Greed Corp – PC Review

Greed Corp takes quite a literal approach to the idea that corporations are destroying the earth. Aside from the not-so-subtle environmentalist tone, W!Games have managed to deliver a well-rounded product, with an ingenious take on turn-based strategy being combined with a slick and stylish interface, utilising the legendary hexagonal arena but with a twist – the hexagons collapse epically and forebodingly beneath the feet of your precariously placed minions.

You take the role of one of four ‘corporations’: the Freemen, the Pirates, the Cartel or the Empire. With your faction, you take part in battles with up to four participants in order to leave your own troops standing on whatever hexagonal pillars remain after harvesters and cannons obliterate most of the ground beneath you. Well, I say ‘ground’. Battles actually take place seemingly miles in the air, with just clouds and open space visible beneath the playing field.

Generally each player begins with anywhere up to about six tiles on one of the huge hexagonal pillars, and spends the early turns moving across the board with their walkers taking control of further tiles. Controlling the tiles allows you to place harvesters, which provide money; armouries, which allow you to recruit more walkers; and cannons, which allow you to fire at other pillars. These all cost money to place, which you gain each turn, but your finances really have to be boosted by planting harvesters. The further into the match, the more land has been destroyed by the harvesters, and the more gaps between land that emerge – these lead to either sniper-style cannon-fire, or paradrop-style carrier invasions (carriers being expensive one-use walker transporters), until all enemy armouries, walkers and harvesters have been destroyed or taken.

The primary tactical element of Greed Corp is the harvesters. Each pillar has a height level of up to 6, though most begin at 2 to 5. A planted harvester knocks down its own and all adjacent pillars one level at the beginning of its owner’s turn, providing money corresponding to the number of hexagons knocked down. When a pillar’s height is knocked beneath 1, it crumbles, blocking off pathways and trapping or isolating your units – or if you’re not careful, forcing your units into the abyss. The player thus has to strike a careful balance between where to plant harvesters, and where to make a stand with armouries and/or cannons.

With land mostly gone, a common tactic is to swoop in on carriers with your walkers and plant harvesters in the midst of an enemies’ land in order to remove anything they might build on and put a timer on the number of turns they have left – they have to either evacuate with an expensive carrier or wipe out the enemy with cannon-fire. Unlike normal strategies, Greed Corp encourages aggressive behaviour – for example, attacking a 16 walker tile with 16 walkers leaves no walkers remaining, but you win the tile. Keeping your armouries and cannons on stable, high platforms, away from harvesters is a must. Cannons are fun to use, and although they require expensive ammunition top-ups, they are great at whittling down opponents’ platforms; one of the most rewarding experiences is to set off a chain reaction of level 1 platforms and seeing an entire enemy force fading into the misty depths of oblivion, along with the crumbling pillars.

And boy do pillars crumble. One of the things that makes this game so much fun is how visually and aurally pleasing it is. Whether it’s the rumble of sundering earth or the rusty clinking of a revolving cannon, the sounds really make you feel like you’re influencing the game’s events. The music is also catchy, and I found myself whistling along to some of the 50s-style tunes – particularly the victory one! The immersion is only augmented by the visuals. Not only does each faction have its own sounds to represent the creation of walkers or the sound of carriers, but these match with their actual appearance and give each faction a distinct personality. From the wonky Pirate harvester to the modest wooden Freemen walkers, from the corporate Cartel’s carrier to the Empire’s sterile… everything, Greed Corp manages to make you feel the mindset of each faction. In general the graphics really are sharp and fast, getting you into the action quickly while being pleasurable to watch. Also, the Cartel’s walkers are so cute it’s actually heart-wrenching to watch them plummet to their doom!

Inexperienced players might find themselves accidentally committing strategic suicide with harvesters quite frequently, particularly if they haven’t played through the tutorial. Luckily though, the tutorial does a fairly good job of explaining all the different elements of the game, though it does feel a bit daunting at first. The elements of the game aren’t actually all that complex, it’s just that everything seems so new. The strategic originality is quite refreshing, especially once you get to grips with the mechanics – which, fortunately, is not terribly difficult when embarking on the campaign.

The campaign offers 6 missions for each of the 4 corporations, beginning as the Freemen and ending as the Empire. The learning curve is superb, with the Freemen campaign providing ample opportunity to experiment against your feeble ‘beginner’ level opponents. In fact, it’s quite hard to lose for quite a while, as the computer players seem more than happy to blow each other (and indeed, themselves) to pieces; this was certainly not something I complained about while I was trying to master the expertly designed gameplay. Once about halfway through, the levels become more challenging  as expert and skilled computer players are added, and consequently become more satisfying to beat.

