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1849's Nevada Silver DLC is Still Searching for the Motherlode

Posted by Rob Thomas on September 22nd, 2014
iPad App - Designed for iPad
Our rating: starstarstarhalfstarblankstar :: BOOM OR BUST :: Read Review »

A few months ago, I took a look at 1849 from SomaSim. This Gold Rush-themed city builder for iPad had a fair bit going for it, but lacked in a few crucial areas to make it a true stand-out on the App Store. SomaSim has since added in a sandbox mode, and just last week the first content expansion, entitled Nevada Silver, went live.

Set in the wake of the discovery of major silver deposits that came to be known as the Comstock Lode, the expansion shifts focus eastward into the mountains and hills of Nevada. Available via in-app purchase for $1.99, a campaign of six new cities awaits returning prospectors, as well as a sandbox mode for the Nevada mapset.

The core of 1849 hasn’t changed with the coming of Nevada Silver, but it has thrown a few small tweaks into the mix. The trading interface, for instance, is now governed by the comings and goings of the railroad. Trains arrive in the player’s town on a regular schedule from nearby settlements, each of which is looking to buy and sell specific goods. Each train has a set number of cargo slots and while they can be switched up at any time, only a set amount of goods can flow in or out during each visit. It adds a pacing to the buildup of resources that can make seemingly innocuous tasks like “Sell 300 silver to Carson City” take forever when you can only send out three 15 unit loads per visit. And since almost all of the mission objectives in 1849: Nevada Silver require some degree of buying or selling goods, players will need to get familiar and comfortable with the rail trading system pretty quickly.

While it isn’t a part of the expansion per se, the sandbox mode bears mention as it is one of the issues I touched on the game needing during my initial review. Players pick a location for their settlement on the map, which generates size, resources, and the like based on data of the geography of the region they picked. The plot sizes run from “Large” to “Huge” to “Boundless,” which is, contrary to the name, quite bounded. Admittedly, the boundary is fully to the edges of the game’s visual layout, which is a fair sight larger than the maps one encounters in the missions, but it’s still constrained - I would assume due to some sort of technical limitations.

And speaking of technical issues, why on Earth are the tree textures still super-blurry when I zoom in to the game’s tightest camera setting? I know it’s not early onset glaucoma on my part, as everything else is still crisp and clean. It just seems very odd to leave something like this unfixed for a game that’s iPad only, where you know players are going to notice every flaw in your visuals.

The new content in Nevada Silver will take a few hours to get through (mainly due to the whims of the train-based trade economy mentioned above) and if you truly enjoyed the gameplay of the original 1849 then you’ll clearly have a good time with it. I felt the iteration and additions, while welcome, were too minor to substantially change my feelings on the product as a whole. It continues, as before, to teeter on the edge of being truly compelling, without ever fully making the plunge.

1849 Review

iPad App - Designed for iPad
By Rob Thomas on May 8th, 2014
Our rating: starstarstarhalfstarblankstar :: BOOM OR BUST
"There's gold in that there App Store!" SomaSim brings us a historical city builder for iPad, but 1849 isn't quite surefire paydirt.
Read The Full Review »

Titan: Olympus War Review

+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad
By Rob Thomas on April 15th, 2014
Our rating: starstarblankstarblankstarblankstar ::
The Twelve Labors of Hercules were not as taxing as the Sisyphean effort required to struggle through this Korean import's poor translation.
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Family Guy: The Quest for Stuff Review

+ Universal & Apple Watch App - Designed for iPhone, iPad and Apple Watch
By Jennifer Allen on April 14th, 2014
Our rating: starstarblankstarblankstarblankstar :: CYNICAL TAPPING
The jokes aren't the most offensive thing about this freemium city building game based around the Family Guy series.
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Clash of Clans Receives Big Update, Adds Clan Wars and More

Posted by Tre Lawrence on April 10th, 2014
+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad
Our rating: starstarstarhalfstarblankstar :: LET SLIP THE CLANS :: Read Review »

Supercell has updated its wildly popular combat strategy game Clash of Clans with some new features.

Described as the "biggest update in Clash history" by its developer, the update adds no-risk clan wars with bonus loot, and clan castle renovation.

We had an opportunity to review the game a while back. Clash of Clans is available for free (with optional in-app purchases) on the App Store.

