First Match Three, Then the Zerg Rush

Three Rings
Suggested By:

According to Tim Conkling, its designer, Corpsecraft is an RTS-Match 3 hybrid; but actually, the RTS-ish gameplay is closer to that of Rescue Rangers or Steam Brigade than it is to, say, Warcraft.

Each player has a base at opposite sides of the screen, and builds units (various types of zombies, for the most part) and dispatches them to attack the enemy. They stagger across the screen, fighting each other, the ultimate objective being to reach the enemy base and destroy it (over time, with repeated attacks). There are several different unit types (introduced over a number of levels in the soloplay game, so you may learn their characteristics more readily), each with different characteristics.

Unlike an RTS, you have no direct control over your units; they simply follow their programming. Instead, you play a match-3 game (at bottom center in the screenshot); each color corresponds to a resource (red = blood, white = flesh, yellow = scrap, blue = energy), and each type of unit requires a different mix of resources to produce. Selecting a group of three or more of one color scores points (more for larger groups), as in every match-3 game -- but these contribute not to your score, but to your stockpile of the matching resource. To the left of the match-3 area are icons for each of the unit types; you create one by clicking the corresponding icon.

Thus, gameplay is a matter of monitoring what's going on in the RTS area, determining what sorts of units you need to deal with events there, and matching three madly to generate as many resources, preferably of the type you need most at present, as quickly as possible.

In addition to the solo training game, Corpsecraft is playable by up to four people at once, and at least when I visited the server, it seemed that there was usually someone waiting for a game.

The graphics themselves are nicely and creepily Gorey-esque, and the cross-fertilization of genres is interesting -- but I wonder whether the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Consider Puzzle Pirates, the 'casual' MMO from the same developer; in that game, you play puzzle games to perform tasks in the overarching MMO (pumping the bilges, firing the cannot, sailing the ship), so you need to enjoy playing puzzle games, and have a feeling of contributing to the collective efforts of your ship mates. Moreover, the palate and art approach is cheerfully 'casual' in nature. This works; in Corpsecraft, it's not clear to me than an audience that enjoys, say, Bejewelled will find the match-3 experience enhanced by a gothy metagame around it, nor that an RTS audience, or one that is attracted to the gothic, will want an interloping match-3 trope.

Still, it's an imaginative and well executed attempt to do something a little different.


Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.

The Whirled of CorpseCraft

Hm, "match-3" always makes me think of Bejeweled-ish games; this is a different mechanic and I think it should have another name...Of course you explained the mechanic in depth, so there's really no confusion, I just think there should be another name. This mechanic, whatever it its name, has always seemed to me less forgiving than your basic "match-3" game. Having four "colors" does make it a bit easier, of course.

I happen to like the gothy "skin" to the game, and I'm definitely intrigued by the hybrid gameplay (although I feel like I had this idea years ago and they stole it from my head...). I don't know what sort of target audience I fit into (I'm certainly not a "goth"), but I think it's pretty fun all in all.

One other interesting thing about this game is that it's "published" through Whirled. That's Three Rings Design's website/world where members can contribute their own games and art assets with which people can decorate their own little web-spaces. Three Rings Design are also the people behind Puzzle Pirates. Theoretically, this game could have been produced by a talented amateur working alone; it was actually done by "Capital-T-Tim", who appears to be one of the Whirled core team (and possibly even the guy who recommended this game ;) ).

It's really super-collapse,

It's really super-collapse, not bejeweled, both of which involve forming sets of 3, but with different mechanics (swapping vs. gravity). Also, I think you should've mentioned the freshly animated storytelling.


"Super-collapse", yes, exactly.

Freshly-animated mean the bit with the books flipping pages? That was okay...

I was referring to the whole

I was referring to the whole theme/character design of kids learning to freshly animate corpses in a maudlin British culture.

Does it have to be that simple? Corpsecraft, it's not clear to me than an audience that enjoys, say, Bejewelled will find the match-3 experience enhanced by a gothy metagame around it...

I think the casual game market is a little more diverse than the stereotypes would suggest: it's not all older women who want to play games about grooming dogs. On the contrary, I suspect there are a bunch of people out there who enjoy casual styles of gameplay but find the relentless cuteness on offer to be a little nauseating.

I could be wrong.

Anyway, it's fun -- though, alas, I found that at the higher levels the performance slowed down far enough to make it basically unplayable. At a certain point if you're clicking blocks and they're not vanishing immediately, you're handicapped in gathering resources fast enough to fight the waves of incoming monsters, and it's all just kind of hopeless. (This may easily be the fault of my computer and/or browser setup.)

Emily Short

The essence of RTS

This game is a jewel. This may sound sacrilegous, but for me it's the quintessence of the RTS, done plain: gather resources, defend your base (or workshop, in this case), build more units and then send a devasting attack against your adversary; and what is more important, do it as fast as you can!

If you have ever seen a korean playing StarCraft, you will agree with me that the frency gameplay it's almost identical to that of Corpse Craft, but made simple. That's the point: giving the non-experts a chance to have the same experience that hardcores have, without having to expend long-frustrating hours in order to learn the game. Short version: maybe it's not as deep as StarCraft (without doubt, the best RTS ever), but it is more accessible and has a better learning curve.

Also, the game isn't as plain as it may seem at a first glance; there are three game mechanics that widen the gameplay incredibly:
-The night and day cycle (nobody has noted this?), that allows you to recover after being damaged in an attack, get ready for the next 'round', and, if you are not cautelous, miss expend a lot of resources in minions that are gonna last just a few seconds.
-The paper-rock-scissor mechanics for the units, something common to all the RTS (well, almost... Warcraft II, anybody?), that makes you carefully meditate the building sequence according to the battle situation, if you want to be successful and not letting your guys be pissed off.
-The potions you pick up with the ladyfingers. These are the equivalent to the 'spells' of other RTS (Commsat in StarCraft, or Airstrike in C&C, for example), and add an 'ace in the sleeve' element that is pretty interesant.

The game is done with an 'innocent look', both in aesthetics and in gameplay, and that's a strong point: it has more appeal for a wider audience, both puzzle and RTS players, as well as newbies, or even 'weird gamers' (yes, I'm talking about you and me, readers of Play This Thing!) can have fun playing it. That's what makes a good game, after all. So congrats to the designer. A great job.


I'm with Emily -- it's a pretty game, but it rapidly becomes unplayable as clicks start lagging mouse movement. I found that I was losing resources on net because my mouse was no longer over a valid group by the time the game registered my clicks.

Wanted to love it, hated it instead

This is an example of a good idea for a game fatally sabotaged by little mistakes.

Mistake #1 is in the game itself: In order to create a creature that you have the elements for, you need to click on a knife-switch handle, a target narrower than a standard arrow cursor. If you're a few pixels too many to the left or to the right, you can click frantically but your accumulated resources will go to waste. The player is already facing tactical challenges on how to best harvest resources to make creatures, and strategic challenges about which creatures to put into play, and when. I don't see the point in adding a mindless challenge of acquiring a small, stationary mouse target when it would be simpler to simply make the entire area of the creature button active.

Mistake #2 is on the part of the bone-headed site that hosts Corpsecraft: While you are playing the game, the site will pop up a balloon inviting you to share the game on Facebook or tweet it to others. There is no way to dismiss this balloon. The balloon pops up over the game field and covers up the resource pool from which you're attempting to harvest. Whoever thought that was a good idea should be made to pee in a cup so we can figure out what kind of drugs are impairing their thinking.