Posts Tagged ‘strategy’

R.U.S.E (Xbox 360)

Posted: September 8, 2010 in PC, Playstation 3, XBOX 360
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R.U.S.E. ScreenshotZoom all the way out from one of Ruse’s World War II battlefields and you’ll see the edge of the strategy table in the commanding Allied general’s war room. Desk officers work silently in the background; troops are colourful blue and red counters inching across a map of Europe, their movements delineated in bright, wide arrows.

Zoom all the way in, and you can hear the artillery fire, watch foot soldiers set up an ambush in a French village square and see a tank battalion inch along forest paths whilst a recon unit scouts ahead through the trees, on the lookout for hidden enemy soldiers. You can command the battle as if you’re on the ground, or from a strategist’s eagle-eyed viewpoint, and you’ll need to make use of both. Pivotal moments in battle play out in letterbox cinematics, showing you a squadron of incoming bombers or the moment of defeat on another front.

Ruse is nicely, clearly presented – and equally unusually for a console-centric RTS, you’re never frustrated by the limitations of your viewpoint or control. There’s no cursor to guide around with an impossibly imprecise analogue stick – you select a unit by pointing the camera in is direction and pressing a button, and move a little ghost version of it to the intended position to issue a command. Just a few buttons let you select all units of one type, or group nearby troops together for a command.

R.U.S.E. ArtworkRuse’s challenge comes from the nature of the missions rather than control difficulties. It’s a precise, ponderous game; it demands careful thought, forward-planning and preparation for all eventualities, not quick reactions. Overpowering the enemy by sheer force of numbers or speed of action is never a possibility. The game plays out significantly differently on each of its three difficulty settings – reinforcements that back you up at crucial moments simply don’t turn up on higher difficulties, and easy secondary missions turn into death-traps.

The story follows an American chap called Joe Sheridan on his journey from a Major in Tunisia to a General on the front line in the closing stages of the War, guided by a charming, moustachioed British ranking officer. Unfortunately, Joe is a tiresome dude, a big-headed twazzock who often seems more concerned about his rivalries within the American army or the attentions of his attractive assistant than with the war at hand. The plot focuses on tracking down a German intelligence source, Prometheus, but frankly it’s not a gripping war epic.

The opening mission gives you a tantalising glimpse of the scale and variety that you’ll be playing with later, teasing you with a German battlefield full of looping fighter planes and bombers and tanks on all fronts. After that, though, the game takes all of that away again. It flashes back to Tunisia in 1942 and takes quite some time to get going again. As the war goes on and Joe climbs the ranks, access to new units, base building and the titular Rusetechniques slowly opens up, but it’s hours before you’re really allowed to stretch your legs on the battlefield.

R.U.S.E. ScreenshotThose opening hours crawl by at the speed of one of the game’s heavy tanks – though none of Ruse’s units are exactly speedy. Battles are slow and steady, relying heavily on your ability to predict the next enemy movements and defuse their attacks with ambushes and strategic unit deployment rather than meet them head-on. Crucial to this approach are the RUSE intelligence techniques themselves, which allow you to decrypt enemy transmissions to determine their movements, send spies behind their lines to see exactly which units are hiding there, speed up your own deployment and movement speed and boost your chances in various other helpful ways.

Knowing which RUSE technique to use at which time is crucial to success. Ruse isn’t easy on strategic mistakes. You must remember to put your bombers under radio silence to protect them from fighter planes, or hide your infantry in towns or forests, or your vital, limited units will be wiped out. Make a mistake in the earlier missions and you’re almost guaranteeing yourself an instant restart – oddly enough, things get a little easier later on, when the game finally starts allowing you to build your own bases, establish your own supply lines and deploy and position your own units. Once Joe is a general, you can always manufacture some extra tanks to make up for your strategic mistakes.

