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!

Clippings – 19 January 2014

I’ve recently finished Tearaway, the PS Vita platformer from the folks behind LittleBigPlanet, and it’s a real charmer. Details coming in my review — I’ve already written half, so stay tuned!

  1. As a reminder, I’d love to hear your suggestions for Musical Monday. I’ve had two entries so far, both from longtime reader Josh – any more?
  2. Final Fantasy VI for Android is now out — but not everyone likes its visual style. Speaking of Final Fantasy, I’ve seen Lightning Returns, the latest Final Fantasy XIII spin-off, compared to the sainted Valkyrie Profile, and now I’m intrigued. Anyone tried either FFVI (Android) or Lightning Returns?
  3. A purported attempt to smuggle escape aids into German PoW camps… via Monopoly sets.
  4. This meme/cartoon is about Victoria 2, but it also applies to every other AI ally in a strategy game.
  5. And here is a (temporarily) themed Dark Souls cafe in Tokyo, complete with “estus flasks”.

Clippings: Holiday Edition

Hope you are all having a great holiday season! Here are the links I have for you:

  1. The best of the bunch isn’t related to gaming (and has done the rounds for a while – I first saw a variation years ago) but is too good not to share. My favourite: “expand (a+b)^n”.
  2. The Steam Christmas sale is under way, but the more impressive deals, if you have a US address, can be found at Amazon. Glancing through their catalogue, I’ve seen Europa Universalis IV for $10,  the excellent and under-loved Skulls of the Shogun for $5, all three Bioshock games for $15, and XCOM plus the Enemy Within expansion for $20. Worth a look!
  3. Speaking of Amazon, does this ad remind any other science fiction buffs of Bat Durston?
  4. This BBC article about the sustainability of the Hollywood blockbuster model sounds a little familiar after the last 12 months of AAA gaming.  However, Hollywood seems to be cleverer — only 10% of its blockbusters flop, down from 50% a few decades ago.
  5. With a beta of Wasteland 2 now playable for early customers, this is a good time to revisit this RPS interview about the original Wasteland. The best part is the anecdote at the end.
  6. I missed Final Fantasy X (and its less-regarded sequel, X-2) on PS2, so I’m quite pleased that they’ll be coming soon, in English, to the Vita.

Clippings: Interstellar Edition

Over the weekend I’ve spent a bit of time with Small World 2, the newly released Steam port of the board game, and I quite like it – it’s simple but well-designed, worth the money I shelled out on Kickstarter. If you enjoy board games and light strategy games, such as last year’s Ticket to Ride, this is one to check out.

Here are the interesting links I’ve found:

  1. Speaking of Kickstarters, remember one earlier this year for Maia, a sort of Dungeon Keeper-on-an-alien-world? Eurogamer’s impressions of the alpha are fascinating, and make the game sound almost like science fiction Dwarf Fortress.
  2. Seminal space game Elite was before my time, but RPS has a good preview of upcoming sequel Elite Dangerous  (hat tip to reader Peter Davies).
  3. While many space games appear similar, upcoming first-person action/strategy game Flagship sounds as though it’ll be unique. Here is Space Game Junkie’s interview with the developers.
  4. In terrestrial news, I hear good things about 3DS JRPG Bravely Default and its battle system. Anyone tried it out?
  5. I am a huge fan of PS2 classics Ico and Shadow of the Colossus, and here is an interview with creator Fumito Ueda. No update on The Last Guardian, sadly, other than a somewhat ominous comment by Ueda that his “creative work was mostly finished a long time ago.”
  6. And finally, here is an interesting piece about the state of the Japanese games industry, which (amongst other things) argues that “2013 was the year in which Japan discovered independent gaming and crowdfunding”. If you were a fan of PSP RPG Trails in the Sky, this article is almost worth reading just for the concept art from the upcoming sequel.

