December 9, 2015

0 AD Alpha Syllepsis … A Great Improvement!


Wildfire Games released its latest version of a game I’ve been avidly following, 0 A.D. Alpha 19, codenamed Syllepsis. After a couple of evenings trying it out, I have to say there are some fantastic improvements and new features to have fun with:

First off, there’s a new gameplay feature: capturing buildings and siege units. This is a load of fun, and fondly recalls to mind another small-press yet very enjoyable game, Haemimont’s Nemesis of the Roman Empire: the Punic Wars. In the latter game, an extra level of challenge was added by requiring you to defend various buildings across the map lest your enemy cut your supply line or gain a vital resource you needed.

Capturing in 0 AD does something similar, as now there’s always a risk of the foe capturing isolated town centers, towers, and even siege units that are cut off from their escorts. There’s a satisfying feeling of poetic justic when you take the Briton’s battering rams (seems the AI favors rams with the Celtic factions) and using them against the foe.

Capturing also speeds up the game a lot, as you no longer have to stop to build new town centers to replace enemy ones you’ve destroyed. The need to guard your own from capture also adds a breathlessness to the game’s pace as you shuttle armies back and forth  between threatened centers.

Formations and Pathfinding Improvements
The developers have redone the formations and pathfinding AI, and there are now some improvements and interesting tactical wrinkles. This 19th alpha version is still bugged, as the developers clearly warn, but overall I see improvements.

One interesting wrinkle of the new patfhinding/formation AI (they’re inextricably linked) is that units go out of formation whenever they build or repair, and skirmishers break formation in combat since that is indeed their job. So another challenge of the game is that you have to remember to re-form your units ever so often in combat, which for me makes it feel closer to actually having to command an army. Formations count for a lot in upping offensive and defensive power.

Going out of formation also makes movement much faster, specially when going through forest or around obstacles. Again, this makes sense: an army wouldn’t be able to stay in formation in a forest.  The game also runs with far less lag now thanks to these improvements.

Unfortunately, there is still a bug with  movement, and it tends to come up when moving through thick forest. The one time the game crashed on me, it was I tried to force an army through forest toward an enemy town center. I had a save game just prior to that, and when I tried chewing through the forest instead (by gathering wood from it), the crash did not repeat. Seems the best way to deal with thick forest is to do as the Romans did on the Rhine – they cut roads through them.

You can watch the new features preview video and download the game here.

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