Skyward Collapse is a turn-based strategy game developed and published by Arcen Games for the PC. It gives you control of a small ever-changing world while two opposing factions battle it out, letting you swing the battle in whichever direction you see fit for that point in time.
You play the Creator, a being with more power than the Gods but less than that of the Master, a being that imposes rules on the world and yourself though the use of woes. You must make sure that the two opposing sides that live on this ever changing land both have heated conflicts but never fully prevail over the other. It’s a complex balance where random modifiers that are sometimes seen many turns in advance can have just as much effect as some short term fix that you stick down for one turn.
The world of Skyward Collapse is one that is ever changing, to begin with it only grows, new tiles appear each turn (unless otherwise stated) and make alterations that both changes the landscape as well as what possibilities arise from it. You can smite tiles as well, so long as there are no structures or no troops on them, they’ll drop from the sky. This ever changing environment means you can create strongholds behind impenetrable mountains but routes to your towns may eventually crop up.
The first turn is the most important; you’re given a healthy amount of actions and anything you build costs nothing. This means you can either setup a good set of buildings around a town or build high cost late level resources and buildings early on the cheap. Either way you’ll end up with a slow starting economy, but one will build much faster than the other and may have an early advantage if it can access better units and buildings.
Each turn is divided into two parts, one for each faction so with the first turn you get to build up two towns. It means that you have to spend your actions wisely as you only get about 3 actions for much of the early game, meaning that if you do need to make any large-scale landscape changes you will be unable to build up your towns quite so much. After the building phase the AI get to have their say in the matter based on age. So if the red berserker is built before the blue archer then the berserker will always go first. It’s very important to make a note of this when summoning mythological creates to the field.
This watching of the AI can and will become quite lengthy as more units are built from (hopefully) multiple towns, leading to large wars across the land. You can skip each action if you wish, both individually and as a whole but if you do happen to miss a skirmish you can hover over the icons that represent battles in order to recap what has happened. You must remember that you can’t control them directly (but you can sway them into doing your bidding through clever play and circumstances), so much of what you do needs to be done to manipulate them before their movement.
It’s not always a two sided battle, bandits will appear quite frequently from turn 10 onwards and even with three participants it can easily turn one-sided if the units of one faction get stuck between the other two. Fighting this constant war need so serious thought and skill to balance, making new towns and building more barracks and archery ranges to level the playing field one minute can let the other team get completely overwhelmed over the next few turns as the once underdogs rise up and crush those that were beating them down just a few short turns ago. Fighting is the best way to earn points though, so a constant and bloody war will help you achieve the best score. Even if that means a few town have to be laid to waste in the process.
Watching humans tear at each other’s throats is one thing but after a specified number of turns, the Age of Man ends and the Age of Monsters begins. This new age sees the spawning of creatures of mythical nature spawn randomly throughout the land for all three factions and a lesser God will spawn for both sides.
It’s probably the best stage to start using mythological tokens in as well; these tokens will change things greatly depending on when you use them. Some give great advantages; some kill all enemy units, or even your own units off but giving you double their cost in resources back to you. Some will give points and others will subtract points for using them, so timing and making sure you have the points to back it up is very necessary.
Gods offer large bonuses to their sides, this can be anything from better ranged attacks to more action points for their units but either way it is a substantial change that can affect the game dramatically (like everything in the game). They also have their own set of tokens which do wonderful abilities when the God reaches them and is the only way that you can get a God to move, so it’s move than ideal for them to get used if you need something to cut through enemy troops.
The final stage is the Age of Gods whereby a more powerful God with stronger abilities and tokens will take to the field for their corresponding sides. This is the final stage of the game and when the Age of Gods ends you will hopefully have achieved victory through your point score.
Throughout these stages Woes can take place, these large scale modifiers can be both boons and catastrophes depending on situations and timing. The land can fall apart, mountain ranges erupt from the ground, bandits disappear completely or maybe you’ll be unable to place any tokens because the Master deems it so. Whichever way you look at it these affect the world that’s being created sufficiently that you’ll have to make preparations when they are announced to arrive.
The game is pretty minimalist and it might put some people off, the sprites are quite basic and it’s not always immediately obvious which building is which. It does help having this sort of art style though when so much is going on with the armies though as you can tell who is who more quickly as you watch all the different battles unfold. Sounds are quite basic but respectable but the music that accompanies it is quite fantastic, it’s both strong and soothing , which works well for something you really need to put time and forethought into.
Again the minimal nature of the basic mechanics mean that you can easily get used to the core gameplay but to really get into it you need to grasp the fact that it betrays how complex it is, much like a game of chess you need to make moves this turn with thought of how it will affect you five or ten turns down the line. The progression system is a bit of a blockade but Arcen Games site does have a cheat to unlock all profile levels (which I unfortunately had to use). It even offers multiple difficulties but like many strategy games Easy may be enough to hold you for quite a while.
A game which embraces randomness and the free will of tiny aggressive AI people, it offers a very different take on what god games have been known to do and lets you shape things around them, rather than giving them direct orders. It does take a lot to get into it though, the tutorial is a useful crutch that can get you started but you really need to be able to keep an effective balance between war and peace in order to succeed. The amount of patience you need to have for this game is pretty high so you have to be willing to persevere before you set foot in it.
Concentrating on building things up might distract you from knocking them down, which is equally important in this game. Managing resources in multiple towns that you want to see flourish and crushed at the same time is a weird concept and it works well. It is very difficult to get nailed down and even if you can last though the age of man, you aren’t necessarily going to make it in the age of monsters. I’ve failed numerous times through not getting a high enough score and after turning off the score I managed to get the last town of one faction to have a mountain sprout underneath it and destroy it. I’ve enjoyed my time with it and want to get better but it does require that godlike patience to see through the first stage.
Disclaimer:All scores given within our reviews are based on the artist’s personal opinion; this should in no way impede your decision to purchase the game.