Sunday, 30 June 2013

9th Century Gaming: Crusader Kings II

"It was the year 867 CE, and Caliph Al-Mu'tazz sat on the throne of the great Abbasid Caliphate. He looked across his many fiefdoms, and knew that this was not enough. Although he was only 20 years old, he knew it was his destiny to conquer Mesopotamia, Egypt, Arabia and beyond, all in the name of the Sunni faith. His starting point was strong, he had a well developed nation and mostly loyal vassals. His enemies were ripe for the picking! First though, he had to deal with his family, the thorns on this desert rose."
The start menu, from here to world domination

I had heard of Crusader Kings many times, but had never dabbled. The closest I got was experimenting with Europa Universalis III: Complete (it's not complete, two more expansions were later released), which ended mostly in disaster. I just couldn't quite get my head around the systems and my choice of England was perhaps a poor one. Both of these games are by Paradox Interactive, a rather wonderful slightly smaller developer and publisher from Sweden. They excel in these sorts of grand strategy games, and they have produced games that cover historically accurate strategy from the 9th Century to the 20th (Crusader Kings, Europa Universalis, Victoria, Hearts of Iron).

Caliph Al-Mu'tazz the Great, head of the Abbasid Caliphate (892CE)

Sunday, 16 June 2013

Kickstarting: Expeditions - Conquistador

I've only begun to scratch the surface of all the Kickstarter projects that I've backed, and here's yet another one. This time, it's actually been released!
Creating your character

Expeditions: Conquistador is a exploration-based strategy game, featuring turn based combat and a heavy dose of historical context. You play an explorer heading out from Spain to see what the New World has to offer. The gameplay style sits somewhere in the region of King's Bounty or Heroes of Might and Magic, but instead of a fantasy universe you have locations and characters based on the early 16th Century period.
Finalising your character and group of explorers

Saturday, 15 June 2013

21st Century Gaming: The Walking Dead (Episode 1: A New Day)

The Walking Dead is a comic book series about zombies, or perhaps it's about people in an extreme situation. An ongoing series, it's also been adapted into a highly rated TV show and most recently an adventure game by Telltale Games. All three involve some similar characters and situations, but play out in different ways. The game in particular gives you a certain amount of choice in how you survive this zombie apocalypse.

I wouldn't consider getting out of these cuffs a puzzle, and yet it involves several repetitive small tasks to complete. Even more frustrating on my second playthrough.
To preface this, I should probably mention I have never really liked any of the Telltale games I've played in the past. I wanted to like their take on Sam and Max, but while the humour was okay I just didn't enjoy the puzzles or the stories, nor the episodic nature of it. Next I tried Tales of Monkey Island, but couldn't bring myself to complete even the first episode. Again, they produced something that felt close to the originals, but there was something I didn't like about it. The interface, the graphics, it just felt a bit off, and I found myself playing different games instead and have never returned.
Not quite a Quick-Time-Event, but there's a lot of stuff like this.

Tuesday, 4 June 2013

21st Century Gaming: FTL: Faster Than Light

I have not played many "Roguelike" games. The only one I have spent any reasonable amount of time on (and what is a reasonable amount of time to spend on a roguelike?) is Nethack. I guess this is because Roguelikes can seem so unforgiving, so random, so unfair. They tend to throw you in at the deep end, with the very act of learning their processes and methods being the meat of the gameplay. In Nethack, it is highly encouraged for you to explore the game without referring to a guide of any kind. There is a fabulous wiki, but it should be reserved for the absolute last resort. Otherwise you lose some of the joy that is to be found by experimentation. Even after all of that preamble, and the tag on this post, I'm not even sure FTL is a proper Roguelike. But it bears a hell of a lot of similarity.

The Kestrel, the starting ship design
FTL, or Faster Than Light, puts you in charge of a Federation ship running from an ever-advancing Rebel fleet. Your aim is to get back to the Federation home base, deliver vital information about the Rebels and save the galaxy (or something). You start with one ship, the Kestrel, with a fixed loadout and crew (Through playing the game you can unlock the other ships and alternate designs). From there on, you're on your own.

Saturday, 1 June 2013

Greenlight? Red light.

Steam is many things, at least if we're talking about the Valve games and DRM platform, which also doubles as a store-front. It's a clever piece of software that now runs in the background on the majority of gaming PCs. It has pushed forward digital distribution to an amazing degree, and it's competitors are still trying to catch up (unfortunately that might be impossible, due to Steam having a very dominant place in the market). It's a tool of marketing genius, which has many gamers checking for new deals and new games to buy and download from the comfort of their own homes.

For the independent games development community, it's been a massive boost to sales. Having such a large marketplace allows developers of a niche games to find their audience, and being on Steam can have a large impact on the relative financial success of a project.