Strategy

April 10, 2013

Real Time Strategy with Death Inc

Death Inc media image

From some of the minds that brought you LittleBigPlanet, Fable and Burnout comes a pungent re-imagining of the Black Death.http://www.ambientstudios.co.uk/deathinc

Now this sounds like my kind of game! And I’m really happy to champion this fun British made game developed by Ambient Studios describe as ‘a freehand strategy game, a unique mix of real-time strategy, god game and business simulation’. Although the game is still in early development there is a demo version you can download from the Kickstarter website here: http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/229423802/death-inc and will be coming soon to PC and Mac.

The back story…

The disaffected grim reaper ‘Grim T Livingstone’ decides to strike out on his own and found his own reaping business in bustling 17th Century England, Death Inc. His job is to harvest the souls of the townsfolk, he does this by infecting them with Bubonic plague. Once infected a person rises to be part of the reapers army of the undead – but it’s never that easy, the townsfolk are no pushover and they will fight you tooth and nail. You compete in the game against another company – the Ministry of Mortality, and also against other reapers such as Livingstone with their own reaping businesses.

I can’t help but compare this game to the OS strategy game Pandemic, I remember blogging about it last year as that was a game I really enjoyed. Strangely, it also reminds me a little of World of Warcraft, where the Lich King and frostmorne claimed the souls of the dead raising them to create his own undead army, so I like to think of this game as a kind of pandemic-WoW mashup. I’m really looking forward to seeing how this game develops, follow all the latest news on the Ambient Studios website: http://www.ambientstudios.co.uk/deathinc/.

March 22, 2013

Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft

hearthstone wallpaper

Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft wallpaper available at: http://eu.battle.net/hearthstone/en/media/#wallpaper

Blizzard Entertainment has announced the the upcoming release of a new free-to-play strategy card game for PC, Mac and iPad which will be called Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft. There will be a hands-on demo at PAX East this weekend, but beta testing is coming soon. To make sure you are ready for the beta just make sure that you sign up for this in your beta profile settings on battle.net.

In the game, players build card decks baed around one of nine WoW character classes (we don’t know what the nine will be as yet out of the available classes here: warrior, paladin, hunter, rogue, priest, death knight, shaman, mage, warlock, monk or druid) and play each other for the chance to win new cards… oh, and for the win, we can’t forget about that! The game is designed so that all players, even if they have never played WoW before, will be able to pick it up and start playing straight away. You will be able to play against the computer in practice matches, pitting your wits against some of the great strategists of Azeroth, and take on your friends via your battle.net friends list. You will also be able to play in two competitive game modes:

Play Mode
A typical head-to-head with a chance to increase your ranking and earn new cards.

The Forge
Players start with a new deck of cards and use that to play other Forge challengers. Players will not only be able to win new cards but add to their collections by buying new card packs or disenchanting existing cards to craft ones that they might be missing.

There will be hundreds of different cards to choose from featuring all your favourite characters from WoW, their spells and weapons, but it will be up to you to build your deck and create winning strategies.

December 9, 2012

Goblin Keeper: Total World Domination Anyone?

“The road may be long, and the dangers may be great, but the reward is well worth it… the title of greatest Goblin Keeper of all time!” Goblin Keeper Game Guide

Goblin Keeper Image

Looking for something to play in your downtime or lunchbreak, why not try out the new free-to-play online game from Night Owl Games called Goblin Keeper. I can only describe it as a strange combination of The Sims, Lemmings and Farmville – be careful it’s strangely addictive.

You are an evil overlord and the aim of the game is total world domination! You achieve this lofty goal by building an army of goblins, orcs, warlocks and other creatures forming your very own empire. All you have to do is keep your army happy with food and gold and get them to build for you as needed, dens for sleeping, mines for resources such as gold, iron and crystal and a library for research among other things – the more they learn the more you are able to achieve for your dungeon, more workers, more space and more powerful creatures. The game has it’s own shop, similar to GW2 but of course on a smaller scale, where you can buy things such as upgrades, boosts, and recipes, or you can trade with other players. All this empire building eventually means that you are able to send out your army on raids to villages or keeps, in turn you need to defend your dungeon from other raiding parties. It has all the right elements, levelling, PvP, PvE, crafting, and it also a really good method of introducing you to the game without resorting to the usual tutorial routines, you are gradually introduced to the elements of the game and suddenly you are playing on your own and relying less on the help tips.

Here’s a quick rundown of the game features:

– Dungeon: Build your dungeons according to your imagination.
– Crafting: When your rooms are created, use the workshop to improve them with equipment and furniture.
– Tactics: Develop various tactics to defend your dungeon and to fight back raids.
– PvP: Relaxing belongs to history: face other players in battle, loot their dungeons and eliminate their creatures.
– PvE: Down with the elves! Destroy and loot the homes of these pointy-ears on your overworld raids.

To see more check out the game trailer available on the Goblin Keeper website: http://en.goblinkeeper.com/media.

Play anywhere, anytime, you can play the test content without having to sign-up so if you’re interested why not give it a try.

July 28, 2012

iOS Review: E.R.S Game Studios

Murder. Mystery. Intrigue.

