Clippings: Strategy Gaming in November; Discounted Wargames

Hello, and welcome back to the site! It’s been a bit of a break as I juggle real life and other projects; however, I still keep one eye on what’s going on in strategy games.

November is set for a number of releases, including:

  • Empire Divided, an expansion for Total War: Rome II that depicts the Crisis of the Third Century. This is a very significant period in Roman history – the dividing line between the early Empire (the Principate), and the later Empire from Diocletian onward (the Dominate, familiar to players of Total War: Attila). Rome II itself has come a long way from its deeply flawed launch and I’m eager to play this latest expansion.
  • Dominions 5: Warriors of the Faith, the latest in the long-running myth/fantasy series. Looking at the features list, I suspect this will be evolutionary rather than revolutionary. Given all the delight that the Dominions games have given me over the years – they feel like epic fantasy should feel, magical and awe-inspiring, in a way that bigger-budget games have struggled to match – this looks like another early purchase for me.
  • Jade Dragon and Cradle of Civilisation, the latest DLCs for Crusader Kings II and Europa Universalis IV, respectively. Central Asia is one of my favourite regions to play in CK2, and so I’m particularly interested in Jade Dragon, which adds China as an off-map power with significant influence over the Silk Road.

Meanwhile, Fanatical – the renamed Bundle Stars – is currently running a sale that features a significant number of Slitherine’s wargames. I picked up two games from opposite ends of the complexity scale – the incredibly detailed  Command: Modern Air and Naval Operations, and the biere-et-bretzels Victory and Glory: Napoleon. Both seem promising so far – see my Victory and Glory impressions here – and I look forward to spending more time with them!

Clippings: Total Warhammer 2, Nintendo’s Mobile Business Model, Fallout 4 Mods

Creative Assembly has announced Total War: Warhammer 2press release here. Notably, it will allow owners of the original Total Warhammer to play a “mega-campaign” that combines the maps of the two games, a feature I remember being discussed when the first game was still in development. Eurogamer has an excellent interview here. PC Gamer and PCGamesN add some details about, respectively, victory conditions and retrospective tweaks to the first game’s factions.

Masashi Isawa at the Nikkei newspaper highlights Nintendo’s respective experiences with Super Mario Run and Fire Emblem Heroes. Although revenue from SMR “did not meet expectations”, Nintendo still prefers its premium pricing model over the more lucrative F2P model of Fire Emblem: Heroes.

Finally, Christopher Livingston at PC Gamer highlights Sim Settlements, a Fallout 4 mod that makes settlements dynamic places that inhabitants build up and furnish. Very cool!

Clippings: Afghanistan ’11, Julian Gollop, Video Game Photography, and more

Strategy gamers are in for a treat this week with the release of Afghanistan ’11, the sequel to Vietnam ’65. Like its predecessor, Afghanistan ’11 captures the experience of waging counterinsurgency warfare against an unseen foe. The Taliban lurk, place IEDs, ambush convoys, and occasionally emerge in force. Just as important are logistics and the need to shore up political support. On “normal” difficulty, I find the game rather punitive (which is probably appropriate to the theme), and I’ve encountered some annoying bugs. Overall, I would still recommend it to those interested. Update: I would recommend it once the bugs have been addressed; I’ve encountered several crashes and – infuriatingly – an already-met victory condition resetting itself, preventing me from winning a campaign map on which I’d spent hours. For more details, check out Tim Stone’s review in his Flare Path column.

Julian Gollop, of X-COM fame, has conducted a Q&A about his upcoming game Phoenix Point. His stated ambition is to realise the vision he first set out to create X-COM: Apocalypse, involving multiple factions and alien monsters that mutate to counteract the player.

Micah Dutro at Explorminate gives a positive review to Battle Brothers, a low-fantasy tactical RPG.

Nadia Oxford at USGamer discusses Zelda: Breath of the Wild as a post-apocalyptic game

Simon Parkin at Eurogamer discusses video game photography from Final Fantasy XV to Zelda: Breath of the Wild.

