Review: Rapture World Conquest23 Sep 2014 0
Please welcome new reviewer Alex Connolly, a Nippon-based writer and illustrator who is condemned to the PT writers' dungeon for sins committed in a(t least one) past life. Follow Alex on Twitter and peruse his excellent blog -- after you've read this review, of course. --Owen
The Rapture -- the celestial event that spirits away the worthy before Beezlebub clambers out of a sewer. Morbid curiosity makes me somewhat intrigued by Christian eschatology. If Chris Carter's Millennium was right, evil encroaches on the periphery of everything.
Or at least tedium. Tedium creeps like bathroom mould. And that's where I found myself with Rapture: World Conquest. Sitting on a stool next to the tiles with vinegar, scrubbing idly while the comets fell.
Rapture: World Conquest is the compaction of Civilization and Populous into bite-sized chunks; distilling these grand dames to their barest of conceits and stirring in the simplified combat elements of Galcon. Players conquer territories under the banner of real-world empires (Germany, Scotland, etc.) on a 3D globe, adjusting their capacities for growth and specialities with modifiers, as well as hurling an ever-increasing array of catastrophes upon opposing forces.
Rapture does deliver on the superficial elements of its inspirations, as there's a good sense of Old Testament kingdoms and wrath about the game. The rousing orchestral score helps to elicit a sense of gravitas and drama to what is basically just herding dots, coupled with the mid-to-late game regional miracle detonations exploding across the globe like teen acne. Rapture: World Conquest delivers a suitably bombastic audio-visual experience that does justice to the theme.
The strategic grafting of Rapture: World Conquest sees Galcon's (very) light RTS gameplay wrapped in a series of holistic and zone-specific boosters, focuses and miracles. The two main boosts include an initial temporary freeze on opponent's troop production and a boost to your own. You can also throttle troop deployment numbers in true GALCON style. The focus element splits imperial production between emphasis on gold production, military production, mana and science. Gold feeds the boosters – as do your nickels and dimes via an admittedly unobtrusive IAP scheme, much to my chagrin – with the other focuses rather self-explanatory. Mana, as one can imagine, offers fuel for miracles. These range from tawdry tornadoes to meteor strikes and earthquakes, each dragged from their celestial dock and deployed as needed upon the sons of thine enemy.
As I tapped my way towards Christian D-Day – the simulated three-thousand year end-game limit, where the righteous dots are whisked from this spherical Sodom and given eternal life on a scoreboard – I wondered why this simply wasn't as engaging as it should be. It was a hermetic musing, a really good think.
Damnable projects like the delightful but massively unfinished Topia World Builder had me without purpose, but occupied in a zen-like bliss. There, I had nothing but a sad, anaemic bolt of fizzling lightning there to enact my celestial rage. Rapture gives me droughts and meteorites and plagues, yet they feel nothing more than cursory effects to offset the bustle of neon mites. The feedback from territories asunder is adequate – identifying zones under heavenly assault is clear – but the speed of the game makes these feel like minor, near-insignificant impediments for troop movement. By the time a player's empire gets off the ground, everything else feels secondary to pooling minions into massive blitzkriegs and weathering the onslaught of opposing vengeance.
The same old Galcon horde management that we've seen perfected years ago just doesn't seem as fresh when augmented so minimally. And perhaps the real-time aspect drains any higher-level strategic play from Rapture's tactical breadth. It is a fast game, but one that sadly forsakes the opportunity for interesting elements due to its expediency. This is where it gets nebulous. As admirable as it is to condense the the rise and fall of civilisations to five minutes, I feel Rapture could have benefited from slowing the hell down a little.
We know what Galcon feels like. It works because it's unfettered by unnecessary accoutrements, free from elements that dilute or distract. Rapture, on the other hand, does want to inject something higher into the basic and admittedly solid core. The problem is, these slants aren't engaging enough. They're a meagre side order, brought to the fore only when they're needed for mission objective specificities. I'm still playing a rather fetching version of Galcon, except I've got mechanics that don't particularly inspire or compel. Were things more sedate there could be meaningful and strategic decisions to be made. Mission designs might encourage the use of ten specific miracles during a match, but given their relative similarities and basic troop rush effectiveness, the extrinsic motivator in using certain mechanics is merely a grind towards meeting objectives and carrying on. These miracles should be the linchpin of the game, not merely complimentary.
At the end of the day (or to be painfully contextual, at the End of Days) Tundra Games have been too faithful to Galcon and far less ambitious with their own ideas in Rapture: World Conquest. Had only this been a brooding affair of baroque imagining, a kind of Dante-esque Plague Inc., where the extraneous mechanics had time to deliver a distinctly tactical experience on the shores of blood and seas of glass. Instead, Rapture: World Conquest feels like a quick, safe riff with its aspirations not quite reaching the heavens.
Rapture World Conquest was played on an iPad 3rd-gen for this review.