This isn't actually about space flight simulators but rather Switch games I picked up for the Hawaii downtime
. Both happen to have a sci-fi setting.
I was excited about Crying Suns, a roguelike tactics game
set in a mysterious (clone amnesia) sci-fi universe.
The overworld is standard rougelike fare; choose a path with varying risk/reward
The mood and the mystery
aren't hindered by the pixel graphics.
Crying Suns features an episodic, cohesive story with random/procedural battles and encounters serving as window dressing.
The encounters run the gamut from simplistic events to mini-stories
. They're interesting but the repetition and lack of unique rewards quickly becomes tedious.
One of the encounter types is called Expedition. You choose a team lead based on two competencies and send them on their way.
Then you watch in silent horror as your team loots stuff and maybe gets devoured by a sandworm. Expedition challenge resolution is all luck-of-the-draw
; each obstacle must match your leader's skill for a successful resolution. These sequences look neat, but ultimately the lack of player input makes them ho-hum.
The main game mechanic is the space battles. From the screenshots it looks like space chess; there are hexes with combatants and lots of HUD widgetry. Alas, Crying Suns space battles are tedious and not particularly tactical
Combat boils down to this:
- The opposing capital ships have several hangars of fighters that can engage enemy fighters or the capital ship. They come in three flavors, following the tried-and-true roshambo model.
- Capital ships have some slow-to-charge onboard weapons that either target the other ship or fighters.
It's not a bad recipe, but the execution falls flat.
Despite having a hundred-or-so hexes to maneuver, the chessboard is pretty meaningless; capital ships don't move and fighters simply need to fly directly to their target. Even the roshambo weapon triangle is broken by other game elements. As best I can tell, when enemy fighters are defeated they do splash damage, forcing you to recall the victorious units for repair. As such, the fighter battle tug-of-war that's already painfully linear becomes stagnant trench warfare
. Upgraded fighters have special abilities, but unit control is so clumsy it's difficult to use them effectively.
There doesn't even seem to be a limit to fighter reserves so you can't even play for a victory by attrition
So when you finally vanquish your opponent, it's really nice to see their ship turn to space dust
. But thinking about the slog of the next battle makes pacifism look really good.
Crying Suns offers the standard replay motivators: additional story, unlockables, challenge. But it wasn't enough to overcome the cumbersome battle mechanics or lack of other compelling features
On J's recommendation, I downloaded the deckbuilder roguelike Griftlands
. This game somehow evaded all of the Slay The Spire-like lists I found online. It's a shame that Griftlands doesn't get much publicity, it's very good.
The setting of Griftlands is like Star Wars crossed with Borderlands
; a futuristic world of lasers and aliens where everything is a shade of skeezy. The bartenders, the government, the megacorp, and the mercenaries all have some sort of agenda.
Where Slay the Spire and Crying Suns and Nowhere Prophet let you choose your path from A to B, Griftlands presents a fixed map with landmarks that appear as the story progresses. From a gameplay perspective, the difference is that shops and healing are typically available between battles
Griftlands tells its story by way of brief conversations with quirky and/or hilarious dialogue
The game has one starter character and two unlockables
. The third one, Smith, is particularly fun.
Conversations - particularly ones where you call someone's butt smelly - often result in combat that is not unlike other deckbuilders
Action points, shield, allies, attack values, buffs/debuffs, special abilities
- it's all there. Each of the main characters has a unique play mechanic that changes how you play but doesn't subvert any important game mechanics.
Card synergy/minmaxing? Less severe than Slay the Spire, more than Nowhere Prophet.
Griftlands uniquely has a persuasion battle mode that is often an alternative to physical combat. Persuasion gameplay is basically combat, but with its own deck and a totally different set of rules.
While I didn't like the mechanics quite as much as regular combat, it's refreshing to have a parallel battle mode with its own set of traits and cards.
As is common to the genre, battle rewards give you the option to expand/dilute/shape your deck.
Powerful equippable items are a staple of the genre
, Griftlands calls them Grafts. In keeping with the social tone of the game, you can also gain passive bonuses by endearing yourself to other characters. Typically this is accomplished by completing a sidequest/encounter and then a giving them a pricey gift. Conversely, characters that hate you bestow an inescapable debuff.
A few more things in brief:
- There's a helpful day-end summary that covers what you've unlocked and everyone's disposition toward your choices.
- Game end has the same.
- The stories are bite-size and packed with wacky dialogue. Especially Smith's.
Deckbuilding goes co-op
Stay tuned for the kilroy take on the deckbuilding roguelike that at last gives us co-op: Across the Obelisk