February 7, 2008 at 9:42 pm (Game Session)

Let me start with Magy’s short presentation of the game: “Oasis is like the minesweeper version of Civilization”.  Indeed a very appropriate summary.

Oasis is a sweet little game.  It’s designed in a way that it’d be appealing for both casual and hardcore gamers.

You’re Scarab King, but you have to rebuild your empire first.  Each level is grid-world, it starts covered by fog of war.  You’re standing on one square and can only move to its adjacent. You have limited number of moves before the barbarians arrive.  In order to win, Scarab King has to discover cities, develop technologies and find the obelisk in the oasis.

These simple goals can be approached from different playing styles.  The game offers strategical depth.  It’s upon the player and his “mind consuming” predisposition.  For instance, the way to unveil the map is quite organic; legal moves are only those to adjacent squares from the already known ones.  This is an invitation to a keep going through a path and area at fast speed.  Clicking, clicking, clicking.  But each click is a move… eventually the barbarians will arrive… maybe I should watch out better where I click…  clicking, clicking, clicking.   These approaches are two different playing styles, one would be more casual whereas the other relies on a management playing style.

There is also a clever used of elements for encouraging a balance sweeping of the map: followers and technology.   Cities are the key for the reconstruction of the empire.  They can be found near farming fields.  Building roads between cities makes the population grow.  Developing technology brings new weapons that will help to defeat the barbarians.  However, both building road and technology need followers.  You need people in order to have the work done, you know?  While you discover the map, you find followers.  But you’ll find more followers per square the desert where camps are.   The game “pushes” you to move around cities and the desert.

One great thing is that the whole game can be played with just one button (you could use the keyboard but, who wants it?!). This characteristic is really casual friendly.  With just one click the avatar moves, if the square is already unveiled, it’ll show the option of building a road or for mountains the possibility of mining.   This simple interface makes easy to understand the potential actions, reducing the learning curve.

The barbarian hordes arrive from where the cairn is.  They will start attacking the nearest city.  Hence, it’s better to move troops to that city.  One strategy that the player could use is it to move around the edges of the map and make sure to discover the cairn.  But there might be other attractive square to discover or he can simply invest moves to other purposes.   When the cairn is not discovered, the player has to make his best guess and choose one city to defend first.  This brings an Alea flavor.

Each level takes a couple of minutes.  This is ideal for short session, and I swear you’ll want the next level right away.

In a nutshell, the design of this game is neat enough to fulfill two different playing styles: a casual approach and a hardcore one.   One would be rule by intuitiveness, the other one by close attention to resources and moves left.

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