The slow pacing never changes, though. Ruse isn’t a fast-paced RTS, but it’s not a dumbed-down one either. It has its own tension; watching masses of Axis troop counters creep slowly and inexorably towards your base whilst you deploy defences at the limited speed allowed you is just as tense as the frantic, unpredictable battles of other games in the genre, in its own way. (ign)

Published by: Ubisoft
Developed by: Eugen Systems
Genre: Real-Time Strategy
Number of Players: 1-8
Release Date: US: September 7, 2010
MSRP: $59.99
T for Teen: Mild Language, Mild Violence, Use of Tobacco
Also Available On: PlayStation 3PC


Posted: September 8, 2010 in iPhone/iPad/iPod, Nintendo DS/i/3DS, PC, XBOX 360
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You would be forgiven for saying you’ve had your fill of tower defense games. The past few years have seen a flood of these strategy clones filling downloadable portals like Xbox Live Arcade. But you know who might be able to bring you back: the good people that brought you Peggle. PopCap, one of the best developers and publishers around, has brought its excellent tower defense game Plants vs. Zombies to XBLA. While it uses the basic mechanics of all efforts in this genre, it stands out for its charm, personality, and loads of gameplay variety. The result is another addictive experience from PopCap that will appeal to all walks of gamers.

Zombies are creeping on your lawn, and your garden is the last line of defense against these brain-crazy cannibals. You have some pretty peculiar (but useful) plants at your disposal, including pea shooters that spit green balls at the undead, hot tamales that burn everything in their path, and Venus zombie traps that will devour an enemy in one gulp. By planting various seeds in strategic locations around your lawn you may be able to hold off the onslaught and keep them from entering your house and eating your brain.

Unlike many tower defense games there isn’t a winding path the zombies follow towards your home. The yard is divided into six rows and zombies shuffle across the yard in a fairly orderly fashion. They won’t cross over into other lanes but you will find multiple bodies coming in on one row. It’s a very simple design and, while it does eventually become challenging, this is one of the easier tower defense games I’ve played. The real draw here is the incredible variety of plants (towers) and zombies. There are 48 kinds of plants with numerous offensive, defensive, and production capabilities, and 26 different zombies. Completing each level in the game will unlock a new plant or item to add to your arsenal. The array of choices means you can customize your strategy and confront the undead on your own terms. These constant rewards really keep you involved and will have you defending your lawn for much longer than you may have expected.

There is also a wide variety of gameplay styles. Some levels take place during the day and some at night, which has a large effect on what plants are available to you, how you harvest sunlight (your resources), and what environmental obstacles you encounter. Interspersed among the regular levels are more arcade-like variations on the tower defense formula. You may lose the ability to select plants and instead have to make do with pre-selected weapons that come down a conveyor belt. Or you may be asked to play Whack-a-Zombie out of the blue. There is also a survival mode to unlock and puzzles that let you play as the zombies. You can’t go more than a few minutes with this game without discovering something new and delightful.

Adding to the game’s charm is the cast of undead, ranging from football players to zombies that carry screen door shields to aquatic zombies that ride dolphins (you have a pool in the backyard). These aren’t your gruesome Left 4 Dead or Resident Evil zombies. This is a zombie game for the whole family (never thought I’d say that). It also has a catchy, organic soundtrack that becomes more intense as your yard is flooded with enemies. The light voice acting gives the undead character as they lurch toward your house grunting and moaning for brains.

The transition from mouse and touch screen controls to a control pad has been handled very smoothly. It’s easy to whisk your cursor around the screen with the analog stick and now you can hold the triggers to suck sunlight in. This version of Plants vs. Zombies doesn’t feel cumbersome at all.

New to Plants vs. Zombies are competitive and cooperative multiplayer modes. Versus mode is particularly fun and lets one player take control of the zombie horde and try to eat their way into their buddy’s house. When playing as the plants, you win by shooting down three of the zombie’s five targets on their side of the screen. It’s great fun. These multiplayer modes are only available locally. PopCap is trying something different with Plants vs. Zombies’ leaderboards on XBLA, and I’m not sure it works. Instead of a list of high scores or game completion percentages, you can show off your house to your Xbox Live friends. A pile of dead zombies will accrue on your lawn and ornaments will appear as you earn achievements, which are supposed to be representative of all you’ve accomplished in the game. As I’m playing the game early for review, I can’t really get a sense of how satisfying it will be to check out my friends’ houses. (ign)

Published by: PopCap Games
Developed by: PopCap Games
Genre: Strategy
Number of Players: 1-2
Release Date: US: September 28, 2010
MSRP: $15.00
RP for Rating Pending
Also Available On: iPhoneiPadXbox 360Nintendo DSPCMac

Elemental: War of Magic (PC)

Posted: September 8, 2010 in PC
Tags: ,

I enjoyed Stardock’s Sins of a Solar Empire, and I’ve been known to lose myself to other 4X games (games based around “exploration, exploitation, expansion, and extermination”) such as Civilization. With this in mind you might assume that its newest game, Elemental: War of Magic, would be a match made in heaven for someone like me who enjoys both the genre and is a huge fantasy nerd. Which is why it’s so disappointing that Elemental is in the unfinished, beta-like state that it’s in.

