Greed Corp Review

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Greed Corp Publisher: Easy Tiger Media
Developer: W!Games and Valcon Games

Platforms: Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and PC
Reviewed on Xbox 360

It's an old saw that "resources are finite." Nowhere is that more true than in Greed Corp. To build your army and best your enemies, you'll need to harvest the land itself, thereby destroying the very territory you rule.

Kyle Ackerman

Greed Corp is elegantly simple, with a brilliant rule that lies at the heart of play: to collect the resources needed to win, players must destroy the game board itself. That rule makes playing Greed Corp a delicate balancing act. To what extent are you willing to destroy your territory to end your enemies? Harvest too little and you will be outspent and conquered. Harvest too much and your own bases will literally crumble and fall into the abyss, handing the game to your opponents. There is no random dice-rolling, and there are very few units to work with, making Greed Corp an exercise in pure strategy.

It's easy to picture Greed Corp as a tabletop game, replete with hexagonal cardboard tiles and simple, colored wooden blocks. I'm certainly glad that the console keeps track of harvested resources, since that would be a complicated calculation every turn, but Greed Corp genuinely feels like the sort of game friends would congregate around over chips and soda until a single winner is declared or someone foolishly spills soda on the tiles. To the extent that Greed Corp emulates that formula, it is really a paragon of game design. When Greed Corp strays from that paradigm, it fails dismally.

A World Drowning in Riches

Greed Corp has an incredibly detailed backstory, almost completely irrelevant to play. It's the kind of thing that might be hidden in the perpetually unread manual of a board game. This is the first game set in W!Games' newly-created Mistbound universe. Mistbound is a steampunk dystopia in which automated industry has brought great wealth by devouring the planet itself. The remaining unspoiled lands tower over vast, misty chasms. Four factions battle over the remaining land: The militaristic Empire destroys the remaining lands to fuel its armies; the Cartel strip mines the remaining land to amass wealth; Pirates rape the landscape to fuel their parties; and the Freeman destroy the land to defend what remains from the other factions. From all the concept art that W!Games has shared, it's clear that far more work has gone into Mistbound than shows through in Greed Corp.

I'm a more rabid fan than most of story in games, but the Mistbound background feels crammed into Greed Corp. Aside from justifying the tile-destruction mechanic in the game, the story comes through in clumsy text bracketing each battle of the campaign. Most players will simply skip the text, but the text isn't nearly as distracting as the art. W!Games has done a glorious job of assigning unique art to each faction, making them interesting and distinct, but it makes the learning curve of Greed Corp steeper. The units for each faction have distinct appearances, but when shrunk to the size they appear on the game board, detail is lost and they simply become confusing. It took me a few games to realize that the position on the tile is more important than the graphic, and to be able to distinguish a Pirate armory from a Pirate walker. Frankly, the game would be far clearer if the units had simpler graphics that were the same across all factions, distinguished by, say, color rather than vivid art with vanishing detail. All the factions play exactly the same, so the backstory and art that try to distinguish them are more distraction than fun.

Occupy the High Ground

The actual play is inventive and richly strategic, while remaining simple. Land can be at one of six levels. Building a harvester grants the player resources every turn for each tile next to the harvester, but lowers all of those tiles one level each turn until they crumble into the abyss. Armories can be constructed with those resources that, in turn, can build walkers. Walkers eliminate each other on a one-for-one basis, so the larger army wins, but walkers have restrictive movement rules. Players can build cannons, but the cannons are expensive, as is ammunition. Cannon shells, however, can destroy walkers and lower tiles, setting off chain reactions that can destroy swaths of the battlefield. Finally, extremely expensive flying carriers can be purchased to transport walkers over chasms to seize distant land tiles.

Gambits in the game are simple. One must harvest resources, destroying as much land as possible, seeking to eliminate enemy tiles while maintaining islands of one's own that remain safe from destruction. Clever use of harvesters can eliminate enemy walker armies, or even destroy bases. Cannons can wreck foreign bases, and carriers ensure that battles are fought without clear fronts. Stratagems range from harvesting early and often to eliminating opponents and stealing their remaining resources. Whether fighting against human opponents or the AI of the campaign, the most important skill in three- and four-player games is balancing enemy factions against one another, ensuring they destroy each other rather than you, leaving your faction to sweep up the pieces.

Just Off the Mark

Another way in which Greed Corp differs profoundly from a board game is its control scheme. I found the controls to be remarkably unintuitive for a game that requires so very few controls. I understand using different keys to activate movement and fire cannons, but using the bumper buttons to change the number of walkers being moved continued to elude me throughout play. Repeatedly, I messed up the final, decisive move of a battle by only transporting one walker instead of 16, transforming victory into defeat, wasting colossal resources and forcing me to replay a map.

Also irritating is the turn timer. I appreciate the turn timer for multiplayer games, but resent it while playing the single-player campaign. Part of the pleasure of playing a turn-based strategy game (and anything with board game-like mechanics) is the ability to take your time. I didn't like that as things got heated, I couldn't take a drink or answer the phone without rushing to pause the action. The turn clock should either be purely optional, or something in place for specific challenges, not a universal feature of the game. Greed Corp could have been brilliant. It's certainly fun, and worth the price of admission, but a few simple changes could turn it into something truly amazing.

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This page contains a single entry by Editor published on March 8, 2010 9:21 AM.

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