Sunday, May 21, 2017

Red Faction: Guerrilla Sucks

Red Faction: Guerrilla is one of the worst games I've ever played. That statement's a bit hyperbolic, I admit, but even when I don't like a game I can usually find some sort of redeeming value, some reason to maybe like it in spite of its problems. I can't do that with Red Faction: Guerrilla. Sure, the Geo Mod 2.0 system, which allows you to reduce towering buildings to piles of rubble through a full-fledged physics-based destruction system, can be a lot of fun, but literally everything else in this game -- vehicles, combat, missions, the story, the open world -- is either underwhelming or completely rubbish. It's like they had this idea for a great destruction system and then slapped a bunch of stuff together to make a game out of it, without bothering to make sure any of the actual game was any good.

Monday, May 1, 2017

Armello Review: A Poorly-Designed Board Game Dressed Up Like a Video Game

Most digital board games are merely adaptations of actual, physical board games; they keep all the same gameplay elements and components of the physical game and simply add a digital interface so that you can interact with the components, and therefore actually play the game. Platforms like Board Game Simulator and Tabletopia are just physics engines with digital versions of board game components that play virtually identically to the real thing, with you picking up and moving your pieces across the board and dragging cards into the play area, substituting your hands for a mouse cursor. Armello -- successfully Kickstarted in May 2014 and released on Steam in September 2015 -- may be the only digital board game without a physical counterpart, since it was designed from the ground up to be digital. As such, it's basically a hybrid game with the design concepts of board games and the functional feeling of a video game.

Armello is a fantasy-themed turn-based strategy game for up to four players, in which everyone plays as different anthropomorphic animal clans (represented by their hero) vying for control of the animal kingdom after a dark poison known as the Rot has overtaken the land and driven the lion King mad. The game lasts up to 20 rounds, with the king -- positioned in the palace at the center of the hex-based board -- losing one health from Rot poisoning every other round, at dawn, until he eventually dies. If it comes to that, the player with the most Prestige (ie, victory points) wins the game by being the most worthy successor to the throne. However, players can also end the game early by breaching the palace and assassinating the weakened king, or by collecting four spirit stones and bringing them to the palace to cure the king. A player who kills or cures the king wins, regardless of prestige.

You'll be rolling dice based on your stats to complete quests, survive perils, and to fight monsters and other players, while using limited action points to move across the board towards specific objectives and to maneuver past obstacles. You'll also be managing a hand of cards, drawing up to your hand limit every turn. These cards consist of different types of equipment, spells, and trickery cards, all of which have some type of cost to use. Equipment cards can be permanently equipped to your hero for various benefits, while spells and trickery cards can be played at any time (even when it's not your turn) on enemies, tiles, or other players. You'll complete quests to increase your stats, claim settlements to increase your income, defeat monsters to earn prestige, explore dungeons for random rewards, and play your spells and trickeries on other players to influence and control the board.

I play a lot of video games, obviously, but I'm also an avid board gamer. I've actually spent more money on board games over the last three years than I have on video games (which includes money spent upgrading my computer), and I've even reviewed a few board games on this blog. It's safe to say that I'm exactly the kind of person this game is intended for, and yet I just don't like it very much. Perhaps that's in large part because this just maybe isn't my type of game (I'm not a huge fan of dice-chuckers, although many of my favorite games use dice and I do enjoy games like Run Fight or Die and Cosmic Run), but Armello features several rules and gameplay features that I and a lot of gamers consider to be objectively bad. While I can tolerate or even embrace some of these things in the right context or in small doses, Armello takes some of them to the extreme, with too much prevalence in a game that's a little too long and serious for what it ultimately is.