Meanwhile, Robert Purchese from Eurogamer meets Andrzej Sapkowski, the author of the Witcher books.

Finally, fantasy fans might be amused by this analysis of the frequency of braid-tugging in Wheel of Time.

Clippings: the design philosophy of Breath of the Wild, building a career out of mods, subscription gaming, Tooth & Tail

This week’s top read is Chris Thursten’s (Eurogamer) analysis of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, which frames its design in the context of games such as Far Cry 2 and Morrowind. These titles expanded the list of available verbs and then encouraged the player to experiment–a philosophy that, the article argues, goes on to guide Breath of the Wild.

Joe Donnelly at PC Gamer profiles two Cities: Skylines modders whose hobby transformed their lives — one now works for Arkane, while the other overcame depression and returned to creating art. Inspiring stuff.

Rob Fahey at GamesIndustry discusses the subscription models being pursued by Microsoft and Sony.

Finally, Tom Marks at PC Gamer previews Tooth and Tails, a short-form action-RTS. While the preview likens it to a condensed Starcraft II, it reminds me more of Herzog Zwei.

Clippings: Frog City’s Imperialism, Ubisoft’s VR, Kickstarter, Persistent Video Games, Steel Division: Normandy 44

Last night, I fired up Imperialism, the classic 1997 strategy game casting the player as a nineteenth-century Great Power in pursuit of world domination. It holds up remarkably well. There are two notable features about its design: (1) it’s elegant, with much less micromanagement than a Civilization or a Paradox game; and (2) it captures its subject very well. Early in the game, the world is a liberal, free-trading place; if you need raw materials you can easily buy them. Later on, the Great Powers carve up the world market and you can’t depend on anyone other than your colonies. Colonialism becomes a matter of “eat or be eaten”. It’s a cynical view of international relations… and one suited to the game’s theme. (If I have a complaint, it’s the military side of the game, which–at least for this rookie player–tends towards stalemate.)

The news of the week is Nintendo’s launch of the Switch – GamesIndustry has a good round-up. For me, the Switch is the reincarnation of the Vita – a way to play high-quality “core” games on the go – and I hope it will enjoy better fortune!

Ubisoft discusses its VR approach with GamesIndustry. The key takeaway is that the company views its early forays into VR as experiments, rather than profit drivers. I’d argue that this is exactly the right approach for a technology as nascent as VR.

The headline and subtitle of this GamesIndustry post say it all: “”You need a community before doing something like Kickstarter: Press coverage doesn’t result in more backers, indie developers say, so it pays to have your own community before you start.” I’d be interested in a study as to the characteristics of successful Kickstarter campaigns over time — anecdotally, backers have less appetite for taking a punt on untried creators (I know that I’ve become very selective, and typically prefer to back creators with a track record).

At Eurogamer, Alexis Kennedy discusses the notion of persistence in video games – from the early days of persistence-free ‘drop a coin in the machine’, through the saved game and the MMO, and to modern designs such as Elite: Dangerous. It’s an interesting topic, although personally I doubt I’d have the energy/stress tolerance for a highly “persistent” game.

Finally, two of my favourite companies in the industry have teamed up: Paradox will publish Steel Division: Normandy 44, a real-time tactics game from Eugen Systems, the developer of the Wargame series. Based on TJ Hafer’s preview at PC Gamer, the new game looks like an evolution of the Wargame formula (as visible in the screenshot below, the interface is straight out of Wargame). The differences appear to be a greater focus on morale, a new front-line system replacing Wargame‘s sectors, and a new mechanic whereby different units unlock in different phases of a match. I’m excited!

Steel Division: Normandy 44. Image supplied by Paradox.


