Clippings

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.

Clippings

  • 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.

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  • Sid Meier’s Starships is now out, and reviews are mixed. Apparently, it places a bit too much emphasis on the “light” part of “light strategy”; I will probably give it a miss.
  • The developers of Endless Legend are planning a new free update, to be followed by an expansion pack in April.
  • Another new expansion has been announced for Age of Wonders 3. It will add the Necromancer class and two new species, the Frostlings and the Tigrans,

Clippings

This has been a great few weeks for strategy gaming; we’ve seen the launch of Total War: Attila (very good) and Homeworld: Remastered (on my ‘to play’ list), and Cities: Skylines and Sid Meier’s Starships are imminent. I’ve been playing a review copy of Skylines, so keep an eye out for my thoughts.

In this week’s links:

  1. Here is a great Hearts of Iron IV preview from Rob Zacny at PCGamesN.
  2. Oreshika, a Vita RPG high on my watch list, has released to generally positive reviews. Its premise is unique and intriguing – you command a clan with fixed lifespans. They’re born, they adventure, they gain experience, they die, they pass their abilities and heirloom items onto their kids. This sounds about as close as JRPGs will get to XCOM (and Training Roulette) – I plan to pick this up.
  3. Still on the subject of JRPGs, here is a retrospective of Tri-Ace — the studio that developed one of my favourite series, Valkyrie Profile. Now that Tri-Ace has been acquired by a mobile games developer, I guess I can finally bury my dreams of Valkyrie Profile 3
  4. A love letter to Grim Fandango‘s Rubacava (spoiler warning).

Clippings

After the disappointment of Beyond Earth, early videos of Sid Meier’s Starships are a bit more encouraging. Start with this overview (skip to about 33 minutes in):

Then watch this video (complete with Sid in Starfleet cosplay) for a more in-depth look at gameplay:

This preview contains a bit more information.

In other news:

  • Still in space, here is a preview of Homeworld Remastered.
  • Not having an N64, I missed The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask when it first came out. This review of the new 3DS version doubles as a retrospective.
  • USGamer lists the essential last-generation console RPGs. It’s a good list, with the proviso that it excludes portable games — my one addition would be The Last Story (for Wii; my writeup here). Including portables, I would add several excellent PSP games — Tactics Ogre, Valkyrie Profile: Lenneth, and Final Fantasy Tactics: The War of the Lions.
  • Previews (PCGamesN, RPS)are popping up for Act of Aggression, the upcoming RTS from Wargame developer Eugen Systems.
  • A retrospective of Deus Ex: Human Revolution. My take would be: disappointing narrative, great aesthetic, great fodder for a Ghost in the Shell fan, very good overall experience. I even enjoyed the boss battles!
  • The real XCOM underground base?

Clippings

I’ve been juggling several games, lately. On the PC, the run-up to Attila‘s release has seen me replaying older Total War titles: Shogun 2 for my Let’s Play (Part 2 coming soon!), Shogun 2: Fall of the Samurai, and Napoleon: Total War. And happily, I’m enjoying Fall of the Samurai and Napoleon a bit more this time around.

On the Vita, I’m a little way into the original Suikoden (pretty decent), Grim Fandango Remastered (still delightful), and Rogue Legacy (courtesy of Playstation Plus).  I don’t think you could go wrong with these if you enjoy their respective genres.

In this week’s links:

Clippings: Upcoming Strategy Releases

Total War: Attila previews are trickling out, comprising a mix of write-ups and Youtube videos. Here are the more useful ones I’ve found:

I’m not worried that Attila will launch as poorly as Rome 2 — after that fiasco, the previewers are falling over themselves to be cautious, and so far I haven’t seen reports that Attila is broken. I am a bit worried that the game will turn out like Fall of the Samurai — a brilliant concept that needed a few more months in the oven. Either way, keep an eye out for my thoughts once the game is out.

In other news:

  • Firaxis has announced its latest project, Sid Meier’s Starships. Out of the several previews I’ve read, by far the most informative is Eurogamer’s (hat tip: frogbeastegg). Firaxis stumbled last year with Civilization: Beyond Earth; nonetheless, with Sid himself helming up Starships, I will keep an eye on this one.
  • Hearts of Iron IV has been delayed until late in the June quarter. I can’t say I’m surprised — given that it’s already late January and the game still isn’t in beta, there was no way it could have been finished (and polished!) in time for its original March-quarter release.
  • Finally, here is another quirky Ubisoft gameGrow Home. The trailer doesn’t make it quite clear what the gameplay will involve; given that Ubisoft’s last “small” games (Valiant Hearts and Child of Light) were flawed-but-interesting, this might also be worth a look.

