Author Topic: Axes & Acres  (Read 4259 times)

Jubal

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Axes & Acres
« on: April 17, 2016, 06:47:02 PM »
Axes & Acres

Game Type: Indie
Genre: Strategy

Link: http://exilian.co.uk/forum/index.php?topic=4334.0

Ratings (Out of 5):
Graphics rating:
Gameplay rating:
Immersion rating:
Overall rating:

So, the good news - Axes and Acres felt like a game that wanted me to give it a full score on its game mechanics, and having played it very I’m happy to oblige. The core mechanics of dice rolling and building a dice pool to use across a boardgame style map are interesting, exciting, and unusual, taking some very simple concepts and using them in a way that allows very complex and interesting strategies. Whilst I am a boardgamer and have even designed boardgames in the past, this didn’t feel like a requirement to play – the “dice” mechanic was pretty intuitive after not very long, and I’ve really grown to love the variation and complexity that’s required for the different maps and levels. It’s great to watch my little village of dice grow, and an experience I’d recommend to anyone who likes strategy gaming.

In terms of more detailed points to look at, the tutorial is generally well put together but needs some spots of polish (it took me a few goes to get the “activate a deployed dice by left clicking an unused one then left clicking the one that needs activating” sorted out), and a few names are unintuitive (“reproduce” being the card creating option for example, or “work” being what trains workers into crusaders). The cards generally are a very good feature, taking skill to use effectively but adding an important dimension to the game. I also really like the range of buildings on offer – there are one or two I never build (the church especially, I tend to try and get the barbarians out the way long before I have the resources to build a lot of the advanced defensive stuff) but most of them have their uses. I seem to rely on hunting for food – usually my first two steps in a game are to get a rabbit killed off and a lumber yard built, so I’ve got a bit of a resource base, and even in the mid-late game I often find that stocking up on the rabbit-generator cards is a better strategy than farming. Hunting animals might be an area where increased diversity is possible, but the current system certainly works nicely in general.

Graphics/media – most of the design decisions here were well made and the implementation was effective as well. The simplicity of the boardgame style graphics and clean but old timey colour palette worked well with the mechanics, and everything was put together very neatly and cleanly. There are a few hitches that knocked this one down – the music can get repetitive, and the end of level fireworks look a bit too reminiscent of an early 2000s powerpoint – but it’s by and large a decent offering that matches the graphics alright to the gameplay style.

The biggest issue I had with the game in many ways wasn’t with the game at all – it was with the packaging. There are a number of culprits here that added up to knock that immersion score down. The game’s difficulty setting is automated, counting up as you get better at it, though it’s never made clear whether it’s counting to anything (whether one can “complete” A&A by getting through enough levels is still uncertain to me). This, to me, was a design mistake – I’d encourage the developers to look at something more conventional in PC strategy gaming, namely having variable difficulty random maps on the one hand and possibly a campaign on the other. I like being able to have more control over game difficulty than A&A has, and having some fine-tuning in a Random Map system would be great for that. In terms of getting a feeling of game progression, which is I assume what the devs were aiming for, the system seems like it would lend itself very well to separately having a nice light-hearted story campaign (with pre-set objectives and maps, perhaps with one or two “unusual” maps such as a barbarian-heavy or water-heavy one). As it was, the external “packaging” of the game is an area that could do with some improvement, and was where I wanted more options and power as a user.

All in all, this title is thoroughly deserving of a 4 out of 5 for its exceptionally interesting and addictive game mechanics. It’s got a very solid core offering, and one that I’ve had a lot of fun with – definitely no regrets about having purchased it, and I’d recommend giving it a go. To push up through the “four” category and towards a “five” there are a few detail points to iron out, but mainly those excellent mechanics need to be presented in the game as a whole in a way that feels somewhat more complete and makes the player feel more in control of how they approach and play their individual games of Axes and Acres.
The duke, the wanderer, the philosopher, the mariner, the warrior, the strategist, the storyteller, the wizard, the wayfarer...