Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Mud and Blood 2

Mud and Blood 2 is one of the more polarizing games on Kongregate that I've seen. When it first came out, it was wildly popular despite not having badges, and when it finally did get badges, it got another wave of popularity that seemed to last much longer than your typical new-challenge-game popularity. (Admittedly, this impression may be enhanced by the game that it lends itself very well to talking in chat while you're playing it, since there's plenty of waiting time.) Despite all of that, though, it's still not very highly rated on Kongregate, and it's not hard to see why: while it's initially a very interesting and entertaining game, eventually the flaws in the game become clear.

Anyway, MaB2 is, in many ways, a pretty typical action strategy game. Your object is to prevent the Germans from making it from the top of the screen to the bottom of the screen; as time goes on, you get Tactical Points, which you can spend acquiring new units, building fortifications or other structures, ordering various forms of support, or upgrading your existing units. Your object is to hold out as long as possible against increasingly difficult waves; once a certain number of Germans have broken through your position, you have been overrun and are defeated. You can move units from one place to another just by clicking, but your units are often not always willing to follow your orders immediately; they're often pinned down or already engaging a target and won't want to move.

The first thing you notice about MaB2 is that there are a lot of options. There's 15 different unit types and a whole bunch more upgrades, structures, and support you have available, and every single one of them has a button on the main screen. This is really quite overwhelming to the newbie -- it would make a lot more sense to organize the options a bit better. For instance, the upgrade buttons probably would be better attached to a unit, rather than with the rest of the buttons, and some way to dim or hide buttons which represent options not currently available to you would also be a good idea. However, to the game's credit, it does a generally good job balancing units -- while some units are obviously not quite as good as others, there are apparently many viable strategies; some people swear by spec ops, others by snipers, and so forth, so it's good that there are many different ways to do well. (There are also, as you might expect, many different ways to get yourself completely killed.) However, even after you've played the game for a while (I played long enough to get the badges, which was pretty long, but there are many people who have tried to get all of the ribbons in the game, which requires a lot of effort), you may find that there are just certain options that you end up never using.

Despite the range of tactical options (or perhaps because of the range; it does make it a lot easier to end up with a poor strategy, after all), MaB2 is a very challenging game. (Actually, the more I think about it, the more likely I think it is that the range of options makes the game more difficult. The game doesn't always do a good job elucidating the strengths and weaknesses of your various choices, so you don't always know whether your Tactical Points have been well-spent until you actually send the unit in, and if it turns out that they weren't, you're often in deep trouble.) Even when you have what you think is a pretty good defense set up, oftentimes you just can't get enough firepower to kill all the Germans before some of them sneak through your lines. And it's not infrequent that they'll simply overrun you before you can get a good defense set up. This is not helped by the fact that there seems to be a large amount of randomness in the waves -- while generally they're pretty predictable, you also get "boss waves" from time to time which can be quite unpredictable, and quite devastating if they come at the wrong time. There's also a lot of waiting in the game -- since you accumulate Tactical Points relatively slowly, you'll often find yourself waiting to get that one last TP so you can get the one unit you desperately need (often, only to find that it's a little too late).

The graphics are pretty good, though relatively small. There's a wide range of sounds in the game, although they don't quite all fit together perfectly and sometimes they can get a bit repetitive. Still, they don't do a bad job. There's not continuous background music, but there are occasional musical cues at the beginning of levels and when boss waves arrive. The game is also subject to change -- for instance, when I first tried the game, there was no way to tell how many waves you had survived, but a wave counter was added a few days after the badges were added. This is good, but apparently also new units are occasionally added, which kind of bugs me; I believe that games should be (relatively) static once they've been released. Bug fixes or balance fixes are fine, of course, but major changes like this don't seem quite right.

Overall, while there's a lot of interesting things about MaB2, eventually the negatives begin to win out. You end up waiting too long to get TPs, which means that you just don't have too much to do; no matter how well set up your defense is, a lucky enemy shot can do a lot of damage; and sometimes, your guys just won't shoot at the enemies enough to prevent them from successfully crossing your lines. It's an entertaining game to play for a while, but ultimately it ends up being a little too frustrating to enjoy completely.

1 comment:

ToastyKen said...

Yeah, the range of options is bewildering. And I finally got a trench set up and seemed to be doing pretty well, when an air strike came and killed all but one of my guys. D'oh. Hadn't had a chance to get a signaller yet. :\ It seems fun, but then it turns out to be a bit too frustrating.