Clippings: Blasts from the Past

My first clippings for the new year! This week, I have two fun pieces about retro games:

  • Here is a piece by Rob Zacny on how TIE Fighter moved past Star Wars’ traditional black-and-white morality. No joke, now I’m itching to write revisionist Star Wars fanfic…
  • And here is a profile of Marc Ericksen, who did the cover art for a host of 1980s and 1990s games. I didn’t realise one person was responsible for so much of the art from that era — he did everything from Tetris to Mega Man 2 and my childhood favourite, Herzog Zwei.

Clippings: Holiday Edition

Just a short update this week, as I’m away on holiday:

  • Before Call of Duty became shorthand for “blockbuster, mass-market games that I’m too cool to play”, there was Modern Warfare. Eurogamer takes a look back at COD4: MW.
  • USGamer previews Code Name: STEAM, a 3DS tactical RPG that it describes as “Valkyria Chronicles, XCOM and Silver Age superhero comics [having] a baby”.

Hope you’re having fun, and I’ll see you in a week’s time.

Clippings: Valkyria, Valkyria, may the bloodline live forever!

Back in 2009, Valkyria Chronicles was the game that made me buy a PS3. It was innovative, beautiful, and grossly under-appreciated by consumers – the sequels moved to the PSP, and the third game never even came out in English. Now the original game is coming to PC, and for fans of tactical RPGs who missed it the first time, it’s well worth a look. Yes, there were balance issues. Yes, the plot was disappointing. But I can forgive that, because at VC‘s heart rested an insight: squad-based tactical TBS can have the spectacle and excitement of shooters. You can see that idea recur in XCOM, and I believe the Xenonauts developers will follow suit with their next game.

Here’s some gameplay footage of Valkyria Chronicles on the PS3. Skip to 3:00 to see the actual battle. Note that whenever you see the player taking a shot, whether it hits is determined by the soldier’s accuracy (as in an RPG or strategy game) rather than the player’s skill:

(Edit to add: USGamer has a good overview of the Valkyria Chronicles series’ history.)

In other news:

  • Something I forgot to mention last week – I tried on an Oculus Rift for the first time (in a non-gaming context). The technology isn’t quite there yet… and all the same, it was impressively realistic. The obvious gaming applications are first-person shooters, space sims, and the like; I think it could also work well for an adventure game such as Sherlock Holmes: Crimes & Punishments. I’d love to see how it looks in a year or two.
  • When I learned that Platinum was developing a Legend of Korra tie-in game, I thought this was a match made in heaven. In the end, reviewers panned the game — but word of mouth is much more positive. Check out the user reviews on Steam.
  • The studio behind King of Dragon Pass is working on a sequel!
  • Panzer Front Ausf B, a reportedly excellent 2004 PS2 tank sim.

Clippings: Countdown to Planetfall

Heads up! Civilization: Beyond Earth pre-loads are now available – the game will unlock on the 24th (Friday), just in time for the weekend. The download is 2.7GB.

Not much to report otherwise. I’m pecking at XCOM: Enemy Within and Sherlock Holmes: Crimes and Punishments on the PC, both of which I enjoy – in fact, I fired up XCOM so I could compare something with Xenonauts, and after rediscovering the joys of Firaxis’ game, I can’t go back. On PS3, I’m playing Okami HD, the port of one of my favourite games of all time. And on Vita, I’m slowly progressing through the marathon that is Persona 4: Golden.

In this week’s links:

Clippings: The Sherlock Scan, Part 2

Sherlock Holmes: Crimes and Punishments is now out, and emboldened by generally favourable reviews, I snagged my copy. Two hours in, it’s really good!

