"Casual" or Serious Strategy Game?

System Requirements:
Win 98SE+/600MHz CPU/128MB RAM
Mind Control Software

2004 IGF Independent Game of the Year Winner
2004 IGF Winner, Innovation in Game Design
Game Tunnel's 2005 Independent Game of the Year

Oasis is, at its core, a highly original casual game--but with strong crossover appeal to strategy gamers. In some ways, our site is where it belongs, probably more so than at, say, Yahoo! Games.

Like most casual games, it's very easy to pick up and play, and you play it basically with one button--just click on the map to explore dark squares, build roads, assign workers to mines, etc.

But the way it plays reminds us of "Eurogames," the genre of adult boardgames that's gaining increasing popularity worldwide (and mostly come out of Germany). In other words, it plays quickly, but every choice you make is important, and has a real impact on the outcome.

There's another reason we like Oasis: It was developed by two old school game developers whose work we greatly admire--Andy Leker (Skyrealms of Jorune, Alien Logic, Silencer, Resurrection) and Marc LeBlanc (Thief, System Shock). These guys know exactly what they're doing, and it's no surprise that when they turn their hand to developing a casual game, they come up with something beautiful and original instead of another twist on the "pick three" paradigm.

How's It Work?

At the end of each level, a horde of barbarians will show up and attempt to destroy all your cities. Before then, you must set up your defenses as effectively as you can; the more of your cities and population you save, the more you'll score for the level.

Each level is a randomly generated map--and initially only one or a handful of squares on the map are revealed. You can reveal them by clicking on hidden squaures adjacent to places you've already explored. Most explorations add small numbers of people to placeable population--some terrain types more others. You want to find all your cities--then link them via roads by clicking on explored squares to build roads there.

In addition, some squares have mines; you can assign some of your population to exploit them. Each turn (that is, click), mines with workers work to improve your technology, which gives you benefits in the inevitable battle; however, workers aren't themselves available to fight at that time. So it's a tradeoff. Starting work on mines early in the level is almost always worthwhile--but doing it late is probably not.

You have a limited number of clicks; when you've used them, you have a few moments to prepare for the barbarian invasion. If you're lucky, you've uncovered the "cairns" where they show up; they head for the nearest city first, so one strategy is to concentrate as much of your population as you can at that city, to defend the rest of your empire.

There are a lot of other little aspects, too--nomad encampment squares provide extra population, and discovering Pharaoah's monument and surrounding lake is worth extra points. Basically, every click can benefit you in some way--but optimizing what you click and when in order to maximize your score and chance of defeating the barbarians isn't easy. There's a tradeoff for everything you do.

Good simple fun.


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Eurogame description lured me in...

I am a boardgame-freak: Eurogames, Ameritrash, RPG, CCG and Wargames. Mentioning 'Eurogame' pulled me in.
After playing the tutorial I'm not so convinced.

In the original review was stated:
"Basically, every click can benefit you in some way--but optimizing what you click and when in order to maximize your score and chance of defeating the barbarians isn't easy."

Unfortunately I could not find prove for that. I felt that 'luck' was more important than 'clever clicking' and that's not what I expected. As such I'm not tempted to pay for the full version. Maybe someone can convince me that I should?

But of course the above is based on tutorial and one play only, so I'm interested to read other people's comments.

I actually played the demo

I actually played the demo about a year ago, and last night finally paid for the game.

It's good that the review emphasizes that it's a casual game, because after a couple of hours of gameplay it seems like the optimal strategies are uncovered (pun intended). This is a high-quality game, but the replay value is low.

Definitely a good game

I played this game for a few hours, and I have to say it really is very well put together and very addictive.

After a few hours the strategy does become apparent, but it's a good way to kill an evening, assuming you're into boardgames and strategy games to begin with.


Reasonable game

This game is OK, but this review way oversells it. 'every choice you make is important, and has a real impact on the outcome'? Not especially. The complexity of the rules certainly gives your brain something to do, but learning the game is generally about not forgetting that particular rules exist; strategies are obvious. High level play seems to be all about advisors; clever map building without them is generally rewarded by a serious mashing in the face by the barbarians. Generating magical Oasis defense as a last resort against this problem can result in replaying the same level 5 or 10 times.

So, not much depth here (it's certainly no Desktop Dungeons) but it *is* good fun, and even pretty addictive, so it's a solid 7/10.