Infinitios’ Casus Belli is one of the latest online browser games in an already oversaturated market. Thankfully, as a space combat sim, it moves away from the typical “Build Queuing” game that makes up a large portion of the market.
The game centres around a simple concept that’s almost as old as gaming itself: buy a ship, pimp it out, blow stuff up and use the profits to buy more ships. Casus Belli adds to this concept slightly by making the combat gameplay revolve around calculated trajectories of ships and weapons. Oh yes, it’s a browser game with actual gameplay.
If a ship travels 50m parallel to the right side of your ship at a rate of 525m/s while your ship travels at 400m/s and your rockets are able to travel 600m/s then what angle would you need to fire the rocket at in order to hit the other ship if you fired after waiting 4 seconds?
I have no idea, but the game will figure this out for you internally and display it in an easy-to-understand manner. It sounds dull in theory, but a firm grasp on the mechanics of combat makes gameplay all the more engaging when changing even the slightest variable will shift the course of battle dramatically.
Well, the potential for such battles exists – I couldn’t keep myself playing Casus Belli long enough to find out. When you first enter the game, the action is horrendously slow even by tutorial standards. It takes 16 seconds for your ship to complete a 360 degree turn, which means 8 seconds to simply face the general direction of something behind you. Once you’ve lined up a shot and fired your weapons, it can take up to another 15 seconds for your rocket to collide with the enemy ship, provided they don’t change course. This isn’t bad gameplay mind you, it’s just slow – undoubtedly you’ll be able to upgrade your ship to make all of this much faster, but it just slows progress down so much in the beginning that it saps the fun out of the process.
Casus Belli really falls down when it comes to game progression. The game uses the same linear objective formula with arbitrary rewards that’s ever-present in so many other browser games. Name your character for 100 silver, click “TO SPACE” for 15,000 silver, dock again for 50,000 silver and so on.
The reason this system works for so many other browser games is that often those games play themselves while you’re away – you only need to check in every now and then to issue new orders and collect your rewards. The fact that Casus Belli focuses on gameplay rather than queues means that this system hurts it so much more than it helps. You only ever have one objective at a time and if you’re not constantly present then you make no progress at all. It turns a nice game mechanic into a simple objective grinder.
Of course, I could be wrong about all of this. I didn’t play the game beyond the first hour or two – maybe the problems I saw in that time are rectified later on in the game, but I’m not one to stick with a game for an extended period of time just to find out IF it gets better, nor should anyone have to; especially when you’re required to be present in order to progress.
All in all, Casus Belli has a fun and interesting game mechanic that’s ruined by run-of-the-mill browser game elements. It’s free, so it might be worth a look if you’re a die-hard trajectory nut but it’s not for me.