Reviews

Hexteria – Steam Review

FruitsNDoggie reviews Hexteria, a casual turn-based strategy puzzle game.

I’ve had my eye on Hexteria for a while, but was uncertain what to think of it. It looks rather simple, and like it should be easy enough to defeat AI opponents. The problem is that since the game is so basic, I could see myself overlooking obvious moves that would both decimate my opponent or cost me the match. “Easy to learn, hard to master,” came to mind when I checked it out, but since others weren’t raving about unfair or bogus AI, they’re either all brilliant, or the game isn’t stacked against the player.

Gameplay

Anyone who has OCD might be somewhat irked by Hexteria due to all of the arrows on the tiles facing directions haphazardly. There’s little rhyme or reason to them per se, but each player in the match is assigned a color and portion of these preset tiles on the board. Your goal is to take control of the opponents’ tiles, which is determined by the direction each arrow faces. If an arrow of one color turns and points at a tile of a different color, it’ll take possession of every tile connected to that first tile. Since there are no limits to how many tiles can be taken over, or are needed to claim other tiles, momentum and who’s winning can change on a dime. A player can have a single tile and win with one move. This is a surprisingly basic but clever concept for a strategy game, and allows for very crafty moves to be made. “I’ve got you now! You’ve fallen right into my trap.” “Who’s fallen into who’s trap, child?”

Controls

Theoretically a game like this could be played with a controller, but since it emphasizes thoughtful move-making and a grid-style board, I had no qualms using a mouse. Each time you make a move, all you have to do is click on one of the tiles, so there’s very little that could have gone wrong with the controls. Everything worked as it should.

Story

This wasn’t obvious to me when I looked at the trailer, but Hexteria has a campaign to play through. Perhaps I should have read the description more closely. Either way, even as you face opponents and animal-themed bosses, there’s no plot or explanation as to what’s taking place. You’re just doing the things and beating up wild animals in a strategy game. So Yu-Gi-Oh!, but playing cards were traded out for tiles and animal abuse.

Visuals

Puzzle games have more of a reason for simplistic graphics than other genres, so it’s not surprising that the visuals are so basic here. It’s made up of different shaped boards with hexagon tiles placed across them. What are you really going to do with that? Since it’s designed around the mechanics so much, I’m not bothered that there isn’t more to the aesthetics of Hexteria. Abstract backgrounds that aren’t too distracting is a good choice when you’re concentrating on possible dangers and what moves you should make next.

Sound Design

Within the campaign there are 6 themed worlds, such as a beach, beehive, or volcano. Each of them has a unique song that plays, which is a simple but nice touch. It’s honestly something I expect from most games, but this indie title is the one that actually follows up on this simple premise. Regardless, they’re enjoyable tunes that suited the themes appropriately, without being too distracting. There weren’t many sound effects, yet that also meant there weren’t any possible annoyances to worry about either.

Pros

🌟 You sort of get into a flow with the gameplay, having a good sense for how you should face the AI. There were a few stages that would stymie me for a while, but changing my approach sometimes led to a very fast victory. “Checkmate in only 5 moves? I mean, I did that wholly on purpose. As intended.” When you make a smart move intentionally, it feels very rewarding.
🌟 The optional objectives and challenges do provide an extra layer of difficulty, and a goal to aim for while defeating your foe. It’s almost like playing with a handicap, to dunk on them even more. “Beating me wasn’t enough, you had to do it while blindfolded too?!”
🌟 The AI isn’t some chess master that knows how to bend the rules of Hexteria to its every whim. It can be defeated, even if some set-ups are seemingly BS.

Cons

❌ With so many levels having goals to beat the opponent in only a few moves, it does reveal a basic flaw with the design of Hexteria. Unless you intentionally made a disconnected, annoying board, many of the matches can be beaten very quickly. It’s not a long, drawn-out kind of strategy game.
❌ Even though there’s a level-creator available, the vanilla game doesn’t have much content. Only 42 levels in the campaign and a versus mode.
❌ The ice power-up can cause odd stalemates where you and the opponent counter each other until one breaks, for some reason.
❌ Sometimes, going second is the much better position to be in. Boards can be really unfair.

Tips

🔍 In the right situations, you can play defensively, breaking your large cluster into a smaller piece, allowing it to be taken so you can reclaim it all and more with your smaller remainder. Other times you’ll need to be more aggressive, taking neutral portions to set yourself up to claim enemy pieces. Flexibility is important.
🔍 The AI always makes the exact same move based on whatever you do. So if you turn a set of tiles in the same order, the AI will do exactly what it did last time. You can manipulate and learn how it’ll respond accordingly.
🔍 Initially, I played Hexteria without buying power-ups, which was a good idea. The ones on the far right are well worth saving up for, as they’re completely broken and make Hexteria a cake walk. Mind control? Zany.

Final Thoughts

This wound up being a short playthrough, which is one of two outcomes I anticipated. Either Hexteria would be really grueling and take quite a while, or it’d be a quick, easy enough challenge. Sometimes though, the difficulty could be really unbalanced. For example, I beat the volcano boss in a single attempt so badly I earned all of the challenges without really meaning to.

I enjoyed Hexteria more than I thought I might, so it’s a game I’d recommend for those who like clever strategy experiences. Even though its priced for only $6, due to how short the game is, that’s a bit steep for what you get, so you’d probably want to wait for a sale. My playtime is based on going for optional objectives and achievements.

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