Tag Archives: RTS

Paul’s Preeminent PlayStation Plus Purge – Zombie Tycoon 2: Brainhov’s Revenge

For some dumb reason, I assumed Zombie Tycoon 2: Brainhov’s Revenge was a theme park builder. It’s that word tycoon, which made me instantly think of RollerCoaster Tycoon. Silly me. It is most certainly not that. In fact, it’s an RTS, a genre I’m never good at sinking my teeth into, but I wanted to give it a shot so I at least played through the tutorial and first level. Let’s see if this rotting corpse has any life left in it.

Zombie Tycoon 2: Brainhov’s Revenge begins with Orville Tycoon, former disciple of Professor Brainhov, taking the zombie formula invented by Brainhov and using it to take over the world via shambling hordes of the undead. I’m assuming these characters appeared in the previous game. Orville only acts upon this after Brainhov tests the zombie formula on himself (after a previously unsuccessful test), which actually works, and turns himself into a zombie. All of the levels take place in ruined suburban areas, and the game does a decent job parodying suburbs and southern living. Anyways, Brainhov comes back from the grave and usurps Orville’s mobile zombie base with his more adept feral zombies, subsequently securing his rise back to power. It’s your job to stop him.

The controls take a little bit to get used to, but considering this is an RTS on a console, which means playing with a controller instead of mouse and keyboard, it’s perfectly perfunctory. The left analog stick moves the camera’s position and the right analog stick rotates the camera, letting you zoom in or out. Each unit is attached to a specific button on your controller, such as square or circle, and you move units by pressing these face buttons. The directional pad activates your zombie overlord’s powers, and you can cause a horde to go madly wild by pressing RB. The controls work pretty well–it is better than trying to draw boxes around specific units–but the pathfinding could use some work in spots.

I found the combat to be somewhat underwhelming. As with all things zombies, unless you are 28 Days Later, there’s nothing fast and frantic to watch, even with upgraded ninja zombie classes. Instead, you select your group of undead beings and send them off to slaughter humans or battle against ferals, and everything moves so slowly. Once the fighting starts, you just watch it happen and hope for the best. This is probably pretty common for the genre, but again, it’s not an area I know much about, and I wanted a little more direct involvement.

I will say this about Zombie Tycoon 2: Brainhov’s Revenge. It’s presented well, and the story, which is mostly told without words, is pretty funny and enjoyable to watch unfold. I love the look of both the zombies and civilians. The graphics are not extremely detailed, but are rather going for a colorful cartoon look, and it works. There’s a nicely included codex on the main menu that lets you look at all the zombies, monsters, and buildings up close since you can only zoom in so far during a mission, plus you’ll learn some good info there, like attack damage and HP stats. The music certainly evokes a B-level zombie horror style that somehow infuses mellow jazz and doesn’t really interfere with the bigger picture, and it’s fine if a bit unmemorable.

Looks like I don’t need to pick a side in this battle of zombies versus zombies–Orville or Brainhov. Instead, I’m uninstalling Zombie Tycoon 2: Brainhov’s Revenge from my PlayStation 3 and moving on to something else. Though now I have a hankering to go back and play the original Age of Empires, one of a select few RTS games I enjoyed back in the day. Granted, this was when I literally have three to four games to play on my PC, so my options were limited and I took what I could take.

Oh look, another reoccurring feature for Grinding Down. At least this one has both a purpose and an end goal–to rid myself of my digital collection of PlayStation Plus “freebies” as I look to discontinue the service soon. I got my PlayStation 3 back in January 2013 and have since been downloading just about every game offered up to me monthly thanks to the service’s subscription, but let’s be honest. Many of these games aren’t great, and the PlayStation 3 is long past its time in the limelight for stronger choices. So I’m gonna play ’em, uninstall ’em. Join me on this grand endeavor.

