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:
- 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.
- And speaking of Paradox, I laughed at some of the bizarre screenshots in this compilation.
- Lastly, PCGMedia has a good preview of Wargame: Red Dragon. The changes to the campaign system sound great!
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!
- 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?
- 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?
- A purported attempt to smuggle escape aids into German PoW camps… via Monopoly sets.
- This meme/cartoon is about Victoria 2, but it also applies to every other AI ally in a strategy game.
- And here is a (temporarily) themed Dark Souls cafe in Tokyo, complete with “estus flasks”.
Hope you are all having a great holiday season! Here are the links I have for you:
- 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”.
- 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!
- Speaking of Amazon, does this ad remind any other science fiction buffs of Bat Durston?
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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:
- 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.
- 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).
- 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.
- In terrestrial news, I hear good things about 3DS JRPG Bravely Default and its battle system. Anyone tried it out?
- 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.”
- 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.
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:
- 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.
- 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.
- Here are two pieces of XCOM-related humour.
- And here are some cool manga-style illustrations that graced a Japanese edition of D&D (hat tip to reader LeSquide).
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!
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.
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”
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.
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.
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:
- Ubisoft has announced Child of Light, a sidescrolling JRPG partly inspired by Final Fantasy VI! This will be one to watch.
- IGN has a good preview of XCOM: Enemy Within.
- 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.
- I’m keeping an eye on this Kickstarter campaign for Video Games Live: Level 3, a proposed album of orchestral video game music.
Big day today for strategy game news!
- 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.
- Meanwhile, here is a gameplay trailer for the newly announced The Sims 4. I’m cautiously optimistic at this stage.
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:
- A very enjoyable narrative Let’s Play of Alpha Centauri. Here is Edge’s retrospective on the game.
- 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.
- Rationalising our video game violence. This sounds a lot like what I did in Bioshock Infinite and especially Dishonored.
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:
- 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?
- 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.
- Speaking of visual novels, here is a piece on the localisation of niche Japanese games, from RPGs to VNs.
- The problem with video game cover art.
- A salute to Harry Flashman.
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:
- This is a brilliant take on Steam sales. (hat tip: reader Wolfox)
- 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.
- Meanwhile, Episode 2 of Back to the Future: The Game is a worthy successor to the very fine Episode 1.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- There’s an interesting-looking tactical RPG on Kickstarter named Liege, which has a week left to run.
- 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).
- I’m planning to eventually buy a Vita and a 3DS, so this Eurogamer article was encouraging news.
- 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!
- 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.