How do you balance — and indeed encourage — a war between factions without letting either side obliterate the other? How do you rule over gods, creatures, and men who refuse to obey you? How do you build a landscape of villages when bandits and mythology are conspiring to tear it down? Skyward Collapse places you into the role of The Creator, and frees you to tackle these problems your own way. Brought to you by the developer of the modern strategy classic AI War: Fleet Command, Arcen’s second full strategy title is equally unique (but far easier to learn): a turn-based 4x strategic god-game.
What We Think
The strategy genre has become a strange beast since the days of the traditional RTS; we’ve gone from a perhaps overused formula to a variety of interesting sub-genres such as the tower defense game and the now enormous MOBA scene. Despite this new found variety, you can safely assume that you’ve never seen anything quite like Skyward Collapse – the latest outing from Arcen Games.
Maker or Break ‘Er
Skyward Collapse sits somewhere between a turn-based 4X game, a god-sim and a puzzler. There are also elements of tower defense here as you will have to think about funneling AI controlled units if you are to succeed. Skyward Collapse places the player in the role of a god, building up and managing civilizations as they develop from humble beginnings to grand empires. The unique twist here is that rather than controlling one faction, you will be governing two; and it’s your job to make sure they don’t wipe each other out.
The gameplay of Skyward Collapse plays out on a grid of squares suspended over an empty sky. The two factions start at opposite ends of this grid and you are given the power to add tiles during turns dedicated to each of the two factions. Each turn a faction gains three action points which accumulate if unspent up to a maximum of nine. You can place faction aligned tiles near town centres or you can use up two action points to place terrain to help reshape the world.
God of War
The opening phase lets you set up both sides by placing support buildings and resources so that they can get started on unit production. After this you alternate between the two factions and must attempt to balance their growth. While you have complete control over the buildings and development of the two cultures, you have very little power over the militaries of the two factions. As soon as they have the resources to build troops they will begin churning out forces to smash into one another. The units move autonomously and will seek out enemy troops or buildings to attack.
The game certainly doesn’t play itself, however, and the player has a lot of work to do between combat phases. Several conditions determine your success in Skyward Collapse; most notably if either side is utterly destroyed you lose. Also, you must reach predetermined score totals by certain turns and if you fail to do this the game is over. Points are accumulated through combat and so playing Skyward Collapse too cautiously or isolating the two cultures from one another will lead to an early defeat. Finally, bandit camps randomly spawn and if you don’t build up the military capabilities of both sides they will be quickly defeated by these wild enemies.
Thanks to the asymmetrical nature of the two factions it is never easy to ensure that you’ve got the balance right. The Greeks have a stronger basic military while the Norse have superior mythological units and so you have to skew the resources of each faction to ensure that they play to their strengths. Of course, if one side begins to get the upper hand you may have to cut back on their resources or strengthen the opposing faction.
The tools at your disposal are considerable. Both factions have a large number of structures and many upgrades. There is a little too much similarity in terms of the buildings themselves but generally the units that the two cultures produce are sufficiently varied. In addition to the general buildings and construction options for each side you also have the ability to directly intervene using methods ranging from destroying buildings to upgrading military units.
The aforementioned mythological units act as game-changers for when one side is at a disadvantage or when bandit camps are too close to your towns. Lesser gods are an even more powerful kind of unit that can be bought for each side; these provide passive bonuses to the entire faction along with active abilities that can be used for a cost.
The difficulty is upped through the use of “woes” which, along with the bandits, make for uncontrollable threats that must be overcome by both factions. Woes can scupper your plans easily and they range from simple problems like units wandering aimlessly to landscape-shifting disasters that reshape the face of the world.
A fairly comprehensive tutorial leads new players through the details of the game and once things are underway tool-tips help to provide information on the different tiles available to you. Unfortunately these aren’t always as comprehensive as they could be. It would be especially useful if the tooltips for different tiles told you how many of that tile type you had already placed in the town you are working on as the tiles themselves are sometimes difficult to pick out.
The graphics and sound of Skyward Collapse are well conceived if a little contrasting; the visuals create a light-hearted style while the music is loftier. That said, these two distinct styles do work to create a relaxing and engrossing atmosphere that helps to make long gameplay sessions an enjoyable experience.
Skyward Collapse manages to be unique while remaining accessible to new players; a rare feat. The tutorial takes about thirty minutes to burn through and while it does feature some fairly lengthy blocks of text, it isn’t too much for new players to get stuck into. Once you understand the basics the deceptively deep and complex aspects of Skyward Collapse make themselves known. This is an interesting spin on the strategy genre that takes old concepts and breathes new life into them. If you’re interested in strategy or 4X games then this is definitely a title worthy of your time.
Have you played Skyward Collapse? Join us in the discussion and leave a comment!