Paul’s Preeminent PlayStation Plus Purge – Anomaly: Warzone Earth

Anomaly: Warzone Earth is set in the year 2018, where sections of an alien spacecraft have crash-landed in several major cities around the world, including Baghdad and Tokyo, and doom is beyond impending. Y’know, not all that much different from our current climate. Anyways, you take on the role of the commander of an armor battalion, referred to as “14th Platoon,” and are sent to investigate anomalies that have occurred in the vicinity of these wreckages and gather information on what is happening in the affected areas. See, the anomalies–which, if you didn’t know, are something that deviates from what is standard, normal, or expected–are interfering with radar and satellite imagery and must be dealt with to neutralize any potential threats.

Y’all should already know at this point that tower defense is not a favorite genre of mine. It’s not to say I hate it to the point that I won’t play anything in it, as I have enjoyed a few–namely Kingdom Rush and Plants vs. Zombies–but generally I’m not hooked on the gameplay. I only played Defense Grid: The Awakening long enough to get some specific Achievements back when I was trying to hit a certain amount and then uninstalled the game without any further thought. Harsh, but true. Well, Anomaly: Warzone Earth is kind of like a reverse tower defense. Or, if you are feeling silly, tower offense. However, I’m continue to remain not hooked.

Basically, you control a bunch of mobile units in an environment brimming with enemy turrets, making your way to a specific point on the map. Anomaly: Warzone Earth takes this idea one step further by giving you control over what you can build, the order in which you place your units–they move in a singular line–and by also allowing you to plot out the course you’ll take dynamically during the mission, switching routes when necessary or a better path opens up. I enjoyed the rethinking “on the fly” part, as well as running ahead of my units and gathering power-ups, seeing what enemies and traps are in store.

I like the look of Anomaly: Warzone Earth a lot, and the top-down perspective really makes you feel like a god, commanding these soldier-esque ants to do your bidding. You direct all the movement, the moment-to-moment action, and collect power-ups dropped on the battlefield from planes overhead. The UI is clean and stylish, with the map screen sporting a beautiful mix of blues, whites, and reds, and the tutorial never really felt like a tutorial, pushing you through the first mission quickly while teaching you things along the way, such as how to heal units or purchase new tanks. That said, the story is fairly ho-hum, with the voice acting not doing it any favors.

I played the first three levels of Anomaly: Warzone Earth‘s campaign, stopping at mission 4 “Distress Call,” and that’s enough for me. There’s other modes, like Baghdad Mayhem and Tokyo Raid, that are grayed out on the start screen, and I’ll never experience local co-op, but that’s okay. I liked this more than I thought I would, but not enough to keep going.

Oh look, another reoccurring feature for Grinding Down. At least this one has both a purpose and an end goal–to rid myself of my digital collection of PlayStation Plus “freebies” as I look to discontinue the service soon. I got my PlayStation 3 back in January 2013 and have since been downloading just about every game offered up to me monthly thanks to the service’s subscription, but let’s be honest. Many of these games aren’t great, and the PlayStation 3 is long past its time in the limelight for stronger choices. So I’m gonna play ’em, uninstall ’em. Join me on this grand endeavor.

If you wish for peace, be ready to wait in Battle Ages

battle-ages-xbox-one-gd-impressions

One of my more fonder early gaming on a PC moments was the time I spent in Age of Empires, a history-based real-time strategy video game developed by Ensemble Studios and published by Microsoft. Yes, despite my natural disdain for the majority of RTS games out there, save for things like Kingdom Rush and the random run of a Command & Conquer: Red Alert skirmish, I did have a good time with that one, as it was a much more methodically paced foray into building up your camp and defending it when deemed necessary. It was definitely more Civilization than Warcraft, and that’s probably why I did better at the whole goal of trying to maintain peace for years on end. I’m into peace, majorly.