Clippings: Android Battles at Antares Edition

MOO2 Android

To this day, Master of Orion II is still the best ‘traditional’ (i.e. not Distant Worlds) space 4X game I’ve encountered, and now I can play it on the go! Above is a screenshot of MOO2 running on an Android tablet; with an 8″ screen (Samsung Galaxy Note 8) everything is large enough for comfort, although I do recommend a stylus for tapping the little plus and minus signs on the ship design screen. There is a little lag, and trying to “right-click” can be a hassle, but these are minor blemishes on an experience that is not just playable, but very enjoyable. Here are the steps that I followed; you will need DOSbox and a copy of MOO2 (the game version from GoG works fine; and I’m using DOSBox Turbo, the paid DOSbox port recommended by that link). Now, if I can just work out how to take down that Klackon starbase…


In other news:


  1. I was not a fan of Total War: Rome II, whose campaign was deeply flawed both in its execution and in its sprawling design. Now, Creative Assembly has announced a new expansion pack covering Caesar’s conquest of Gaul, which will “[offer] a tighter scope in terms of time and geography than Rome II“. We’ve seen this before in CA’s progression from the vast Empire to the more compact Napoleon, so this really represents CA (re-)learning its lessons; time will tell how well Caesar in Gaul succeeds.
  2. The Psychology of Video Games is one of the most interesting and unique industry-related sites, and two recent pieces (on avatars and game nostalgia) are worth a read.
  3. Here are two pieces of XCOM-related humour.
  4. And here are some cool manga-style illustrations that graced a Japanese edition of D&D (hat tip to reader LeSquide).

Clippings: PERSONA!!! Edition

The timing of my post yesterday was impeccable — right after I expressed my delight with Persona 4: Golden on the Vita, Atlus announced the holy of holies, Persona 5 (for PS3), plus three spin-offs. Persona 5 is due out in Japan in (northern) winter 2014; there is no detail beyond that, nor any English-language release date. Personally I wish it were for Vita, but this is still good news!


In other news, the first volume of Norse-themed historical manga Vinland Saga is now officially available in English, and it’s a cracking good yarn. Despite the name, it has little to do with the actual Vinland sagas, which I discussed over at my other site; this Vinland Saga is a larger-than-life action-adventure, filled with gory battles, epic feats, and magnificent sneering villains. Well worth checking out.


Remember the glory of ’90s point-and-click adventure games? LPer “Farnsworth” is chronicling some fun-sounding modern homages — here’s his writeup of cyberpunk thriller Gemini Rue (spoilers, obviously). Enjoy!

Clippings – 6 November 2013

Some notable strategy game news over the last few days!

  • Sid Meier’s Ace Patrol: Pacific Skies, the WW2-themed sequel to Ace Patrol, has just launched on Steam (and is about to launch on iOS). I still haven’t played much of the original, which I snagged on a Steam sale a while back, but any game from Sid is worth watching. Anyone tried it yet? Incidentally, here is a quick Polygon interview about the game.
  • Paradox has announced Conquest of Paradise, an Americas-focused expansion for Europa Universalis IV. The press release is here and the first developer diary is here; perhaps the most interesting promised feature is that players will be able to randomise the New World, a la Imperialism II. CoP is due out in just over a month (11th December).
  • Soren Johnson, of Civ 4 fame, has announced a new studio: Mohawk Games, backed by an investment from Stardock. Game Informer has some detail on Mohawk’s first game (codenamed Mars), apparently a cross between an RTS and a tycoon game.

Clippings – Tickets to Ride in the Rain

This week’s highlight is the debut of the latest Humble Bundle, #7 with Android. I haven’t tried the Android versions of any of the included games, but the PC version of Ticket to Ride is an excellent game, easily worth $1 for a Steam key — you can read my review here. Well worth checking out the bundle. In other news:


* Below the cut I’ve embedded a trailer for an fresh-looking new game – Sony’s Rain, clearly influenced by Ico. Unfortunately, actual reviews are rather mixed. Anyone tried it?

