Greed Corp. – The PS3 Attitude Review
Greed Corp., Amsterdam-based W!Games’ inaugural PSN game replete with multiple layers (literally) of nuance and precarious balance, could easily be used as testimonial evidence of this opening statement.
Harkening back to the fantastic strategy board-games such as Catan and Risk, Greed Corp. is ostensibly a turn-based resource-and-rally game played out on a hexagonal tiled landscape as opposing factions compete for supremacy. Ostensibly, as it turns out there is a lot more going on here than first meets the eye.
The objective of the game is simple: capture land, strengthen your resources and, ultimately, defeat up to three opponents by smashing them into the ether.
What makes Greed Corp. so unique compared to the usual land-grabbing, resource squandering, antagonistic tactical fare, is the added concept of self-preservation and balance. Capturing hexagons is easy; you merely send one of your Walker resources on to a free one and it’s yours. Build a Harvester on the space, and as each new round starts, new monies will whisk their way into your eager coffers. There’s a catch though.
Harvesters, though benefiting the war effort by bolstering your options in terms of lucre that can be spent on Walkers, Carriers and Cannons (we’ll get them later), also have the devastating effect of reducing the hexagon (and the tiles in close proximity) down a peg. After a set number of hops, these grids beautifully crumble and cascade into the clouds below, usually taking with them numerous hard-earned resources. As victory in Greed Corp. relies on having at least one polygonal standing at the end of the round while all others have none, purposely straining your own land in this way is tantamount to pulling off your own arm and beating an enemy with it. Sure, it might be the only option available to you at the time, but such drastic measures will only work if you manage to bludgeon the poor bugger to death before you yourself succumb to blood-loss.
The most challenging aspect of Greed Corp. is finding the delicate equilibrium between raping the land completely to fuel your burgeoning war machine and going all Mother Earth; reluctant to cut down a single tree while your adversaries are bombing and annexing your land from multiple directions. The ability to also place Harvesters on strategically identified tiles and then purposely detonate them on a whim offers up another malevolent stratagem. Positioning the gold-farming mills away from your base of operations and close to your enemies might put them at risk for quick assimilation. If you’re lucky, however, it’s possible to bring down a whole enemy regiment simply by surreptitiously stationing a Harvester innocuously in the background, ready to be sacrificed at the most opportune moment.
Such portentous tactics will quickly become second nature after a few hours with Greed Corp. While other games might allow for smart resource building and aggressive rushing tactics to overcome any adversary, Greed Corp. introduces the niggling issue of the Pyrrhic victory, as tit-for-tat manoeuvres in these intense conflicts will usually leave you both eliminated.
There’s no doubt what elevates Greed Corp. above the likes of other recently digitised board-games is its three-dimensional element. Like the futuristic version of chess in Star Trek that was played out on multiple platforms, offences in the game are not just possible from left and right, but also from above and below. While other games’ contests are fought on land, sea and air, Greed Corp. foregoes some of this (Cannon resources can attack adversaries at a distance while Carriers allow you to transport Walkers, your explorers and fighters, across gaps in the terrain) in an effort to focus on a new and more exciting angle: the fact that the very terrain upon which you’re all fighting is crumbling around you. This feature offers up some wonderful and intricate plays. In fact, more than once you will find yourself cocky, in full control of the board with your last remaining opponent cowering on a couple of meagre tiles, only to be promptly and severely trounced due to an unforeseen tactic. Greed Corp. is a game for underdogs and those who care little about the appearance of strength, occupied more with its actual application. In fact, one of the title’s biggest virtues, that it looks so simple (there are only a small number of resource types in the entire game), hides the reality of what is a deceptively convoluted experience.
Apart from the inventive and innovative game mechanics, W!Games have also outdone themselves in the design, graphical and audio departments. Mistworld, the universe the developer have so wonderfully created, with its quirky steam-punk style and jazz fusion soundtrack, is unnecessarily peppered with its own texture and offbeat history. Factions have their own particular look and feel, each populating a corner of the world and espousing their own specific ethos. Of course, this is all completely unneeded to enjoy the game. After all, we don’t concoct explanatory tales of lore for either the white nor black antagonists in a game of chess in order to relish the tactical exchange. Nonetheless, it’s a nice touch that Mistworld has its own distinctive aesthetic, and that W!Games went to the bother of creating context for why we’re all hell-bent on winning this hexagon themed conflict. Speaking of the overlying war, there are six levels per faction, with players having the opportunity to play will during the campaign.
While the offline offering is both deep and challenging, it’s online where things get really interesting. Unfortunately, for some reason we have difficulty fathoming, there are not a lot of people available to play in the multiplayer arena at the moment. It’s an indictment of our fickle industry that so many people would rather spend their hours on twitchy, and in same cases samey, FPSs, while cleverly constructed strategy games that demand patience, time and skill go overlooked. When you do compete with a human foe, prepare for battles that are usually both internecine and frantic. It’s as if all those hours you spent fighting the AI - subtle manoeuvres of deft tactical warfare - are instantly discarded when two real people get together and all they want to do is blast one another. The game supports voice chat and invitations from the game room and, for the most part, it works quite well.
Our only critique of Greed Corp. is its steep learning curve. The opening tutorial is an exercise in frustration, poorly designed and executed. It’s as if W!Games have created the fastest, most beautiful car in the world. And then forgot to include a manual on how to drive it. You get in and try out what you believe might be the controls, and eventually you do manage to get it to move, but it’s all too cumbersome, confusing, and has the unfortunate affect of suggesting to purchasers that they may have just been duped into buying a turkey. They haven’t, it just smells like a turkey, with only the more patient and diligent of players able to wrestle the bird back into the oven in order to enjoy the subsequent succulent lunch.
It’s our opinion that Greed Corp. would benefit greatly from a post-launch demo – as long as it’s not the tutorial packaged up and presented to potential new clients. We’re predicting not many people would bite the full-game based on what early adopters had to endure. In fact, we believe a demo is actually being looked into, so, fingers crossed.
In conclusion, we can’t recommend Greed Corp. enough; if only for the stylised design and new approach to an old, tired mechanic. That said, some people will invariably (and quickly) become frustrated with its unforgiving and head-scratching opening. If you can get passed this qualm, the game is an absolute gem. As a powerful and wise man once said, “Greed … is good,” and if people can discard their (possibly poor) first impressions of Greed Corp., greed is very good indeed.