GDC 2014 - 1849 is an Interesting Mix of City Builder and Spacial Puzzler

Posted by Rob Rich on March 18th, 2014

SomaSim's 1849 is a sim about the California Gold Rush in the same vein as older objective-driven simulations and city builders. It's also got a surprising amount of puzzle-like elements as you'll quickly find yourself trying to figure out the best way to make use of the limited space you're given.

The core idea behind 1849 is balance. You need to mine gold and other precious metals to earn money. You also need food and lodgings for your citizens and workers or else they'll abandon ship in a heartbeat. But in order to do that, you'll also have to make sure to provide other amenities such as schools and access to a saloon to keep the citizens of your ever-growing city happy. The catch is that every city (of which there are 20, each with their own overarching goals to complete) has a limit to how far it can expand. So in order to create a successful self-sustaining city you'll have to pay close attention to where you place what buildings and how many you construct.

SomaSim is aiming for an early May release. A specific price point hasn't been locked-in yet, but 1849 will be priced at a premium and offer additional content packs in the future.

CastleVille Legends Review

+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad
By Jennifer Allen on September 23rd, 2013
Our rating: starstarstarhalfstarblankstar :: MEDIEVAL BUILDING
Proving quite the slow burner, CastleVille Legends is a well-made but flawed freemium based realm building game.
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Godsrule: War of Mortals Review

iPad App - Designed for iPad
By Carter Dotson on July 3rd, 2013
Our rating: starstarstarblankstarblankstar :: MORTAL COMBAT
This city-builder-meets-RTS game has novel ideas to it, but when push comes to shove, the actual game falls flat on its face.
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Greedy Grub Review

+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad
By Rob Rich on May 23rd, 2013
Our rating: starstarstarstarblankstar :: A CUTE CRAWL
Greedy Grub is certainly adorable, but it's not particularly ground-breaking.
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2020: My Country Review

+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad
By Jennifer Allen on May 20th, 2013
Our rating: starstarstarhalfstarblankstar :: BE PATIENT
One of the more satisfying freemium city building games out there.
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Fantasy Quest Review

Posted by Rob Rich on March 28th, 2013
+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad

Developer: GAMEVIL
Price: FREE
Version: 1.10
App Reviewed on: iPhone 5
Graphics / Sound Rating: starstarstarstarblankstar
Gameplay Rating: starstarstarhalfstarblankstar
Playtime Rating: starstarstarstarblankstar
Replay Value Rating: starstarstarstarblankstar

[rating:overall]

I’m just going to say it: Fantasy Quest has a slow burn to it. Not that it’s bad once things pick up, but until it reaches that point it can be a fairly significant grind. And not the fun sort of grind, either. Thankfully once players get past that initial roadblock they’ll find a free-to-play kingdom building RPG that isn’t all that easy to put down.

Fantasy Quest is essentially two kinds of free-to-play games in one. There’s the town building with all the expectant tax collection and land expansion, and the energy-reliant RPG-ing with a number of different characters and quests. Both feed into each other, of course, with buildings created in town effecting what characters can be hired for a team and goods earned from slaying goblins and such necessary for expanding the town. It’s all fairly simple in practice but there’s also has a sort of refined elegance to the way each aspect plays off of the other, as well as how they’re both very accessible without being mindless.

The kingdom building aspects are mostly typical of a lot of free-to-play games these days with the exception of being able to raid other players’ settlements. Not that this is a new idea, but the way it’s implemented is pretty clever: stamina is needed to attack specific buildings and each hit (damage determined by the questing team, surrounding buildings, etc) coughs up various resources, including Valor that acts as a kind of special currency. What I find refreshing about it is the fact that being raided doesn’t incite rage. Sure I might lose a few coins, but I hardly lose enough to get mad over and raiding other players can more than make up for lost income.

The actual RPG-like quests can be entertaining as well, although they don’t really pick up until after a third party member is acquired. It can be incredibly slow going at first but once that threshold is passed players will find themselves with a competent group of adventurers, each with their own sets of equipment to manage and special skills to learn. It’s a little unfortunate that there isn’t a larger selection of basic units (only one of each type can be bought with non-premium currency) but it isn’t exactly a game breaking detail. A more significant (and literally game breaking) problem is the occasional crash or server hang-up while in the middle of a fight. Again, not so bad when all that’s really lost is a little time and some energy that replenishes at a fairly generous rate, but it can still be irritating.

