New World Colony has recently been updated with various rule tweaks and balancing, much improved graphics, and is now a universal app available for the iPhone as well. The review text below has been rewritten to reflect the updates.
An impressive new game from a bedroom coder, New World Colony has shown me how incredible one-man production teams can actually be. Surprising for a game of this type, it’s addictive too. Described by one player as a “strategic improvement over Catan” – it’s easy to see why.
New World Colony doesn’t break any fundamentally new grounds when it comes to gameplay concepts or graphics, or interface – but it does pull everything it has together in one incredible package that’s hard to put down. The premise sounds similar to Catan at first – build towns and capture lands, gather resources, and then upgrade to get more resources – until finally you get enough victory points to win the game. And yet, it is so very different.
There are 3 basic hex/land types in the game that are the most prevalent – forest, fields, and mountains – each producing the basic wood, food and stone resources. Each land type also has a more rare version which only occur as single hexes, but provide some additional bonus – for instance, gold from a special mountain as well as the usual stone. Finally there are water tiles, which assuming you have built a harbor allow you to get a random amount of food and gold per turn. You can only capture land next to you by expansion, and it costs 20 food and 20 wood to capture. Basic tiles provides 5 resources per turn.
They are some upgrades available for each tile, obviously at cost. These are pretty standard – a mine gives you more stone, sawmill gives you more wood etc. You can also build a town hall to begin getting victory points (which win you the game, and as a cost when attacking).
Contiguous areas of captured land of the same type will earn bonus victory points when they have a town hall or greater structure on them.
You can win by either eliminating other players, or collecting enough victory points – so it’s a tough balance to play. You can also destroy players victory point bonuses by capturing any of the land inside their contiguous land area, thereby breaking the bonus.
Finally, you have two types of wall that increase the victory point cost of attacking a particular area from the side on which you built the wall.
To prevent early victories, there is now an action point system, which is initially set to only two actions per turn. Each town hall you build will increase the number of action points you have, until at some point they no longer become relevant really.
A further balance has been added by preventing any attack moves until you have built at least a fort – this is one upgrade from a town hall, and it’s fairly costly to have gotten that far. This prevents early sabotage where an opponent would make a town hall quickly, acculate a few victory points, then hit your own key piece of contiguous land thereby crippling you.
One thing I would say is that although the beginning of the game is much more balanced now, the endgame seems to be all that more predictable, at least when playing against the AI. Even against some really tough opponents, there seems a point where both they and I both know it’s all over, and they’re just playing the rest not to be a bad loser. I haven’t had a chance to play this against a multiplayer opponent yet, so I can’t comment if it’s the same situation there. It’s still a great game, but the latter half feels like it needs something else.
At this point for instance, it was obvious I’d won…
The graphics have undergone a radical upgrade since I last reviewed the game, and we are now treated to lovely isometric renderings of the respective buildings. It’s a small touch that really adds a level of professionalism to the game.
AI is nicely balanced with 3 levels (perhaps a little too easy since the update), but there’s also GameCenter multiplayer functionality built-in. I haven’t been able to find any players yet as the game was only just launched, but I’m hoping as the community behind the game grows to get in some good games.
This is another game with a good variety of options in terms of game type. For instance, I’m quite a fan of the defensive game, whereby stone walls simply cannot be breached, and players must seek another way into enemy lands. In addition, you can adjust the size of the map and victory conditions.
In short – this is a game you will come back to again and again, thanks to variety of games, AI levels, and random map generation. It’s not perfect, but it’s damn good and I’m confident the developer continue balancing and adding additional features.
I’m certainly reminded of Catan while playing New World Colony, as well as a long running PC game favourites such as Settlers and Civilization – the concept of gathering resources and building up your cities is a natural human desire – and yet this game is very much unique in it’s gameplay. Though it has humble beginnings, I do predict big things for this particular game, and wouldn’t be surprised if the game was picked up by a large studio for a second outing, as well as a real-life board game! Definitely a winner – you won’t find me giving a more shining review of many games, so pick this one up now.