Published By: W!Games Developed By: W!Games Genre: Turn-Based Strategy Players: 1-4 Rated: E (Everyone) Release Date: Q1 2010 Screenshots:Link Price: 800 MS Points ($10) Written by: Anthony Cara
January 21, 2010 - Imagine playing a high stakes game of Risk, when suddenly…Sweden drops off the face of the map and Russia blows up Hawaii with a giant cannon just before Canada flies some troops across the world (via zeppelin) and opens up a highly efficient yet destructive mine in the middle of Russian soil. If you can do that, you have a pretty good idea what W!Game’s exciting new game, Greed Corp, has to offer.
In a swanky, yet surreal hotel in Beverly Hills, we at Gaming Evolution recently had the privilege of attending a demonstration for the upcoming turn based strategy game, and what I saw looked very promising. In addition to viewing a brief presentation, we were also permitted to ask various questions and conducted a rather casual interview. Before I jump right into the juicy bits, I feel I should give just a bit of background on both W!Games and their fantastic new IP – Mystbound.
W!Games, located in Amsterdam, has been in the industry for about 5 years. According to their mission statement, their target audience is the “hardcore-casual gamer [who doesn’t] have time to spend 20-40 hours on each game and casual gamers that are looking for more challenging high-end games.” They explain that their studio prefers to focus on replay value rather than loading massive amounts of content into a single game. They focus on simple mechanics that are used to make the games fun and interesting for light gamers, but also require deep levels of thought and strategy that are sure to appeal to hardcore gamers as well. Evidence of this style is clearly displayed by Greed Corp, which boasts a 24 stage campaign mode (with difficulty scaling from beginner to expert by the end), but the same simple strategic style game play for each one. When asked about their personal influences, one developer stated his appreciation for the way Blizzard continues to polish one mechanic rather than always “trying to [re]invent the wheel.” The other developer said he was highly influenced by board games- citing Risk as a specific example. He noted that the factions of Greed Corp all have the same abilities and there are not many units from which to choose, but there is nevertheless, a deep strategy involved when all players are on a level playing field (or in this case a highly unlevel playing field that is continuously sinking).
With Greed Corp, W!Games introduces the gaming community to the fantastic new world of “Mystbound.” One of the developers explained that creating a unique world was an excellent platform to create various games that take place in a single universe and not have to worry about getting any special rights or permissions. The easiest way to describe Mystbound is a beautiful floating island in the sky with a delightful “Miyazaki influenced” steam punk setting. The catch? This beautiful island in the sky is literally falling to pieces! A short film on the history of Mystbound explains that this world has been mined for generations, making ever more efficient methods of harvesting but ultimately bringing about the violent destruction of the land. As massive pieces of the island began falling off into nothingness, not only did the mining continue, it became more fierce and competitive- giving way to four different warring factions, each with their own unique objectives.
When asked if there was any special message to be gained from this eerily relevant plot (given the current state of world politics) we were assured that any likeness between Mystbound and the real world was purely coincidental. Apparently, this is a question that W!Games is constantly asked, and their official stance is that they did not intend to further any sort of environmental or political agenda. Instead, the game is meant to explore the idea, “what if we froze time during the industrial revolution and then brought it to an island in the sky…” They will concede, however, that there is always the possibility that things “subliminally” leaked into their heads, and naturally what they were thinking about might subtly influence their creation. Now that we have a little more understanding of the world in which Greed Corp takes place, on to the game play!
As mentioned, the game contains both a single player campaign and a highly customizable multiplayer mode. The single player campaign consists of 24 stages each split equally among the four different factions and containing story elements from each unique perspective. The multiplayer mode can feature up to four players with any combination of computer AI, local, or online player. In other words, you and three friends on your couch can secure a fourth opponent from across the country, or simply play against the AI on any difficulty you desire. Also, depending on whether you play with two, three, or four players there are different maps available. This not only adds to variety and challenge, but also deals with balancing issues. After all, it’s no fun starting off in the middle of a map completely flanked on each side by opponents ready to devour you. In the same way, it’s a bit tedious for two players to spend hours crawling toward each other on a map meant for four.
