Pioneerz #XBLIG VVG IndieVerse Review
VVG IndieVerse Review
By: Mr. Deeke
Welcome to VVG IndieVerse Reviews–on this installment I’ll be taking a look at a rather unique RTS-esque/RPG hybrid Xbox Indie called Pioneerz made by Andreil Games. This game is a classic spin on the real-time strategy game genre as well as mixing in action role-playing elements. The whole RTS genre is influenced by early games such as Utopia made by Mattel Electronics on the Intellevision in 1982,1 and the computer game Dune II in 1984.2
Pioneerz 400 MSP
Pioneerz isn’t a classic RTS type of game, however there are elements in it that are inherent parts of the genre such as the accumulation of multiple items, and having different NPC townsfolk that dynamically affect the city’s growth. Collecting materials nets different buildings and formations for a city, yet these options are chosen automatically rather than left up to the player.
Fighting monsters to keep your kingdom safe and crossing boundaries to fight other teams in a conquest to rule the lands both give a true sense of medieval fantasy pioneering.
- Developer – Andreil Games (Laurent Goethals)
- Genre – Action & Adventure
- XBL Marketplace URL – Pioneerz
- Release Date – 3/22/2011
- Try or Buy? – Try Before You Buy
- Price – 80 MSP
- Rating – 3.75/5
“A pioneer’s life : protect your town, gather food, explore the wilderness, fight hostiles animals, conquier ennemies town… The road is harsh to make a peacefull kingdom. Pioneerz is the sequel of pioneer. It revisit and improve all of pioneer aspect (battle, world generation, city building…)”
–Xbox Live Marketplace Description
I. Story Line
Pioneerz doesn’t really have any set story arc–the story is determined by the player’s performance, rather. It’s up to gamers to provide their own tale with their personal voyage in the game: colonize the unexplored frontiers and launch an imperialistic rule to challenge other kingdoms and take them over.
Can you reign in conquest, or will your kingdom be vanquished by a legion of foes?
II. Game Mechanics
This game is all about developing your city and then further expanding your kingdom. Pioneerz in itself is a reboot of an older Xbox Indie from the same developer called Pioneer, yet this version has more refined elements and is more dynamic.
Gamers select a hero and customize it with different aspects such as which team color they’re loyal to, and aesthetic choices such as hairstyle. All natives of a player’s dominion will be the same color that the player designates–this allows for instant recognition of enemy knights and workers.
At the start of the game players can select the Size of the continent, from Tiny to Normal to Huge–although selecting Huge isn’t recommended unless you have a good amount of time to invest since there’s no save function. There are also three accompanying difficulty settings to select to customize the experience; Easy, Normal, and Hard. Say for instance a player wants to enjoy a long game that’s not difficulty–setting size to Huge and Mode to Easy would be best.
The controls in Pioneerz are pretty simple, and are viewable from the Help section of the menu. Each of the three face buttons have different functions in the game, all of them associated with combat: (X) Melee Sword Slash, (Y) Ranged Bow Attack, and (B) Heal nearby allies. It should be noted that all buttons can be held down for rapid attacks and healing, respectively.
To successfully reign as the supreme domain, players must collect the right kinds of materials depending on whichever is needed: either timber (wood) that’s required to construct structures and edifices, and berries (food) to feed the masses and population. Constantly collecting this can be boring at first, but once the city is expanded nicely there will be NPC workers who automatically collect materials and minimize this work.
There are a number of different townsfolk that both aid in construction and defend the population from danger:
- Hero – The player’s main character is dubbed as the Hero.
- Peasant – Gathers Berries for your city–distinguished by a big sun-hat.
- WoodCutter – Very useful worker who collects timber.
- Healer – Perhaps the most useful denizen of your kingdom; healers look like nurses and heal not just the Hero but all hurt townsfolk.
- Merchant – Builds new towns when a town’s denizens have been vanquished.
- Warriors – Very important knights that protect your town from enemy teams and beasts, also go on the offensive to attack towns.
Once a player’s realm is expanded enough to make a Barracks, Warriors will surround the area and protect all denizens from carnivores and other hazards. Players will have to make frequent use of relying on these knights as it’s not possible to be in all places at the same time, and protecting your town is key.
The main menu that’s accessed by pressing Start is pretty helpful as well; it shows miscellaneous aspects of the game such as:
- Hero: Player’s hero stats are shown here, such as Strength (melee attacks), Dexterity (bow damage/speed), and Defense (HP+Defense).
- Map: This pane is extremely helpful and is pixellated in such a way where it reminds me of 2D voxel graphics–the map also shows the entire region that’s been explored by players.
- Team: This tab is also extremely useful as it shows each enemy team color, population, and material count–how many berries/timber they’ve gained. This can be used to strategically attack enemy kingdoms when their materials are low, etc.
- Victory: The conditions set forth for total victory–once these objectives are finished, the game ends and the player is victorious. The conditions are different for each difficulty.
- Help: The help selection is the best resource for new players as it offers a full explanation of elements in the game such as the different buildings, each type of NPC in the game, the controls, and even a complete Bestiary. Last but not least the help pane informs players of the multitude of status conditions, indicated by colors such as Confuse or Stun.
Combat has been refined greatly in this newer title as opposed to the first Pioneer Xbox Indie title: now players can attack at the hit of a button, and hold down that button for rapid attacks. Players utilize a sword that slashes with the X button, as well as a Bow that is used by pressing Y. Each weapon’s damage is determined by their respective attributes of Strength and Dexterity.
