W! Games released a new turn based strategy game last week on XBLA and PSN, and it's impressive. The game is Greed Corp, and the goal is to outlast your opponents as the world around you crumbles. A bit confused? I was too, even after the tutorial, but stick with Greed Corp, and it'll stick with you thanks to its addictive and well designed gameplay.
A Land of Milk And Honey No More
Greed Corp is set in a universe known as Mistbound whose land has been harvested beyond its means, or nearly so anyway. Resources are every more scarce and four factions -- the Empire, Cartel, Pirates, and Freeman -- are left to fight over what remains. Each map is split into tiles, and each faction in this 1-4 player game is situated in their own area (and sometimes more than one area) to start with. It's not unlike an RTS game, but the strategy here is turn based as opposed to real time.
Each faction is well balanced, with different looking, but similar behaving technology. In Greed Corp, to get from one tile to another you need Walkers. Walkers are basic units that can go from one tile to nearby tiles, with some restrictions. Walkers cost money, like everything else in Greed Corp, so Harvesters can be built to help accrue more funds for your war efforts. Harvesters are immobile units that destroy a tile one layer at a time, and also damage neighboring tiles. This happens automatically at the start of a players' turn. The integrity of tiles are represented visually, and generally won't last more than five turns when a Harvester is pounding away at them. While each turn with a Harvester nets you some extra money, the damage they do on tiles has to be taken into account. Reason being, whenever a tile has been reduced beyond its final layer, it crumbles and falls into oblivion, taking anything on top of it with it. And while the crumbling animation sure looks cool, you won't be smiling for long when you realize that was your group of Walkers that just got destroyed, so plan accordingly.
In addition to Harvesters and Walkers, players will construct Armories and Cannons. Armories allow you to build more Walkers, and Cannons need Ammo (a separate purchase) to function. Armories also allow you to purchase a Carrier, which is a special unit that can be used one time per purchase (and they aren't cheap) to transport a few Walkers (three is the max I believe) from one tile to any other tile. Carriers are especially useful when you need to transport Walkers to a tile that you cannot get to by normal means, i.e., bouncing from one adjacent tile to another. Each faction can also call upon a Self Destruct function for their Harvester, which deals a critical blow to their primary tile and further damages neighboring tiles.
Those functions -- Self Destruct, building a Harvester, Ammo, Cannon, Walker, Armory, or Carrier -- are shared for each faction and are available for each player turn (depending of course on how many credits you have). In addition to making those decisions, you need to also keep track of where your units are and where you want them to go. Players can perform a variety of tasks during their sixty-second turn, but there several restrictions. For example, if you capture a tile (by sending in as many or more Walkers than the enemy has positioned there), you cannot use any structure from that tile until the next turn. So for example, lets say you managed to steal a tile from an enemy that has a cannon. You cannot immediately then use that cannon, you have to wait a turn. The same goes for purchasing a cannon and then ammo. Additionally, a turn is required for newly built Walkers to have the option to move. Bottom line, there are a lot of factors to consider for each and every turn. I found myself using up most of my sixty-second turn towards the end of games when each turn was full of crucial choices. Truly, no turn should be wasted in Greed Corp, but the latter ones are even more important.
You might think that a game whose 'board' literally falls and crumbles from underneath it would yield a lot of five and ten minute matches, but you'd be wrong. It's not uncommon for matches to last thirty or more minutes, although it is quite possible and fairly common to have them end sooner than that. One reason games tend to run longer than you might initially think is because Harvesters tend to get used less and less as a match goes on. Harvesters have their place at the start of battles, but as tiles begin to crumble and fall, a built in supporting credits mechanic kicks in. The amount of credits given to each player at the start of their turn depends on how many tiles remain total. So, you'll see a shift from people using Harvesters to get more credits to relying on the bonus. Without Harvesters out there destroying all the tiles, the strategy of play shifts to managing Walkers, Armories, Carriers, and Cannons.
All of these gameplay elements are what both confused me and intrigued me with Greed Corp. I'll admit, for the first hour of play I felt pretty clueless. The tutorial helps, but I think it might hold your hand too much. When I completed the tutorial and launched the first campaign mission, a straight-forward map with only a single Beginner-level CPU enemy, I got beat convincingly, and I just didn't feel prepared. Reading over the How To Play tips and other rules of the game from the Main Menu helped a lot, and after a couple of more tries, I started to get the hang of it -- and it was very satisfying. By no means had I mastered the game though, to be sure. Hours later, I still haven't. Like any good puzzle or strategy game should be, the mechanics and ideas are accessible, but to really know how to apply those for consistent success is a whole other matter, and I think that's part of what will keep players coming back.
A Loaded Offering
Greed Corp has plenty to offer that will keep you entertained if you can get past the initial curve. Each faction has its own campaign, the sum of which covers twenty-four maps and an estimated ten hours of gameplay. The campaign tells a story for each side through text before each mission which I thought was nice. Players can also Create A Match at any time, right from the Main Menu. This match can include other players online, CPU controller players, or local friends. You can setup two, three, and four player matches. All three types include twelve playable maps, although only four are available at first for each type until you unlock more. Conveniently, the top down, 2D view of each map is shown from this Create A Match screen so you can get an idea of what you'll be playing on. On that note, it's worth pointing out that Greed Corp does not use fog of war; you can see the entire map, and watch enemy movements, at all times simply by scrolling around the map. You can also switch between the default camera view, which is great, to an overhead view if you want.
With a good, relatively long campaign, thirty-six available multiplayer maps, options for local play, as well as ranked and unranked online play, Greed Corp packs a lot of gameplay in this 220MB package. Controlling the action couldn't be much easier too, so kudos to W! Games for making it accessible on that level. I think the bright animated visuals will appeal to most as well, and the effects get the job done too. The soundtrack is neat too, and reminded me of the old time music heard in Bioshock almost -- it has kind of a jazzy flair to it, but without vocals.
Let's get to the summary...