Fantasy Quest feels a bit like a slow “me too” kind of fantasy freemium game at first, but it really does come into its own once players progress past the intro phase. It’s definitely a good time so long as one has the patience.

Tiny Kingdom Review

Posted by Rob Rich on February 8th, 2013
+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad

Developer: bin meng
Price: FREE
Version: 2.0
App Reviewed on: iPhone 5

Graphics / Sound Rating: starstarstarstarblankstar
Gameplay Rating: starstarstarhalfstarblankstar
Playtime Rating: starstarstarstarblankstar
Replay Value Rating: starstarstarstarblankstar

[rating:overall]

What’s this? An entire kingdom I can run on my iPhone? Egads! Yeah, I know, but Tiny Kingdom actually does a pretty impressive job of combining more “hardcore” free-to-play elements with an accessible and even casual-friendly approach. I’d even call it a worthwhile gateway game into more sim-heavy freemium titles.

Tiny Kingdom should feel familiar with anyone who’s dabbled in more advanced sim-style free-to-play games. There are a number of buildings to construct and upgrade in order to earn more resources, special hero units to hire and individually level-up, smaller soldier units to train en masse and assign to said heroes, etc. For the uninitiated it’s essentially like a simplified medieval strategy game but with a little more micro management that one might expect and a bit less of a focus on combat. At least initially.

One of the things that always turned me off to more complex free-to-play sims is the visuals. Not to say that they looked “bad,” just that the screen tended to get crowded with tiny buildings very quickly and became confusing to look at. Not so with Tiny Kingdom. The city screen is colorful, all of the structures are called out in an easily identifiable manner, and multiple buildings such as barracks and mines are all clustered together as one. Tapping on the mine will bring up the screen with all the individual mines to manage, but not having every single one represented on the main screen takes a huge load off my eyes. Having a build queue tab is also incredibly nice as it can show players exactly what is being constructed, how much time is left, and how many free construction slots they still have left. All at a glance.

Despite being far more user-friendly than a number of similar titles, Tiny Kingdom still misses a few details. The tutorial is relatively brief, which is nice, but it doesn’t fully explain everything. In fact, almost half of the city’s buildings (the World Mine, City Wall, War of Valor, etc) aren’t explained at all. They can be figured out for the most part but not having even the slightest clue how to utilize them at first can be a bit awkward. A more significant issue is the way information is displayed in the menus. For one thing there’s no unit cap display, so there’s no easy way of knowing how many units a given hero can take on. A lot of it is also purely text and numbers which makes telling exactly what resource might be needed for a given project incredibly hard to figure out at a glance. Plus it’s impersonal.

Tiny Kingdom is still very much a fun and accessible freemium sim. It’s definitely easier to get into than many of its peers, just not quite as much as I’d have hoped. Still, it’s certainly worth a look.

Pixel People Review

+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad
By Rob Rich on January 31st, 2013
Our rating: starstarstarstarblankstar :: WHY IS THIS FUN?
Players beware: despite being simple and seemingly without any real purpose, Pixel People is inexplicably tough to put down.
Read The Full Review »

Knightly Adventure Updates With New Character Class, Holiday Theme

Posted by Rob LeFebvre on December 6th, 2012
+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad
Our rating: starstarstarstarblankstar :: HEAD IN THE CLOUD :: Read Review »

Pangalore's freemium city building cum RPG, Knightly Adventure, has gotten its first update on iOS, and is headed to Android as well. The update includes a new Witch class along with holiday-themed environments, settings, and costumes.

§ Holiday themed winter setting, complete with magical falling snow and snowy fields throughout the player’s island kingdom
§ Holiday themed items temporarily replace in-game items—health potions now appear as gingerbread men, for instance
§ New in-game items include a “Resurrection Feathers” potion that allows players to continue a quest after being defeated in combat
§ New Christmas tree and reindeer items are available to decorate your holiday kingdom
§ New holiday alternate costumes are available for every character class
§ New Witch character brings a fun and powerful second magic-user class to the game
§ Extensive optimization allows faster game launches and faster, more reliable performance across supported iOS devices (iPhone 4 or newer, iPad 2 or newer, iPod touch 5)

My Little Pony - Friendship is Magic Review

+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad
By Angela LaFollette on November 13th, 2012
Our rating: starstarstarstarblankstar :: PONY UP
Unleash your inner Brony or Pegasister in this free city-builder game, but expect to eventually hit a pay wall.
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