The key is that Crimes and Punishments sells the illusion that I’m experiencing a Holmes adventure. Its production values are pretty good, and the writing and voice acting are very good. It also has a sense of humour. For all the cool authority Holmes projects, Watson is clearly the one who has to put up with him on a daily basis, and their banter is laugh-out-loud funny. The traditional adventure game “examine everything” mechanic makes perfect sense in a game about Sherlock Holmes, a man renowned for his powers of observation. And uniquely, it’s possible to reach the wrong conclusion on the basis of the evidence. My one gripe – there is no “save anywhere”. There isn’t even “save and exit”. Instead, the game uses a checkpoint system.

Meanwhile, Jane Jensen informs me via email that the soundtrack for the Gabriel Knight remake will not be sold separately:

Hi, Peter – no, it is only available digitally as a gift with the pre-order of the game.  It will not be sold separately due to our licensing agreement with Activision.

In other news:

  • Impressions seem favourable for Age of Wonders III‘s expansion pack, Golden Realms, and for Endless Legend. Both are on my “buy on sale” list. Reviewers are generally positive on Endless Legend‘s artwork and original world, with the caveat being the game’s AI. And it sounds as though Golden Realms addresses pacing, my main concern with the base AOW3.
  • Hands-on previews are trickling in for Civilization: Beyond Earth and This War of Mine. I wonder how much depth there will be in This War – its premise is certainly great.
  • And speaking of premises, check out SWAP, a capture-the-flag FPS minus the shooting, and upcoming indie tycoon game Big Pharma.
  • The newly announced Zodiac is a Vita and iOS game that owes a clear debt to FFT (name and music), and to Valkyrie Profile and other side-scrollers (gameplay). I am a little concerned by the possibility it might be free-to-play – we’ll see if that’s confirmed.
  • Finally, USGamer takes a look back at Resonance of Fate, a PS3/X360 JRPG that I’d like to finish one day.

Clippings: Xenos and Wastelands

I haven’t forgotten about that Europa Universalis IV piece! I have half of it written, along with half of a first impressions piece about Xenonauts. The short version is, Xenonauts is a clever homage to the original X-COM, and my first seven hours have been a blast – but I wonder if the next seven will be as fun. Perhaps it’s the rose-coloured glasses talking, but Xenonauts‘ ground combat seems slower and more grindy than X-COM‘s. It’s definitely slower and more grindy than Firaxis’ XCOM: Enemy Unknown.

Just a few links this week:

Clippings: Sims, Space, and Seedless

The good news is that The Sims 4 is out. The bad news is that reviews are lukewarm. Read one review, and you’ve pretty much read them all. The consensus is that TS4‘s new features, such as the ability for Sims to multi-task, don’t make up for the loss of TS3 features such as a wide-open neighbourhood. As someone who’s loved The Sims ever since the first game, this is a bit of a disappointment – I think I’ll stick with 3.

One game that has come out of nowhere is space-opera RTS Ancient Space, developed by new studio Creative Forge and published by Paradox. Beyond a couple of good-looking videos, details are scanty. I don’t think I’ve seen a single hands-on preview, and this for a game due out next week. For now, I’m cautious. Once the game’s out, I would love to hear impressions.

Did you know that there was an ill-fated attempt in the ’90s to create a Witcher video game? Meanwhile, The Witcher 3‘s release date – next February – has crept up on me. I still haven’t finished the second game…

What I have finished is my Ayutthaya run in Europa Universalis IV. Good fun! I’m also this close to finishing Final Fantasy X HD, which is very good despite a few flaws. I’ve written part of a follow-up article about EU4, and I will probably post some concluding thoughts on FFX, so stay tuned. And I’m fiddling with a preview build of  Offworld Trading Companyif you have any questions you’d like me to ask Soren Johnson, please leave them in the comments.

In book news, I’ve been reading quite a bit by fantasy author Daniel Abraham. Most recently, I’ve been reading his Long Price Quartet: the first two books are decent and original, the third book was a WHOA, and I hope the fourth will be as good. Here is a good write-up of the series. I hope to add my own write-up about Abraham once I’ve finished the last book.

Lastly, if anyone wants a free copy of the original Warlock: Master of the Arcane, please comment during the next week – I picked up several copies from Humble Bundle promotion. They’ll expire if not redeemed by the 22nd.