Clippings: JRPG Translation, Stagnant 4X Games, CK2 Retrospective

US Gamer interviews two of the people who localised Playstation RPG Vagrant Story. Notably, one of the interviewees is the superb Alexander O Smith, who subsequently worked his magic across titles such as Phoenix Wright, Final Fantasy XII, and the PSP remake of Tactics Ogre. Well worth a read for JRPG fans and those interested in video-game translation.

In a 2016 article, Rob Zacny argues that the problem with 4X games is that “they are ultimately games about progress that nevertheless have nothing whatsoever to say on the subject”; he then goes onto Alpha Centauri and Victoria 2 as games that did this right. Rob is one of the best strategy game writers today, and his analyses usually make for an interesting read.

Five years and many expansions after the release of Crusader Kings 2, its designers take a look back at what worked, what didn’t, and what had to be cut.

Clippings: Counterinsurgency, Mars, RPGs

Several years ago, I wrote about Vietnam ’65, one of the most interesting asymmetric strategy designs I’ve encountered (and a fine “short-form” exception to a genre typified by sprawl). Now, Tim Stone at the Flare Path has posted a good preview of its upcoming sequel, Afghanistan ’11. I look forward to picking up the game when it’s out.

Remember Take on Mars, the space simulator from the developers of ARMA? PC Gamer has now posted a review. While my initial reaction was “huh?”, it turns out that the game has evolved significantly since its Early Access days; an interesting read.

How should the RPG evolve? PC Gamer asks several developers.


Clippings: low-spec strategy gaming, what Nintendoes, and 4X sales

Welcome back to Matchsticks for my Eyes!

At present, my gaming comprises what’s playable on an ultrabook with Intel integrated graphics.  Over the last couple of months, this has included:

  • Hearts of Iron IV – following the launch of Together for Victory, the Commonwealth-themed DLC, I had a great time leading (the newly expanded) India to independence and victory over the Axis, although by this stage, I know HOI4 well enough for the AI cracks to show. Playable on “medium” texture quality and 1920×1080 graphics, although definitely more so in the early game (lag was painful by the late game).
  • Shadow Tactics – I have started, and really enjoy, this Sengoku Japan stealth tactics game. For the best write-up of the game, check out Tim Stone’s review at Rock, Paper, Shotgun. Playable, although this required turning down the graphics to low and shrinking the resolution to 1600×900.
  • Armello – I dabbled with this gorgeous, fairy tale-themed game (refer to this Three Moves Ahead podcast for a good discussion). Comfortably playable on “medium” graphics and 1920×1080 resolution.
  • Games on the Battle Academy engine, including the original Battle Academy and Sengoku Jidai: Shadow of the Shogun, unsurprisingly run fine.
  • Wargame: Red Dragon – I returned to its single-player campaign, which was comfortably playable on low/medium graphics and 1920×1080 resolution.
  • Other games I intend to try on this machine: Civilization VI, the original Dishonoured, and Sins of a Solar Empire: Rebellion.

In other news, GamesIndustry rounds up Nintendo’s latest investor Q&A (the full text can be found here). It’s an interesting read; topics range from Nintendo’s mobile strategy to the trade-off between expanding the company and maintaining Nintendo’s culture.

Finally, eXplorminate analyses 4X sales data on Steam over 2016. Out of the year’s new releases, Civ 6 and Stellaris dominated, with the new Master of Orion running a very distant third. Interestingly, Endless Legend has had strong legs since its initial release in 2014.

Clippings: Civilising the Kaldwins

2016 looks to be a bumper year for strategy games, based on the release of XCOM 2 (my current pick for GOTY), Banner Saga 2, Stellaris, Total War: Warhammer, Hearts of Iron IV, and now Civilization VI. While the Civ 6 previews all seem to be based on the same briefing, PC Gamer has also conducted a follow-up interview.

In other news:


The next month will be busy with strategy releases – Stellaris, Total War: Warhammer, and Hearts of Iron 4. Look forward to my Stellaris coverage once the game is out next week!

Further out, Relic has announced Dawn of War 3 – details at PC Gamer.

