cards, you only get 1 card for the next turn.  It drives you to burn through as many cards as you can in order to win.  If an opponent gets 5 publisher contact cards, you just lose the game.

The randomness in the game is the major decider of whether or not you win.  If you get everything you need you win.  If you don’t your opponent wins.

Your opponent is always the computer.  There is no multiplayer…. of which multiplayer is essential for this sort of game.

It does have a leaderboard but the leaderboard is private only and only refers to you and computer high scores.  Because of that it’s basically useless.

In today’s day and age I doubt this game is even good enough to be on a mobile app.  It has some neat ideas, but it’s just missing a lot to make it a worthwhile purchase.

The irony is that they (the developers) are well aware of these limitations.  When you go to their website they talk about how they are going to add all of these features into the sequel.  And there in lies the problem, they’re not willing to invest in their own product. They’re not willing to make a great game, they’re only willing to sell this cheap tacky half game until the full one is ready.

Because of this is will never ever be a worth while purchase…. and honestly anyone who buys the second one is just supporting a morally bankrupt person.

Review: It’s a Wipe

When you think of turn based RPG the first game that should come to everyone’s mind is Final Fantasy.  But why not think about an MMORPG?

It’s a Wipe takes all that you love about the Final Fantasy games, removes the story and replaces it with drama between your heroes.

The apt description of this game is the day to day management a WoW guild.  You have people apply for your guild and you have to select at least 9 players to raid with you.

Much like a real WoW guild you have a lot of bullshit.  Like not all classes are designed equally.  But you really should bring at least one of each because there are class linked loot that will drop.  That means often bringing a very underpowered raid in order to get the maximum amount of loot.

Then you have to deal with that other drama, some people get chosen for loot over others.  Yeah someone has to get loot and someone else isn’t getting loot.

The game uses a morale system to decide the general feeling of your guild members.  Like in a real guild, members will leave for a number of reasons. Just progressing is not enough.  People may have preset feelings like wanting to raid a lot, wanting to raid a little bit, wanting to get loot, not caring about loot, wanting to talk, not wanting to talk.

So in the instance of loot when you have two people who both want loot, one person will receive a +2 morale and the other will receive a -4 morale.  In this way the morale system is almost always working against you.  The game makes it very difficult to progress beyond the first few dungeons, as only the most elite can get that far.

The available recruits in the game also does not fill up very fast.  If you’re losing guild members it will eventually become impossible to replace them.  The trek to the top is difficult and may cause you to re-try over and over and over.

And that’s when I knew I liked the game.  When I hate again and it’s arduously difficult, I just throw the game away because the problem is with the mechanics, not the game.  In this case I feel like the investment was worth my time.  I was uniquely interested in seeing what the end game looks like.

The game does have some things missing from the overall guild leading experience.  You’re not going to see the nerf and buff cycles that will cripple top tier guilds that stack their raids for success.  You’re not going to see the forum drama that occurs between developers and players.  You’re not going to see any sort of website index for community news and events.  You’re not going to see complicated looting systems.  You’re not going to see assignment of guild management.  You’re not going to have consistent events.

The game is very narrow in its scope.  It’s a Final Fantasy style game that has limited guild interactions.

For $5, This is a win.