Reviews by halbarad

65

A mixed bag-RTS

halbarad | Dec. 8, 2012 | Review of Tryst

Tryst follows the conflict between the Humans and the Zali, a race of bio-mechanical aliens. Differing from the usual Earth-invasion plot in name only, the conflict takes place in 2900AD and on the planet Ishtonia IV. Over the years prior to the events of the game the humans divided into two groups and civil war ensued, lasting until the events of the game where they combine to meet the threat of the Zali.

The story is rather run of the mill, as nothing really stands out. BlueGiant do attempt to get you interested in the world by offering a number of videos before you start the campaign, giving you details of the history, people and current events. The issue with this is that it relies too much on the willingness sit through a video, no matter how short it may be, by choice. Something I imagine most people aren't happy to do when they want to get in on the action. The campaign is divided into five missions. Each mission opens with some exposition, showing the map and dialogue between the characters. It's all an attempt to show your objectives while advancing the story. Depending on your aptitude the campaign should take you around five hours to complete. However, length of the campaign isn't too important so long as it is good and fun to play.

The gameplay is that of any standard RTS but with the speed turned up a few notches. You build bases, manage resources, churn out troops and complete your objectives. Unusual to RTS games, resources, ore and electricity, are gathered automatically at a fixed rate. More can be gathered by capturing other generators and refineries, none can be built. The main difference between standard RTS' and Tryst is the aforementioned speed. A mission can seem to go by in a flash and feel like it has taken less time than it actually has, making it feel rushed.

On the other hand a few interesting ideas are featured and do show thought that has been put into the game. One of the major ideas is that of the A.R.M system - I don't remember what it stands for - which allows for three tiers of upgrades to be equipped to each type of unit, and some buildings. The choices offered are limited, two or three for each rank, but still vary enough that a choice can significantly improve one aspect yet leave another still vulnerable.

Another of the ideas put forward is the use of choice in missions. In some you are offered a selection of paths to take: will you move to secure a location for resources or will you head to rescue some soldiers behind enemy lines? Some of these are a direct choice between one or the other. Other times you are given a set time limit, making it difficult, but not impossible, to achieve multiple objectives. Sadly, the paths have no effect on the long-term story, only offering short term bonuses and achievements. The only direct impact is the units you have available for the rest of that mission meaning your tactics will have to change and adapt.

This isn't the only reason you'll find yourself changing your tactics. The difficulty fluctuates an insane amount so you will likely find yourself failing, or stuck in a protracted battle of attrition, needing a change of tactics for success. Thankfully the game offers a reasonable amount of tactical fluidity, featuring a variety of units and buildings. The downside here is there is little in the form of a tutorial. If you aren't familiar with RTS games then you're going to find yourself quickly in over your head. If you are, it's all much of the same, just at a faster pace and the units are indistinguishable from each other. For the most part the graphics are fairly dated, giving the game an older look. The game looks at its best when 'toon shader', found in graphics options, is turned on. Toon shader makes the game look more colourful, giving it a cel-shaded effect, improving the overall look and giving the game some personality that the standard visuals lack. The major issue with the visuals is that the soldiers are incredibly difficult to tell apart due to the camera distance. Zooming in is also not recommended due to how fast the game is, making it all too likely to miss an enemy attack.

The worst part of the game is the audio. The music is pain and unremarkable and the effects lack weight, making the whole thing forgettable. As bad as the effects are, they're nothing compared to the voice acting. While one or two of the actors are passable, most of them are wooden in their delivery and bad with their accents. At times the poor voice acting can make the whole thing fairly comical. The units are also very irritating to listen to as they repeat the same one or two lines all the time.

While not a bad game, having a few interesting ideas, Tryst is certainly lacking. It's rough around the edges, though BlueGiant do promise more patches and DLC. Tryst is a decent budget RTS, worth trying out at a low price, and it could certainly get a following for the multiplayer if it features in a decent sale and people take the plunge.

45

A sad show of missed potential

halbarad | Dec. 8, 2012 | Review of The Good Life

Sim games are an almost perfect mode of escapism, they allow you to live a life that you would otherwise never encounter. From Guild 2, The Sims in a medieval setting only with more politics, mischief and murder, to X3, where you get to be the captain of a space ship and do as you please, there is a whole range out there. The Good Life appeals to a more realistic, yet still mostly unobtainable aspect of life by putting you as the owner of a boating company in a tropical resort.

