Greed Corp is an attempt to simplify the turn-based strategy genre by making a game that is less focused on combat and more on controlling space on the map. Of course, the irony is that all strategy games – turn-based or real-time – come down to map control more than fighting, regardless of how they’re made. Based on that, I can’t decide if W! Games completely didn’t get this and missed the point, or if they’re total geniuses for trying to distill the genre into its most basic elements.
We’re treated to an opening scene that shows a beautiful world – mostly beautiful thanks to its extremely happy-looking, bright colors – just in time to witness different warring factions trash the hell out of it. The cartoonish look, juxtaposed against the old jazz music, gives the game a lighthearted feel. …a lighthearted game about warring factions trashing the world to make more money.
I won’t say much about the game’s narrative (let’s be honest: that’s not why we’re interested in this game, right?), but I do want to say that it completely contradicts the aesthetic. It’s presented in short text narrations just before the start of each mission. The gist of it is that the world is being destroyed by huge conglomerates who mine the land for something-or-other, simultaneously leveling it in the process.
It stands in stark contrast to the colorful art and delightfully kitschy music, particularly when playing the Freemen, a group of nomadic hippies who decry the way the land is being treated. Naturally, when playing as them, you have to resort to the same tactics as big bad corporations do, which incidentally falls in line with my opinion of hippies in real life: a mere abbreviation for hip-ocrite.
Speaking of treating the land poorly, you’re gonna have to do a lot of that if you want to win. Greed Corp pits two to four factions against each other on a hexagonal map (think Settlers of Catan). Each turn, players get a set amount of money (the amount increases as the game goes on), and are then given sixty seconds to move their Walkers – the only unit in the game, responsible for occupying hexagonal tiles and combat – and build structures on any tiles they occupy. Tiles are occupied simply by moving onto them, whether they’re neutral or owned by an opposing faction.
As for the buildings, there are Armories, which allow players to build more Walkers as well as Carriers – one-time use transport ships that allow a Walker to move anywhere on the map. Players can also build Cannons, which can be loaded with ammo and fired at nearby tiles, destroying enemy units.
Greed Corp, though, is centered around one particular building, and that is the Harvester. Place a Harvester down on a tile, and at the beginning of your turn, the Harvester will mine that tile and all adjacent tiles, earning two gold for each tile. Naturally, since this is the only way to quickly earn resources, it’s important to place them as strategically as possible.
And when I say “as strategically as possible”, I mean far more than simply placing them to get the most bang for your buck. When a Harvester mines the tiles at the beginning of a turn, it lowers the height of its tile and all adjacent tiles by a small amount. When a land is mined too much, it’s destroyed, removing the tile along any units and buildings on the tile.
Greed Corp centers its entire game around this. Players need to make sure they’re getting as much money as possible while also making sure they have room to build. You can self-destruct Harvesters, automatically destroying the land it’s placed on, as well as any adjacent tiles which can withstand only one more mining (as indicated by the land being cracked). Cannon fire can also destroy land.
This is also the game’s undoing, unfortunately. Greed Corp winds up being too simple as a result. We’re introduced to all the above-mentioned gameplay mechanics in the beginning tutorial, and, while overwhelming at first, it doesn’t ultimately amount to much. The only differences between factions are cosmetic, which doesn’t make for a lot of variety in the gameplay.
Since combat is extremely deemphasized, and Harvesters dictate the flow of the game so heavily, games of Greed Corp always wind up the same. Players will mine tons of land until they’re left with a few random islands. Then, they build a lot of walkers, and save up for a Carrier. With that carrier, they move to the most central spot on an enemy island, occupy that space, and place a Harvester on it, screwing the other player over. Throw in some Cannon action if any enemy islands are close enough, and this paragraph concisely sums up every match of Greed Corp.
The strategy is extremely dumbed down, as well. Since there is no variety in factions, buildings, or unit types, what players have to do in their turn is more or less predetermined by what the first player does. If the first player starts building Harvesters or walkers on their turn, all other players will likely have to start building them, or face the endgame with less money or units than their opponent – a huge disadvantage. This disadvantage is exacerbated by the fact that there’s no variety; if you have more stuff, you’re doing better.
Don’t get me wrong: I love games with simple designs. I still consider Starcraft to be the RTS worth playing, to give an example. But, if I were to analogize the average turn-based strategy game to Starcraft, then Greed Corp is like the original Warcraft. Does anyone still play that game? Virtually everything about the two factions were identical, except for the highest tiered units. Greed Corp doesn’t even have that. While Warcraft may have been an amazing accomplishment in 1994, the idea of playing it now is less than appealing to most sane people.
I appreciate that Greed Corp made an attempt to give the turn-based strategy genre something simpler, that would produce shorter game times to boot. Unfortunately, it also produces extremely predictable and static games. I suppose this game will be fun for people who find turn-based strategy games to be too complex and time-consuming. Alternatively, it might be fun to people who still fire up the original Warcraft to have a blast, or people who invite their friends over to play Checkers.
The colorful, cartoonish style of the game is excellent. It would have been nice if the narrative, scarce as it is, worked with the aesthetic.
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Try playing a turn-based strategy game with only one strategy.
The old jazz fits the art style like a glove. I only wish that there weren't several minutes of silence when the pieces ended.
The single player mode will last you a while, but I imagine it might be hard to play this game with people online after a few weeks.
Greed Corp nobly attempts to simplify the genre, but takes it a few steps too far. I hear the game is supposed to be the first part of a series, so I'm definitely interested in seeing how the next one is fine-tuned...provided it's a turn-based strategy game this time around.