Scratching the Itch.io: SPAAACE!05 Jan 2018 0
And we’re back! We hope you’ve all have a great Christmas, Hanukkah, or whichever December-heavy celebration you partake in. If it included gift-giving, you’ve probably piled up a bunch more ‘must have’ titles. Regardless, it’s time we mosey back on down to Itch.io to check out a few more strategy nuggets collecting dust.
Focus your mind back to our last entry before the new year, and you’ll remember the ‘Future’ focus of our first 2018 piece. We’ll be stretching the definition quite a bit this time around, though, so apologes in advance if you were looking forward to some true Cyberpunk goodness. The main title I was banking on for this entry is inaccessible after 4 years of no updates, and the Unity Web Player needed to brush off the dust just wasn’t having it. If you know why Unity thinks Opera is Chrome, hit me up in the comments!
Just to rub in the disappointment of the holidays ending, we’re kicking things off with the disappointment of this week’s picks – Space Elevators. Calling it a disappointment is laying it on thick for sure. It’s a cool idea that screams the idea of “you can’t judge a book by its cover”. Clearly that saying going both ways, as it’s the title artwork of this particular game which drags you in. What sits underneath, however, puts a dampener on things.
Space Elevator fits into the turn-based strategy genre with a few interesting quirks. You possess a small cluster of planets that are all under attack by a generic alien threat. Your attackers swoop in after a set number of turns and occupy the first planet they reach from a predetermined cardinal direction. If your planet has troops occupying at the time, you’ll essentially fend them off. If not, you’ll have to fling some over before the aliens blow up your space rock. To do this, you’ll have to connect your planets with the titular Space Elevator.
You spend your planet’s action points managing troop locations and replenishing those you’ve lost, while finding the time to spend excess resources on the completion of the ship needed to escape to your new home; basically, your cluster is doomed and you need to manage resources to buy time and flee. You can focus your energy on building your ship and making a quick escape on the Easy difficulty, but the other two require moderate strategical thinking. Planets rotate each turn, too, with the biggest linked by a Space Elevator acting like a gear. Moving defenceless planets out of the way before an attack is a defamation of physics you’ll just have to embrace. The worst part about all this? The only accurate portrayal is the absence of sound. You can’t convince me that was intentional.
Oddly enough, the second game I came across that vaguely matched our theme this week was a game fairly similar to the last – Planets Gone Rogue. Far further into development than the last, it reminded me of the myriad flash games I played during downtime in High School all those years ago. No Wednesday Mathematics lesson was complete without a little Heli Attack 3 hovering in the background. With a campaign complete with auto-save functionality, Planets Gone Rogue isn’t quite the throwaway title we’ve featured here in the past. It’s a tower defence game for the most part, but one that requires a little more involvement in combat. There’s even quests!
Between upgrading towers and researching new ones, you’re pushing through to the far-right of the map by scanning undiscovered tiles. The moment you uncover a red planet, it’ll attack, triggering the active combat portion of the game. From here – as you might guess from the first image – you manually issue attack orders to each individual tower as it spins into view. You’ll start off with simple attack/defend towers like the Assault and Shield, but more can be researched by fighting against planets currently utilizing them. Each tower is subject to individual cooldowns, strengths, and ranges, too, so timing and precision are major contributing factors. Predict bullet trajectory and block them with small shields, upgrade the fire rate of your cannons, or disable bigger weapons with more advanced towers down the line. Despite being the same breed of cannon, each one you slide into your planet’s empty slots starts off as barebones as they come. Thankfully, experimentation is facilitated by dishing out full refunds on unwanted tech. You’re even guided through most of the game by a James McAvoy’s Professor Charles Xavier. I mean it. (AEd. Note: That's Lex Luthor to me)
10 Days To (Wave)olution
Given this one only took a tiny team the total of 2 days to complete as a GameJam submission is saying something. It’s not absolutely bug free, but drumming up multiple music samples, album artwork and government-style announcements is an impressive achievement. 10 Days To (Wave)olution is something that more closely matches my original idea of this week’s topic. We didn’t manage to find a strategy title with an elaborate Cyberpunk theme, but we did find one about calling out censorship and the revocation of freedom of speech and expression.
With a radio tower slapped in the middle of the screen and 4 outlets willing to hear the songs of your people, you have 10 days to convince the city that music shouldn’t be outlawed. Each day, ‘the man’ reiterates the incoming referendum and tries to convince town to vote for a quieter life. You, presumably a producer of some description, spends those days sending out your four signature bands to play at various venues in the hope that they’ll inspire the people to think for themselves, while upping their game in the process. The venues and its people regularly change what they’re looking for in a performance, with the band who plays there potentially adding a point or two to their core skills; Lyrics, Looks, Mix, and Music. Recording a track and broadcasting it through the radio tower reaches a wider audience, but managing which bands play at which venues when able is how you’ll raise their stats high enough to impress the impressionable people of the city.
This is absolutely the most creative strategy game of this week’s roundup, but one that falters with its lacklustre explanations. Whether it’s because of a bug rendering one of the bands unusable, or just my lack of understanding of the whole process, I wasn’t able to ‘win’. Ultimately, I had no idea why I lost or how I could improve. Each band has a visible stats page, but it’s never clear why a band may lose or gain a stat at a venue, or why the stat in question is what it is. Recorded songs have their own stats, too, but I can’t say whether or not the idea is to record a single song with each maxed-out group. There’s basically no tangible feedback given during gameplay, with the brunt of the work seemingly focused on presentation over usability. Win, and you’ll probably enjoy it. Lose, and you’ll just be left with more questions than answers.
And that about wraps up the first Itch.io roundup of 2018! Who knows how much life we have left in this thing, but stretching that itch for a quarter of a year already is longer than I thought this would go on for. At 3 games a piece, we’ve conjured up plenty of food for thought when it comes to how and where to get your strategy fix on the fly. Setting a focus just before Christmas did more harm than good this time around, so we’ll be winging it come the 19th. You like surprises, right?