Just as I associate post-apocalyptic video games with one franchise, Fallout, so I associate post-apocalyptic strategy with one game, Vic Davis’ Armageddon Empires. It’s an excellent game, whose design I dissected several few years ago. It’s also a unique game – both in the sense that it’s original, and in the sense that it’s the only “strategic level” post-apocalyptic game I can think of. Even adding a few strategy games that take place at smaller scales produces a very short list1.
In the last few weeks, I’ve dipped into a variety of games, without spending much time on any one: Assassin’s Creed 4; Shadow of Mordor; Counterspy; Order of Battle: Pacific; Kerbal Space Program; and Castlevania: Dracula X Chronicles.
Mostly, I like them. AC4 is as enjoyable as ever. Kerbal captures the wonder of spaceflight when I see the horizon before me, and the terror when I try to get my Kerbonauts back down. After a few hours, I’m comfortable calling it one of the best science fiction games I’ve played. Mordor, Counterspy, and Order of Battle: Pacific, so far, live up to their strong reviews and word of mouth. (Or, in one case, live down – I agree with the consensus that OOB: Pacific‘s naval battles are the weakest part of an otherwise strong game.)
Dracula X is the odd one out. I had never played a Castlevania game before, and I wanted to see what the fuss was about. Unfortunately, I think I started with the wrong one. I am not good at platformers… and this is a difficult platformer with limited continues. After beating my head against the first two levels, I am about ready to download a saved game that will unlock the other included Castlevania release, the well-regarded Symphony of the Night.
In this week’s news:
- The Witcher 3 is out, to rave reviews. Pick your favourite gaming site, and odds are it’ll have a favourable review.
- Logic Artists has announced Expeditions: Viking, a sequel to Expeditions: Conquistador. This is great news! Conquistador was an original game in an original setting; I’d love to see what the developers do with Vikings.
- Firaxis has announced Rising Tide, an expansion for Civilization: Beyond Earth – here are interviews with PC Gamer and RPS. After being disappointed by Beyond Earth, I am reluctant to part with any more money…
I love Endless Legend‘s soundtrack, and I love its imaginative, distinct factions. This week, I thought I’d bring them together. Below, I highlight one theme from each of the three factions that I’ve played (there are eight factions total, each with two themes). Enjoy!
Guns of Icarus Online is one of the most unique games I’ve played – a team-based dieselpunk airship game, in which rival crews try to shoot each other out of the sky. When it launched in 2012, it was strictly PvP. The following year, developer Muse Games launched a Kickstarter campaign to add PvE (“Adventure mode”), and it seems to be coming along nicely.
Read on for my follow-up email interview with Howard Tsao, CEO of Muse Games, about Adventure mode:
Peter Sahui: Hello, and welcome to the site!
When I last spoke to Muse Games in 2013, you were running a Kickstarter campaign for “Adventure mode” — a large expansion pack that would add PvE and co-op to the game. How is that coming along?
Howard Tsao: It’s been a long journey, with the scope of the expansion arguably larger than the original game, but we’re constantly making progress. Right now, in addition to iterating on some of the game modes and honing AI director as well as AI enemy movement and behaviour, we’re also doing work on player, faction, and world progressions. A lot of the in mission or in match feedback and progression are being designed and worked on as well. We’re creating factional airships, boss ships, and wardrobe as well, and we’ll soon move into designing more maps and game modes as well.
This week’s biggest news item is a movie – Mad Max: Fury Road is out, to rave reviews. It deserves them. Fury Road is what Mad Max movies should be. It’s what Mad Max movies can be, given a reported US$150M budget. It’s thrilling, visually spectacular (sometimes downright beautiful), and features a tough, capable female lead – I can sum it up in one phrase: “Holy @*&%, that was cool!” If the upcoming Mad Max game can live up to the movie, it will be a blast.
In other news:
- There are plenty of upcoming space games; Rebel Galaxy‘s unique features are (1) a country music soundtrack and (2) that it gives players a capital ship instead of a fighter. Here is USGamer’s video preview; here are written previews.
- Brief but interesting – USGamer takes a look at genres that did better outside their home countries.
- Hearts of Iron IV has been delayed again, with the new date to be announced after the team is done working on “a large milestone”.
- Still on the subject of WW2, reviewers are glowing about Order of Battle: Pacific, a new game inspired by Panzer General and Unity of Command.
- PC Gamer reviews Kerbal Space Program, version 1.0. The game has been available in pre-release form for ages — I wrote very briefly about it years ago — and so the PC Gamer piece reads more like an appreciation.
- In adventure game news, reviews are uninspiring for Broken Age: Act 2. I’d held off buying until the entire game was out. Perhaps I should keep holding out for a better discount?
- And finally, a game I never knew existed: A-Train 3D, a crunchy train management game for 3DS.
Have I got a treat for you this week! The music of Tropico 4 is fantastic, both in its own right, and as a way to bring the setting to life. Enjoy – and check out artist Alex Torres’ other work. I’m listening to his catalogue on Spotify as I type…
The two expansions to Age of Wonders 3 have brought new races, a new character class, and (together with patches), assorted features and balance tweaks. They have also addressed my single biggest complaint with the game: the victory conditions (and their effect on pacing).
At launch, there was one way to win AoW3: destroy all opponents. This made the endgame a slog. Now, there are several other options:
- Beat down the AI players to the point where they surrender (added via patch). Per the developers, this is meant to happen after the “epic final battle… in situations where the AI is substantially outmatched and just lost a great number of its forces in a battle.” Based on the two AI players who surrendered after I crushed their multi-stack main armies, this works as promised!
- Territorial control, added in the first expansion. Similar to the Thrones mechanic in Dominions 4, this requires the player to take several “seals of power” defended by independent monsters, and hold them while progress towards victory ticks up. As the monsters periodically respawn, the seals have to be garrisoned – I suspect this is a risk/reward mechanic. Do you grab many seals, and risk spreading yourself too thin? Encouragingly, AI players do realise the importance of the seals; I lost my second game post-expansion when the AI flattened my armies and then captured the seals.
- A new, Wonder-style victory condition, added in the second expansion. I’m still getting a handle for this one; the developers describe it as “a great option for more defensive players”. Unlike the seals victory, aiming for this will provoke the AI players into declaring war, so it’s a defensive victory rather than a peaceful one.