Friday, November 30, 2012

Endless Space - Prelude to a Free Weekend

Endless Space is a 4X space game from Amplitude Studio.  They are actively developing the game post-release using a system they call GAMES2GETHER, a very transparent approach to game development.

I picked the game up during the Steam Thanksgiving sale and have played about 12 hours so far.  It came recommended from a friend who also likes turn-based strategy games.  The game uses a minimal UI that works fairly well.  The overall feel of the game itself is a sense of detachment, as you survey the entire galaxy from a far away view.  The map is a familiar star-graph with jump lanes and wormholes connecting stars together and forming choke-points during the early and mid-games.  Later on, players can develop new ship drives that bypass node lines, opening up the map just as the ships get big and dangerous.

Amplitude has done a rather interesting thing with ship movement: fleets can interdict a system, forcing other fleets to attack them if they wish to leave the system.  This means you can use your fleets to trap enemy fleets or control access to particular parts of the map.  When combined with Amplitude's decision to start players in a "cold war" state, the early game colony rush contains the real possibility of evolving into a shooting war.  Battles look spectacular and uses a 5-phase system to keep battles short and micromanagement free.

Fleets can interdict systems, blocking enemy movement.
The game can feel a bit flat from time to time, but I think that it's definitely worth keeping your eye on as development continues.  As an added bonus, Endless Space is free to play this weekend.  So if you have a Steam account, go and check it out!
One of my early games.

Monday, November 26, 2012

What I've been Playing

I've been playing quite a bit of XCOM lately.  I played the original as a child and so remember nothing from it except the sheer terror that is the Chryssalid and so I would qualify myself as "new" to the series.  The pacing is very effective, as I find myself ping-ponging back and forth between the strategy and tactical layers without missing a beat.  The game also does a good job of creating a sense of reverse time compression - let me explain.

When I play games like Civilization, I lose time.  I look up at the clock after a play session and more time has passed than I expected.  When I play XCOM, I gain time.  The clock shows that less time has passed than expected.  I suspect this is a result of the tension that XCOM creates during play.

XCOM is my current game that I recommend to my gamer friends.  It is an tight, focused experience that creates a deeply personal feeling of victory and defeat no matter which difficulty level you play on.

Due to the steam sale and recommendations from friends, I also picked up both Endless Space and Sword of the Stars II, two space-based 4x games.  I've not really had the time to dive into them in a serious manner, but have managed to clock the first hour or so in each title.  My first impression of Endless Space is one similar to a civilization game: a new player feels pretty comfortable diving in and just doing stuff.  Sword of the Stars II, however, feels much more like a traditional Paradox game: dense, meaty, and requiring a lot of reading and flailing about.