Interesting times for console games, with Nintendo confirming the NX for 2017 (do check out this Q&A from Nintendo’s FY16 earnings announcement), and Sony and Microsoft rumoured to be working on refreshed hardware. This retrospective on 2006 – when the PS3’s US$599 price was revealed – makes for an interesting comparison.

The Banner Saga 2 is out to a positive reception (Metacritic score 83 at time of writing). I like IGN’s and PC Invasion’s reviews – be warned that they contain spoilers for the first game.

Finally, fantasy and anime fans might be interested in this comparison of epic fantasy and shounen anime – one about heroes summoned by an external call, the other about heroes driven (or so argues that piece). Note that Django Wexler, who wrote the article, is the author of the crackingly good Shadow Campaigns series, a military/political fantasy inspired by the career of Napoleon Bonaparte. I look forward to the next in that series!


With Dark Souls III out to rave reviews, Eurogamer has analysed the lore of Dark Souls and Dark Souls II. Interesting read for series fans.

Meanwhile, Cold War board game Twilight Struggle has been ported to Steam. The original game is highly regarded and so far, the PC port has been technically solid. If time permits, this is one game I’d like to explore further.

In other news:


Clippings: A Return to Mass Effect

The link of the week is Shamus Young’s incredibly detailed retrospective of the Mass Effect series – 41 parts and counting. Even with my limited experience of the series, I found it fascinating; just the two introductory posts (the history of Bioware and the difference between “details” and “drama”-oriented science fiction) could stand alone by themselves. Enjoy!

In other news, here is an interesting interview with Pixar president Ed Catmull on managing a creative organisation, while balancing innovation and risk.

Clippings: From Tristram to the Stars

Paradox has announced the imminent release of its next two grand strategy games — Stellaris (9 May) and Hearts of Iron IV (6 June). The gameplay video above highlights the start of a Stellaris game – it looks promising! The key will be the extent to which Stellaris can combine the best of the 4X (discovery, exploration) and grand strategy (dynamic empires) genres, while avoiding the usual late-game pitfalls, snowballing and micromanagement. This is one reason I’m so interested in the game’s AI sector governors – if implemented well, they hold out the promise of a transition to late-game “macromanagement” a la Nobunaga’s Ambition.

In other news:

Clippings: En Route to No Man’s Sky

Short update this week – No Man’s Sky now has a release date, 21 June, and a flurry of previews have gone up. I like the preview/interview pairs from USGamer and PC Gamer; for a more personal look at NMS‘ creators — and their process of creation — check out this May 2015 article from the New Yorker.

Meanwhile, the Master of Orion reboot is now available on Steam Early Access. Previews appear scarce, and PCGamesN is downright unenthused.

Finally, Sherlock Holmes: The Devil’s Daughter now has a confirmed release date, 27 May (hat tip to frogbeastegg).

Clippings: Firaxis February

Still alive! While this year has been busy (in a good way), I’d like to carve out bits of time for this site when I can.

This week’s highlight is Rock, Paper, Shotgun’s interview with Jake Solomon, lead designer of Firaxis’ XCOM games. It’s one of the best developer interviews I’ve read in some time, touching on issues such as:

  • What to do when theme and mechanics (in this case, XCOM2‘s controversial timer) clash;
  • Player psychology;
  • Elegance in strategy design – a topic where I agree with Solomon.

On the subject of Firaxis, the 25th anniversary of Civilization has seen the release of several interesting articles: an overview from a panel with Sid Meier, Brian Reynolds, and Soren Johnson; two interviews with Sid himself; and for a different perspective, an interview with Bruce Shelley.

Finally, Looking Glass fans might be interested in this interview with Warren Spector.