If these are all things that you like to see packaged into an iOS game then you need to take a look at what ERS Game Studios has to offer. In addition to developing games for the iOS platform there are also PC, Mac and Online games to choose from spanning across a range of different genres including: IHOG, Puzzle/Adventure and Sim/Strategy. Formed in 2006, ERS Game Studios has developed a worldwide following attributed largely in my opinion to the polished gameplay and stunning graphics that some term ‘illustrative realism’. There are numerous reviews of the various ERS games out there and the quality of the final product and the graphics are always a big talking point.

I’ve been playing the iPhone and iPad versions of ERS Studios games for a while now and I’m glad I’ve now got the opportunity to talk a little bit about what attracts me to them and why I think they are so amazing. I started off playing ‘The Mystery of Joyville: Puppet Show’ which I found while browsing the App Store, as soon as I’d completed the game I actually looked up the game developers, found out what else they had released and got downloading. So far I’ve completed five of the eight iOS games that have been released, I’ve listed the titles of the eight games below (screenshots alonside this review are taken from Music of Death and Curse of the Raven) and you can find out more from the ERS Game Studios website. Where available it’s definitely worth springing for the collectors editions to get the bonus content at the end.

  • Maestro: Music of Death
  • Haunted Legends: The Queen of Spades
  • Haunted Halls: Green Hills Sanitarium
  • Dark Tales: Edgar Allan Poe’s The Black Cat
  • Redemption Cemetery: Curse of the Raven
  • Dark Tales: Edgar Allan Poe’s Murders in the Rue Morgue
  • PuppetShow: Mystery of Joyville
  • Hidden Wonders of the Depths 2: Around the World

As with all IHOG games there seems to be a combination of factors which make them appealing rather than tedious, a really nice aspect to these games is that many tend to run in series, for example, the latest games I’ve played ‘Maestro: Music of Death’ and ‘Redemption Cemetery: Curse of the Raven’ both have sequels coming soon and it seems like a natural progression for the games rather than something that is forced to get a new game out quickly. Another aspect of the games that appeals to me is the tie in with Edgar Allen Poe’s stories, Poe being best known for writing tales of the macabre. It’s amazing how well the games in the series work alongside Poe’s dark themes which often dealt with death, reanimation of the dead and mourning .

When you first start one of the ERS games, literally when you touch the icon you know that effort has gone into making it, there is a sense of becoming involved in the story by adding a cinematic-style opening which combined with the music really make the game interesting from the start. You know what your objective is and now you need to work through the content to achieve it. The story is a true mystery and your role is to act in a detective capacity to figure it out, the puzzles are not hard but they will get your brain working and the hidden object scenes are just fantastic, they are miniture works of art which are a pleasure to behold. ERS Game Studios also have the graphics-music combination nailed, and I find myself humming along as I try to find the objects hidden within the scene. In each game the gameplay is slightly different and you need to constantly adapt to the situation as it unfolds. It’s not brain science, you won’t achieve mensa status by solving the puzzles, but they are fun and progress the storyline in a way that keeps you entertained and eager to find out what happens next.

In general these games get excellent reviews, the only recurring critism seems to be that they are lacking in originality and perhaps do not lend as much of a challenge as some would like to see, as eluded to above. Both are valid points, but I think that it would be very difficult to create a truly original story in this particular genre, of course that’s not a reason not to try, but I’d also be concerned that by changing the format too much it would remove something fundamental to the success of games like these, taking away the reason that so many people love them, it’s that mystery, working through the process and progressing through the story that makes these games appealing. I also think that making the puzzles within the game or the gameplay more challenging is more a question of appealing to the right demographic, ERS Games Studios pride themselves on being casual game developers, these are games you are supposed to be able to pick up and run through without it being so difficult that you end up frustrated by the whole thing and fling your iPhone/iPad across the room, essentially they are feel-good games that allow you to get the little grey cells working and have that sense of achievement at the end. They are great games for what they are designed to be.

To wrap up, here are some of the game features that might be of interest:

  • You can play a certain amount of the content for free before purchasing the game
  • There is an in-game tutorial to get you started
  • Some games have a strategy guide (in case you get stuck)
  • The collectors editions have special bonus content
  • The game saves as you go, just start and stop when you like

These type of games are not going to be everyone’s cup of tea, but there is definitely more than meets the eye and it’s definitely worth a look.

December 26, 2011

Command & Conquer: Red Alert– an iOS Game Done Right.

Hardcore games are not hard to find on any smartphone platform, Apple’s iOS included. With most of these titles, the hardcore gamer demographic generally has a universal complaint: controls. Shooters, platformers, action games and RPGs all prove to be substantially more challenging and off-putting because of the lack of tactile feedback from a touchscreen interface. One game genre, however, doesn’t have this hangup: Real Time Strategy. As a matter of fact, RTS games seem tailor-made for a touchscreen interface. That being said, I was skeptical when I first saw an official Command and Conquer franchise port to iOS– and got even more nervous when it turned out to be an extension of one of my favorite C&C series: Red Alert. Thank God I gave it a shot.