* Speaking of fresh-looking new games, remember Will Wright’s Spore? Before it came out I was enthralled by its promise, and before launch I created an utterly adorable creature using the pre-released editor. Then the final game came out to a lukewarm reception, and I gave it a pass. Five years later, Soren Johnson has an interesting retrospective on what went wrong – and I also recommend reading the comments, where other Spore veterans chime in.

* Here is a hands-on preview of Dark Souls II. That said, I am very skeptical about one design decision not covered in that article – you can now be invaded by PVPers at any time if you’re online (previously, there was a risk/reward dynamic whereby trying to summon other players would expose you to invasion). Time will tell how well this works.

* A sequel to Sleeping Dogs has been confirmed, though no details as of yet.

Continue reading “Clippings – Tickets to Ride in the Rain”

Clippings – 4 October 2013

Paradox Interactive (that’s the publishing arm of the Paradox empire) has announced a sequel to last year’s Warlock: Master of the Arcane. Rachel aka frogbeastegg quite liked the original Warlock last year, so this should be one to watch. Not many details so far, but the trailer made me chuckle.

In other news,  Gamesindustry has posted a very good two-part interview with Shuhei Yoshida, president of Sony Worldwide Studios. The link I’ve posted is to part one, entitled “Vita, Vita TV, and Sony’s future”, but it’s well worth reading both parts. He even addresses The Last Guardian!

Lastly, [a]listdaily has an interesting interview with Jenova Chen of Journey fame, in which he talks about a topic near and dear to me – the ability of games to evoke emotion.

Clippings – 21 September 2013


Very big news this week! One of my favourite game creators, Yasumi Matsuno, is collaborating with mobile games studio Playdek to create a tactical RPG named Unsung Story: Tale of the Guardians. Matsuno is the man behind two of my favourite games, Final Fantasy Tactics and Tactics Ogre, and it sounds as though Unsung Story will be along the same lines: Matsuno is promising a “deep and detailed” world, with nine warring kingdoms and multiple stories. Here is a good interview with US Gamer. A spin-off card game designed by Chris Boelinger will come out first, in 2014; so far no release date has been set for the TRPG itself.


In other news, Kotaku has posted a five-minute gameplay video of Ubisoft JRPG Child of Light, and The Escapist has interviewed XCOM: Enemy Within designer Ananda Gupta (I’ve linked to page 2, which has the more interesting gameplay details).


Lastly, if you have a minute to spare, a site named Hardcore Gaming 101 has some interesting retrospectives on old games. Did you know that in 1996, there was a Super Famicom game that let you create your own spells by mixing and matching incantations?


Unsung Story image taken from Playdek website.

Clippings – 4 September 2013

  1. Total War: Rome 2 is now out; here is a roundup of the early reviews. The reports of bugs and AI flaws are disheartening, especially after the polished Shogun 2, but I haven’t picked up the game yet and hence, haven’t been able to judge for myself. If you’ve played it, what do you think?
  2. The role of dopamine in how we react to games.
  3. An interesting review of Wii U game Pikmin 3, which characterises it as an anti-war exercise.

Clippings — 28 August 2013

My playthroughs of Europa Universalis IV and Ni no Kuni continue! The good news is, no more rebel problems in EU4. The bad news is, well, let’s just say this rematch with France is not going as well as I would have liked. Today’s news relates to three of my favourite gaming topics — strategy, JRPGs, and soundtracks:

  1. Ubisoft has announced Child of Light, a sidescrolling JRPG partly inspired by Final Fantasy VI! This will be one to watch.
  2. IGN has a good preview of XCOM: Enemy Within.
  3. Sid Meier’s latest game, iOS strategy title Ace Patrol, is now out on PC (Steam, Green Man Gaming, etc). Here is  a good retrospective on Meier’s career from several months ago.
  4. I’m keeping an eye on this Kickstarter campaign for Video Games Live: Level 3,  a proposed album of orchestral video game music.

