The latest in a string of movie-licensed, multiplayer, turn-based strategy Flash games from BigSpaceship is here, and it's very pretty. In fact, the company's co-founder and CEO, Michael Lebowitz, claims it could well be the first major Flash game release to use the impressive new features of Flash 8. But do the impressive new features make this game fun to play?
The Underworld Evolution game is played by aligning yourself with one of two teams: the lycanthropes (werewolves) in blue, or the vampires in red. After choosing a side, you choose a location for battle: City, Forest, or Ruins. Although each location appears different, there doesn't seem to be any reason to choose one over another except to go where the people are. When I played, everyone that was online was in the City, and no one was in the Ruins or the Forest.
Once inside the game you are presented with three (3) different modes of play: Deathmatch, War, and Missions. Deathmatch allows you to play against the CPU for practice if you like, or if no one else is available to play. War is melee combat for up to 16 players (8 players a side), and it seems to be the mode that attracts the most players. And though I haven't actually played through a mission yet, Missions appear to be two-player variations on the theme with the game providing goals that differ depending on the location chosen.
Regardless of the mode you choose, it is likely that your gameplay experience will be similar to previous games from BigSpaceship, as the company relies heavily on its turn-based strategy game engine and doesn't stray far from its core mechanic. In this latest iteration, a 5-second turn timer counts down and everyone takes a turn simultaneously. The computer then plays out each turn in succession as the players watch the events unfold. If you don't complete your turn in time, then you must wait (in place) until the next turn timer fires.
To move your avatar, click and drag to any square within the highlighted region that shows permissible moves. To attack, choose one of the small white symbols that appear near your avatar; a red highlighted region will appear showing the range of the selected attack. When all your health is depleted you die, but a trip out to the menu and back is all it takes to bring you back to life. The game keeps track of your kills and your deaths if you register with the site for bragging rights, if you are so inclined. Click.
Analysis: My experience with the interface was maddening. Too often my avatar would sit out its turn simply because I could not get the interface to do what I wanted. More than half of the time nothing happened when I attempted to move my avatar, and sometimes I moved the map instead (the map may be moved around by clicking and dragging in the same manner as moving your avatar). Also, it seemed, that all attempts to direct attacks toward my opponents were fruitless, and invariably would go off in some other direction where no one stood. This made the game play experience feel random and uninspired.
The game is still in beta so there is hope that the developers will iron out the kinks eventually. The multiplayer cooperative team aspect of the game is very appealing, and it could prove to be a lot of fun with some much needed improvements to the interface. And yet with all the Flash talent this studio has, it would be nice to see them move-on from these turn-based strategy games and try something completely different.
While playing and reviewing this game I stumbled upon a video of the folks at BigSpaceship talking about their experiences developing with Flash 8 while they were making this game. Click.