Review: Skyworld

A challenging strategy title where persistence pays off.

Creating similar videogames is an easy trap for developers to fall into, if they’ve built a shooter then more often than not the following title tends to be in the same genre due to the experience earned. That’s not always the case though, as the need to be creative, to try new ideas and experiment with new technology can be more powerful than making a safer business decision. Vertigo Games has already made a name for itself in the virtual reality (VR) industry with zombie shooter Arizona Sunshine, yet for its next title teamed up with Wolfdog Interactive on strategy experience Skyworld. And by the look of it, that change of direction suits the studio just as well.

Skyworld is a table top style videogame that mixes both turn-based and real-time strategy together, challenging you to think and plan both long term and instantaneously, giving the gameplay a richer, more varied style than standard real-time strategy (RTS) titles.

Whichever mode you start with, either Campaign, Skirmish or Multiplayer, you’re presented with the same layout. A circular board or ‘Skyworld’, which is essentially an island where you play around the outer edge. The goal is simple enough, vanquish the enemy – in this case some demons – and remove them from the island as quickly or as slowly as you like. Take your time to build up resources, train troops and learn new spells, or dive right in and attack as soon as possible.

Here’s a word of warning though, don’t do that latter idea because you will die, and die often. Even on normal Skyworld is very unforgiving, testing both your tactics and knowledge of the videogame at every turn – it doesn’t go easy on first time players. Is this a bad thing, quite frankly no, it just means you have to spend time, be patient, and keep an eye on everything going on.

You have your castle, around which various buildings can be placed to acquire resources, wood, stone, iron, food etc. All these items and more can be found on panels which can be opened and closed at will, or for those true leaders placed around you for quick access. This system works really well, meaning that it’s easy to access your building panel, throne panel – for adjusting options like money, how much food workers get, and upgrading your army – and the resource panel to see what you’re earning and if you need to swap workers around to create more iron for example.

All of this is handled in the turn-based section, enabling you to quickly move through turns if needed to build those resources. Skip through a lot and you’ll soon find an enemy general heading towards you. When the generals meet up that’s where the real-time element comes into play, with the entire table top spinning over to show a battlefield. Battles tend to follow the same basic premise, destroy your opponent’s two forward towers before attacking the main castle and blowing it up.

Whilst these sections are certainly entertaining and possibly the main element of Skyworld they can also be the most repetitious, devolving in a war of attrition for the most part. Troops have a mana cost, so to begin with they can be placed straight away, but once your mana is used it takes a short amount of time to regenerate. So careful balancing is required as to whether you put out cheap, weaker troops or go for something a bit more costly. Once placed your troops will then automatically go for the nearest enemy or tower, so you just have to let them do their thing and hope for the best. While you can’t control your forces once deployed you can still aid them with a range of magical spells that if used correctly can help turn the tide of battle.

As mentioned Skyworld is difficult, and these battles aren’t easily won until you’ve significantly improved your forces – that’s if you manage to in the first place. Screw up your resources – build too much of one, not enough of another – and Skyworld can quickly bottleneck, with there being no obvious way around certain predicaments. With this inmindSkyworld certainly won’t be for everyone simply due to its difficulty. But for those tacticians after a challenge Skyworld is definitely one of the best RTS style VR titles available.

80%
Awesome
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