Published on June 6th, 2013 | by Mat Lezama0
Review: Skyward Collapse
Arcen Game’s Skyward Collapse is an isometric, turn-based game that drives its players to harmonize two factions in the same world, and not completely destroy each other. A single players as, “The Creator” and takes turns working on both factions. The Norse and the Greeks are the two opposing forces. While they may gather resources the same way, their mythological powers differ, and so do their available military units. A key feature that helps break the obvious symmetry like playing chess with oneself.
Over a course about 100 turns if neither side has been completely wiped out, the player has won the game. As a reward, the player’s profile level will increase, allowing them to use more buildings and create more advanced units.
Unlike most Strategy games however Skyward Collapse does not include a narrative-driven single player experience that helps adjust the player slowly to all the oncoming variables. Instead there is an honest and heart-felt tutorial that encourages multiple saves and delivers sound advice on the many things to learn about economy and military productions as well as other global events known as Woes.
Economic and military production starts by spending a turn-issued allowance of action points on buildings that surround the nearby town centers. The Creator can only put up buildings within a limited distance of the town centers, and each one plays a small part in a finished project. For example, to create a military unit the town center will need a pig farm to supply pigs, a butcher to turn the pigs into bacon, a smithy to create a weapon, a carpenter to create the lumber for that weapon, and barracks to train the military units. The player must use least five of the available spaces maintained to see a finished soldier.
While this may seem like a daunting task at first, there are more than enough spaces to get the job done, an undo button can reset unwanted actions is players make mistakes. Also, this very informative game will be able to tell you what buildings are missing in your town centers before you try to create something.Putting the mouse over just about anything will give a detailed description of how it will help you.
Finally, when all the necessary buildings in place and all the resources collected, the game will select which of the available units to spawn. To help keep control of this, pay close attention to which special buildings required for each unit production, they are not always the same!
After the Creator has finished one turn for each faction, and automated section begins to play where military units traverse the stage to fight the opposing side and try to demolish their buildings. All of the units will think freely and in some cases ignore the proposed enemy all together. Controlling those whom don’t want to be controlled is a challenge but, if the are not attacking the “enemy” then that is a good thing right? While the computer plays out each of the actions, a nifty fast forward and end button can quickly sweep past these sequences if they are too much. A turn report that catalogs each event during that time is available to each team too.
Inevitably the Town Centers will be taken over by the pugnacious subjects that do nothing by try to kill one another. It’s important to remember that The Creator cannot build on the ruins of a destroyed building. But that’s alright, more town centers can be created and the production lines will renew again. Bandits marked in yellow and black will continually spawn on the game board as the match continues too. Early in the game this help keep the player from create a truly docile environment. The people still need a military to protect themselves from bandits. However the military units will decide themselves what is necessary to attack, and calling them back to a home base is nearly impossible.
As the Creator a nifty trick is to manipulate neutral land with either side’s valuable action points. If the red troops are funneling themselves through a mountain pass, both red and blue can work in tandem to destroy that pass until blue has had time to gather a military. Then once blue army is ready either side can create more land and let the battle continue. This idea of “shared smiting” can also help isolate over-powered units and hasten their termination. Be aware though that destroying buildings does not return any resources spent to create them, so choose their place wisely.
What greatly differs between the Norse and the Greeks are the Mythological effects, units, and pickups they can each issue. Units consists of classic mythological military units such as Trolls, Valkyries, Centaurs, and Elves. Global effects are similar to Woes, except usually these are usually a more positive outcome. Pickups are placed on the map and units of either faction can get them, granting great power-ups.
As the Creator its important to note that these powers can benefit either race, which is also another hurdle for the opposing tribe. Experimentation is a critical part when using these pickups and global effects. Units are more straight forward. A notable favorite is the Norse’s Midgard Serpent effect. That destroys world squares in direct proportion to the number of buildings and town centers each faction has.
Players will try endlessly to balance the slaughter fest; while the neutral bandits will attack either side they find suitable and add to the frenzy. Events known as Woes, also keep the game interesting as they may affect the entire map itself, or boost either or both faction(s). Woes usually include flooding the map with lake squares that begin to slow down battles;Mercenary conscription that gives one team a trump-card-beefed up super unit; Or a resource boost that will grant one team (or both) production of units at only half the cost for a limited time. These are not all the Woes listed in the game, but each one has to be taken in consideration as the higher the difficulty and the later in-game the player is, the more frequent and intense these Woes become.
Skyward Collapse uses nicely drawn 2D images with almost no animations. Characters translate across the screen like piece being pushed on a board game, and death animations have those pieces bounce up and disappear in an instant. It makes good use of a simple sound effects and animations to convey a lot of information. The game also features no voice acting and a hit-or-miss soundtrack.
Of the few tracks available none of them are bad, but each one has a unique mood that sometimes changes the pace of the game unnecessarily. The timpani and strings number along the acoustic guitar and techno-bass lines of the next moves from intense and strategic to peppy. The it sometimes feels without unison. Otherwise the sound effects of this game are on point, and the music can be listened to at any time.
An original ideas that has come along way, but still suffers from the some unexplained mechanics. Without the single player mode to hold the hands of the player it is more up to him or her to continue to level up their player profile through exhibition matches or multiplayer. But that goes for all games in the end. Skyward Collapse falls short as well with the size of necessary building needed to make a anything. It is very frustrating to have a building destroyed that finished good’s production shuts down, unable to rebuild unless another town center is created or other building are smiting, using up valuable action points. Perhaps needing fewer buildings to create everything would help.
Skyward Collapse is available on Steam and is a pleasure to play. It is a true testament of what a small team over developers, maybe 15 or so can put out with the proper materials. The idea is easy to pickup and the concept is new and quirky. None of which is a bad thing to have. Anyone that is a fan of RTS or any strategy games should give this one an honest try.