Clippings – 21 August 2013

Big day today for strategy game news!

  1. First, 2K and Firaxis have taken the wraps off XCOM: Enemy Within, which turns out to be an expansion pack for last year’s excellent Enemy Unknown; details here. Enemy Within is due out in November.
  2. Meanwhile, here is a gameplay trailer for the newly announced The Sims 4. I’m cautiously optimistic at this stage.

Clippings – 14 August 2013

By the time you read this, Europa Universalis IV – the first in a barrage of releases over August/September should be out. I’m planning something new and special by way of coverage; I think you guys will like it. Links for the day:


  1. A very enjoyable narrative Let’s Play of Alpha Centauri. Here is Edge’s retrospective on the game.
  2. A few months ago I discussed an early beta of an interesting indie game, Papers Please. The full game is now out, and Eurogamer has an excellent review.
  3. Rationalising our video game violence. This sounds a lot like what I did in Bioshock Infinite and especially Dishonored.

Clippings – 8 August 2013

Over the weekend, I narrated and recorded my first ever Let’s Play video, containing about 40 minutes of Skulls of the Shogun gameplay. Then I discovered (a) I hadn’t captured the sound properly, and (b) even at lower resolutions, the video file was too large for my puny connection to upload. Oops. From what I’ve played — a couple of hours’ worth — Skulls is a very promising strategy game, combining elegance (there are only a few decisions each turn, but they are important ones) with charm, an original setting, and funny dialogue. Definitely worth keeping your eye on! Here are today’s links:


  1. A history of Paradox Interactive, with some fascinating anecdotes. Did you know that in one week, Fredrik Wester and two other Paradox team members packed and shipped 4,000 boxed copies of the original Crusader Kings by hand?
  2. Christine Love’s visual novel Hate Plus has a new release date – the 19th of August, just a couple of weeks away. Love is tremendously talented — here is my take on her earlier works, the wonderful Digital: A Love Story and the dark, emotionally intense Analogue: A Hate Story — and I look forward to what Hate Plus has to offer.
  3. Speaking of visual novels, here is a piece on the localisation of niche Japanese games, from RPGs to VNs.
  4. The problem with video game cover art.


  1. A salute to Harry Flashman.

Clippings – 4 August 2013


  1. 2K is set to reveal something named “XCOM: Enemy Within” on 21 August, at Gamescom. An expansion pack, perhaps?
  2. A retrospective on the current gaming generation. I disagree with the headline – IMHO console gaming peaked with the PS2 – but it’s still an interesting read.
  3. GamesIndustry International speaks to EA’s former CEO, John Riccitiello.
  4. HG Wells, wargame designer.
  5. JRPG fans, here’s an interesting Siliconera interview with XSEED.

Clippings — 31 July 2013


  1. When choice is bad“, an article by Soren Johnson of Civilization IV fame.
  2. Kalypso has announced a medieval trading game called Rise of Venice, and here is Strategy Informer’s preview (including caveats). I’m intrigued by the setting, although I still have Patrician IV in my backlog…
  3. An interesting-looking strategy game named Skulls of the Shogun has landed on Steam; here is Eurogamer’s take on the Xbox 360 original.
  4. 2K Games has announced new DLC for Bioshock Infinite, including an arena/combat pack and a two-part story expansion, Burial at Sea, which stars an alternate-timeline Booker and Elizabeth and is set in pre-fall Rapture. The Burial at Sea Part 1 trailer is here, and here is my review of Bioshock Infinite, from back in April.
  5. ChinaJoy is bigger than E3, it’s hotter than E3 and it’s louder than E3.”


  1. These model mecha are a marvel to behold. They are from a show named Armoured Trooper VOTOMS, rough-edged but one of my favourites.

