Average User Score: 7.3Aug 17, 2014I got it because I'm a sucker for games like this. It hangs together surprisingly well - a combination of mechanics from HOMM3, Disciples, and Civilization/Warlock, and possibly Eador. There wasn't one single thing here I hadn't seen before in another game, that cost less. It's pleasingly challenging, a small map on normal difficulty takes about 2 days - the overall macro strategy against the AI is well-balanced... but the closer you look at any one aspect of the game, it's like it works because they broke everything and it all cancelled each other out. No tactical positioning of units, battle scenery pointless, battle formations pointless since everything moves at the same speed and hits things, some spells ludicrously overpowered, boring micromanagement of unit equipment, time-consuming UI, it culminates in one big fight and if you win the enemy won't catch up with the experience and unit level games, and the writing and the game world are really really really boring. The tech tree makes no sense (Game developers note: Civilization's tech tree only worked because it's a rendition of human history). The hero upgrades tree is even weirder. But worst of all, worst of all, necromancers can't raise decent undead, let alone the unforgettable skeleton hordes of HOMM3. Sigh. Uninstalled.… Expand
Average User Score: 7.1Aug 12, 2014It's a casual beat-em-up with floaty controls, pseudo-RPG character customisation, and a boring comedy plot. It reminded me of Deathspank but without the "witty" writing. The fights are hugely repetitive, the enemies are palette-swapped every so often but there are only ever a limited number of them on screen and their attack and movement patterns are easy and dull. There are only 5 buttons and it's incredibly, ridiculously easy to go flying into chasms by pressing L, L to do a charge attack. After spending a couple of hours on it, I have no sense of having achieved anything - it's just a timewaster.… Expand
Average User Score: 7.6Jul 25, 2014I really liked it - they took a simple game mechanic and made the most of it. It's short but it only needed to be short, and I've replayed it a few times even though I have loads of other stuff in the queue on Steam.
There are lots of simple, clever design decisions on show, for example as your character level gradually increases the weapons in the shop get more expensive. Which keeps you on a learning curve to figure out the combat properly. You are always having to prioritize - in an ideal world you want to have a full health bar, four health potions, three rings/amulets, a monster soul, a level 3 weapon, and to have set up a camp nearby. This will probably never be the case, meaning the play style has to adapt to the combination of stuff that has become available on this particular run.
The combat tricked me at first - it is neither roguelike nor beat-em-up like. Although it uses a limited range of beat-em-up type moves, it has much more in common with old side-scrolling fighting games like Golden Axe, Streets of Rage, and more recently The Spirit Engine - all of which had quite abstract mechanics. Very basically, in AO you and each enemy have a regular attack frequency, and you need your attacks to always be landing just before the enemies' "turns" come up. When it works, it becomes like a rhythm game where you bash the enemies one side of you and then swing round to get the others just before they have time to react .
The health increases on levelling up seem to diminish with each new level - e.g an extra 7 or 8 HP when a typical monster attack does 70 or 80 HP. This is genius because it means grinding is almost pointless and you play to get to the end, rather than to save up for whatever sword. Items get lost at the end and only XP and gold are kept.
The levels are randomly generated but not-very-randomly, and this is also a good thing because once you get used to the pattern you can decide from the mini-map whether to take a side passage to go after treasure or just proceed to the next fight. There is no backtracking or wandering around lost, except on very rare occasions when you get a key after a chest, or die after a ressurrect point. Other than that it's always forward. And this is good.
It's a casual game really, but it needs an hour of reasonably solid focus for each playthrough, and the achievements feel like they are worth playing "one more time" to get. I still need a page of the Warlock's journal because there is something somewhere I still haven't killed. It might be time to start going down the most difficult of the three routes into the dungeon.… Expand
Average User Score: 4.0Mar 7, 2014I had no bugs but on a relatively high-end PC. I started off playing as the Seleucids on Normal difficulty and it held my interest for about 200 turns spread over several weeks. There are loads of design flaws, but on the occasions when the whole package comes together and you have a really tense, satisfying battle it's awesome. I haven't played any of the other Total War games but came to them after being disappointed with the King Arthur one, and I found the basic mechanics pretty similar to Graftgold Games' Realms (1991) or Myth: The fallen lords.
