How many of you remember the game, “Populous”? If you’ve ever played it at one point in your life, you certainly would have remembered it. The game featured two warring human factions, each with a god to watch over them. You got to control one of the gods, but not the faction they reigned over. Instead, you’d have to manipulate the environment and cast godly powers to see your way to victory. “Skyward Collapse” is somewhat similar, putting you in the role of a deity that must oversee the prosperity of two different factions. It turns out that preventing them from beating the tar out of each other is tougher than it looks. Before I start overusing the word “smite”, I’d like thank Erik Johnson from Arcen Games for providing me with a free review copy. Arcen Games, for those of you who may not recognize the name, are the same folks who did “AI War” and the “A Valley Without Wind” series.
The main menu allows the user to create a new game, load a previous save, adjust game settings, join a game already in progress via multiplayer, and view your profile and achievements. For those of you curious about the part about multiplayer, the game features multiplayer co-op (LAN or online) for up to eight players. Players can drop in as they please with games in progress, though the host can choose to keep that function disabled if they choose. The settings menu is similar to that of “A Valley Without Wind 2”, allowing the player to change screen resolutions, toggle fullscreen, look at port information, adjust audio sliders, view/change the controls, and mess around with other gameplay options.
To elaborate on the first paragraph a bit, “Skyward Collapse” is a 4x turn-based strategy god game. The player will assume the role of “The Creator” who will have the ability to manipulate the environment and build structures. The player will not have the ability to control the two factions directly, though they can influence their progress by providing for them in various ways. Both sides will be spawning units and be hell-bent in fighting one another with archers, warriors, siege units…you name it, they’ll use it. Your goal is to make sure that one faction does not defeat the other before “The Master” shows up, so careful planning and balance will be required.
The in-game interface is pretty easy to follow, though the amount of information it throws at you might take some getting used to. Along the left side of the screen is a vertical menu that allows you to construct things, cast spells, and manipulate the environment. The right side of the screen shows the resources available to the active faction during a game turn. The top portion of the screen displays the turn number, an overview of the two factions, and the game score. Tool tips pop up along the bottom of the interface when hovering over an item of interest. I found navigating the interface to be easy, but I was overwhelmed at first by all of the different game mechanics and numbers it was throwing at me.
With that said, the game features multiple difficulty levels, which I appreciate. I highly recommend playing on an easier difficulty level until you get your feet wet, as the harder ones feature game events that will really cause players to flip a table. On harder difficulties, you’ll be plagued (no pun intended) by things like the Black Death and Mass Extinction events. The easier difficulties serve as a great primer for the harder difficulties, allowing players to experience the quote unquote “full game” once they understand what it is they are doing. There is a sandbox mode that lets you do practically whatever you want without limitations. I personally like this feature, as it allows me to be as casual or as hardcore as I want, depending on my mood.
The graphics are pretty simplified, reminding me a bit of the overworld map in “A Valley Without Wind 2”. Don’t expect to see warriors and men in togas duke it out in full 3D. Rather, battle is represented by one sprite sliding toward another, reminding me a little of my NES days. Health bars are displayed above the units in question so you can at least see who’s about to kick the bucket. I honestly didn’t mind, since the core of the game is in the strategy and planning. Just be advised that you won’t see battles on the level of the “Total War” series.
In terms of manipulating the environment, there are a ton of different tools and buildable structures at your disposal. You’ll have access to structures like wheat and pig farms, schools, sheep pens, smithys…you get the idea. There are also god powers at your disposal that you can use to “smite” tiles and heal buildings, among other things. Further, the game features a profile system that levels up as you win games, unlocking even more content for you to use in-game. To prevent you from going nuts with power on any one turn, you’re limited to what you can actually do by way of action points. Building structures and wielding powers costs action points, so you’ll need think before you go click happy. As I mentioned earlier, sandbox difficulty ignores this rule.
Overall, I found “Skyward Collapse” to be an intensely in-depth strategy game. It looks simple on the surface, but there a ton of things going on behind the scenes that will keep analysts busy for hours. Luckily, the easier difficulties allow those who don’t want to dive into all of the number crunching a chance to experience the game in a casual manner. The in-game events and the way the two factions develop are ever-changing, giving the game a lot of replayability. The music to the game is well done, the title theme being based around a collection of old Norse poems from the Viking Age. The graphics and presentation are nothing to write home about, though if you didn’t mind the look and feel of “A Valley Without Wind 2”, you won’t mind this either. In the end, I’d say there’s enough content here to justify the price tag and then some ($4.99 as of 5/23/13). It’s definitely worth a look, especially if you’ve been waiting for a strategic “god” game to cross your path for quite some time.
Final Verdict: 8/10
You can learn more about and purchase “Skyward Collapse” by visiting the following websites:
You can purchase the original soundtrack here:
You can view video play sessions here: