Tag Archives: RTS

Dungeons 3 review

For those of us who gamed in the 90s, Bullfrog’s Dungeon Keeper is a title that is fondly remembered. The concept of building an intricate dungeon consisting of multiple rooms that cater to and therefore attract different creatures to live within it, all the while laying traps for heroes who ventured in, was a wonderfully compelling take on the management genre. Over the years some developers have tried to revive the dungeon building sub-genre but haven’t quite struck gold. Realmforge Studios, with their third dungeon building title, just did.

Indeed, Dungeons 3 takes many of the key features of Dungeon Keeper and injects enough fresh ideas. It’s a game that taps into the same compelling dungeon building and management as Bullfrog’s much loved title, while introducing a gripping new story and some RTS elements to set it apart. Add to that precisely the kind of modern day visuals you’d expect and we have a title posed to impress.

Dungeons 3 carries on the story from the previous two titles in the series, recapping you at the very beginning of the lengthy campaign. Its light-hearted, funny story full of fourth wall breaking moments and pop culture references. It can be a bit hit and miss as to whether the jokes land with you, but for the most part they’re witty and genre appropriate to satisfy the intended audience, with nods towards things like Supernatural, Buffy, Warcraft and Lord of the Rings but to name a few. The story pits you, the Ultimate Evil, against a nation of good citizens, their leaders and heroes, with you possessing and corrupting one of their own to lead your invasion. This results in some excellent, comedic moments between the corrupted dark elf Thalya and her paladin father figure.

Dungeons 3 is split between two levels: the underworld and the overworld. In the underworld you build you dungeon, mining veins of mana and gold, building rooms to house your creatures and meet their needs, and recruiting creatures. In the overworld you can control your creatures to invade the region, destroying settlements to prevent so many heroes invading your dungeon, and securing special points of interest to generate evil points, which can then be used to further upgrade your dungeon and creatures. The upgrade web allows you to spend gold and evil points to unlock new rooms, new creatures, and enhance what you already own, including increasing the amount of creatures you can have at any one time. It’s a complex system made palatable by its gradual introduction throughout the campaign.

Managing it all between these two levels is an enjoyable challenge. Initially there’s a lot of digging for your so called ‘little snots’ to do, building rooms, mining veins and exploring in the dark, but soon you’ll have no choice but to send some creatures top side to secure evil points or it’ll all come to a halt. Balancing your invasion of the overworld and expansion in the underworld against invading heroes means planning your creature’s movements and preparing your dungeon, it can really keep you on your toes, especially in the later campaign missions, and despite this ultimately being a repetitive set of tasks that change very little each mission, it rarely feels like it due to how much fun it is.

The campaign balances the difficulty brilliantly and dishes out new features at a nice pace. You’re never overwhelmed with new things to figure out and mastering the basics comes naturally as you re-build your dungeon, manage the upgrade web, and fight heroes each mission. In fact the repetition helps to reinforce good tactics and building strategies. It all feels very intuitive.

Unfortunately, there are a few issues that can ruin the fun a bit. The occasional bug when using menus can result in those menus not popping up. Meanwhile, path finding is often terrible, especially in the overworld with large groups of creatures. Finally, the framerate takes a pretty big hit when dealing with a lot of creatures and heroes at once. However, these issues are only minor nuisances to an otherwise excellent game.

With its 20 mission campaign, and with each mission taking 30 minutes to an hour to complete on average, there’s a huge amount of playtime here. And with skirmish and multiplayer options to satisfy your dungeon building needs even further, there’s plenty here to keep you occupied once the story has wrapped. The technical issues are a blemish but ones that can be easily forgiven thanks to how much fun it is and how delightful it is to play a dungeon management game that takes the best of Dungeon Keeper and injects some fresh ideas into the mix.

Thanks to Xbox and Kalypso Media for supporting TiX

Halo Wars 2 review

It’s been eight years since the launch of Halo Wars on the Xbox 360, the perfect companion for those who wanted to experience the Halo universe from a different perspective. Clearly there was enough of a demand for a sequel and we finally have it, and thankfully it’s better than ever.

Halo Wars 2 features a lengthy story campaign as well as a comprehensive multiplayer, one that introduces a new variant to the RTS world in the form of the card based Blitz mode, more on that later.

Having spent three hours playing the game at a preview event early last month, I was excited to get my hands on the retail build of the game and really get into the campaign and its new story arch within the Halo Universe. Our review will remain spoiler free, so there’s no need to worry about reading on!

Taking place after Halo 5: Guardians, a new enemy threatens the Halo universe, and the only thing standing between extinction and humanity is the brave crew on board the Spirit of Fire, led by Captain Cutter. Halo Wars 2’s story feels much more accessible than than Halo 5 did, and I really enjoyed it. Each mission feels completely different; some require you to break down the opposition’s defences, while others require you to defend against waves of attacks. The final mission type involved capturing various points on the map, and as the story progresses the missions become quite intense, making for a fantastic experience.

The key to winning any battle in an RTS is how you manage your resources. Halo Wars 2 is no different, with the most important being power and supplies. Everything you build requires a set amount of each so it’s crucial you manage both well and efficiently, lest you’ll fall to the superior numbers and upgrades of your opponent.