Too many battles in Rome II have an immediately obvious outcome because they have already been determined at the strategic/economic level. Too many of them are repeated sieges of the same cities, and can be won by putting a couple of pikeman/spearman units on the wall to hold off the ladders and then sticking them in front of the gate while the bulk of the enemy forces blunder into the gatehouse's rapid-fire, instantly-lethal, completely non-historical boiling oil, and infinite-ammunition, heat-seeking arrow towers. If they had had some of that stuff in 55BC, Julius Caesar would never have gotten out of Cisalpine Gaul.
Ambushes play out exactly as you'd expect if the enemy's ambush was carried out in the middle of a desert with 20-mile visibility in all directions, by a 2,000-strong force with brightly-coloured tribal shields. "Centurion, I think I can see 2,000 warriors massing on the horizon to ambush us tomorrow!", "hmm. they must be planning to put all their archers on one side of the road, and all their spears on the other, and they don't have any cavalry at all. It must be Saturnalia - let's kill them all!"
But just occasionally the ordinary battles in a big field, or defending an unwalled settlement, more than make up for all the rubbish battles in between. Stragglers from depleted units having to overwhelm an elite pike unit quickly enough that they can get in swords-reach of the archers behind them who are whittling them down, or cavalry having to cross the entire battlefield unsupported to take out the enemy's giant ballistas on the flanks before they pulverize the infantry.
On the strategic scale, it's similar. Most of the time consists of settlements rebelling because they didn't have a big enough temple. "Centurion, the slaves in Brundisium have yet again revolted and formed 18 precisely-organized military units many of whom have extremely expensive equipment and training, especially the cavalry." "Ha! Fools. We will push four of those units off the walls using some cheap spearmen, and then proceed to cover the rest in boiling oil at the front gate like we did in twenty previous years". But then there are times when Carthage are holding out impressively on one side of the map, and then the Roxolani and the Scythians form a "Horde of the Steppes" and start sweeping in from the other side of the map.
Every part of the game mechanics is flawed - but in a way that every couple of hours throws up brilliant, unexpected jewels that wouldn't be found anywhere else. It's worth lumbering through this game for that.… Expand
Average User Score: 7.1Mar 7, 2014It's much less breathtaking than it looks. The puzzles, at least during the first hour or so which was all I could endure, involve pressing light switches to move floating light sources around that make certain platforms appear and disappear. At first it looks like a clever mechanic like Closure (but in 3D), but it's really just switches. In HUGE levels, with no particular idea of where you're supposed to be going or why. It isn't open exploration, there's a linear route - and it's just intentionally not marked out well, or indeed at all. It's like: if I crawl through this little space here and jump over these boxes I'm in the "next" area, which is much like the last one except the boxes are a different way round. The gigantic scale looks good, but it's dull to wander round it. Another game that had this problem was EYE: Divine Cybermancy - if you've played the particular couple of maps in that with vast outdoor areas that take five minutes to walk across but have nothing to interact with or particularly look at on the way, that's pretty much NaissanceE. Only, without anything to do at the end of the long walk, or anything to look at on the way other than grey boxes.
Another puzzle that annoyed me early on involved navigating down a big grey "lift shaft" type thing by hopping from ledge to ledge (long drops kill you forcing a return to the last save), and the puzzle is that the only available light source slowly drifts up and down the middle of the "lift shaft" so that you have to wait 30 seconds between each jump. I hate it when games make things difficult in the game that would be easy if you were physically there - and in this case could feel for the sheer drops at the edges of the ledges.