Clippings: Strategic Assessments

Have you ever wished for more elegant, quicker-playing 4X games? One such title is Eclipse, a boardgame ported to iPad several years ago. It contains the traditional building blocks of the space 4X genre: research, colony ships, ancient treasure troves, and even ship design. Yet there are relatively few moving parts – no individual build queues, no planetary management, small fleets, and a limited number of actions that can be taken per turn (design decisions that, in the PC space, remind me of Armageddon Empires and Skulls of the Shogun). Individual decisions matter, a philosophy I’d like more PC developers to explore.

I also dusted off Order of Battle: Pacific, a well-regarded “Panzer General-like” that I briefly played last year. At the time, I was lukewarm on its naval battles; I put it on hold after seeing that a naval engagement, the Marshalls-Gilberts raid, was next in the campaign. Now that I’ve played several carrier battles, I quite like them. While they appear fairly simple – use recon planes to find the enemy fleet, torpedo bombers against capital ships, and dive bombers against small ships or to finish off damaged capitals – it’s still a thrill to watch my strike package approach the Japanese carriers at Midway. Next up: Guadalcanal.

This week’s top link is Quantic Foundry’s map of the strategy genre, broken down along two dimensions: Excitement and Strategy. Europa Universalis is high strategy and low excitement; MOBAs are the other way around. Total War is similar to EU, slightly lower on strategy and higher on excitement. Relaxed, “free-form” titles such as Cities: Skylines and tycoon games are low-strategy and low-excitement. It’s an interesting and, I think, useful classification system for what is a broad genre.

In other news:


Inspired by this episode of the Three Moves Ahead podcast, I recently revisited Star Wars: Rebellion and Empire at War, two grand strategy games released almost a decade apart.

Rebellion is… interesting. After playing for several hours, I was still getting a feel for it, and I don’t know yet whether it’s good or bad. Playing as the Rebels, I experimented with massing guerrillas in an attempt to incite uprisings on Imperial-controlled worlds. When that failed, I launched a conventional offensive with the Rebel fleet, took out an Imperial garrison that had its boot on the neck of the Corellian Sector, and was rewarded when multiple planets flipped to my control. My main complaint so far is the UI – not as bad as I’d feared, but still, it can be a hassle managing the galaxy.

Rebellion does intrigue me, and that’s more than I can say about EaW. I last wrote about EaW about a year ago, noting that I vastly preferred its skirmish mode to its campaign. I gave EaW‘s campaign a second chance and unfortunately, it’s still bad.

In other news:

  • This week’s notable release is the PC port of Dragon’s Dogma: Dark Arisen, to a favourable reception. I remember the original Dragon’s Dogma on PS3 as pretty difficult – I didn’t make it very far in.
  • USGamer reviews the cleverly named Aviary Attorney, which may appeal to adventure game (and Phoenix Wright) fans.
  • Next month will be big for strategy gamers, with the release of XCOM 2 in early February!

Clippings: settling in for the season

Heading into December, my gaming time has been split between recent releases (Fallout 4, Thea: The Awakening), other purchases from Steam’s November sale (the British DLC for Company of Heroes 2), and finishing off my Nobunaga’s Ambition campaign. I’m looking forward to more time with the newly released Charlemagne DLC for Total War: Attila – it’s well-regarded, doesn’t look too big, and, based on my short and ill-fated first campaign, offers a good challenge. I’d also like to finish Tales from the Borderlands and try Life is Strange, which I also picked up during the Steam sale.

Meanwhile, we’re learning more about next year’s major strategy releases:

  • Paradox is broadcasting a weekly staff multiplayer game of Hearts of Iron IV, pitting the UK against Germany. You can find episode 1 here; as at the time of writing two episodes are out, and a third is due to air tomorrow.
  • While Paradox is more circumspect with Stellaris footage, the dev diaries are promising. I’m particularly interested in the research system, which presents a dynamic choice of technologies rather than a static tech tree, and about interactions with pre-spaceflight species, which players will be able to uplift.
  • XCOM 2 footage is also out – I like this video from Eurogamer, which showcases the base screen, soldier customisation, and tactical combat, accompanied by developer commentary. Also check out USGamer’s interview with Jake Solomon.

