Tag Archives: 4X

Starpoint Gemini Warlords review

Starpoint Gemini Warlords suffers a bit of an identity crisis. It wants to be a 4X strategy game and a space combat/trading sim at the same time. When it commits to one, or when you choose to commit to one yourself, it can prove a compelling experience built on the adventure of emergent gameplay, however, switching between the two presents some difficulties.

Largely these difficulties stem from a lack of understanding about what you’re supposed to do and how to go about it. With some patience you can overcome this and enjoy what’s on offer. New comers to the series, however, are unlikely to invest the time needed. A lack of an engaging storyline as well as the confusing clashes in mechanics makes this an initially off-putting experience, as you decide between controlling your ships personally or commanding them remotely. Indeed, it’s a tricky sell when both styles of play are catered to in this fashion; where both are adequate in order to achieve the objectives but neither feel special or entirely appropriate. It’s an unfortunate side effect of its design, where developer Little Green Men Games took community feedback from Starpoint Gemini 2 and created this spinoff.

As such, fans of the series are likely going to enjoy this unique adventure in the universe they’re already acquainted with, with a new story about a splintered faction of humanity looking to survive and dominate the Gemini system. Your task of direct control of ships, options to trade, explore and fight within the open structure of the scenario-based sandbox mode is similar enough to the previous, numbered, titles for fans to feel comfortable with, meanwhile, building up a fleet of ships and a powerful home base to conquer the system offers some new experiences.

Unfortunately, the story’s lacklustre tale and use of copious, dull fetch quests makes a terrible first impression. However, this largely acts as the tutorial rather than the primary experience. Once things open up, Starpoint Gemini Warlord’s Elite-esque freedom to trade, fight and explore, along with the real-time strategy elements of commanding a fleet and upgrading your home base, is compelling enough to keep you engaged for countless hours. We did, however, encounter some technical issues, with framerate dips frequently breaking immersion, but overall the presentation was strong, with some excellent looking ships, weapons fire and explosion making combat a pleasant spectacle and exploring the Gemini system’s many different regions a treat.

The combination of 4X strategy and space sim means Starpoint Gemini Warlords is full of content to sink your teeth into, and offers a huge variety of different tasks to engage in. Meanwhile, RPG elements allows you to choose a class of ship and abilities to suit your playstyle. However, it’s complex, and with a tutorial marred by a boring story and set of initial quests, it fails to teach you enough early on to keep you engaged. Stick with it and focus on the free-roaming mode, however, and you’ll be in for a deep and satisfying experience, one you’ll enjoy even more if you’re already invested in the series.

Thanks to Xbox and Iceberg Interactive for supporting TiX

Battle Worlds: Kronos review

Battle Worlds: Kronos taps into the nostalgia of games such as Battle Isle and Advanced War, with its turn-based unit control, vast maps and strategic options, and challenging objectives. And whilst the challenge is truly testing at times, there’s a lot of fun and satisfaction to be had finally conquering the AI.

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As a brand new commander, you are tasked with taking command of a wide variety of land, sea and air units in order to complete a selection of military campaigns against other organisations across multiple battlefields on the planet. Narratively this is set up as a form of entertainment for the general populous, with each organisation testing out their military hardware and fighting it out for glory, victory, and TV ratings. It’s a fascinating concept that is often reflexed upon by your soldiers, fellow commanders, and TV anchors, bringing in to question the morality of it all and its purpose.

However, the story fails to go as dark as you might expect or as deep as you might hope; keeping you entertained enough to continue against the harsh AI, but not immersing you enough for you to really care. Fortunately coming up with tactics on the fly to deal with your enemies is more than engaging enough to make up for the narrative.

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Missions typically start with a simple objective that cascades into multiple levels of complexity as you try to complete it. It’s a fairly predictable ebb and flow of trying to get to one point on the map or destroy a specific target, new enemy units or bases appear, or new, more challenging terrain is uncovered on the way, and your primary objective takes a back seat as you fight and manoeuvre around the many obstacles thrown in your path. It’s a fun a slow-paced affaire that can feel horrendously frustrating if you make a mistake but excitingly intense and enjoyable when your tactics pay off.

You move units individually one at a time, with each possessing a certain amount of actions they can perform in a single turn. Often these actions will include a single move action – allowing you to move the unit up to a maximum distance within a circle – and an attack action. Depending on the unit and its upgrades, you may have additional actions or entirely different ones, such as the Bandit which has two actions that are nonspecific, allowing that unit to move twice, fire twice, or perform one of each. Understanding and managing your unit’s actions, movement distance, attack distance, and vulnerabilities, is key to victory. Artillery units and ranged attack vehicles are better left behind a strong frontline, heavy tanks should form the frontline, and the smaller faster units can be used to mop up severely damaged opponents with hit and run tactics.

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Figuring out how to use your units is an interesting challenge and where a great deal of the strategy comes in. Infantry units, for example, can travel through forests to help flank enemies, meanwhile large artillery units need to be deployed before firing so some forethought is required in where to set them up and how to keep them safe. Meanwhile, the AI is aggressive and savvy enough to come up with tactics of their own, frequently engaging you with the right units for the job and testing your resolve. It can be great fun.

Automatic checkpoints are generated during missions to give you the option to re-load if things go wrong, however, they aren’t the most generously generated checkpoints so manually saving is a much better idea, and getting into the habit of saving often is strongly advised. This is especially important because each mission will play out in a specific way, with the first time you tackle it often being reduced to an expedition just so you can figure out what to expect before a re-load and a proper attempt. Continually failing because you can’t figure out precisely how to beat the AI during a mission can be frustrating, and it’s unfortunate that you’re often challenged with scenarios that appear to only have one way of surviving. Overall the missions allow you to use whatever tactics best suit you, but these skirmishes and events within missions are far less flexible.

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With units requiring individual control, the pace is slow and methodical, this suits the actions just fine for the most part, allowing you to plan your attacks and carefully micromanage every engagement, however, when it comes to simply moving around the map it can become tedious. This is especially evident when you gain access to buildings and can build additional troops. Moving them to the front line to join your main force one at a time is a frustrating distraction when you’re more interested in concocting grand strategies to conquer nearby foes.

Beyond the lengthy campaign are a small selection of challenge maps that test your skills as a commander even more. However, there’s no sign of the multiplayer component the PC version has, which is very disappointing.

Battle Worlds: Kronos is hugely challenging but a great deal of fun once you understand your unit’s strengths and weaknesses. It’s wonderful to see strategy games like this finally hit the Xbox One, with the turn-based nature of the title making the controller a perfectly viable option. The slow pace and the micromanaging of units may put some people off if they’re more familiar with C&C rather than Battle Isle, but if you can stomach the odd tactical restriction in-mission then this turn-based beast is certainly for you.

Thanks to Xbox and Nordic Games for supporting TiX