I'm being really down on this game. It does have a moody, mysterious atmosphere going for it. But probably so would Halo if you removed the plot and replaced all the scenery with grey boxes and put a sort of pixelly filter over the front of everything. And it could well have profound spiritual revelations waiting further into the game, about loneliness, or whether anything means anything... but I just have a creeping suspicion that I could get the same revelations by walking around a shopping mall at night wearing dark glasses. They seem to be patching it lots, and it's a genuine indie not a cynical cash-in, I could just have done with more freedom to get lost walking round a huge grey building, the linearity at the start was a huge disappointment. Back to Anti-Chamber for me!… Expand
Average User Score: tbdFeb 7, 2014Stronghold HD is almost entirely the same as the original Stronghold but with better graphics. I wish they would do that more often and there are loads more deserving games they could have done it to. With Stronghold HD, I only realised I had played the entirety of the single-player campaign once before (10+ years ago) once I was on around the 10th mission. Which I think says the game experience itself is pretty forgettable.
Stronghold is addictive, because it is a lot like Castles (20+ years ago). But unlike that excellent game, it lets you build each wall section or tower instantaneously, removing all of the tension and most of the strategy. If you have a castle, you can kill a virtually infinite number of attackers. When you are besieging a castle (in two of the 21 missions), you will only be able to progress by exploiting the fact that some archers' arrows in a volley randomly exceed their normal range when they miss (but the AI's archers only find targets using the normal range, so you can VERY gradually pick them off this way in the 2 siege missions).
What this shows is that nothing in the game is balanced properly. Battering rams, armoured knights, and virtually everything else can be polished off within seconds by massed archers and/or fire. A 1x1 spike pit trap costs 5 wood. A 10x10 apple orchard costs 5 wood and you can set it on fire, so it's 100x as deadly.
There is no option to block off all incoming food supplies and starve the castle's occupants into submission, which is how they normally did it IRL.
The further you compare with real life, the less favourable it all becomes: castles were normally places where large numbers of soldiers were kept, as distinct from your walled cities, which might have had little blacksmiths and suchlike inside them. Onager-style catapults (c.1200) being fielded alongside knights with barding (c.1500) and crossbows (c.1300 to 1500) and boiling oil (c.never!). Boiling oil wasn't used in medieval sieges at all - due to the stuff being an extremely expensive fuel source, all the historical accounts are about boiling water.… Expand
Average User Score: 8.0Jan 9, 2014I played about 150 turns of this and decided it isn't genuinely difficult, they just didn't design it properly. The problem is that the course of the game is heavily, if not totally, scripted - instead of the actual game mechanics providing balance.
Players are basically supposed to align with either the Christians or the Pagans*, and in my game I somehow ended up choosing quest options that put me into the late game without either side having formed an alliance with me. Which meant that the Christian Saxons in Anglia** had a stack that continually scaled to be twice as strong as my strongest army, but which I could keep pinned down by repeatedly capturing a town in its territory, while on the other side of the map, Pagan Wales had about twenty stacks that were stronger than my strongest army.
The combined industrial output of Arthurian England was unable to compete with either faction, despite them only having three territories at most, and the limitations of the game mechanic make it impossible to spam units or even to have the expendable generals or suicide missions that the strategic situation required.
*, ** - regarding Welsh Pagans and Christian Saxons in Anglia, the game has a basically ludicrous pseudo-history that veers madly between the Venerable Bede (a real historian) and the "Slaine" graphic novels. Saxons in Anglia is weird because the Angles lived in Anglia. The Saxons themselves weren't distinctively Christian - the historic King Raedwald (AD 600) who squares off against King Arthur in this game adopted Christianity, but in reality his sons then took the Saxons back to the Anglo-Saxon gods they had before. And the religious conflict that Anglo-Saxon Christianity really had wasn't with Druids (who had all disappeared by AD 200), but with a Celtic version of Christianity.