Anyways, Battle Ages is without a doubt no successor to Age of Empires, but it tries to guide the player slowly through different historical ages and creates one-off scenarios to do battle with other players’ camps or in-game missions. The problem is, right from the start, it’s a free-to-play game, and that means progress barriers for those unwillingly to pay money to knock those walls down. Like me. I started playing Battle Ages back in October 2016, and I guess I’ll consider myself being done with it as of this month. There’s still a new age to reach, as well as four seemingly unattainable Achievements, so I’m ready to uninstall the whole thing as soon as this post gets posted. Boom.

I’ve dipped into Battle Ages almost daily, whether to collect coins or begin researching a soldier or upgrade a building, because all those things are important to growing a strong, survivable settlement, as well as heavy on time. Naturally, the timers begin short, with some ranging in the 15-30 minutes range. A few, such as for upgrading landmines or walls, are instant, so long as you have enough free workers available for the job. By the end though, you’ll be waiting up to 5-6 days for some processes to complete. You could, of course, use money to bypass these timers via the use of jewels, the game’s special currency, but you don’t need to, if you are patient enough to wait. You will earn some jewels as you play, and I ended up burning a bunch to instantly have enough coins to push my civilization into the next era.

At some point during my journey to earn more gold so I could upgrade quicker, I broke some sort of peace treaty. This meant that, while I wasn’t playing Battle Ages, other people playing the game could attack my settlement and steal my hard-earned coins, as well as deplete my stock of soldiers. Boo to that. There were times that it felt like I was going nowhere, earning just enough gold to repair my bombs and restock my army tents. You can also go through a number of campaign missions where you attack a settlement and try to utterly destroy it, and these range in difficulty, but the most annoying thing for these is that, after you do one, you need to restock your army and call-in help before doing the next one. I eventually stopped doing these early on and stuck to timers for earning money and fame…which is probably why it took me so long to reach the Industrial Age.

So, with all that said, my time with Battle Ages has come to a close. I don’t see myself acquiring the four following Achievements left unpopped on my account:

  • Moving on Up (Acquire 2,500 trophies in battle)
  • Sticky Fingers (Steal 1,000,000 coins from the enemy)
  • Hold the Line (Achieve 250 defensive victories)
  • For the Win (Achieve 250 offensive victories)

If anything, Moving on Up seems permanently glitched, having been stuck at 40% for me since last year. Unless I’m doing something wrong. Either way, whatever. No Achievement for lowercase trophies. Well, when I get that next free-to-play, lots-of-timers itch and Fallout Shelter isn’t doing the job, I also have Battle Islands: Commanders from the same publisher 505 Games to get into, with that one focusing on World War II.

Patience you must have, my young Star Wars: Commander

star wars commander intro hours

Correct me if I’m wrong, but I think some new Star Wars talkie comes out this week in theaters. The Force Awakens or something like that. Personally, I’m excited for it, as I love all things space opera, but am going to hold back and wait until the crowds and madness fade, though hopefully I can remain relatively spoiler-free during those dark, lonely days. Perhaps I’ll fill that void with my massive collection of Star Wars-related videogames, of which I actually don’t have many. There’s Star Wars: Tiny Death Star on my phone, which is stellar, but mostly an elevator simulator, LEGO Star Wars, and Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, which I’ve played the opening tutorial bits twice and never gone any further than that.

Well, let’s see what Star Wars: Commander is all about. It’s from Disney Interactive and available on a bunch of different devices. For this impressions piece, I’m hanging out with my boys Han Solo and Chewbacca on my ASUS laptop that now rocks Windows 10. In hindsight, this is not the best decision I’ve ever made, and I’ll get to why in just a bit. It’s a free-to-play strategy game in the slight veins of Command & Conquer: Red Alert 2 and Age of Empires, a genre I’ve had some reservations over for years, but you’ll notice I didn’t say “real-time” there, as you’ll do a whole lot more waiting around if you wanted to play it just like those games.