At the time of this review Elemental has been out for two weeks, and yet it still feels like it’s in development. But before I get way too deep into its issues, let me try to give you a brief overview of what this game is all about. Elemental is a turn-based strategy game where you control a hero known as a Sovereign. After selecting what nation and Sovereign you want to use (or creating your own complete with backstory), you then use a series of options to select the size of the world, the length of the game, who you’ll be facing, and the victory conditions you want to play with.

In the game you use your Sovereign to build up a series of cities and forge an empire, competing with other Sovereigns for valuable resources on the map. That makes it sound pretty simple, but trust me, it’s not. It’s easy to get overwhelmed when you’re not only managing the resources of your empire, but also worrying about the income and construction going on in each of your cities on a turn-to-turn basis. Stack on this the constant choices you’re making about the research your country is performing – focusing on either military, politics, infrastructure or magic, which in turn will affect the entire way you play the game since research determines the things you can build – and the head that’s wearing the crown starts to feel heavy indeed. The ultimate goal of this complicated empire building? To unite the land through conquest, diplomacy, questing, or uniting all the magical shards in the world.

Like Civilization, the primary focus of Elemental is not playing through a story-driven campaign, but is instead more about creating a world out of a series of options and seeing how it works out. Sure, Elemental has a short campaign mode that follows a story, but the tale itself is pretty mundane, and it doesn’t even work all that well as the tutorial it’s so obviously meant to be. You can learn some very basic ideas behind the game through playing this guided version of the game, but even by the time I finished the it – even after reading all the in game tool tips and guides that are available – I still felt like I didn’t have a very good understanding of how any of the more complex mechanics in Elemental worked. Even now, after many single player battles outside of the campaign (the primary way you’ll play Elemental), I still find that I learn more about the game by talking about it with other people who are playing than I ever do through any of the in-game help that’s available. It’s a significant problem, and one that Stardock is aware of, as they’ve informed me that they’re working on a full-blown tutorial right now.

If, like me, you’re willing to put the time into learning the more complex parts of Elemental on your own, then you might enjoy some of what it has to offer. Like other 4X games, Elemental is very addicting, and it’s easy to start a game and then realize the sun is coming up because you’ve played through the night. And while most of the stability issues seem to be fixed now, I can understand a lot of the internet forum outrage that’s occurred since the game launched in regards to its known technical issues. Repeatedly I lost my progress to a random crash, and in one case I even lost the ability to load up my prior saves because they were incompatible with the new version Stardock released.

Sadly, even when the game was working there are some issues with the A.I. that make it pretty frustrating to play against. The A.I. often takes its Sovereign into battle in foreign lands, making it easy to kill – which in turn eliminates the empire from the map. But should the enemy empires be smart enough to avoid this, they’ll usually amass amazingly large armies and march on you, even if the victory through conquest option has been disabled. In all the matches I played I never once saw the A.I. try to win by any other way than wiping out the other nations, making it so I had to focus on my military to a point where I could never effectively pursue the other victory conditions.

The A.I. problem might be less of an issue if I could play against other players, but the multiplayer portion of the game still hasn’t been activated. I would love to tell you all about how much fun it is, or talk about why this aspect of the game might make it a more appealing package overall, but sadly none of us have the option to engage in a part of the game that’s advertised on the back of the box. I know that this is being delayed to fix issues and make sure it’s the best experience possible, but at some point last week it became more than a little ridiculous that paying customers are still waiting for this.