 

 

 

Clippings: The Sherlock Scan

 

Above is a trailer for Crimes and Punishments, Frogwares’s upcoming Sherlock Holmes game, which showcases Holmes’ fabled ability to size up a person in a single glance. I do see the risk that the Sherlock scan will turn out to be an unintuitive guessing game, or a glorified pixel hunt, and from what I recall, the previous Frogwares games received lukewarm reviews. Still, my interest is piqued — the trailer looks pretty cool, and the separate gameplay trailer made me chuckle. The game will come out on September 30, and looks like one to watch.

 

In book news, I’m slowly going through the superbly readable The Guns of August. Good if you want an introduction to the opening days of World War 1… although I should note that it doesn’t have much to say about why the war broke out. I’ve also recently read a couple of very good specialist books on World War 2, Adam Tooze’s  Wages of Destruction and Gerhard Weinberg’s A World at Arms. All three books are candidates for the reading list I’d like to create for this site.

 

I can also report that the Android version of King of Dragon Pass is mostly good. My play-through was marred by two bugs – one minor, with the interface, and one major, which interfered with my choice of difficulty and game length. As at the time of writing, the game length option has now been fixed, while the difficulty settings are still bugged. The game itself is still very good, and its interface otherwise works well on my Note 8, so I would recommend it once the bugs are gone.

 

Other than that, I’ve been re-playing, re-reading, and re-watching old favourites. Europa Universalis IV as Ayutthaya – a Southeast Asian nation located in modern Thailand – has been a lot of fun, as I’ve progressed from middle power to the new top dog in Asia. The Wargame: Red Dragon campaign has also been a lot of fun, if sometimes hair-pullingly difficult; managing to stop modern Soviet tanks with 20-year-old relics, a handful of helicopters, and a lot of rocket artillery has been a lesson in improvisation. I’m also re-reading, for the umpteenth time, Lois McMaster Bujold’s The Curse of Chalion – the book I linked to last week. It’s as good as I remember, and for two more days, it’s still pay what you want! And I’m slowly rewatching my favourite anime, Moribito: Guardian of the Spirit – a warm-hearted tale of adventure, loyalty, and parenthood in one of the best fantasy worlds I’ve seen.

 

This week’s other links:

Clippings: Post-Gamescom Edition

Over the weekend, I finished the last episode of Telltale Games’ seriously underrated Back to the Future series. I wrote about the first episode last year — they’re good, funny, and strike a balance between riffing off the movies and establishing a character of their own. Well worth a look for adventure gamers.

In this week’s news:

  1. Relic announced Ardennes Assault, a single-player standalone expansion for Company of Heroes 2. AA will feature a dynamic campaign with persistent units – two of the coolest features in Wargame.
  2. Amongst other Gamescom announcements, Paradox showed ten minutes of Hearts of Iron IV gameplay. The new footage includes our first good look at HOI4‘s “battle plans” system. The battle plans look great – you paint objectives and movement paths on the map, then assign divisions to each objective with a simple drag-select. If this works properly, it will be a very welcome UI innovation.
  3. And speaking of Paradox, here is a post-apocalyptic America mod for Crusader Kings 2. Features include a “Mouse Tribe” near the remnants of Disneyworld, mercenary companies named after old sports teams, and invading, red-coated soldiers who worship a sinister queen. Cool!
  4. Here is a trailer for a remake of Gabriel Knight: Sins of the Fathers, the ’90s adventure game. What made me sit up was the music – I wonder if the soundtrack will be sold separately?
  5. Eurogamer previews a PS3, PS4, and Vita tactical RPG named Natural Doctrine. What makes me leery is the preview’s mention of “a no-nonsense defeat condition that sees the death of one friendly unit bringing the whole mission to a close“. That sounds like a recipe for frustration…
  6. Lastly, US Gamer observes that police games are almost never about policing. This sounds like a specific instance of a broader problem – video games are almost always about combat, even when that doesn’t really suit the theme.

Clippings: Acts of an Aggressive Dragon

I’m working on a write-up of Transistor, which I finished over the weekend. I still like the game – but not as much as I did at first, courtesy of a disappointing ending. Mechanically, it’s impressively original — but storywise, I’ll stick to Bastion.