In other news:

  • Fallout: New Vegas Tour is a really cool look at the places that inspired the game. I had no idea they were so rooted in fact.
  • This USGamer article has done a lot to pique my interest in Yakuza 5. Mini-games built around serving ramen and talking to taxi passengers? That is unique.
  • And this is an interesting discussion of violence in Rise of the Tomb Raider. In some ways, it echoes my thoughts about the 2013 reboot.
  • With Xenoblade Chronicles X just out, Eurogamer examines the career of its creator.
  • Finally, Gimmen Gong, who composed much of the soundtrack for Guns of Icarus Online, has written in to tell me that an expanded album is now available. It’s dominated by slow, mournful ambient music, of which my favourites are “The Last Spirits of Time Forgotten” and “Original Main Theme”. There are also several faster-paced tracks; I like “Captain’s Maneuver” and “Grand Skyway of the Armada”. If you liked the GoIO soundtrack, the samples are worth a listen. Note that this album excludes the main menu theme and the drumbeat that plays when going into combat (“Adventure” and “Battle”, respectively), which were composed by Zain Effendi and are included with the collector’s edition of the game. It does include 3 tracks towards the end that overlap with the collector’s edition.

Clippings: Strategic September

Skylines - After DarkSeptember saw several notable strategy releases:

  • The PC version of Shenandoah Studios’ Battle of the Bulge;
  • After Dark, the first paid DLC for Cities: Skylines;
  • The English version of KOEI’s Nobunaga’s Ambition: Sphere of Influence; and
  • Act of Aggression, the latest RTS from Eugen Systems (Wargame).

Battle of the Bulge is the only one I’ve played enough (3 playthroughs1, totalling several hours) to assess. The iPad version has drawn a lot of praise, from the likes of Troy Goodfellow and Bruce Geryk, and wow, does the PC version live up to the hype. It’s the kind of quick-playing, evocative, elegant strategy game I love to evangelise2 – the panzer divisions will run wild for the first few days, while the outgunned Americans buy time, hold strongpoints, and maybe launch the odd spoiling attack. Once the skies clear, and Allied reinforcements arrive, it becomes the Allies’ turn to bludgeon their way back across the map.

As much as I like the game’s design, its implementation suffers from two flaws. First, the AI has the bad habit of overextending itself. On several occasions, I was able to cut off isolated German spearheads, leaving the once-fearsome panzers stranded without fuel or ammo. Second, the game is a bit buggy3 – on a couple of occasions, the screen began shaking and I was unable to give orders, forcing me to quit and reload. Still, the underlying design is so strong that I look forward to seeing the sequels on PC.

While I haven’t had the chance to play much of Nobunaga’s Ambition: SoI or Skylines: After Dark4, I’m optimistic about both. I’m looking forward to unlocking the new entertainment and tourist precincts in After Dark – tourism was rather bare-bones at launch – and the new day-night cycle (added via free patch) is gorgeous. Check out the image at the top of the page!

Nobunaga's Ambition - Map of JapanSpeaking of gorgeous, I love the aesthetic of Nobunaga’s Ambition: SoI (above). KOEI’s strategy franchises, such as Nobunaga’s Ambition and Romance of the Three Kingdoms, have great art, great music, and the only character-driven 4X/grand strategy mechanics outside Crusader Kings. I suspect SoI’s campaign will take quite a while to play – RotK 11 suffered from “strategy late game” syndrome. If I do dig further in, I’ll be sure to report back.

The only one of the four I haven’t picked up is Act of Aggression. First, I’m not sure it’s my cup of tea – it’s a homage to the ’90s, C&C-style RTS (and a spiritual sequel to Eugen’s earlier Act of War), a genre on which I burned out many years ago. Second, its reception has been mixed. On a happier note, Eugen is working on a free map patch for Wargame: Red Dragon –  that might be my cue to jump back into the Cold War.