There are only two material items to collect for any player throughout the game, each of them being plants that you can collect and also re-seed in clear areas. Timber is used to build various buildings and structures, construction on these grades of edifices are varied in design and function:
There are two different grades of each plant: a bigger stack will contain multiples, whereas the smaller plants will only contain a single collection. The two different types of materials are:
Timber: Wood is extremely important, and is required to have a successful kingdom. Collecting wood early on as much as possible can help fortify a city. Buildings are also erected from gaining timber, and it is very helpful to have structures such as Barracks, Markets, and Farms that supplement gameplay in different ways.
Berries: These materials are key to keeping your population healthy and in higher numbers; if the supply of food falters, cities will lose their townsfolk and the population will lower. After a bit there will be workers who collect these important materials automatically, yet it’s the player’s responsibility to pay attention to the gardens–re-seeding plants is quite essential.
There are also hunks of meat that are sometimes dropped by carnivores. These chunks health a percentage of health, making them quite useful and being the only way to regain health other than using a healer.
IV. Unique Features
Colonize the world: players can have more than one city at a time in their kingdom, each city having their own statistics, buildings, workers, etc. This allows players to enjoy multiple areas and focus on different cities at a time rather than being stuck to the same one. Expanding each town can also go a long way into making it into a bustling metropolis, or an entire empire spanning the entire continent.
Status Ailments are another unique feature that isn’t usually in RTS-like games, but are commonly found in RPG’s. There are a myriad of status afflictions–eight in all–that are represented by colors and affect players and other NPCs. Certain beasts can inflict certain ailments; Bats often inflict Confuse which reverses all movement–up is down, left is right, etc–for a brief period of time, and blue gloopa-like creatures inflict Stun, which slows down all attack speeds.
The expansive Bestiary is another is another unique feature in Pioneerz. There is a total of twenty creatures in this game, each of them under four different hierarchies–Herbivores that eat plants like berries and timber, can reproduce but are incapable of attacking; Carnivores that attack herbivores and townspeople, can also reproduce; Underground Beasts spawn from caverns called “scars” which are fissures in the earth.
There are also collectible Medals in this Xbox Indie that act as mini-awardments, each of which have their own requirements such as vanquishing Legendary monsters, gathering materials, exploring the world, and beating the game. Although each badge requires something different, all of them are represented with the same icon.
Not only are there medals but there are also Badges that are attained from doing various miscellaneous tasks such as gathering materials, and killing certain enemies such as Herbivores and Carnivores. Badges help level up your character essentially.
Also this Xbox Indie RPG/RTS-esque title reminds me of many older games, giving it a sense of nostalgia that is very pleasant to find on the marketplace. The graphics remind me of the older Final Fantasy games, and the play style is a very unique hybrid that to my knowledge hasn’t been utilized anywhere else on the Xbox Indie marketplace.
An Original Indie Experience. There are very few Xbox Indies of this kind out on the marketplace today that combine elements from role-playing games (level up progression, attribute gains, badges) and certain elements of a solo-type action real-time strategy-type game with a medieval fantasy setting. Colonize an entire world and build a bustling metropolis that can flourish into an unrivaled empire that the entire world is sovereign to.
The Graphics. The 2D graphics in 3D space are very fitting for the medieval setting, and are bit-style to add that sense of nostalgia. Some gamers may be influenced by older titles in this respect which will make the nostalgic factor more enjoyable. To me the graphics are more SNES-style with hints of Final Fantasy Tactics, with nice looking sprites that are truly fitting in a world of medieval kingdoms.
It’s Enjoyable! All the elements combine together to make for an enjoyable and entertaining Xbox Indie experience. Even though it’s recommended more for gamers who enjoy traditional RPG’s, this game can be enjoyed by even casual gamers who aren’t huge fans of the genre of games.
The Music. I particularly enjoy the upbeat music that is featured prominently throughout Pioneerz, especially the main tune that is both melodic and fitting to the medieval age–with the specific fantasy-themed soundtrack, players are immersed in a world of castles and conquest. There are a number of tracks that are heard while playing this title, and each of them are unique and offer their own tone and feel to the game.
Collisions With Townsfolk & Obstacles. One flaw that is apparent from the start is the annoying collision that takes place when a civilian from a player’s down blocks their path–the Healers are the worst in this case because they won’t move until the player is healed. Trees and berry bushes also block a player’s path, as well as the fences that are erected to keep the town safe–however these act as obstacles when gamers are trying to navigate through areas. All in all, this is a flaw that is amplified when the kingdoms expand and the population is higher, as there is a bigger chance of collisions with other townspeople.
No Assortment of Weapons and Armor. One thing I’d like to see in this game are different types of armors, and perhaps even drops. Enemies don’t drop anything, and it’d be nice to see some sort of item system in play in this title. Perhaps an implementation of Epic Dungeon’s simplistic random drop system would do nicely, but there definitely needs to be more to the nonexistant assortment of items, especially different weapons and suits of armor.
Learning to Play is a bit Confusing. It’s essential to read the Help menus when first starting this game; however some players don’t enjoy doing such a thing–they want to get right into the action. Since this title is listed as an Action & Adventure title on the marketplace, players will be a bit misled as they must first have some sort of clue how to play the game.
Learning the basic strategies isn’t confusing unless gamers aren’t acclimated with these types of games, and casual gamers will most likely be confused and frustrated at first. Although the help menu does an excellent job in clarifying most of the questions beginning players will have, I can see how this game could frustrate some gamers and turn them away from the title itself.
Overall, Pioneerz is recommended for fans of real-time strategy games as well as RPG’s, with early Final Fantasy-esque graphics. It’s a game that’s somewhat confusing to learn at first, but it has fluid controls, a melodic soundtrack and quality graphics to provide for an enjoyable experience. Although this title is a bit expensive at 400 MSP, it’s worth it to those that really like the style and gameplay that Pioneerz offers.
Andriel Games is an active member of the XNA Community and is based in France; here are some of their games:
For more information on Pioneerz and the developers at Andreil Games, visit their Facebook Page.