In this week’s news:

  1. Eugen Systems, of Wargame fame, has formally unveiled its next project — Act of Aggression. The press release describes AoA as “a return to the 90’s Golden Era of real time strategy games, delivering… base building, resource management, [and] unit production”. After the brilliant, innovative Wargame, this strikes me as the video game equivalent of a master chef deciding to make French fries and a hamburger. On the other hand, Eugen’s track record with Wargame suggests that will be be one tasty hamburger!
  2. King of Dragon Pass will come to Android next week, reports Pocket Tactics. Still no confirmation of the previously mulled Vita port; I have to suspect the Vita’s screen is a little small for such a text-heavy game.
  3. Finally, for sheer uniqueness, check out this interview at Space Game Junkie about Imperia — billed as an attempt to create “Crusader Kings 2 in space”.

Clippings: Releases and Re-releases

Several interesting titles have popped up on PC:

  1. Unrest, an indie RPG with a unique setting (a fantasy land based on ancient India) and a focus on social, not physical conflict — one reviewer only encountered a single battle during the whole game. Check out some of the reviews — it sounds as though this is short on budget, abrupt in the way it resolves its plot, but long on originality. If you try it, I’d love to hear what you think.
  2. Commander: The Great War, a strategic-level World War 1 title from the developers (and publishers) of Panzer Corps, is now on Steam with a 33% discount until 2 August. It seems well-regarded, and after messing around for a few minutes, strikes me as quite approachable – closer in complexity to Panzer General than Hearts of Iron III.
  3. Lastly, another JRPG has made it to PC – Trails in the Sky is now available on GOG, Gamersgate, and Steam. It’s decent, unremarkable comfort food for genre fans – I wrote about the PSP version a couple of years ago. If you’re in the target market, the early-bird price of $17 strikes me as fair.

Clippings: Perspectives on Strategy

 

The above is IncGamers’ video preview of Legions of Ashworld, an indie strategy game with an almost unique twist: you move around the overworld in first person, switching between generals as you rally the free lands against an invading horde. (I say “almost” unique as the game is inspired by a 1980s title, Lords of Midnight.) The idea intrigues me… but I’m not sure how well it would work in practice. If you have to switch between multiple generals , surely it would be simpler to use a traditional, map-driven interface? The first-person idea seems as though it would be a better fit for a game where you play one, and only one, character, a la Mount & Blade or Romance of the Three Kingdoms X. I’d like to hear your impressions .

In other news, below is a gameplay trailer for Civilization: Beyond Earth:

 

 

On the surface, the resemblance to Civ V is clear — but then again, Alpha Centauri felt unique and marvellous despite sharing so much gameplay DNA with Civ II. For further reading, Civilization V Analyst has a good round-up of information that’s been released.

Lastly, speaking of Civ, here is an interesting piece in Eurogamer in which Firaxis staff talk about the lessons to be learned from board games.

Clippings: Tropico-ld War

Hope everyone has been well! I’m back home now; while I was away, E3 came and went, while we also saw the launch of several strategy games: Distant Worlds: Universe, Tropico 5, and Xenonauts.

After completing my first game of Tropico 5, I must say I’m a little disappointed — I found Tropico 4 both funnier (I realise this is a very subjective complaint) and, in some ways, a sharper satire: the building options in T4 allowed players to brainwash schoolkids or back specific factions, and T5 seems to have fewer of those inspired little touches. From a mechanical standpoint, the new era system seems better on paper than in practice — it does produce more organic city development, as the initial colonial town gradually sprouts new factory districts, but the problem is that there just isn’t much to do in the early eras.

On the other hand, T5 seems better at capturing a dictator’s mindset — there is now a larger incentive to invest in one’s military, since (a) rebellions seem more frequent and (b) being invaded by a foreign power is no longer an automatic Game Over. (In fact, foreign invasions are now a semi-regular occurrence.) At one point, “soldier” was the second most common occupation on my island, after “farmer”! That said, I’m still learning the game, so my conclusions aren’t yet set in stone.

Speaking of the Cold War, GMT Games is Kickstarting a digital version of well-rated board game Twilight Struggle. The asking price is $10 for an Android copy, $25 for a PC copy, or $30 for one of each. Personally, I’ve wanted to play Twilight Struggle for a long time, but that PC price strikes me as a little expensive — for $25 I could buy Xenonauts. Has anyone tried the board version?