Here’s the gist, story-wise. In Star Wars: Commander, you must first to decide to fight for the Rebellion or Empire, train your troops, build up a bunch of units and vehicles, defend your base, and complete story-tinted missions. As you do this, you’ll level up your heroes and vehicles, battle on different worlds, and team up with friends to take on larger, more difficult scenarios. For what it’s worth, I went with the good guys, which most certainly means I’m on Darth Vader’s naughty list this year for Christmas. I can’t help rooting for the good-natured guys and girls in this universe that don’t want to see entire planets vaporized. I’ve also killed a bunch of womp rats on Tatooine already.

Unfortunately, as far as I can tell, which is from around an hour or so with the game, Star Wars: Commander is not great. It might be good, but probably falls more around the middling category. It holds your hand for far too long in the beginning, is too corny with its ads for rating the app and buying extra goodies with hard-earned cash, and doesn’t seem all that engaging from the get-go. This is certainly not helped by the fact that I’m playing it on a laptop, when it is clearly better suited for mobile, where one can easily check in on their base, tap the things that need tapping, and close out to get back to dreary life tasks, like blocking people on Facebook you know are foaming at the mouth to reveal Mark Hamill’s role in Episode VII.

Immediately after the game stopped holding my hand and actually allowed me to click around and spend coins/ore as I pleased, I began to explore the user interface. There’s a bunch of icons, and one should ideally know what each does before getting into the thick of things. The second icon I clicked on, which brought up a menu for purchasing resources with my precious diamond currency, nearly froze the game. I say nearly because I could continue to click the “back” and “X” buttons, but they didn’t do anything. I didn’t try actually buying any resources, though the cynical side of me suspects those buttons would have worked just fine. Eventually, I just tabbed out and shut the whole thing down, but I’m forever tainted by this experience, afraid to even open up the settings menu.

I’ll probably check in on Star Wars: Commander a few more times this week, though I don’t expect to stick with it. I was surprised by just how little you can actually do while building your base and prepping for the next mission, and so maybe I need to give Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic a third chance and start exploring the galaxy, no cooldown timer needed. Also, if you’re checking out Star Wars: The Force Awakens this week, enjoy–but keep the details to yourself. Sincerely, everyone not seeing it immediately.

Showing off my cultural superiority in Civilization Revolution

sid_meiers_civilization_revolution_profilelarge copy

Sid Meier’s Civilization Revolution is one of the two free games Gold members get this month on the Xbox 360. It’s not particularly shiny or new, releasing back in June 2008 for all the expected systems from that time period, meaning the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Nintendo DS, and iThings. It’s a simplified turn-based strategy game that mixes historical figures and cartoonish graphics in a fairly addicting manner, seeing that I only played a single round so far, and that entire fight saw Rome dominating all the other cities after just under two hours of back-and-forthing it.

The truth of the matter is that I’ve never actually played a Civilization game before this. Hey–please don’t throw rocks. Oh, sure, I bought Civilization V back during Thanksgiving or Christmas last year when a crazy Steam sale was running, but I’ve still not loaded it up once. Okay, okay…maybe throw a rock for that, but please, not the face. Back in the day, however, I did enjoy a lot of time with Age of Empires on the PC, watching brainless grunts evolve from the early Stone Age all the way to the late Iron Age. I’ve previously talked about my dislike for many RTS videogames, but those are usually military-based and tower defense-focused, and I do enjoy ones more about…well, teaching a group of people how to read or build a stone wheel or harvest crops from nearby fields. Yes, in Civilization Revolution there’s still combat and a need to protect your city while also possibly attacking another, but you can also just grow in culture, money, and fame, and that’s pretty dang cool.

Now, there are four roads to victory in Civilization Revolution:

  • Domination: Capture and hold each of the other four civilizations’ capital cities.
  • Technology: Be the first to launch a spaceship and discover the planet Alpha Centauri.
  • Cultural: Acquire 20 Great Persons, Wonders, and/or captured cities and build the United Nations wonder.
  • Economic: Amass 20,000 gold and build the World Bank wonder.

