Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Puzzle Quest: Galactrix (More Notes)

I checked the reviews on Metacritic, and there's a wide divergence of opinion on this game--out of 12 reviews, 4 are 80 or above, and 4 are below 60.

I can understand that. Hacking leap gates really can be a pain in the ass (for the PC version, the mod changes that, but it also makes the hacking too easy, really). Some people aren't going to like the role that puzzles play in the game.

Reviewers that say battles have too much luck involved, are just wrong. There are some surprisingly complex strategies involved in battle, and I seldom lose a battle at this point. However, it took me hours to understand how and why these strategies worked.

I also think this game upsets the conventional apple cart. In most games that we play, when it comes to battle, we're in control of the playing field. That doesn't mean we win every time, but battles become fairly linear.

It's not like that in this game. You don't control the board as much as you influence the board. That might seem like a small difference, but it winds up being fairly significant, because it makes strategies far more fluid than what I'm used to. I like that, but some people won't.

A few general notes.
--if you acquire contraband and are getting attacked by allies or neutrals because of this, don't forget that you can escape out of a battle inside a star system (literally--use the ESC key). This will usually buy you enough time to reach the station, where you can sell the contraband.
--similarly, if you're mining and see that contraband is one of the three commodities, you can back out before you start (or during) mining.
--I've heard from a few people that the PC version is significantly more polished than the DS version. Plus, the game is quite moddable--all kinds of mods are possible, including custom artwork--and with the DS version, you'll miss out on the mods.
--Robert Kaye e-mailed me and mentioned that for individuals with shade blindness, yellow and green are too close in shade to be distinguished. I don't know if such a mod is possible, but he said that to be playable, yellow needs to be lighter and green needs to be darker.

Leap gates are clearly a sticking point. The original design seems punitive, but after trying the mod (which stops the timer when matches are going off), it's not an ideal fix, because hacking really becomes too easy.

I think there are a couple of ways that this could be improved. One, you could just leave it alone, but add an option to use psi powers or tech to hack the gate (like psi powers can be used to avoid battle). It would be a significant cost in terms of resources, but that way any one gate wouldn't be a dead stop. A second option would be to allow the timer to run down during matches, but limit the number. For instance, allow the initial match, plus one additional match, to run down the timer, but if additional matches fire off, the timer would be stopped while they happened. So you'd retain the time pressure, and avoiding setting off additional matches would still be a strategic element, but the punishment for doing so would be lessened.

Actually, I think that second option would be best for retaining the original strategic intent of that particular puzzle, while making it more fair for the player.

Site Meter