Each level, depending on how many computer players beaten, provides ‘conquest points’ – the more of which you have, the more levels are unlocked, allowing you to skip those you find too difficult, or even just to skip to more difficult ones. This system prevents too much frustration upon getting stuck and allows a steady and structured progression with a nice amount of player choice. For me, there was just one level I repeatedly failed, but I came back to it after finishing the rest of the campaign and found it oh-so-satisfying to finally complete.

It seems a bit odd to call the factions ‘corporations’ aside from the Cartel (and maybe the opportunist Pirates), particularly since the Freemen are basically villagers whose land is being taken and the Empire are more of an imperialist regime – but that’s what the intro movie calls them. Though another minor complaint is that it’s also a bit odd that the easiest part of the campaign is where you play as the near-defenceless villagers looking for a new home, with the most difficult part of the campaign being the Empire – I thought it was normally the bad guys that had it easy?

The story behind the campaign also rarely relates to the game itself, with battles involving factions whose presence isn’t properly explained, and with no explanation for various things – ‘humans’ are mentioned, but walkers don’t appear human, and is this really all the land there is? Because it’s all gone now! To be fair, although the story is a bit disjointed and sometimes difficult to follow (the Cartel campaign was just confusing), it is a mere couple of paragraphs before and after battles (what else can you do with a game like this?), and I do enjoy strategy games where you get to play from all the different factions’ perspectives.

All in all, the campaign provides a solid, enjoyable experience, and is both suitably challenging and satisfying while avoiding much of the frustration and angst that is all too often packaged with strategy campaign progression. For me it took about 7 to 8 hours to complete both the tutorial and campaign, which is reasonable for a budget, indie title. It does have a certain level of replayability, but although there can be numerous possible outcomes in terms of platforms and players remaining, you might find it somewhat tedious playing over the same levels and finding yourself in similar situations each time. Also, I don’t think it would have hurt to have added an expert challenge mode for those wanting the opportunity for more strategic depth, either as an option in the campaign or in addition to it.

Outside the campaign you can create a Battle, which offers 12 different maps each for 2, 3 and 4 player games, so there is a certain amount of separate content, with the option to add computer players with three possible difficulty settings (beginner, skilled, expert), a local player or an online player. This mode might be satisfying for a while, but it doesn’t have the same feeling of progression and accomplishment the campaign has (aside from completing some of the 12 relevant achievements).

There is online multiplayer, where you can choose to either create a battle as mentioned and wait for people to join, or you can join the queue. The whole process is poorly executed though, as you can’t see what battles are open to join and you can’t chat to anyone, and it generally takes at least 10 minutes just to find enough players, even at peak times. You can’t even chat to people while you’re playing, and the only time Greed Corp crashed for me was when playing an online 1v1 (which I was winning, I hasten to add). It’s a shame, because this is the kind of game that might have excelled online.

The option for teams might also have helped; Greed Corp is never a team game. One of the problems with this, tactically, is the same problem found in all free for all battles – who do you fight? You end up waiting for people to make the first move, and pray that players don’t gang up on you. Battles with AI are often won by retreating to a secluded zone to wait for the others to fight amongst themselves before swooping in and finishing them all off. One of the preventative measures for this is a bonus you get when destroying an enemy, but this doesn’t include when you cleverly plant a harvester that they then take control of (but can’t destroy) – you actually have to inflict the killing blow (which is quite difficult), so it’s almost always better to wait for an advantage. It’s for this reason that I find 1v1s where Greed Corp really shines.

Saying that, the battle mechanics feel like they have room for improvement. Granted, they are excellent examples of honed strategy and pinpoint balance, but it sometimes seems that there could be so much more to it. The toolbar feels somewhat limited, and games seem to follow a set pattern that has little room for variation. The AI can be irritating and act confusingly, and waiting for each AI walker to be produced one at a time becomes a bit tiresome. The camera doesn’t follow what the AI is doing during their turn, so you have to follow the sounds or view from a less pleasing birds-eye perspective if their walkers are scattered. More camera options (i.e. zoom in and out) would be nice, as would a unit count. Overall though, these criticisms seem trivial in a game that smacks of good design.

Greed Corp is a brilliant but imperfect turn-based strategy. It provides a fun, original and thoroughly addictive experience with an intuitive and cleverly devised hexagonal system. The audio and visuals really make you feel like you’re impacting the battles and immerse you convincingly into the gameplay, and a well-structured and appropriately challenging campaign keeps you glued. Though finishing the campaign leaves room for some replayability, once you finish it, experimentation and gameplay in the campaign itself and in battles don’t feel as addictive, and the online experience is disappointing to say the least. Despite this, Greed Corp is cute, fun and satisfying – and with any luck, a sequel will polish this diamond.

Score: 8/10 – Very Good

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Comments (3)

  1. Mark Hildreth December 21, 2010
    • Peter Miller December 29, 2010
  2. Michael Awty December 21, 2010
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