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Side Quest – #7

– By Aecium


Islanders is a city building game developed and published by GrizzlyGames, and it’s not just another SimCity or Cities Skylines clone. It takes a different approach, one that’s more laid back and less hectic. It’s minimalistic in its visual details, the scoring system, and its currency.

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Visuals 

The art style is simple yet descriptive. You can quickly identify what is what without needing a lot of explanation. You can easily tell what is grass, rock or sand, something that is important to the placement of some buildings. Similarly, the look and feel of the buildings remind me of plastic toys I could have played with as a child (or an adult, for that matter) which again lends itself well to easy identification. This also reinforces the fact that Islanders is just a game, and not something you need to worry too much about while you play. You are presumably playing it for fun, after all, a fact that many of us can lose sight of while playing some of the more involved city sims out there.

Mechanics & Game Play

Islanders sets you up to focus on the placement of buildings on its procedurally generated islands to earn points and unlock the next set of buildings or the next island. How many points you need is something that’s easy to track with the circular progress meter in the lower left, which displays how many more points you need. 

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When you fill up the progress meter in the lower left you get a plus sign indicating you can pick the next set of buildings; normally you get a choice between two categories of buildings. 

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Categories include but are not limited to, Farming Pack, Brewing Pack, City Pack, Seaweed Farm, Logger Pack, Fishery and many more. Another progress indicator in the lower right is a faded island icon that fills up as you earn more points.

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When it is full you can choose to move to a new island or keep playing the one you are on. 

As you place a building/structure (such as a mansion, fishing platform, fountain, or many others), a point value is shown along with a radius indicating which buildings affect the value. Placing a lumberjack near trees increases its value but if you place a second lumberjack within range of the first, points will be subtracted from the total placement value. But keep in mind that as you place your sawmill you get more points for each lumberjack that is in range of the mill.

 And the pluses and minuses of buildings get more complicated as you play on. For example, the shaman gains points for being by flowers or trees, but losses points for being near the city center. Houses and mansions get plusses when being placed next to a shaman. This may sound complicated to keep track of but the game helps out by showing the potential value before you place anything. There is even an undo button that lets you take back your last placement. This is another feature that helps create the low-stress environment.

My Take

To be honest, at first I was not impressed but as I played on (mostly haphazardly) I started losing! I was like, “What the hell! They show me how many points I need and how many I’m going to get for each placement, how can I be messing this up?” Well, as I started to pay more attention, I realized that you need to apply strategy and forethought to each placement. You need to plan what you are going to use each space on the island for, and make sure your spacing is close to optimal along with keeping in mind what building packs you might get to pick from next. It all adds up and if you pick wrongly it can be a detriment to your score and the likelihood of getting to the next level. As I play more and more, the skill is in learning the buildings and how they can boost your next set of buildings. Even though the game is laid back and chill, I find that there are times when I still worry about not being able to earn enough points with the buildings I have left to place. When this happens, you get a game over screen and the option to try again. 

Final Thoughts

The creators of the game highly recommend you watch the video explaining how the game is different than a normal city builder, as they want you to have an understanding of what you’re buying before you do. I agree with them on that point. Islanders in not your standard city sim and you should know that going in. Then again, at US$4.99 price, I would find it hard to go wrong with this deceptively easy to learn and hard to master take on the city sim.

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Review – Bad North – Rethinking Strategy

I’ve been a fan of strategy games for a very long time. I’m also a graphic designer and have a sweet spot for great art and beautifully crafted experiences. When I first heard about and saw the first concepts for Bad North, I just had to check it out.


Bad North takes place in a Norse inspired universe. Your goal is to explore as many islands as possible; find new allies and powerful artefacts as you defend the land from the vicious attacks of incoming barbarians.

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As straightforward as this sounds, there’s a lot more to Bad North than meets the eye. The seemingly simple and endearingly looking game unpacks its complex tactical mechanics as you progress in the game.

Units/Parties

You start off with two parties composed of a specific number of units. Parties have the ability to move around the islands without many restrictions, but so do enemies. Choosing your path and unit placement around the islands becomes extremely important if you want to mount a successful defense.

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Specializations

Basic units can acquire one of three specializations: Pikemen, Knight and Archer. Each one of these comes with stats and equipment as well as with upgradeable special abilities, adding a layer of unit composition to the game. Upgrades can be bought by defending islands and collecting gold from each of the buildings. If the enemy destroys one of these buildings, you’ll lose the chance to profit from it.

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Specializations are important as you’ll be facing different enemy units that can be weak or strong against some of your specialized units.

Islands: Terrain/Weather/Buildings

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An island’s terrain and surface can be used to your advantage during engagements. But time is of the escence and reacting timely to incoming enemies is important as it will take time for your units to move from point A to point B. There are building structures in every island which you can use to heal the parties that have suffered losses.
But beware, parties are innactive during this process and you can face the situation of falling a few men short during a battle if you decide to heal at the wrong time.

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Weather also plays a role in range and effectiveness of archers. Windy environments, for example, can affect the reach of a shot if your archers are placed in the wrong location.

Items

Items can be found after defending an island and can aid you in battle by calling in reinforcements and boosting your fighting capabilities. Each party can carry one item. Items are also subject to upgrading.

Game over

Bad North is an unforgiving game. Once all of your parties die, your journey starts all over again.
But don’t lose hope just yet! Fleeing the island is an option. You can use the enemie’s boats to evacuate your most battered parties to save them from death. Abandoning the island all together, however, comes at the cost of not receiving any gold.

Additional parties can be found when you aid islands against incoming enemy attacks. But gold is scarce in this hostile word so choose your upgrades wisely.

All in all, my hype for this game was met with more than what I expected. This title by developer Plausible Concept mixes tactics, real-time strategy and tower defense elements into a seamless gaming experience. If you’re into all things strategy games, make sure to grab this title. Bad North is now available on Steam and is purchaseable in all major consoles.

 

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