In non-strategy news:

  1. The Race to the Meuse scenario twice and the randomised campaign once, all three times as the US.
  2. See also Vietnam ’65.
  3. Apparently the bugs are worse on iPad.
  4. Paradox supplied me with a review copy of the Cities: Skylines base game, and I bought After Dark out of my pocket.

Clippings: New and Shiny

Kings Quest startI’ve just picked up the first episode of the new King’s Quest, which came out at the end of July. As a newcomer to the series, I like what I see! One hour in, it’s a pleasant, charming fairytale that has made me laugh out loud a couple of times. My only complaint was a single, reflex-based action sequence – I’m horrible at those things! – and even then, it was manageable. KQ was well-received back at launch, and I look forward to playing more.

Meanwhile, Satellite Reign, the cyberpunk strategy game, is now out to positive reviews (Metacritic link here). From the few minutes I’ve played, I am not entirely impressed by the game’s technical performance – my high-end gaming laptop sees frame rates in the 10-30fps range regardless of whether I set the graphics to low, medium, or high. But when my plan broke down at the end of the tutorial area, and my agents fought for their lives, technical issues melted away in the thrill of the moment. Cautiously optimistic.

In other news:

  • Eurogamer profiles Fredrik Wester, CEO of Paradox. For a more in-depth account of how the Paradox team ended up packing Crusader Kings 1 boxes themselves, check out this Polygon article from 2013 – that has always stuck with me as an example of the travails that come up in small business.
  • Here is an interesting piece about the implicit urban philosophy of Cities: Skylines. Note that I disagree with the old cliche, briefly referenced in that article, that The Sims is an exercise in materialism. That hasn’t been true since Sims 2, which added lifetime desires and an underlying ambition (such as Fortune, Family, or Knowledge) for each sim.

Clippings: Steam and Stars

Several interesting interviews this week:

Space Game Junkie has a Q&A about Paradox’s upcoming Stellaris. Some interesting tidbits — Victoria-style internal politics sound long overdue for the space genre.

The Wargamer interviews the designer of Rule the Waves, the Dreadnought-era naval simulator. Did you know that Master of Orion inspired the ship design in RtW? If you ask me, RtW makes better use of that mechanic than 90% of the space 4X games that followed MOO’s footsteps.

Meanwhile, the Flare Path’s write-up of Pike & Shot: Campaigns has prompted me to add the game to my wishlist. Between QuadrigaVietnam ’65, and Rule the Waves, that column has become hazardous to my wallet…

A retrospective of Circle of Blood/Broken Sword, the classic adventure series.

In non-game news, here is an interesting article about the rise of ebooks on mobile phones, buoyed by larger screen sizes. The article doesn’t discuss “cell phone novels”, which have been around for some time in Japan, complete with a prose style adapted to the medium.

Finally, check out this high-resolution concept art from Endless Legend. Beautiful!

Clippings: Gamescom & Guesses

Update: Paradox has officially unveiled Stellarishere is RPS’ preview, the best I’ve found. It is neither related to Coriolis, nor like EFS. Instead, it sounds more like Distant Worlds, with a dash of the procedural generation that characterised Paradox’s abortive Runemaster. A galaxy populated by randomly generated species, an emphasis on discovery and exploration that will last throughout the game, new factions popping up… I look forward to finding out more.

Gamescom has kicked off, with the big news – for me – yet to come. If my guess is correct, Paradox may be about to announce a new space game!

The facts: Paradox is working on “Project Augustus”, a new mystery game that will be unveiled at Gamescom. Pending the announcement, it has released a number of cryptic hints, which you can find here.

The speculation: Based on the arguments in this post, plus the subsequently released hints, I’m convinced the game will be set in space. Paradox has published an ebook named Coriolis: Dark Between the Stars, apparently set in the universe of a Swedish tabletop RPG. And it has recently registered a new trademark, “Stellaris”.

