Review by ulillillia

"Addicting, but lacks board variety and has a major design flaw"

Assimilation is an addicting puzzle/strategy board game where you must dominate the board but it has one major design flaw and surprisingly little variety in terms of boards as just 10 are present. The following highlights each aspect of the game by category (credits are weights - the more, the stronger the effect it has on the overall rating).

Game play (5/10; 5 credits):

Each of the game's 10 boards has an assortment of nodes arranged in equilateral triangles. Your pieces, colored spheres, along with your opponents', can occupy these nodes, one at a time. By cloning and jumping your pieces to a node surrounded by other players' pieces, you assimilate them, turning them into your own. Cloning creates a copy of your own piece, but can only be done if you move one node away. Jumping does not create a copy of your own piece, but it does allow your piece to jump over others' pieces (even your own), provided the destination node is empty (no other piece is present there, including your own). Assimilating your opponents pieces can be done using either cloning or jumping. Scattered around the board are warp holes - these teleport the piece that moved there to a random spot on the board, which helps add a bit more strategy to the game. By preventing another player from taking their turn (due to being trapped), all of their pieces are removed and that player is out of the game. The same also happens if all of their pieces have gotten assimilated.

Considering that Assimilation has a simple concept at its heart, it seems easy enough to play, but it's not.... That is until you discover the game's major design flaw. By having your pieces jump in the right way instead of clone, you can never lose the game, even in a bad situation, provided you have the right setup. The computer will continue to create clones which will eventually cause that computer player to get trapped and thus, gets eliminated, leaving you still surviving. This design flaw is as bad as I'm describing. Since the computer players don't exploit it, you're otherwise guaranteed to win every time with a fair-quality strategy and the right setup. Of about 115 or games I've played, I lost only two of them, one was deliberate so I could see what happens if you lost a game. The other was unintentional, due to overlooking something (if I recall). This is even considering that I'm going against 7 computer players with moderately good AI, so you'd think my odds are quite bad....

When playing against the computer, the design flaw takes the fun out of playing. Despite this serious design flaw, I still found Assimilation quite addicting, for the 3 days I played it. Instead of focusing on trying to win, you can, instead, focus on getting as many of your pieces on the board as possible and trying to surpass your own high score. High score is determined solely by the number of pieces you have on the board.

Because I don't trust features in games that require the Internet, I am unable to cover the game's multiplayer aspects, aside from the fact the game has it. In theory, provided your friend(s) is aware of this design flaw, it shouldn't hinder game play, however.

One thing I wished Assimilation had was the ability to design your own boards. There are 10 boards provided, which seems to be surprisingly few. 50 would've been nice to start with. Either that, or a random board generator that creates boards at random.

Graphics (10/10; 3 credits):

Despite the flawed game play, Assimilation excels in graphics. Each time you assimilate your opponents' pieces, the board's background gets progressively more intense in terms of the intensity of the waving effect. The boards' backgrounds are very richly detailed so the waving effect is easily noticed and appears to be very accurate, almost as if it was water, in a sense, but with a somewhat higher viscosity as the waving effect goes away after about 2 or so seconds (based on assimilating 3 pieces - more pieces means a longer duration).

Sound (8.5/10; 2 credits):

The audio in Assimilation is fair. There is no music, so the rating is based entirely on the sound effects, of which are often quite repetitive. The sound effects, despite being repetitive, are of excellent quality. When numerous pieces get assimilated, the sound effects are more extreme which actually causes me to like them more. Get 6 in one, the best possible, and.... For music, you can simply have some music player program running in the background.

Replay (7/10; 2 credits):

Although Assimilation is an addicting game, and its multiplayer feature can add to this, its replay value is low due to both the major design flaw with game play and the surprisingly few number of available boards. This design flaw takes a considerable amount of fun out of the game which hurts the replay value. With few boards, no board randomization, and the inability to create your own boards, this also has an effect, a much stronger effect.

Conclusion (7.2/10)

Despite the design flaw, Assimilation is a game that anyone who likes board games would enjoy, especially the multiplayer aspect. It is easy to lose several hours in Assimilation... at first. The lack of board variation (too few choices) will soon make Assimilation not a good investment. Although I'd recommend renting it first before buying, Assimilation, being a computer game, cannot be rented due to the EULA.


Reviewer's Score: 7/10 | Originally Posted: 04/19/10

Game Release: Assimilation (US, 04/14/02)


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