The setting is simple. Derek is bored. He's at the office working late when a popup appears on his computer: His uncle has died and left him a boating company, Carpe Diem Boats, in his will. Derek rings his girlfriend Michelle to tell her the good news: They're both thrilled about it - the boat, that is - and soon enough they set off to the tropical Jo Jo Islands.

As you take control you can choose to step into the shoes of the bored office worker or his girlfriend. There's absolutely no customisation beyond the character gender. Appearances are fixed and although it lets you enter a name, you're still referred to as the name of the character you selected. A quick tutorial level delivers the basics of controlling the boat, docking and then picking a client for your next trip. This is the core feature of the game, sailing around the Jo Jo Islands, and making some cash.

The sailing is smooth enough to not become a chore. Each ship handles differently and feels reasonable, having different speeds, handing and more. The controlling of the ships is all done via keyboard control and sailing is then a case of relaxing and making sure you don't misjudge and crash.

While sailing the seas there are jobs to be completed. The majority of jobs are ferrying customers from one location to another. Other jobs include diving for lost treasure. All jobs result in a quick cash payment and an increase in fame. With this cash you can purchase property, which ranges from sunbeds to villas. However, the properties are unusable, only adding rent to your future revenue stream.

In addition you are able to buy and upgrade to a better boat. There are six different types of boats and a number of visual schemes to choose from. Your money can also be used to pay for repairs, diving equipment and more small things. The main problem is that everything you buy only serves to give you more income in the future, to then be used on buying new things. It's a circle of profit and then victory arrives by topping the leaderboard of a competing nine AI controlled opponents.

There are a few more things ImmersionFX offers in an attempt to keep things interesting. You have the ability to go diving underwater, for example. Sadly the diving is underused. There is a lot to see underwater including the wildlife, flooded ruins, shipwrecks and more but never enough time to see it. There are weather hazards such as tornados around but while looking good add no real threat.

The Good Life also throws NPC issues your way in the form of pirates, and your competition. Sadly the opposition is absolutely atrocious, bullish in its direct approach and easy to nullify. For example, the pirates you encounter will simply charge after you and eventually it becomes a conga line. Finally there is the simple ability to explore. This is the better of all these options, there are a few hidden things here and there which are nice to find and, while not key to the game, make some play sessions worthwhile.

Where these islands truly shine are in the aesthetics. When separate, the visuals and sounds offer nothing spectacular. The images are rather poor and even at maximum settings aren't top of the line, with boxy scenery and a poor draw distance. The water looks best when sailing, the ripples and effects look unpredictable, like real water. There's no voice acting to speak of, the music is all rather calm and soothing and the ambient effects sound realistic enough as you spend your time sailing around the seas. It's the combination of this music, the slosh of the sea and their presentation that set a brilliant and relaxing scene.

ImmersionFX have certainly tried a lot with The Good Life but they would have been better focusing on one or two key areas. While aesthetically pleasing and outstandingly relaxing, it offers little in terms of interesting things to do. The tycoon side of things is too predictable and easy to manipulate, offering little challenge and sadly the world wants to revolve around that. As solely a ship exploration simulator this could have been great. Sadly it's turned out too divided and a sign of missed potential.

90

Consistantly Excellent

halbarad | Dec. 8, 2012 | Review of Football Manager 2013 Steam

Like the previous Football Manager games, Football Manager 2013 is excellent. FM13 differs from the previous by offering a more streamlined approach in the main game, and also offering a classic mode that takes you back to the very early iterations where your concerns were picking the team, buying players and the matches, amongst other core things.

I still prefer the main game of course. The details are better now, your press conferences have more options, less limits, and your interactions with players and oppositions are increased. Training has been overhauled for a more simplistic approach, not my favorite choice to be honest, and it is the only negative of this excellent game.

The choices of teams have increased, the players are up to date and everything just feels more true. The match engine has improved.

Overall this is still the excellent game I love. The training is the only downside, but it doesn't detract too much.