The military equipment used by the units is even more anachronistic - e.g. crossbows (AD 1066+), Crusaders (AD 1096+), and gothic plate armour (AD 1400+). Unit stats and performance are therefore basically random. Some units can have stats that are up to four times higher than others - so if two batches of similarly expensive and heavily-armed knights bash into each other, and your batch is the wrong "sort" of knight, they get wiped out.
Most annoying though is the crummy, 1970s folk revival/neo-pagan conception of Druids being "at one with nature", and therefore aligning with Fairies. Everything gets conflated together - Morgan Le Fay gets identified with "Morrigan" (from a different country's folklore hundreds of years distant) because their names sound a bit similar - and the aspects of the legend that actually interested Thomas Malory and other authors of classic versions get obliterated.
The combat in the game is quite fun, to the extent that it copies Total War, and on the rare occasions where a balanced battle takes place (and it isn't against fairies) it can be quite satisfying to trick the AI into being flanked, or whatever. Magic is overpowered, but it's King Arthur - so magic should be overpowered - the problem is that nearly everyone and their cat in this version can cast spells, not just Merlin and Morgan Le Fay. King Arthur and Merlin aren't even units - some warrior-king!
Archers are also over-powered, possibly reflecting British sentiment about longbows post-Agincourt (AD 1415!). Killing someone with flying pointy sticks shouldn't be ten times as quick as battering them to death with heavy blunt things - if that had ever been the case, footsoldiers wouldn't have continued having a military role.
The victory locations mechanic is daft - and there is never much advantage in making for a particular location on the battlefield, because the AI's archers will always be in range before you get there. Victory Locations consists of the AI grabbing them all in the first 30 seconds due to impossibly fast cavalry and always being located closer to them, and then you grabbing them with your own cavalry over the next five minutes after the AI instantly and permanently forgets it has them.… Expand
Average User Score: 7.3Dec 27, 2013Endless Space has all the problems normally associated with 4x strategy games, but few of the fun parts. The tech-tree is large, convoluted, and the discoveries don't correspond at all with the effect on gameplay. Want to colonize a lava planet? That requires graviton thingummy-jiggies on tech tree #4. Research can't be queued. Diplomacy against the AI either includes no options whatsoever, or they get switched on by some obscure discovery.
Balance is everything with these games, and when each system takes 150-200 turns to conquer and the tech tree is a complicated limiting factor, even on Easy difficulty (which is boring) it's very possible to build your empire "wrongly" and reach a stage where you can't make further progress against AI opponents who only have 3 stars but chose the "right" kinetic weapons oojahmahflip from tech tree #2 50 turns previously.
Combat is always between two fleets of up to 12 "command points" (1=gunship, 2=cruiser, 4=battleship). In practice, most battles are between maxed-out fleets and victory is determined by tech. Tactics and ship customisation will not change the outcome against an opponent with an extra point in beam weapons. A fleet with an extra point in beam weapons and an extra point in deflector shields will chew up an infinite number of weaker fleets suffering virtually no attrition in the process (due to insta-repair during the opponent's turn). This means the economic weight of a galactic empire during the end-game isn't an advantage, making the end-game take even longer. They have actually found a way to make the 4x formula's classic problems even worse.
The ship customisation is so limited that they might as well have kept it to templates. Choose from little, medium or big and lasers, machine guns and missiles. There are also carriers, but this is a bad use of "command points", and also ground bombardment and ground invasion options. Ground invasion could have been quite an interesting idea, but there are no significant fixed defences to bombard, and no garrisons to attack. Sieges take 20-30 turns, or you can send in a single unit of infantry for instant conquest.
