- Release Date: Feb 24, 2013
- Publisher: 2k Games
- Developer: Firaxis Games
- Genre: Strategy
Haunted Hollow, a turn-based strategy game that seamlessly blends city building into it, is the crystallized effort of Firaxis Games behind a lot of big hits like Civilization Revolution and Sid Meier’s Pirates. Generic visuals and pervasive monetization make it hard to stand out from the pack of strategy games, but a few add-ons about gameplay make it still fun to play.
Pros: unconventional in-game characters; multiple play modes; situational soundtrack
Cons: unoriginal overall gameplay; rough visuals; permeating micro-transaction
A macabre fever is beginning to make a tentative foray into games, though its prospect remains to be seen. Only a few days ago, we found to our surprise that we were asked to assist a pointed-eared vampire to escape from angry human mobs and to overcome tons of spiky obstacles in Le Vamp from High Voltage Software; now we are offered an even more morbid yet thrilling choice by Firaxis Games: Haunted Hollow. Ghosts, monsters, vampires, werewolves, zombies and dozens more ghastly creatures turn out to be your loyal and obedient minions in this game, and what you do has nothing in common with traditional heroism. On the contrary, the game carries you on an evil course, requiring you to scare away all possible townsfolk so as to control the originally peaceful town. It’s wicked, and it’s fun.
To be frank, turn-based games never hold much appeal to me, as they appear incorrigibly tepid and insipid in most cases. If you are a regular player of strategy games, you won’t find these unfamiliar: sometimes your moves are restricted within a certain number of steps; when your turn comes, between times you will find it necessary to move your avatars or heroes strategically, and perform whatever skills they are bestowed on in order to enjoy a slight edge; when your turn is over, your heroes are hopelessly transfixed there, taking on whatever damage your opponents throw at you, getting burned to ashes, slayed to parts, or shot to death. Just like hundreds of such entries in this genre, Haunted Hollow is also inevitably yoked by the same gameplay on the whole. Your minions can only move to the dotted area on the map, perform whatever stunts they happen to have and wait for their destiny to unfold. It would surely be buried in oblivion soon if it were not saved by a few interesting and challenging tweaks that managed to uplift the game from mediocre.
In a sense, the spooky protagonists are a saving grace for this game, as the game would definitely lose most of its charm otherwise. As mentioned before, you are no longer the incarnation of beauty, truth, or benevolence. This time you are evil impersonated, spawning as many as spooky and gruesome creatures at night and freak ordinary folks out of their wits and houses. Those frightening and ugly things fall into three categories, namely Scary and Fighty and Special. As their classes indicate, they assume different roles in the game, with the first specializing in scaring residents out of their houses, the second battling against anyone or anything that menaces your domination and protect your weaker monsters, while the third class always endowed with some special power, like zombifying a resident. Your monsters are as interesting as they are frightening. Vampires, ghosts, and more all pertain to Scary, but they are nuanced by various features. For instance, Vampires are versatile monsters capable of changing other monsters into Vampire Bats on kill, and ghosts can Phase Walk through any obstacles. This ghastly array offers gamers something intrinsically different from the conventional repertoire of heroes who are invariably entrusted with the responsibility to right all the wrongdoings in the world of the game, therefore novelty-seeking gamers are likely to find the lure irresistible.
Another twist that differentiates this game from others in terms of gameplay perhaps lies in the entwined city-building element and how the in game currency–Fear Points are used. At the beginning of each turn, you can gather at least five Fear Points (You can get more points by controlling a neighborhood, meaning your monsters have successfully scare several adjacent houses). These points are to be spent partly on building more rooms which is indispensable if you want to build a larger army, partly on monsters, partly on mobilizing your monsters, and of course partly on activating skills. Thus you need to be prudent in taking every steps, as you don’t want to find one of your low-health ghost stuck right in front of an enemy mansion, which surely forbodes its impending death. One interesting aspect of city building in the game is that rooms of the same type and size can merge automatically, enabling you to get more powerful monsters from more species. Besides, each action your perform earns you a star that will be recorded in the progression bar, and when it is full, you level up.
Equally enjoyable is the game’s nice and chromatic visuals presented in high-resolution, though to be sure, more detailed portraying of the characters will enable it to achieve visual excellence. You can not help being amazed when you randomly tap at an available plot and find the room fitting seamlessly into the structure as a whole. Great attention to color collocation and light-and-shadow contrast also put the visuals to highlight. The forever flowing dark clouds make a striking contrast with the luminous full moon, channeling the gloomy atmosphere very well. Such crafty technique also characterizes your slaty building: lights give out hues of eldritch and pale blue, while inner corners are ingeniously kept uncanny by darker colors. Every monster is typical of a color, with the ghosts taking a white theme, zombies green and so on. But they could be much more impressive, if they were beefed up with more details. For instance, Mob is a great add-on to give spice, but they are not portrayed to their best. Even when they get infuriated, and prepare to launch revenge, you cannot expect anything more than a bunch of waving heads and uncharacteristic torches.
That granted, the game is unfortunately paled by its much too pervasive micro-transactions. Monsters are the centerpiece of this game, as they give you a hefty say when your minion is in front of an enemy. Weak monsters consume a great number of points to deal damages which often turn out far from desirable. Stronger ones have higher health and deal more effective damages, but they don’t come cheap. Each of those costs you a fortune. And the game will never gets tired of attempting you with an unlimited storage of strong and strangely-shaped monsters. Imagine what a great amount of money you will be deprived off if you happen to be a “greedy” player !
In short, Haunted Hollow is a nicely-presented strategic city building game touched with a dark stroke and some interesting twists, but its permeating monetization is likely to push many off.
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