Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Solarmax 2 - review

Hello guys, in this post I will share my thoughts on a game called Solarmax 2. It a successor of a game called Solarmax.

Game details

Genre: strategy, tactics, space, RTS alike, science fiction
Mechanics: real time
Player mode: single-player
Platforms: web based flash version, mobile, iOS, Android and Steam Greenlight/WindowsWeb page: http://nicotuason.itch.io/solarmax2
wiki/help page: (couldn't find any)

My thoughts

I finished the game three times, once on medium difficulty and two times on hard difficulty. So the first time I started the game, really pulled my attention because I like science fiction genre. It has awesome visual/graphical elements and every thing runs smoothly, as it should be. The beautiful music really fills the 
sci-fi experience... man kind set for conquering the stars :) However when I play sci-fi games what I like is the story or the comics that gives that fiction element. In this release there wasn't a story and the space ships look like a little light particles which is a bit disappointing. When I want to explain the game, I think of particles, not a space ships :)

This game should be a tactics game right? Well it does have tactics but you cannot really feel it. Basically in its core is just: be faster and collect bigger army so that you don't loose the level. You don't get to feel change in a single game when you send ships to one or to another planet, it is just collect bigger army. There should be levels with bigger maps, with more planets/(turret stations)/(warp gates) where you are going to feel a change with the distance between planets and the planet size. It is however a good time waster and kept me entertained up until I finished the game on both medium and hard modes. After that it became a bit boring so I lost interest. More levels are needed and perhaps map editor and multiplayer mode. Don't forget to add a short story.

To be honest I  finished all levels on medium mode without knowing that there is a slider for how much percentage of ships you want to send. The tutorial level with the slider is a bit inconvenient. The slider is also a bit clumsy. You may slide to a value you didn't wanted by accident and then you could perhaps loose a level. From my opinion I think a radio button group would do better, for example you have a set of predefined values, 15%, 30%, 50%, not sure about this, just a thought.

I would also like to see a kongregate badge for finishing all levels on hard mode. It gives you motivation to play it more. The AI is fierce and cunning which gives depth and value to the game. However there is still space for level refinement. Some levels are just too easy and some levels are a bit pain. 

I really like the thing that you get 10 tutorial levels, you have army advantage up until tenth level, which is nice. I also like the variety of game objects and elements, like bigger/smaller planets, warp gates, turret stations, space stations, obstacles, moving planets etc... Then variety in players/AIs, the possibility to experience game against four AIs. To note, the moment when black particles appeared, it was mind blowing :) and also the moment when you finish the game, all solar systems get white (that is why a short story is needed).

Tips and Tricks

While playing this game I concluded some general tips about it. 
  • Generally you should always try to take over static objects like planets and turret stations, since moving objects are harder to take and more riskier. 
  • Use constantly small amount of ships and transfer to enemy's planets to stop his unit production at least a short period of time. The AI will not be always able to clear his planets from your ships. You can do this by taking over two or three planets and keep you bigger army on one of the planets. While your empty planets generate new units, send them to enemy's unguarded planets. 
  • You will want to use often percents like 25%, 50%, 75% and 100% of your ships. Usually you start off by taking new planet with 100% of your units and then in the middle of the current game you switch to 50%  or 25% so that you can leave the current planet guarded. Black particle's AI is very fierce and fast. If able it attacks immediately a planet that has zero or smaller amount of units. 
  • Some levels have a pattern or trick. For example on level  2, divide in half your army and send it to one of opponent's planets. 
  • On level 13 you should first take over one half of the screen (upper or lower) and then conquer the other. 
  • Level 36 is just a trick, destroy the lower left AI, take over his planets and station and then with the warp gate transfer all your troops to the circular station in the middle of the screen. Wait a little to fight off black ships and then you are done with it. 
Useful links

Game alikes

Obviously the game mechanics is nothing new. There are many games, mobile or web that roughly have the same game mechanics. I made a small collection of links which you might want to check. 

Tentacle Wars - The Purple Menace

Conclusion

This game pulled my attention, but it didn't keep going. Needs more levels, multiplayer, map editor and story. Some tools should be improved and it is roughly a clone of other games. It will be a wonderful and immersive experience only the first time and will leave you wanting for more, but the tactics and level maps currently do not promise much. It has a potential to become something bigger and better that it is right now. We'll see. The visuals and the music are awesome which make this game a game you want :) From my point of view I give it 3.9/5

Gallery

http://vladtheterran.tumblr.com/post/92901566852/solarmax-2-part-1
http://vladtheterran.tumblr.com/post/92901680077/solarmax-2-part-2
http://vladtheterran.tumblr.com/post/92901782967/solarmax-2-part-3
http://vladtheterran.tumblr.com/post/92901854042/solarmax-2-part-4