Sins of a Solar Empire also came out recently as an easier-on-the-eye, slightly "liter" 4x strategy game, and it's much better at the things listed above with few if any drawbacks. The one thing Endless Space does get right by comparison is that its map consists of stars and their orbiting planets, rather than the peculiar free-floating planets of SoaSE. Upgrading planets in Endless Space makes as little sense as the tech tree, but it does at least give the impression of there being a solar system whose local planets co-operate with each other to build stuff. Planets can be: barren, arid, desert, tundra, terran, jungle, asteroid belt, lava, arctic, gas giant (hydrogen, methane or helium), and they can be tiny, small, medium or huge. The differences aren't as noticeable as they should be so long as you choose advanced intergalactic bobbins on tech tree #3 (left branch), they are all equally easy to settle and look after.
The graphics and artwork are mediocre. Planets of the same type look the same as each other, each faction only has six ship graphics and I defy anyone to actually tell them apart either at the strategic scale or in the close-up battle sequences. The auto-resolve battles (with added rock/paper/scissors) aren't as annoying as others have made out I had been watching them to try and better understand the combat mechanics. The problem is that you can tell who is going to win by adding up the tech levels of each gun in their fleets. Graphically, they impressed me less than Gratuitous Space Battles, as well as tactically.
I got this on Steam for a single-digit sum of money and was bored within 8 hours. Get a fan-mod of Empire of the Fading Suns, or even a copy of Supremacy (1990) instead for "4x lite" done well. Don't get this.… Expand
Average User Score: 7.2Dec 18, 2013It's a basically ill-conceived, badly implemented game in a shiny package. Starting with the positive, the (spoof) high-fantasy setting, voice acting, and artwork are extremely good by any standards and manage to stand out in an extremely crowded market for this sort of stuff. In particular, the Undead as a civilian race along with skeletal council-representative are splendid. The political decision-making is "lite" but entertaining e.g. you can support or veto an Elfish motion to make all the war-machines out of renewable materials, with predictable and meaningful effects on production costs and public opinion (which influences the economy and also battles).
After making a great start with things that fantasy strategy games get wrong more often than not, they somehow botched almost everything else in the game, starting with the game. It's a "lite" RTS bolted unceremoniously onto a "lite" strategy boardgame, and in the RTS you can basically cheat by destroying all enemy units with an infinitely fast, indestructable, regenerating dragon.
The strategy boardgame has at least two flaws I'd consider fatal: firstly the units' relative importance here doesn't carry over into the RTS. A basic "Trooper" might take the full production resources of a country for a turn to produce at the strategic level, or about 10 seconds at the RTS level. However at the RTS level they are worthless cannon fodder, but at the strategic level when combats are auto-resolved they get a "fair" chance of destroying enemy units. The second fatal flaw is that the resources carry over between maps so once you complete one map, you can start the next with an unstoppable army.
The problems with the RTS are more subtle and could be solved in different ways. Personally, I would:-
remove the fixed population cap, nerf the perfectly accurate anti-aircraft defences, make the dragon constantly consume resources, slow down the units or make the maps bigger, make the units carried in from the strategic level irreplaceable and more powerful than the RTS-level equivalents, and replace the whole "control point" system with something less clunky.
It's virtually impossible to lose, unit special abilities can't be used quickly enough, the computer can churn out units (by clicking!) so quickly and so soon that the dragon is needed to mop them up, (at which point you just win), but if you get hold of 2 out of 3 or 3 out of 4 recruitment "control points", the producing units impossibly quickly advantage goes from the computer to you pretty quickly.
It's just a mess, and it feels like it resulted from a complete lack of thought followed by a policy of obstinately ignoring playtesters who would have picked up on these problems. The dragon could have been introduced into a bog-standard C&C clone and worked better without all the stuff they did to the RTS formula to try and balance the dragon.
Three more problems: using the dragon makes strategic unit production and delivering commands temporarily impossible; the dragon cannot even be summoned in sea battles (due to there being no "recruitment centres"); and there is no option to auto-resolve with dragon.
If you could auto-resolve with dragon so as to completely ditch the RTS segment, and had an option to dump unwanted gold, it would be possible to have a passable boardgame a bit like Risk without the strategic depth.… Expand