Against A.I. (or, in theory, players) I’m not opposed to winning by conquest, I just wish that the other victory conditions felt more viable, and, more importantly, that playing out the battles was any fun. When you engage with an enemy force in Elemental you are given the option to auto-resolve the battle, or to engage in a turn-based battle where you can control each of your units individually . Going the latter route brings the player to a screen where they can see a battlefield that’s divided into squares. Using their units’ and characters’ action points, each side takes turns maneuvering and fighting until one side is gone or routed from the field. The turn-based option is mildly interesting if you have a spell caster in the army – as casting can make a huge difference in the outcome – but generally this mode is extremely boring to play through. The only thing you really need to consider in combat is whether your army is bigger, and whether or not it has better armor and weapons. If it is, then you simply hit auto-resolve on every combat and move on to the much cooler empire building aspect of Elemental.

While the enemy A.I. and battle system are problematic, Elemental has some redeeming qualities that help me partially overlook its problems. Being able to customize your units – outfitting them with the weapons and armor you’ve researched, giving them mounts, and even editing their name and battle cry – is awesome. I’m a huge nerd, so I can really get into creating my own stories for my army. I also really enjoy the game’s use of limited resources, forcing players to compete for things like mines, fertile soil, ancient libraries, and more, as this makes geographical location of cities much more important than it is in other 4X titles. Heck, even the look of the game is charming, as the hand-drawn looking world has an aesthetic that makes the game unique amongst what we’re seeing releasing for the PC market as of late. (ign)

Published by: Stardock
Developed by: Stardock
Genre: Turn-Based Strategy
Release Date: US: August 24, 2010
MSRP: $49.95
RP for Rating Pending

The latest WiiWare game to make me think “What were they smoking when they thought this up?” is this, A Monsteca Corral: Monsters vs. Robots. It’s a supremely odd mash-up of elements from PikminDoshin the Giant and somebody’s twisted acid trip that has you directing a group of featureless, orange-bodied aliens called Stompies to find and retrieve floating gas bubbles, which they then feed to an enormous worm called the Astromaggot so that its body will balloon up, release strands of silk and carry them all away to the next level.

Really, I want to know which drug it was.

The game is actually not that bad, even though it hurts the rational part of your brain to try to make sense of just what you’re seeing on the screen. You recruit Stompies one at a time, amassing a small army. You use the Wii Remote to point and aim at the environment, assigning them waypoints to march towards. You use stealth and strategic pathfinding behind cover like tall mountains to avoid the watchful gaze of mechanical sentries (that’s the “vs. Robots” part), and you gather up as many maggot-feeding gas bubbles as you can, as quickly as you can. It’s weird, but it mostly works.

Some parts of the control are inconsistent and annoying, like flicking the Wiimote to make your Stompies jump. Luckily, that technique seems mostly optional and I progressed through the campaign well enough without it. The camera controls, mapped to the Nunchuk’s control stick, are decent – though you might strain your eyes to see some of the game’s tiny indicator icons.

  • Published by: Onteca
  • Developed by: Onteca
  • Genre: Real-Time Strategy
  • Number of Players: 1-4
  • Release Date: US: August 16, 2010
  • MSRP: $5.00
  • E for Everyone


Galcon (Android)

Posted: August 18, 2010 in Android, Android Apps
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The very popular game iPhone Galcon, developed by Hassey Enterprises Inc, has finally landed on the Android market. Most people who have owned an iPhone at some point have probably also played this game. While there are already games similar to this on the Android market, most people liken this to being one of the best versions of this sort of game.

Galcom is a RTS (Real-time strategy) game where your goal is to conquer all the planets on the map. As time passes your fleet builds up and you can attack by dragging your finger to one of the enemy planets and setting how much of your force is sent over to hopefully conquer it. Each planet you take over builds their own fleet for you to use as well.


  • Single Player Mode
  • Online Multiplayer
  • Solid computer AI
  • Great graphics and animations

Multiplayer mode will let you battle it out with other players in all the fast paced action this game presents. Should you not feel like battling it out with friends or complete strangers then there is always the customizable single player mode where you can go up against the computer AI opponents. Galcon has pretty much unlimited replay value especially with the online multiplayer feature so you shouldn’t get tired of this game anytime soon.

You can pick this game up off the Android market for $2.99USD and while there is no free lite version to try out, if you want to learn how to play this game if you feel the need to do so before buying you can download one of the various free versions of games similar to this such as GaxalIR.

Developer Website: Hassey Enterprises Inc

Direct Market Link: Galcon

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