Review: Codex of Victory01 Aug 2017 0
Review: Codex of Victory
Released 21 Jun 2017
Could there be a more generic title for a strategy game that tells us as little as possible about the content of said game? Codex of Victory isn't a title that is going to jump out at you from the App Store pages, but if you are a turn-based strategy fan, it is definitely worth your attention. Fair warning; it probably won't hold it forever.
A lot of the gameplay will feel very familiar. The turn-based strategy is pure Advance Wars, while the intermittent base-building and world-wide planning are lifted from XCOM. The feudal setting is pure Warhammer 40k, while the adversaries are rogue AI similar to Star Trek's Borg. It's combined in a way that initially feels fresh, but in the end Codex of Victory is a limited experience.
Careful, thoughtful play is the name of the game. The core of the game is turn-based strategy of the Advance Wars variety, on a hex map with a variety of units with different strengths and weaknesses, and an opponent using mostly the same units. You'll have a few different objectives, but usually destroying all your enemies will be your path to victory. Your orders depend on a single pool of action points shared among all your units. This makes economy of action essential. The basic strategy is to destroy as many of your opponent's units as possible within the limits of your units' abilities and your reserves of AP. Then, you need to make sure your units are protected enough from counterattack that you won't lose too many attack vectors. Deploying new units will drain your AP the fastest, and capturing bases generates more AP per turn, so the mobility of your forces will depend on your ability to control the field. It can often be a benefit to snatch a base that you can't hold just to deny your opponent the AP and force them to waste an attack retaking it. Bases also provide places to deploy new units, so as the battle develops you have more staging areas at your disposal.
Good play during missions is crucial because of how you resupply your army. Units have to be built in-between missions using raw materials; they are not produced from captured bases or resources in-mission. This encourages cautious, tense play, since you know you have limited resources in all cases. For instance, if you only have a single captured unit of one kind, strategically sacrificing it for a big win feels like a great accomplishment.
The game gets complicated, fast. Units can be upgraded to advanced levels, gaining new abilities in the process. These abilities can dramatically change the unit's usefulness; "Ward" lets your unit shrug off the first attack they take on a turn; Support gives them extra attacks during your opponent's turn. Your enemy also has access to these upgrades, and this can be difficult. When the early stages of a mission rest on a knife-edge of deliberate maneuvers, suddenly seeing your delicately-wrought plans crushed against an unexpected ability can be game-breakingly frustrating. Instead, you need to go through the tedious process of checking each of your opponent's units and remembering each of their capabilities.
The AI is clever in the sense that it will pounce on any weaknesses in your lines, quickly destroying your entire force without a lot of care taken to protect them. However, it is also easy to bait into traps and will sit and do nothing while you prepare a winning charge. This inconsistency is strange; initially dangerous, later lying down to be destroyed.
Another element of the game is base-building. This proceeds in real-time with the ability to fast-forward. You have a limited amount of time between missions, so you have to decide how best to utilize your resources, given that each action takes a chunk from your timer. However, this doesn't end up working as well as it does in XCOM. In that game, there is an AI that you are working against which may attack at any time. In CoV, missions happen on a predetermined schedule, which drains the tension.
Aesthetically CoV is really good-looking. Units are rendered in a cell-shaded style that fits the comic-book story of the game and looks great even at a distance, especially with the old-school thick black outlines. The unit designs are distinct and easy to identify, with cool walking tanks and huge robots alongside more traditional tracked and wheeled vehicles. Animations for the units are also great, especially when they are destroyed and fall apart. The effects like explosions and gunfire leave a bit to be desired, not really expressing the power of your warmachines, but the landscapes they fight across are beautifully painted.
This game is really really polished in a lot of areas--so why doesn't it feel quite complete? Codex of Victory lacks a skirmish mode. The only way to play is to make your way through a series of linear campaign missions against the AI. The campaign is plenty fun and challenging, but can be frustrating if you hit a wall on a mission, or just don't enjoy where you are in the progress.
Codex of Victory is a polished game Frankenstein'ed together from some great influences. While not the most original design, the parts do work together well enough to feel fresh.