Not often will I pay for an app of any kind, but after trying the free demo, I bought the full version of Red Alert the very same day, and then later bought it for a friend so we could play together. I not only bought this game, I bought it twice, and it was worth every penny. The fact of the matter is that RTS is perhaps the only style of hardcore game that will ever be perfectly executed on a touchscreen, which is an insane bargain for its $.99 price tag.

The first concern for many gamers when looking at a hardcore mobile game is controls. Rest assured, the controls for this game, while they have a small learning curve, are completely sensible. Even with grouping different units together for an attack force, the onscreen controls are fast and intuitive. One draw back, however, is that you only get 3 hotkey slots for these groups. As seen on the right, the Apocalypse Tanks are back. In this screenshot, they are collectively following attack orders as group 1– hence the top group slot being highlighted in red. While at first the idea of only 3 unit groups is off-putting, it really doesn’t present much of a tactical issue. This sort of scaling back is fairly common throughout all aspects of the game, but sort of makes sense for the smaller nature of the iOS platform. One would hope, though, that the game would have a much larger unit cap with better hardware on later iDevices. Perhaps if there is a subsequent Command & Conquer title for iOS, we could even hope to see larger multiplayer functionality. In a perfect world, this would include support for more than two participants in any given skirmish or multiplayer match, and support for online play. Though all in all, it’s hard to complain too loudly about the first attempt at an official iOS C&C.

Now, the game is good as is when you download it from the App Store, and well worth a buck. I will say, however, that I also bought both available expansions, which were also worth every last penny (twice). The first is the map pack. Even if you’re content with only two factions, two stock skirmish maps is a little harder to defend. For an additional dollar, you get all the maps seen on the right in addition to the two the game comes with. This is a massive improvement for only costing a buck. And if you really wanna make the game seem bigger, The Empire of the Rising Sun expansion adds a complete third playable faction, and its own campaign– all for $2.99. While the compounded cost may scare away a few players, this is a lot of game for your money, and one with a nearly indestructible replay value. Besides, all that said, and you’re still only in it for $3.98. That’s a ridiculously low price for a quality game. Don’t believe me? Try the free demo. If you’re a fellow C&C fan, you’ll probably buy it just like I did.

December 26, 2011

Command & Conquer: Red Alert– an iOS Game Done Right.

Hardcore games are not hard to find on any smartphone platform, Apple’s iOS included. With most of these titles, the hardcore gamer demographic generally has a universal complaint: controls. Shooters, platformers, action games and RPGs all prove to be substantially more challenging and off-putting because of the lack of tactile feedback from a touchscreen interface. One game genre, however, doesn’t have this hangup: Real Time Strategy. As a matter of fact, RTS games seem tailor-made for a touchscreen interface. That being said, I was skeptical when I first saw an official Command and Conquer franchise port to iOS– and got even more nervous when it turned out to be an extension of one of my favorite C&C series: Red Alert. Thank God I gave it a shot.

Not often will I pay for an app of any kind, but after trying the free demo, I bought the full version of Red Alert the very same day, and then later bought it for a friend so we could play together. I not only bought this game, I bought it twice, and it was worth every penny. The fact of the matter is that RTS is perhaps the only style of hardcore game that will ever be perfectly executed on a touchscreen, which is an insane bargain for its $.99 price tag.

The first concern for many gamers when looking at a hardcore mobile game is controls. Rest assured, the controls for this game, while they have a small learning curve, are completely sensible. Even with grouping different units together for an attack force, the onscreen controls are fast and intuitive. One draw back, however, is that you only get 3 hotkey slots for these groups. As seen on the right, the Apocalypse Tanks are back. In this screenshot, they are collectively following attack orders as group 1– hence the top group slot being highlighted in red. While at first the idea of only 3 unit groups is off-putting, it really doesn’t present much of a tactical issue. This sort of scaling back is fairly common throughout all aspects of the game, but sort of makes sense for the smaller nature of the iOS platform. One would hope, though, that the game would have a much larger unit cap with better hardware on later iDevices. Perhaps if there is a subsequent Command & Conquer title for iOS, we could even hope to see larger multiplayer functionality. In a perfect world, this would include support for more than two participants in any given skirmish or multiplayer match, and support for online play. Though all in all, it’s hard to complain too loudly about the first attempt at an official iOS C&C.

Now, the game is good as is when you download it from the App Store, and well worth a buck. I will say, however, that I also bought both available expansions, which were also worth every last penny (twice). The first is the map pack. Even if you’re content with only two factions, two stock skirmish maps is a little harder to defend. For an additional dollar, you get all the maps seen on the right in addition to the two the game comes with. This is a massive improvement for only costing a buck. And if you really wanna make the game seem bigger, The Empire of the Rising Sun expansion adds a complete third playable faction, and its own campaign– all for $2.99. While the compounded cost may scare away a few players, this is a lot of game for your money, and one with a nearly indestructible replay value. Besides, all that said, and you’re still only in it for $3.98. That’s a ridiculously low price for a quality game. Don’t believe me? Try the free demo. If you’re a fellow C&C fan, you’ll probably buy it just like I did.

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