Review: Codex of Victory

By Martynas Klimas 05 Apr 2017 0

Review: Codex of Victory

Released 16 Mar 2017

Developer: Ino-Co Plus
Genre: Turn-Based Strategy
Available from:
Steam
Reviewed on: PC

Making a good RTS game is hard and expensive. It's a lot easier to make a Turn-Based Strategy, since the range of interactions in those games are much easier to control. Plus, you don't have to bother with pathfinding, that eternal stumbling block of non-AAA developers. So there's little surprise that Codex of Victory, which comes to use from Russia, is an another TBS.

The meat of the game is in the campaign; however, one can not claim that it is in anyway special story-wise. The game universe sees humanity colonize the stars as the imaginatively named Kingdom, the stellar feudalism being born from early corporate expansion efforts. However, the nobles are tasked with protecting the people, much like in the middle ages. This is an especially sweet deal for stellar serfs, since most combat is done by robotic tanks and planes, and the only live combatants are the nobles that ride in giant mecha suits. The player will have to be one of these nobles, freshly knighted and immediately trusted with the duty of defending your three planets from the transhuman Augments.

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While the setting draws inspiration from Warhammer 40,000, Endless Space and Supreme Commander, the gameplay is very much different from any of those games. The campaign is centered around an XCOM-base, which gathers resources, produces disposable combat units, stores them and conducts research. Fortunately, your assault ship doesn't have to visit the base and can flit around from one region to another. And as with XCOM, plot progression will be at times tied to what you build at the base and what research you conduct.

On tactical level, you usually start out with only your assault ship on the map. It provides you with drop zones to deploy units. It also serves as an irreplaceable source of action points, which you use to both deploy and activate units. This action points economy is probably the most unique feature of the game, since they dictate most of what you do in the field. Even the field of battle revolves around action points, as you will be trying to grab bases that generate both additional APs and drop zones. One other feature is that bases only activate the turn after you captured, so you can't really daisy chain captures and deployments. This can force you into tactical decisions to take bases from the enemy with disposable units if only to deny it to the enemy.

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This means that most of your battles will revolve around trying to claim and hold bases. This task is made easier by the fact that unit stats are quite simplistic. Your drones and tanks and helos have their health points, their movement and attack ranges, amount of damage they do and their abilities. There are no such things as armor or attack types – everything deals a flat rate of damage to everything else, unless abilities (or critical hits) intervene. And the abilities are easy to parse through unit descriptions as well as icons that follow units on the screen. Wards – shields that can withstand one hit of any strength before collapsing – and counter attacks are probably among the most challenging. You have to think which units are best suited for wasting their attack to strip away wards and soak up counter attack damage before you can use your important units to actually take down the enemy. That is, of course, if you have any action points left!

Meanwhile, on the strategic plane, your three planet system will be under the constant onslaught of the augment forces and this will wear down your will much faster than it will grind down your material base. The planets are separated into 5-6 regions. Periodically, a few of them will come under attack and if you don't retaliate within three game days, the regions will be lost to the enemy, thus prompting you to go on the offensive. Lose enough regions – lose the game. And you can hardly ever move fast enough to clear all of the regions from invaders, since time spent in transit is basically the only constraint on your reaction speed.

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What really grinds you down is the fact that there's only one tactical map per region – maybe even less. And if you managed to defend a region once, you'll probably have an idea on what to do the next time. Eventually, you will have learned the combo for every map. Sure, the augments don't attack with the same force composition every time, but you will learn to work around them and then the game becomes really easy.

That is not to say that the early battles will be a walk in the park. Augment units will be always superior to your units one-on-one. However, you have an ace up your sleeve: the giant mecha! They don't need to be rebuilt between missions and they're extremely powerful. Many missions will hang on these heavy hitters, since they are the only ones that can go toe-to-toe with augment units or resist their hackers, Eventually, through practice (and mindless grind of repeated augment attacks) and research as well as upgrade modules you mecha will become the trump card. You'll win most defense missions by learning the fastest and easiest way to reach the augment dropship and blast it to smithereens in a single turn of shooting.

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So while research is important for keeping your line units from becoming obsolescent – the scouting jeep has many uses duo to cheapness in AP and its speed, while the tank is a peerless bullet sponge – it will at the same time boost your mecha to the point where you stop needing other units. What's more, the game doesn't have great AI, with enemy forces remaining passive unless the player moves into the aggro range. Other times, the map design is at fault, giving you the ability to rush the enemy drop ship and strike it before the enemy does any damage to you. In some cases, you will only summon your non-mecha to be a simple speedbump while your heroes do the real job!

At least the game's writing isn't horrible – the English is much smoother than one can usually expect from a non-English speaking developer – and it doesn't look that bad. The interface design is simplistic, but I have seen far worse from more ambitious games. The graphics are OK for such a mid-range game, and the stylized art style is a great choice for a studio that doesn't have the funds or the expertise of AAA developers. The sound part is nothing to write home about, though I am grateful that there are no unit barks – usually the part of a strategy game that vexes developers more than path finding. And from my experience with the developer’s previous titles – specifically, the Warlock games – Ino-Co Plus really has a hard time making unit barks.

Codex of Victory is an OK game. It is fun to see that it is trying something different with the integration of XCOM-lite features, and I love the research and module system which keeps your units from falling to obsolescence. However, it is hard to recommend it from a genre stand-point, since the story is very weak and bland, and I can hardly claim that it's an outstanding example of the TBS genre. But I would never criticize anyone for liking, and that's more than I can say about some of the games I have tried.

Codex of Victory looks OK, plays OK, and is in general an OK game. Nothing more, nothing less.

Review: Codex of Victory

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