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:

Musical Monday: “Drunken Sailor” (Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag)

One of the things I love about AC4 is its use of … well, not quite period music – Wikipedia dates this song to the 1800s, well over a century after the game takes place – but pre-existing folk music and shanties. For me, that does a lot to root the game in a sense of time and place. Enjoy!

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Oriental Empires Q&A, with Bob Smith

This entry is part 2 of 2 in the series Oriental Empires


Oriental Empires is an upcoming 4X strategy game that will cover most of Chinese history, from 1500 BC to 1500 AD. My interest piqued, I conducted an email Q&A with developer Bob Smith. Read on:


About the developers

1. Hello, and welcome to the site! Please tell us a bit about yourselves.

Development of Oriental Empires is being led by R.T. Smith and John Carline, two veteran strategy game developers with more than 30 years’ experience between them. Previously they worked together on the Total War series of games, in roles including Project Director and Lead Artist, and have credits on many other AAA titles from studios including Crystal Dynamics, Pandemic, Frontier Developments, and Slightly Mad Studios.


2. Your best-known previous work was Total War. What lessons have you learned from your experience with those games?

That you can’t please everyone, that you’ll never ship the perfect product, and that the bigger your team, the more features you’ll have that don’t quite join up.


About Oriental Empires

3. At first glance, Oriental Empires looks like a cross between Civilization V, Endless Legend, and Romance of the Three Kingdoms XI. What are your influences and how have they shaped the game?

The initial inspiration was to create a civilization building game based on Eastern civilization, and having an interesting combat system. Superficially this is similar to Civ, but I don’t think the games feel alike to play. The battles obviously have some similarity to Total War games, but again, the resemblance is superficial as you don’t directly control them. History, reality, space 4X games, and miniature and board games are also influences.

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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:

Let’s Play EU4: Common Sense! Part 1: Welcome to Meiguo

This entry is part 11 of 12 in the series Europa Universalis IV

In 1402, the Ming Emperor’s uncle usurped the throne.

The imperial palace burned.

According to one legend, the Emperor survived, and fled overseas; Zheng He’s fleets were dispatched to hunt him down.

What if the Emperor made it further than Zheng could have dreamed?

Hello, and welcome back to my coverage of Europa Universalis IV. Since I last wrote about EU4, it has received a further two expansions – El Dorado, which added a custom nation designer, and the newly released Common Sense. For my current game, I will play as Meiguo, a Chinese custom nation on the west coast of North America.

This is Meiguo in 1456, 12 years after the game began:

EU4 Welcome to Meiguo

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Very Early Impressions: Battle Academy

This entry is part 1 of 1 in the series Battle Academy

So far1, I’m impressed by Battle Academy, the 2010-vintage World War 2 TBS. The vibrant, comic-book aesthetic charmed me straight away, while the game mechanics present tactical concepts in a clear, elegant manner. Light tanks are zippy and thinly armoured, making them best suited for reconnaisance or mopping up. Infantry is horribly vulnerable in the open, and lethal when striking from ambush. Armour and artillery can suppress defenders, allowing friendly infantry to safely close in. Bunkers and concealed anti-tank guns are potent force multipliers – in the screenshot below, my entrenched Tommies gutted an Afrika Korps charge:

Battle Academy - 8th Army DefenceCurrently, the base game, which includes three campaigns (North Africa, Normandy, Ardennes) is available for $1 as part of the weekly Humble Bundle. For those interested, that price makes it a screaming buy.

  1. I’m three missions and 2-3 hours in.

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!

What I’ve been reading

I’ve taken a break from European political/military history (Iron Kingdom, Frederick the Great: A Military History, Britain’s War Machine) to power through several fantasy books:

  • A Natural History of Dragons, by Marie Brennan – the adventures of a young woman who sets out on an expedition to study dragons. Continued in The Tropic of Serpents. I quite like these – decent, easy reads with a distinctive first-person voice. I also like their meandering tour of the setting, which seems analogous to early nineteenth-century Earth.
  • Throne of the Crescent Moon by Saladin Ahmed. Fast-moving sword and sorcery yarn, in which an ageing, world-weary monster-hunter battles necromancers in a fantastic Middle East. Would make a great game.

I’ve also started The Early Chinese Empires: Qin and Han, the first book of the Chinese history series whose Ming Dynasty entry I included in my recommended reading list. Very good so far… with one exception. Kindle readers be warned – the ebook edition is missing most of the illustrations! “To view this image, refer to the print version of this title,” it says – and had I known that, I’d just have bought the print version.

Musical Monday: The Byzantine Empire (Crusader Kings II), composed by Andreas Waldetoft

Last Christmas, I spent some very pleasurable hours in the shoes of Alexios Komnenos, Emperor of Byzantium, trying to rebuild my battered empire. This week’s song, added as part of the “Songs of Byzantium” DLC for Crusader Kings II, formed part of that experience. Enjoy!

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