With only a finite number of natural resources left on the planet, you can be sure that people will go to war to control the most precious commodities. Greed Corp revolves around the all-too-realistic premise that wars are justified by rulers in need of fuel for their expanding empires, but the devious strategies on display in this turn-based game of destruction are a lot more fun than hinted at in the dour premise. It takes a fair bit of planning to build up your own army while staunching the growth of those who oppose you, but that just makes victory all the more sweet. Expect to find yourself on the losing side more often than not, at least in the early going. The tactics are not easy to wrap your head around and the merciless computer will be happy to punish you until you finally learn. But once you figure out how to properly pillage the planet, Greed Corp is a meaty and satisfying strategy game.
Your playing field is represented by a number of hexagonal tiles floating high in the air. You and up to three opponents vie for supremacy, trying to be the last army standing when the dust finally settles. In basic strategy-game style, you mine for resources that give you the money to build troops and facilities, which will help you achieve your goal. You receive a small stipend at the start of each turn, but if you want enough money to make a difference, you will need to build a few harvesters to extract minerals from the ground. The twist is that every time your harvester does its job, your tile drops a level and, eventually, crumbles away into nothing. If you're not careful, you can send dozens of your own troops falling helplessly into the vast void below, so you have to be prudent with how much and where you harvest. The balance between money and survival is a fiendishly engrossing mechanic that leads to matches that are unpredictable, as well as constantly changing.
The money you earn is used to buy tools to take down those who oppose you. Harvesters are cheap, but they can end up costing you the game if you lay them out without careful planning. Cannons are the only way you can fight from a distance, but you have to buy ammunition separately. Armories are used to build up your troops (called walkers), as well as carriers that quickly shuttle them around the playing field. To capture an enemy-occupied territory, you need only invade the hexagon with more walkers than your opponent currently has situated on that hexagon. Unlike Risk or similar games of conquest, there are no dice rolls that determine the winner nor can you micromanage those under your command to make them better fighters in battle. Rather, it's all a numbers game and you're limited to just 16 walkers per square. Because of the clear-cut nature of the conquests, luck is not a factor at all in Greed Corp. You determine your own fate, which makes it all the more disheartening when you do lose.
Despite the relatively small selection of items you can spend your hard-earned resources on, Greed Corp is still a deep strategy game. Mining for gold is the most important tactic, and it takes quite a while to understand the intricacies of this mechanic. If you use too many harvesters, you may find your remaining troops shunted to just a small area of the map or limited to hexagons that are one strike away from disappearing forever. But if you are too conservative in your mining practices, you won't have enough money to build walkers and cannons to overtake your enemies. Furthermore, harvesting can be used as an offensive maneuver. Any territory that is in contact with a hexagon being mined will also be destroyed eventually, so if you can steal one enemy spot in the middle of a stronghold, you can weaken the entire empire with one deviously placed harvester.
Because harvesting permanently changes the ground, no two matches play out exactly the same. During the first moments of a match, you may have tiles all around you. Dozens of hexagons compose the playing field, and you are free to move around as you wish. But after a few turns, the east side of the map may be overrun with harvesters, causing it to break away into nothing. The same devastation spreads in the north and south, which reduces the vast playing field down to just a handful of strongly defended territories. When your ability to move walkers easily from one hexagon to an adjacent territory is removed, you have to rely on your long-distance tools to engage your enemy. Cannons can fire halfway across the map, but ammunition is pricy. Carriers can transport walkers anywhere in a pinch, but because the resources dwindle with every crumbling piece of land, the price for such a luxury is incredibly steep. The unpredictable playing field forces you to plan ahead, doling out your money strategically lest you find yourself broke with no available mining squares left.
Because of the delicate balance between harvesting and survival, it is really difficult to comprehend the basics in Greed Corp. The tutorial gets the basics across but not the strategies needed to win. In the early going, you will find yourself mistakenly destroying invaluable ground, stranding yourself in an inopportune position while your opponent builds up an imposing empire just beyond your reach. It's also difficult to keep track of what each of your opponents is up to because there is no way to get a quick overview of the match. Thus, you will have to be incredibly observant to keep a tally of what tools your opponents have and how they might spend their money. It's a shame that there is no way to get a quick breakdown of how many harvesters, armories, and walkers are on the playing field because with each turn limited to just one minute, it can be difficult to take in every element of the match yet still have time to enact your own moves. With time, this problem fades away as you become more accustomed to the potential strategies at your fingertips, but it makes the initial hours very challenging.
Like every good strategy game, Greed Corp excels against a group of competitive players. Up to four people can play at one time, local or online, with computer-controlled adversaries filling in any vacant spots if you want. Before you head online, though, it's a good idea to spend time in the extensive single-player campaign to learn the ropes. There are four available armies to command, and though their tools are identical, their stories are not. The nature-loving Freemen are only fighting because they need to save the planet, whereas the money-grabbing pirates don't give a hoot about anything other than their own well-being. The story isn't exactly the most gripping tale, but the long campaign will put you in a number of difficult positions that require unique strategies and adaptability to overcome. By the time you play through every mission, you will be fully prepared to show off your strategy acumen in the online realm.
The pro-environmental message in Greed Corp is easy enough to grasp, but the inner workings of this surprisingly complex strategy game are not so easily understood. But once you figure out how to properly balance your insatiable need for money with the earth's penchant for crumbling under your money-grubbing desires, a world of destructible possibilities reveals itself. And at only $9.99, you can be happy developer W!Games wasn't too greedy.