Clippings: Random Battles

I’m taking a break from strategy to progress through Final Fantasy X and Child of Light, and it strikes me that I really like both their battle systems. They manage to combine simplicity, speed, and enough depth to satisfy — I never feel as though I could coast through by hitting “attack” over and over again. I’m planning to write a couple of short articles examining them in more detail; for now, here is Siliconera’s take on what designers should avoid in their battle systems.

In other news:

  1. Veteran games writer Bruce Geryk now has his own site, and if you enjoy his specialties (strategy, military history, and wargames), it’s worth checking out! Bruce’s dissection of Master of Orion 3, from many years back, is still one of my favourite pieces of games writing — ever since I’ve read it I’ve wished for a “Crusader Kings 2 in space”.
  2. Several years back I wrote about Conquest of Elysium 3, a “3x” strategy game from the creators of Dominions, and the developers have now announced an Android tablet port, due out at the end of the month. This has promise, although the key question will be how well the interface will work on a tablet.

Clippings: It’s Pretty!

 

How’s that for a striking visual style? The above trailer is for Apotheon, an upcoming side-scroller for PS4 and PC. I’m not very familiar with the game, but I applaud the developers’ decision to depict the world of Greek mythology world with art inspired by Greek vases.

Speaking of gorgeous games, you have to see Child of Light in motion — still screenshots don’t do it justice. I’ve just started the game on PS3, and so far it’s promising — stay tuned for more.

In this week’s links:

  1. Here is a preview of This War of Mine, an upcoming game that puts the player in charge of a group of civilians trying to survive in a war-torn city. I hope the developers will handle the subject respectfully and well; it’s a big break from gaming’s s typical power fantasies.
  2. Soren Johnson, the designer of Civ IV, speaks to Rock, Paper, Shotgun about his upcoming strategy game.
  3. Have you noticed that game protagonists are ageing in line with their creators? (Note the link contains spoilers for Final Fantasy X).
  4. An argument why we shouldn’t write off the Vita. And here is a look at some upcoming Vita indies. Looking at my own experience, I’ve used my Vita for JRPG re-releases (Persona 4 Golden, Final Fantasy X HD), exclusives (Gravity Rush, Tearaway) and one indie (the cute, charming Thomas was Alone). Do I wish there were more games for Vita? Certainly. But the combination of “core” titles, portability, and instant suspend/resume makes it ideal for busy gamers, and if a Vita port exists, then I will make that my version of choice.

Clippings: New, Upcoming, and Popular

So far, I’m quite happy with my newest and shiniest games, Wargame: Red Dragon and the Vita re-release of Final Fantasy X. Red Dragon is the sequel to my favourite game of 2013, Wargame: AirLand Battle, and it’s pretty much more of the same — not an urgent buy unless you are devoted to the series, but for me, worth what I paid.

Meanwhile, Final Fantasy X pleasantly surprised me — I adore Final Fantasy Tactics but my relationship with the numbered games is far more hit and miss. I love their music, their production values, and often their set-pieces and imagery and characters, but their gameplay, specifically the profusion of random encounters, tends to drive me batty. This, so far, is different  — the turn-based battle system involves clear and interesting trade-offs, while I find the main character surprisingly engaging (despite all the ire he draws from the fanbase). I look forward to playing more!

There’s one more impending release I plan to grab — Child of Light, due out at the end of April/ This week’s links mostly concern other new and upcoming games:

  1. Did you know that Dota 2 is the most popular Steam game (as measured by total hours played since March 2009), Skyrim is #6, and Civilization V is #8? For me, the real surprise was that Empire: Total War came in at #12, ahead of Terraria, Borderlands 2, and Fallout: New Vegas! But looking at hours per user changes things; here Football Manager 2014 takes the crown, while Skyrim rises to #2. Here is the original analysis by Ars Technica, and here is the follow-up. (Hat tip to frogbeastegg.)
  2. The sequel to Half-Minute Hero has now launched on Steam; here are USGamer’s impressions. I liked the PSP original, a clever little game with a unique conceit — each level was an 8-bit RPG distilled down to 30 seconds!
  3. The good news is that King of Dragon Pass, the ’90s PC classic that combined strategy and interactive fiction into a unique package, is coming to Android. KoDP was well-received on iOS, and I think its interface and content make it perfect for touchscreens. The bad news is that a Vita port – something I’d looked forward to – is still 0nly a “maybe”.
  4. And speaking of the Vita, Sony has announced another three games will make their way from Japan to the West: Soul Sacrifice Delta, Freedom Wars, and the most interesting to me, Oreshika: Tainted Bloodlines. Sony describes Oreshika as:

an RPG in which you take charge of an ancient Japanese clan that have been cursed with a maximum lifespan of just 2 years. Your task is to lead the clan on their quest to lift the curse and enlist the help of gods inspired by Japanese mythology to make sure each new generation of the clan is more powerful than the last.