As I mentioned before, my one game so far took about two hours, and that’s seemingly just how things go. You begin by building units and buildings and Wonders, and each of those things take X number of turns to be completed. While that’s happening, other cities are growing too. Some may befriend you, and others will grow jealous or angry or scared and declare war. You can stave off some fighting by giving other city rulers money or technologies you’ve learned, but it’s never a guarantee for eternal peace. So it’s a lot of small planning and waiting, and I eventually began working on a Cultural victory, building the United Nations wonder to cinch the deal. However, strangely, I didn’t get the Achievement associated to fulfilling this quest, instead earning the one for a Dominance victory. Not sure what that’s about…

A couple quick side notes: I find it hilarious that the Xbox 360 shortens the name of this game to Civilization Revolut’n on all of its dashboard menus. Certainly they could have fit the whole name on there, right? There have to be games with longer titles than this. Or maybe this was just Microsoft not knowing what to do with longish titles back then, seeing as they also ditched Sid Meier’s name too. Also, while this might not matter to many, a few of the Achievements in this game are worth odd amounts, like 3 or 9 Gamerscore; initially, I was freaked out by this, but eventually earned all of them odd ones to balance my Gamerscore back out to a nice even number. That’s just how wild and loose those early days were with the Xbox 360.

I definitely see myself doing a couple more rounds with Civilization Revolution, at least to try out some of the other cultures, as well as attempting some different win victories. Unfortunately, none of this will happen until the weather gets warmer and the living room isn’t painful to sit in for longer than half an hour. Until then.

2013 Game Review Haiku, #17 – Kingdom Rush

2013 games completed kingdom rush screen 2

Stop waves from coming
Archers ready, for the king
Winsome RTS

These little haikus proved to be quite popular in 2012, so I’m gonna keep them going for another year. Or until I get bored with them. Whatever comes first. If you want to read more words about these games that I’m beating, just search around on Grinding Down. I’m sure I’ve talked about them here or there at some point. Anyways, enjoy my videogamey take on Japanese poetry.

A great videogame is not coming for A Game of Thrones

Evidently, there’s a videogame in the works for A Game of Thrones. This should be cause for excitement and celebration, as the series is riding a great high currently, blowing up bookstores and flatscreens with its epicness and sexy beards. Alas, if you want a game version of Westeros and its politics, I suggest going with the card game or board game version. Heck, feel free to print out my ASoIaF drawings and make them attack each other with your imagination. Do it. Because A Game of Thrones: Genesis from Cyanide Studio does not look promising.

Which sucks, because lore-wise, the game is digging deep, taking place before the events in A Game of Thrones and exploring the time of Aegon the Conquerer. This, of course, even means bringing in dragons and Robert’s Rebellion and other great historical happenings from the good ol’ days of Westeros, of which much is talked about in the books. Maybe even some insight into Lyanna. Who knows. Well, I won’t. Cause I’m not going to play A Game of Thrones: Genesis, not willingly at least.

It looks pretty crappy. The rooftops in this screenshot remind me of The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind, and that was nine, almost ten years ago. Surely we’ve come farther than this. Granted, it’s an RTS game, meaning that for most of the battles and main gameplay, the camera is zoomed out to get a better view of the battlefield and where units are, but still…the graphics are not knocking me back. Everything is clunky and separate, as if the layers are showing. And I promise y’all, I’m not a graphics whore. I just need them to look good enough to not notice the ugly seams, flat textures, and lack of refining. Because Cyanide is obviously going for a more realistic look and failing. Any other style, even a Borderlands look, would have worked better.

Kind of want to see this little game fly…right out the Moon Door!

Originally, I didn’t think the whole A Game of Thrones RPG video from College Humor was all that good. It kind of plays on the same cliches and ideas that these videos cull from. Take something popular, boil it down to Final Fantasy era mechanics and look, add some obvious jokes, and watch the views roll in. But now…I’ll take it. Seven hells, I’ll take it!