Friday, October 17, 2014

Game Reviews: Creeper World 3: Abraxis

Creeper World 3: This Subtitle is Irrelevant Unless You're Interested in the Story is yet another of the Creeper World games, and with mild misgivings I think I'm going to pronounce it the best such. (If you haven't read the original reviews or haven't recently, you'll want to; I'm kind of assuming you'll have context, and reading those reviews is probably the quickest way to get it.)

The best part of it is definitely that it takes the most interesting new elements of the second game, anti-Creeper and destroying Creeper emitters, and integrates it into gameplay more similar to the first game (which I concluded after some time clearly had the superior gameplay experience, because I kept going back to it and yet never played the second after my review of it).

It even expands on this theme with "turnable" emitters, which are Creeper emitters that, if you cover them in anti-Creeper, will flip into friendly anti-Creeper emitters. Who knows why.

Early on, I was a bit concerned it would be too easy; as noted in my review of the original game, I often pushed the Creeper back methodically and "capped" emitters by placing cannons next to them. But I've always been more interested in "fun" than "difficulty" in games, so it wasn't really a problem, even if it initially seemed kinda true (behold the following post-battle screenshot as evidence).

They even made an element I'd always found questionable a bit better-balanced (but still usually easy) by making the anti-spore towers a bit less powerful but having the spores fire from clear locations instead of from off the map.

You might notice that in a couple of screenshots, there are glowing circles around some of my structures. This is because, in this game, when you destroy an emitter, it leaves behind a magic building-enhancing spot that augments the building's abilities. Ironically, I'm probably not showing their best use, because it took me a while to realize that other structures have much more impressive bonuses than the collectors do (or indeed, that they got bonuses at all). My favorite bonus is the one for the mortar, which makes it into a rapid-firing artillery cannon on steroids (though it's of questionable usefulness-the reactor's huge energy production bonus is much better in the long run). These bonuses arguably make things even easier; with the further addition of a "shield" building that repulses the Creeper, which feels a bit redundant with the anti-Creeper but is arguably more useful in some scenarios, there's a lot of missions I've played so far that felt like cake, even with the loss of the speed and storage structures (which are eventually replaced with research bonuses, which are usually superior anyway).

The designers have answers to the low difficulty; for instance, there's this sort of weird weedy stuff called Digitalis which functions as a sort of Creeper transmitter. The new tactics one has against the Creeper are basically all useless against the Digitalis; Creeper travels through it like guerrilla warfare tunnels, and it seems that things like the updated drone strikes are pretty useless, plus even one's new tricks aren't that useful; basically you can only shoot the Digitalis with Creeper in it, and that only empties the Creeper out of it rather than damaging the Digitalis itself. And like the Creeper itself, the Digitalis grows if it's connected to appropriate doohickeys (though I'm not clear on what they're called), meaning it can slip uphill and into your base faster than Creeper can.

It turns hunting the Digitalis centers, which can only be destroyed by the same short-ranged means as the emitters, into a slow grind, which is actually just the way I like it-I'd actually contemplated what I might add to the game to make it more interesting, and Digitalis is much like one of the things I'd contemplated.

Further slowing one down is that some maps are divided such that you can't stretch a base across them, and the only ways to overcome this are to have two bases (you can have up to three, but whether you have them depends on the mission) or with "Guppy" transports, which transport the resources of the game to remote locations.

Also resembling one of the things I'd contemplated as possible additions to the game are Runners; they're independent Creeper units that are supposed to do stuff to your buildings. Sadly, they're introduced in a mission where they're trapped on a distant area and pose exactly zero threat.

You might notice that these screenshots have pretty variable appearances; that'd be because the new engine supports zooming, which is good for focusing one's attention. It's also got notably better graphics, which isn't that important but still nice. And the music is great; it reminds me of the classic Total Annihilation soundtrack, still one of the all-time greats.

Then I hit the eighth mission, Experiment.

You have to rescue life pods-



Who likes escort missions? I don't get it.

Anyway, except for that one thing, this is a pretty great game.

Frikkin' escort missions.

-Signing off.

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