Clippings – 27 July 2013


  1. The Steam sale is now over, but for Playstation owners, there is a juicy-looking Atlus sale on the US PSN. The highlight is Persona 4: Golden for 33% off (US$20), but the rest of the Persona series is also on sale, as are several other titles. For myself, I’ve snagged a couple of less-known PSP RPGs, Growlanser and Gungnir. Details over at the Cheapassgamer forums.
  2. Here is gameplay footage from the Total War: Rome II campaign. Stay tuned for my detailed thoughts on the game in September!
  3. Publisher Slitherine has uploaded a number of gameplay videos of Pandora, an upcoming TBS that looks inspired by Alpha Centauri. Screenshots are available on Pandora‘s official website.
  4. The Escapist has an interesting preview of upcoming indie game Redshirt, which simulates life as a Starfleet… well, redshirt.


  1. In a case of “turnabout is fair play”, Ken Watanabe will star as a veteran samurai in a Japanese remake of Unforgiven. This, I want to watch! There is a trailer (no subtitles) here.


  1. PC Gamer reviews a 1TB SSD priced at £500/US$650. Getting cheaper!
  2. Two new gadgets from Google: a new version of the Nexus 7 with a 1920×1080 screen, and the Chromecast, a stick that, once plugged into a TV’s HDMI port, can be used to receive content streamed from smartphones, tablets, and PCs using Chrome.

Clippings – 21 July 2013

Hi everyone! Since I’ve recently started a regular (non-gaming) link roundup at my other site, I thought I’d do something similar here — every week, I’m going to post a roundup (like the one below) of news, links, and thoughts that don’t warrant their own blog post. Here goes:


  1. This is a brilliant take on Steam sales. (hat tip: reader Wolfox)
  2. Speaking of the Steam sale, my haul so far has been modest – a map pack for Civilization V; indie action-puzzler Gunpoint; and Wild West shooter Call of Juarez: Gunslinger. The highlight so far (I’m several levels in) is Call of Juarez: Gunslinger, a game with a unique premise — it is a chronicle of its hero’s adventures as recounted to an audience at a saloon. In other words, it’s in-universe fiction, and everything reinforces that: the art is vibrant and colourful, the music (and the hero’s bullet time ability) are an obvious homage to spaghetti Westerns, and levels will actually change mid-way as the speaker alters or embellishes his story. The actual game mechanics are nothing I’d write home about, but that’s not a huge problem; the atmosphere is the real draw. Here is a more detailed review from Polygon.
  3. Meanwhile, Episode 2 of Back to the Future: The Game is a worthy successor to the very fine Episode 1.
  4. Previewer quill18 is posting Let’s Play videos of Europa Universalis IV on Youtube. I’ve seen four instalments so far (out of five posted), and they’re interesting stuff. He’s playing England, the same country I intend to play for my (text/screenshot) LP, and his strategies are giving me some useful food for thought.
  5. A remastered version of Transport Tycoon is coming to Android/iOS! Owen Faraday of Pocket Tactics has rounded up screenshots, and Gamasutra has an interview with creator Chris Sawyer.
  6. The bad news is, Age of Wonders III has been delayed to the first quarter of 2014. The good news is, there’s now a dev diary on the official site.
  7. There’s an interesting-looking tactical RPG on Kickstarter named Liege, which has a week left to run.
  8. I never got around to posting this link from a few weeks back – the gist is that (a) EA’s chief creative officer estimates there are 25-30 AAA console game teams worldwide, (b) this number is down from 125 seven years ago, but (c) they employ the same total number of staff (i.e. each individual team is 4x larger).
  9. I’m planning to eventually buy a Vita and a 3DS, so this Eurogamer article was encouraging news.


  1. Ben Aaronovitch’s latest urban fantasy novel, Broken Homes, comes out at the end of this month in the UK. (Unfortunately, American readers will have to either wait until next year, or import.) These books are a great read, and I’ve already pre-ordered Broken Homes; look forward to reading it!
  2. After a promising (and entertainingly whimsical) start, I was disappointed by the way Jasper Fforde’s comical fantasy novel The Last Dragonslayer panned out. Oh well.