After players select their factions (each with the same combat abilities and basic mechanics), an environment (snow, dirt, or greenery) is randomly generated and the match begins. Like the environments found in Worms or Mushroom Wars, they have no real impact on the game, but serve to offer some variety to the hexagonal maps. Players then take turns building up their bases, acquiring new territory, and attacking their opponents. Players can build 3 different structures each with their own unique functions. The armory allows players to construct the basic units, walkers, as well as the more expensive one-time-use units, carriers. The cannon (ammo sold separately) is able to fire at units, buildings, or land between 2-5 spaces away. As an added visual bonus, if a cannon and armory are built on the same space, they are combined into one structure, allowing players to easily see the rest of what occupies that space. The final, and ironically most destructive, unit is the harvester. The harvester can be used to earn the player money by drawing it up from adjacent spaces, but based on what I saw during the demo, it is mainly used as a weapon. This is a feature that W!Games deemed “groundbreaking” – a pun for which they promptly apologized.
What sets Greed Corp apart from other strategy games is that the earth is literally crumbling around the players as a result of harvesting (and to a lesser extent cannon fire). At any time, the “depth” of a space can be examined by placing the cursor over it. The larger circle in the middle is surrounded by a smaller number of dots equal to the land’s remaining depth. When this reaches zero, the space of land crumbles and falls into oblivion- taking any occupying units or buildings with it! With this feature, combat becomes not only about building more walkers and sending them after each other, but also strategically harvesting the land near your opponents to make them fall off the map. Each turn that a harvester is on the map, all adjacent spaces lose one point of depth. Players also have the option to self destruct their harvester, which causes additional damage to be dealt.
In order to win, players must completely eliminate their opponent’s forces. This includes their buildings as well as their units. A building can be eliminated either by taking it over or destroying it. To take over a building, you simply need to send in a number of units equal to or greater than the number of defenders. The units eliminate each other in a 1/1 ratio, so if you send five walkers to a base protected by five enemy walkers, you will win the base, but leave zero walkers defending. This gives your opponents the chance to steal it back with only one unit. A cannon, once its ammo is purchased, can either destroy five walkers or one piece of critical land (land with only one point of depth remaining). Finally, the carrier can move walkers great distances across the map. This becomes necessary since walkers can only move one space and by mid game, chances are there are several isolated islands that the walkers can no longer move between without the aid of a carrier.
Aside from the basic game, Greed Corp also offers a variety of extra features such as an online leaderboards, achievements/trophies, and titles. The online leaderboards tracks players’ skill levels in each game mode, and also features a unique, combined board, that represents one’s overall skill level. The titles are like miniature in-game achievements that can be worn on the players name when they go into battle. The developer pointed out that if he saw someone playing online with the “Veteran” title- a title that can only be earned by earning every other title available- he would know that this is a highly skilled player. He also pointed out that someone who has earned the Veteran title, could choose to display the “Recruit” title –a title that requires one to simply turn on the game- and trick players into thinking they were about to have an easy match. I guess your safest bet would be to avoid anyone displaying either title unless you are ready for a challenge!
In addition to questions about game play, the developers were also open to discuss their thoughts on the future of the industry as well as the future of the Mystbound IP. When asked about digital distribution and what will become of the physical game copy and retail side of the gaming industry, they were very positive. With their game being released on Xbox Live and the PlayStation Network (with future plans to release on Steam for the PC), they enjoy the freedom that digital distribution brings in both lowering the boundaries of entry for new developers as well as the opportunities for gamers to enjoy a customized experience. They also believe that retail will always play a role in the gaming industry- though in the ever increasingly digital world, that role remains largely uncertain.
We also asked if they plan to incorporate new technology in their games as it becomes available- citing specifically the newly announced “Playstation Arc” motion control. Their response was practical and hopeful at the same time. They are always up for experimentation, but they are against using such things when they would act only as “a gimmick.” As we viewed their demo through the hotel’s strange glass TV mirror hybrid with slightly malfunctioning input cables, their belief in function over form was definitely a welcome one.
W!Games also shared that Greed Corp is going to be the first in a series of three Mystbound-based games. The second will be a top-down view dual stick shooter called Gunstorm. From the prototype we were shown we saw glimpses of great features like multiplayer co-op, different upgradeable weapons, and a variety of enemy units that add an element of strategy in a genre usually centered on chaotic destruction. Finally, when asked about the distant future of Mystbound, the developers explained that if the games prove popular enough, each individual title may offer DLC or possibly even sequels. For now, they are in an experimental phase keeping their minds open. Perhaps in the Mystbound universe, they will find one genre of game in which to specialize, but for now, we can continue to look forward to variety and fun coming from W!Games.