Clippings: The Turtle Moves!

Night_watch_discworldI’m in the midst of a selective re-read of Terry Pratchett’s Discworld novels, and while individual books are often hit-and-miss (hence the “selective”), the series as a whole is as much a marvel as it was when I discoverd it all those years ago. What starts as a series of gags about fantasy cliches (and, for the first few books, not even especially good gags) evolves into a mix of humour, adventure, and social commentary, that, at its best, outdoes what it originally parodied. Here is a good article chronicling that growth.

The Discworld novels also spawned three adventure games; I briefly played one of them, many years, ago, and I still remember that if you asked the weedy main character* to ‘examine’ himself, he said he was “really six foot tall, bronzed, and rippling with muscle, but the artist has had a bad day”. Here is Hardcore Gaming’s write-up of the games. And here is a video Let’s Play of Discworld Noir, the third and final game.

* Rincewind, the “wizzard” who can’t even spell wizard.

In other news:

  1. The gloriously named PS2 action-RPG Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Summoner: Raidou Kuzunoha vs the Soulless Army is being re-released as a download on the US PSN store. I played a bit of this years ago, and while it’s mechanically flawed — its controls were clunky and the random encounter rate was way too high — it also featured glorious music and a unique setting, Jazz-Age Japan. I keep meaning to finish it one day!
  2. Have you noticed that, increasingly, video game female leads are daughters (or surrogate daughters), not love interests?  Here is an Edge article on the “rise of the protagonist dad”.
  3. Julian Gollop, creator of the original X-COM, is back! Here is his Kickstarter campaign for Chaos Reborn a fantasy turn-based tactics game with a striking aesthetic.

Clippings: Black Phantom Edition

Console versions of Dark Souls II are now out! Here is a good comparison betwee the three games in the series. All the reviews I’ve seen are glowing — but silent on my biggest concern. In DS2, you can be invaded by other players at any time, a change from the nice risk/reward trade-off in the previous games (if you wanted to summon in other players for co-op, you opened yourself to the risk of invasion). I love these games, but given my awful track record in PvP, that’s a potential deal-breaker. Can anyone comment on how well it works?

In other news:

  1. I hear good things about Qvadriga, a newly released turn-based chariot racing sim — how often do you see that? No reviews out yet, but here’s the preview that caught my eye, back in November, and here is a demo.
  2. Remember Territoire, the upcoming game from the studio behind Recettear? It’s still upcoming, but here are impressions of its (Japanese-only) demo.
  3. I think this may be an actual scoop: while you can’t access the Wargame: Red Dragon unit database from the game’s homepage, you can punch its URL straight into your browser. It looks like a work in progress (and the URL even calls it “rd_test”), but it still provides fun material for theorycrafting. Mm, M1A2 with 25AP…
  4. Anyone remember SimEarth? Universim sounds like an attempt at a successor.

Clippings: Welcome (Back) to the Caribbean Edition

 

Above is Tropico 5‘s first, brief gameplay trailer! Graphically, it looks similar to Tropico 4, but feature-wise the two games should be quite different — while T4 was rooted squarely in the Cold War, T5 promises to be about developing your island from colonial times through to the present day. Here is a good Strategy Informer interview highlighting a couple of the changes.

 

In other news:

  1. One of my previous concerns about Unsung Story was the absence of localisers Alexander O Smith and Joseph Reeder, the people responsible for Tactics Ogre‘s brilliant English script. But now developer Playdek has confirmed they will join the project —  too late for the Kickstarter, but welcome news nonetheless!
  2. Here is an interesting review of Out There, a new iOS/Android game that seems like a purely exploration-oriented FTL. Has anybody tried it?
  3. Previews are coming in for Age of Wonders 3, due out at the end of March. Here’s a general preview, whose verdict is ‘more of the same – and that’s good’, and here’s one that focuses on what’s new.
  4. In Hearts of Iron IV news, here is another interesting interview, while the game’s second developer diary elaborates on the new production system.
  5. And last of all, here is a Crusader Kings 2: Rajas of India interview. Notably, this confirms there will be a “‘diplomatic range’ to stop most interactions between extremely distant realms”.