Early on in the game you’ll learn about building your base, then adding generators and supply pads, before building other buildings such as garages, barracks and armories. As you would expect the garage deals with vehicles, the barracks create the infantry, while the amoury helps with improving weaponry. These can be upgraded over time, improving the health, power and capabilities of your units.

Managing everything via your controller is really simple, the RB manages which units you want to select, a single click will highlight local units while a double click calls all units. LB allows you to move across the map quickly, which is useful if you have units spread out. Certain units, such as spartans have special moves which can be activated using Y. The best move is the ability to hijack a wraith, which can make a big difference when the enemy starts to push you. You can single out different groups of soldiers or equipment if you need to move them away from a larger group, for example, using snipers to scope out cloaked enemies. It could have been really easy to mess up the control system but I felt comfortable almost instantly.

As the leader of the group, you have Leader Powers that can be activated and recharged during battle. These range from restoration drones that repair units within a certain area to Archer missiles, which can be devastating if used correctly. As the game goes on you’ll be able to make use of ODST drops, instant turrets and more. And with the Leader Powers being upgraded on the fly if you have the resources, they can prove to be a valuable card up your sleeve if you need to make a big push or quickly turn the tide.

I played the campaign through on normal difficulty, I did play some missions on Heroic and things really ramped up. Thankfully you can bring in a co-op partner to help manage the workload. I love the subtle touches in the game, the conversations that the AI have with each other while fighting and watching the machinery at your base build the equipment you require.

Playing against the enemy is one thing, but playing online against humans is a different ball game. Halo Wars 2’s multiplayer has a bunch of modes to play through. Skirmish allows you to fight across all the environments and multiplayer game modes with as many AI and co-op friends as each mode will allow. Strongholds is probably my favourite mode, in which you’ll need to capture and control the most bases when the round’s timer stops. There is also Domination and Deathmatch modes to take part in too. Deathmatch is brilliant if you want to see the pain in your opponent’s eyes as their base is turned to rubble.

Matches can take anything from 20 to over 60 minutes, and sometimes you may not have the time to get that involved. That’s where Blitz comes along. Blitz puts a twist on RTS gameplay by combining card-based strategy with RTS combat. Your card deck is your army in Blitz, you can choose a leader, that come with their own unique abilities, then build your deck in preparation for battle. On the battlefield, matches last no longer than 20 minutes and can be over in as little as 5. It’s a brilliant way to get in a couple of matches if you’re short on time, yet you still need to be very tactical to win.

As you would expect from any Halo title, the presentation is superb. The musical score had me mesmerised from the beginning, as did the audio in battle – get zoomed right in when you can so that you can hear all the workings of your units. The graphics are excellent, again in battle there’s plenty of detail to look at, although the maps never really jumped out at me as much as they might have done from a first-person view. The cinematics are sensational, it’s really getting hard to tell the difference between live action and CGI cinematics, Blur who worked with 343 Industries and Creative Assembly will no doubt very pleased with their work.

Apart from struggling with the higher difficulties I never experienced any major problems with the game, I had one crash but that’s likely down to the Preview Program. Halo fans new and old must play this, the battles are intense but hugely satisfying when you come out on top. The story had me gripped from start to end and I’m having a real blast perfecting my rather rusty RTS skills online. Halo Wars 2 is well worth your time.

Thanks to Xbox for supporting TiX

Halo Wars 2 preview

It’s a cold and frosty morning in South-West London and I’m preparing for war, I’m put onto a shuttle bus and driven to the location of the operation, I think I’m ready (I’m not really) but there is no going back now.

IMG_2047I’m excited, I’m nervous but I’m all set to fight, with an Xbox One controller in my hand I begin my Halo Wars 2 experience.

It’s been 8 years since Halo Wars graced the Xbox 360 and at a time when there isn’t much competition about, this is a great time to jump back into this exciting Genre.

As I sat down to play some of the campaign I was immediately impressed with the visuals, obviously they were going to be better 8 years on, but everything was so vibrant and the detail on all the characters was incredible. Having only spent a small amount of time playing the original I was intrigued to find out how well the 343 Industries and Creative Assembly had managed to get an RTS game working well with a controller within a few minutes I was comfortably controlling my teams and leading the charge. I’m looking forward to creating an Elite controller setup to take advantage of the paddles.

A few campaign missions later we got to try our hand at some 3v3 multiplayer, this is where, for Halo Wars 2 is going to be awesome. As with any RTS there is a learning curve when it comes to building your base, managing your power and supply points, the first match was over in 25 minutes, my team were too conservative and didn’t upgrade efficiently so we were overwhelmed and had no way to respond. Teamwork is key, it’s important to know your role and talk to your team.halowars2preview2

We then got to try our hand at Blitz the card based RTS mode, if you are short on time then this is the mode for you. Choose a leader, build your deck and prepare to fight, the aim is to capture the different zones and score 200 points before your opponents, using cards to deploy different allies and equipment uses power which regularly drops during a match, so there is always a race on to grab some extra to deploy more powerful tactics. The matches last between 7-12 minutes so it’s a perfect pick up and play mode.

I got to talk to some of the developers who were on hand, they were really please at the feedback they were getting from the people there, they seemed have got the perfect balance between those who really want to dig deep into the multiplayer and those who don’t have as much time but will find Blitz as their go to mode. With a campaign to get trough too, Halo fans are in for a real treat in February.

Thanks to Microsoft for inviting TiX along to the event.