Reviewed on: PC
Street Date: 5.6.14
In a world littered with tired SimCity clones–including the newest SimCity—city Sims have to be more than exercises in fund management. Worlds need personality, unique aesthetics, and most importantly, challenge. Set in Northern California during The Gold Rush, 1849 is an attempt to bring life to this well-worn genre, setting players on a journey to establish cash-cow cities, trading goods and gold up and down the California coast. Offering 20 unique scenarios to master, the game’s story mode appears to offer gamers a wide, diverse set of challenges to master. Unfortunately, the sense of challenge is lost among the simple mechanics and bland graphics. The game’s systems are solid—there just aren’t a lot of them, turning games in campaign or sandbox mode into a repetitive slog of watching one’s cash flow rise and fall, absent of any other engaging or unique components to bring each play through to life or even make players really feel like they’re part of the gold-panning action. With nothing drawing connections between players and their worlds, the game’s lack of meaningful historical context, tiny, lifeless maps, and antiquated feature set are flaws that are impossible to overlook. –Randy Dankievitch
Aerena: Clash of Champions
Cliffhanger Productions
Reviewed on: PC (exclusive)
Street: 05.07
Aerena is a strategic battle unlike anything I’ve played yet. The steampunk aesthetics blend with chess-like precision to make an enthralling experience for those interested in unwinding to some strategy. This Freemium-built title has a few layers of depth that affect combat and gameplay. The main focus is your character and ship collection. With multiple abilities and different strengths/weakness, the selection of team becomes paramount when battling other players. Different ships will also have varied abilities, and the shells you pack with them will change how you control the battle. Generally, games that have in-game purchases will lean towards a pay-to-win model. Cliffhanger has found a good balance between the two that doesn’t make those along for a free ride feel at a disadvantage. While it will take more time to unlock additional without levels paying, the learning curve is set to a point that makes that growth enjoyable. If you’re looking for something to challenge your mind, and ensure dominion over your enemies, this free-to-play is for you. –Thomas Winkley
Anomaly Defenders
11 bit studios
Reviewed on: PC (exclusive)
Street: 05.29
When Anomaly was released, the idea of reverse tower defense seemed odd, but it worked in the best possible way. Of course, it makes sense that the team that brought us intensely fun, backwards idea would then let us play from the perspective of the “enemies” and do standard tower defense. Anomaly Defenders puts you in the role of the previously invading alien race, to defend from the human attack. While early tower defense simply gave you “place-unit-here” style play with a few different unit types and varying waves, Anomaly Defenders blends multiple units with tech trees, special abilities, ground cover and more. This keeps you more than just dropping units and praying for success—it puts the success in your hands as you employ your strategy. If that isn’t enough, it also has resource management tied in, as you can harvest your cash to continue building. This visually stunning “casual” style game is something made for hardcore and casual alike. If you need more of a challenge, simply ramp up the difficulty and go blazing into intense combat. Tower defense has truly never been this fun. –Thomas WInkley