Clippings: The Old JRPGs and the New

While this blog tends to focus on strategy games, there is another genre I love just as much — the JRPG. Their sheer length means I tend to play them in parallel with other games, and I’m still making my way through two I started last year: Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch on PS3 and Persona 4: Golden on PS Vita.  I have an… interesting response to Ni no Kuni; in so many ways it exemplifies the mediocre (and often bad) mechanics for which the genre is infamous, but its world and overall experience are so delightful that I keep coming back. I’m working on a piece about NNK‘s strengths; I hope to share it with you soon.

By contrast, Persona 4: Golden, one part dungeon crawler and one part social simulator, mechanically stands head and shoulders above its peers because it recognises the importance of interesting decisions. P4:G’s story runs to a strict schedule (one in-game year) and there is not enough time to do everything and befriend everyone, so it matters how you spend that time! Its predecessor, Persona 3, did something similar with great success; at the time I wrote that P3 was the most I’d ever roleplayed in a single-player RPG. Here is Jon Shafer’s (of Civilization V and At the Gates fame) take on Persona 4 and its genre; he makes the point that “interesting decisions” and “relaxing game” are not necessarily compatible.

More recently, I’ve tossed two more RPGs into the stew: Playstation-vintage Final Fantasy VIII and the more recent Wii release The Last Story. I used to be a huge FF8 fan — in fact, I’m sitting under a pair of FF8 posters as I type this. Its early 3D graphics have not aged well, but its world still brims with attention to ambient detail — the very thing I love about JRPGs. The Last Story, meanwhile, is from the creator of Final Fantasy but so far — I’m all of 30 minutes in — feels very different, with more action-oriented combat and an emphasis on coordinating with AI teammates. I look forwad to playing more!

Here are this week’s other links:

  1. The man who got Aeris’ theme (Final Fantasy VII) onto a classical music site. It’s a lovely song!
  2. Chrono Cross never came out in PAL territories, but this retrospective is tempting me to buy it from the US PSN store.
  3. If you played Final Fantasy VI, this piece of fanart should make you grin.
  4. Not JRPG-specific: the heaven and hell of video games. I posted this link years ago, not long after I started this site, but it’s so good I had to share it again.
  5. Not JRPG-related at all, but very cool: this is an absolutely gorgeous fan map of Midgard, a “Vikings conquer Europe” alternate timeline from the GURPS book I linked last month.

Clippings: Strategy Preview Edition

For the last few weeks, I’ve been watching the Kickstarter campaign for Unsung Story: Tales of the Guardians, a collaboration between mobile developer Playdek and tactical RPG legend Yasumi Matsuno. Imagine if Brian Reynolds were to announce a spiritual successor to Alpha Centauri; that’s how much I’d like to see Matsuno follow up Final Fantasy Tactics. But dig deeper, and I have several reservations.  The game will only come to my platform of choice, Vita, if the Kickstarter hits a distant stretch goal. Three of Matsuno’s regular collaborators have been tapped for the campaign (artist Akihiko Yoshida; composer Hitoshi Sakimoto, whose work I’ve featured on this site; and localiser Alexander O Smith), but only Yoshida will be involved at the base level — the other two are also remote stretch goals. And, at least until this update, detail about game mechanics has been scant — I can’t help but feel this campaign would have done better had the project been further along. I’ve reached out to Playdek for an interview; in the meantime, here are good articles by Rock, Paper, Shotgun (h/t Matt Bowyer) and USGamer.

In other news:

  1. Previews are now out for Paradox’s latest announcements. For Hearts of Iron IV, check out Strategy Informer and PCGamesN; for CK2: Rajas of India, I like the articles from PC Gamer and Rock, Paper, Shotgun. There’s less detail on Runemaster and EU4: Wealth of Nations, but IncGamers has a little bit about the latter.
  2. And speaking of Paradox, I laughed at some of the bizarre screenshots in this compilation.
  3. Lastly, PCGMedia has a good preview of Wargame: Red Dragon. The changes to the campaign system sound great!