Confession: I'm terrible at strategy games. It doesn't stem from a dislike of the genre, quite the contrary; I'm very fond of strategy games. They just aren't very fond of me. What seems like an endless amount of rules that require an endless amount of patience tend to do me in every time. And believe me, I've tried many times. Skyward Collapse from Arcen Games is one of the few exceptions to the rule. Not only is it a welcome title to the strategically challenged such as myself, but it also happens to be an entertaining game in its own right.
Skyward Collapse is a small game with big ideas (yes, cliche,) and that's evident from the moment you start it up: epic music plays while the credits scroll in the bottom left corner. So right off the bat you get the sense that things aren't going to go totally as expected – in the best way, of course. You're treated to a comic book-style intro that properly sets the tone of the game; funny without taking itself too seriously, and still that sense of grandeur. You play as a god that has no direct control over his flock – they won't even slaughter pigs for bacon when you order them outright – but you do have some semblance of power. This set-up explains your control of the land and the wars. Your control, by the way, is mostly indirect.
Speaking of the wars, Skyward Collapse is a Blue vs. Red type situation. Or rather, the Greeks vs. the Norse. The two sides are constantly trying to kill each other for no real reason other than being different from one another. This is bad for business when it comes to god-playing. The gameplay revolves around setting up different resources for each color, such as a butcher for sustenance, a miner, a woodcutter, etc. The goal is to constantly keep the two sides in check, which can get difficult since you have no real control over the troops. To spice things up, the two colors have Mythology Tokens that allow you to play various mythological beasts as long as you have enough resources. The beasts have various stat-boosting effects and very much play into the overall strategy of a match. Add to that Woes, which are environmental hazards that can ramp up based on the map and overall difficulty, and you've got yourself a party.
The game is fantastically streamlined to help along strategically-challenged people like me. Arcen wants people of all skill levels to be able to join, and it shows. This doesn't mean that the game isn't a challenge, it very well can be. It just, thankfully, means that everything you can, want, or need to do is mostly laid out in front of you. The overall strategy to keeps perfect balance is still up to you. This might turn away the hardcore strategy game players, but Skyward Collapse is fun and unique enough that it will hopefully attract the seasoned strategy junkies. For a real treat I suggest the co-op multiplayer, which can be done either through LAN or IP address.
Skyward Collapse manages to stand alone in a crowded genre. The double-sided gameplay is a fun and unique feature that is sure to keep you occupied for some time. It also helps that it doesn't take itself too seriously. I found myself chuckling more than once, and you probably will too. For strategy junkies or people that are trying to get into the genre, Skyward Collapse is the place to start. And end, possibly, if you're unable to pry yourself away from it.
Fun Factor: High. Expect to enjoy this one for some time.
Length: Basically as long as you feel like playing, and co-op when you get bored.
Difficulty: Low to high, but it ramps naturally.
On the Negative Side: Probably not going to properly sustain the extreme strategy junky.
Bang for Your Buck: $5 is the sweet post for this one. Pay up and never look back.