The wishful thinking on my part: Could Project Augustus be a spiritual successor to the sadly underappreciated Emperor of the Fading Suns? “Dark Between the Stars” is a term from the Fading Suns setting, and a Crusader Kings-style character-driven game would be perfect for a “feudal future” setting such as EFS. I’d love a remake – EFS was one of the most unique games I’ve ever played.

In other news:

Clippings: Rule the Waves!

Amateur admirals, ahoy! This week’s highlight is Rule the Waves, a dreadnought-era naval strategy game. In RtW‘s strategic layer, the player designs new ships, pays for them out of a limited budget, juggles crises, and last but not least, appeases the politicians. In the tactical layer, the battleships, cruisers, and destroyers come out to play. Now that I’ve found my way around the interface, I find the game pretty elegant to play, and after two campaigns, I can report that the game is cracking good fun. My only wish is for a way to automate tactical battles and just focus on the strategic layer.

Here is the Flare Path’s write-up. Here is a Let’s Play over at the official forum. You can purchase the game here – note it takes a little while for the serial number to arrive. A few tips, if you pick it up: (1) submarines are great value – they’re dirt-cheap and seem very effective at forcing enemy countries to the negotiating table, (2) you will need a lot of hulls for coastal patrol/ASW duty as the game goes on – I like building cheap patrol boats on a minesweeper chassis, and (3) playing as the US, most of my battles were cruiser vs cruiser skirmishes (I guess I was too remote for other countries to justify sending in the battleships) – it paid off to invest in outsized heavy cruisers.

This week’s other links:

Clippings: From the Horse’s Mouth

A mix of interviews and retrospectives this week:

Clippings: Post-E3 Edition

No EU4: Common Sense update this weekend, I’m afraid – real life has intervened. The adventures of Meiguo will resume next week.

Between Dishonoured 2, Fallout 4, and The Last Guardian, this E3 was my favourite in years. You’ve probably already seen the high-profile stories; here are a few that slipped through the cracks:

Clippings: Belisarius, Dolphins, and Woolly Dinos

Big week in strategy game news – CA has announced The Last Roman, the first add-on campaign for Total War: Attila. TLR will cover Justinian and Belisarius’ attempt to reconquer the West; here is the announcement video (complete with developer interviews) and here is Rob Zacny’s summary.

Meanwhile, a new round of Hearts of Iron IV previews is up; Three Moves Ahead has a detailed discussion; and quill18 has posted almost 30 minutes of gameplay footage. My take-aways are: (1) the current (alpha) build needs a lot more work; (2) beneath the glitches, there is a lot of potential; and (3) I’m glad the game has been postponed until 2016.

In other news:

Clippings: Special Strategy (and RPG) Sequel Edition

The big news is 2K’s announcement of XCOM 2, due out for PC (and only PC) this November – IGN has the details. Highlights include randomised maps, secondary mission objectives (hopefully this will make missions a bit less grindy), various refinements to combat, and a novel premise – XCOM lost the war; Earth was overrun by aliens; and decades later, the remnants of XCOM are continuing the fight. I will most probably cover the game – although this time, I might turn the difficulty down!

Meanwhile, Paradox has announced a new Crusader Kings 2 expansion focused on Mongols, nomadic tribes, and the Silk Road; you can read the first dev diary here. From what I can see, reactions have divided into four categories: (1) “Woo! Mongols!”; (2) “Woo! Dothraki for mods!”; (3) worries that the larger map will lag the game; and (4) “Paradox should deepen/refine the existing mechanics instead of enlarging the game’s scope”. Personally, I loved the time I spent on the steppes in CK2, and I’d like to see how Paradox can build on that.

Speaking of Paradox, a press preview event is currently on for Hearts of Iron IV. The preview embargo lifts next week, so I’d expect to see articles and footage then.

Finally, at the time of writing, Bethesda is a few hours away from a Fallout-related announcement. Here is a 2010-vintage interview with the developers of Fallout: New Vegas, an excellent game that I still need to finish!


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…


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.