RPS Advent Game-o-Calendar: December 19th

By Kieron Gillen on December 19th, 2007 at 11:59 pm.

So, you collapse in, drunk. It’s Christmas. That’s how it works. It’s you and the screen, trying to make some sense of your relationship. You know you should just crawl into bed, but you know that sitting in front of that monitor just makes more sense. You sip your drink and realise – hey – you haven’t opened the RPS-approved fairtrade advent calendar so you turn to it and pull away the recycled cardboard to reveal…

DUNK? It's not big or clever

Chocolate, but you’re too DUNK! to think of actually eating it, or eating anything better. So you just turn to the game and start clicking. After all, isn’t that what it’s all about?

What you’re clicking at is Armageddon Empires.

Hex pun? Hex pun! HEXY!

You turn up Frightened Rabbit to cover the fact that the Director sound programming of Armageddon Empires refuses to turn down to zero, just because you need to hear something deeply melodramatic. And you know that a world wider than the one you’re now writing for is reading what you hammered out earlier but… it is crucial, and this is what you write about PC games for.

Armageddon Empires is a game that’s haunted your thoughts for the better half of a year. Bill Harris was the guy who mentioned it first, as is Bill Harris’ wont. And, because of that, you knew it was worth looking at closer. The last game he went as crazy over was Star Space Rangers 2, which was the definitive late 2006 games-fan’s-game. That he felt enough about Armageddon Empires to describe it as his Game Of The Year was enough to say that, by at least some justifiable definition, it was game of the year. But you briefly tried it and swiftly lost it because the year is busy and your mind is small and there are things to do. In this year, above all years, there are things to do.

But then there’s a gap, and a mail from the game’s developer drops the whole thing in your lap. And, within a few hours, you drop a mail to your most friendly reviewing port of call, just to see if they’ll accept a few thousand words of gibberish. Because, even though you’re aware that you may decide it’s not worth a more general recommendation, you know it’s worth – from these scant hours – some manner of specific recommendation. If only to the people on the scene, if only to the people who’ll be on the dancefloor, no matter what.

And you suspect it’s worth more than that. And, it proves, you’re right. Or, at least, it proves the people you listen to are right. Which is the same thing.

You think of sentences to write like: As Civ4 was to 2005, Armageddon Empires is to 2007.

And then you feel bad about even considering hammering that out, because one was an enormous team effort which anyone and their Gran could play, and the other is a one-man Indie game which would require most of your Gran’s remaining life to work out how to play at all. But you know that for those who understand that supple language of strategy (which speaks in Hexes and Resources) well, Armageddon Empires is the only girl on the dancefloor they’ll want to speak to. In these twelve long months, there’s simply no competition. It’s not as beautiful a game as Civ4, but it’s got its own sense of style, and this counts. It really does.

So, you turn towards the dancefloor, offer your hand towards the girl who moves in hex-shapes and deck-patterns and you move into the night. And no-one sees you again.

It’s your favourite turn-based strategy game of the year. You’d recommend it to anyone who’d consider a recommendation for such a thing. And for those who don’t, you smile softy and offer pity.

You know if they had it in them, it’d make them feel like it makes you feel.

.

25 Comments »

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  1. Slappeh says:

    I have no idea what you just said.

    Also – you posted this on the 20th, wmhaha!

  2. Kieron Gillen says:

    DUNK!

    (For the American’s, it’s fine. C’est la vie)

    Translation: Armageddon Empires is a fine Turn Based Strategy Game.

    KG

  3. Will Tomas says:

    Beautifully written. Reading this while listening to Frightened Rabbit (of whom I previously knew nothing) gave it an extra feel. I also get the feeling that this article comes rather from the rock journalist mode of expression, what with the explaining-my-life-and-how-I-came-to-find-and-love-this, but I’m a sucker for lines like the last one of this article.

  4. The_B says:

    Surely then it should be DUNK OM MON MON NOM!?

  5. Kieron Gillen says:

    Will: Yeah, it’s a bit in my music-journo mode. But they’ll be cooler analytical less-emotional Armageddon Empires stuff in the coming days, so hopefully it’ll be cool.

    The_B: DUNK OM MON MON NOM!

    KG

  6. The_B says:

    Hurrah!

  7. Nick says:

    OM NOM… VOM VOM?

    Sorry.

  8. Ging says:

    B: Did you ever actually turn up to any Games Design seminars in the end?

    I approved of the demo, I’m tempted to make the purchase but I find myself severely lacking in the funds department – yes, even to the point where I can’t really afford ~£15 on a “wee” indie game.

  9. DigitalSignalX says:

    Agree, nice read, esp with Frightened Rabbit going in another browser tab. Doofus and NWN-style games are about as close to turn based as I can get, though the comparison of playing board games in winter is perfect. It’s hard to program a perfect, palpable nostalgia for turn based games when the gaming elements of our youth have evolved into four processor beasts of frames per second.

  10. Homunculus says:

    Space Rangers 2 instead of Star Rangers 2, possibly.

  11. Homunculus says:

    And, yes, ’tis the season of 4X. I’ve been awake all night playing the latest version of Fall from Heaven 2, engaged in a secret war involving spies and assassins viciously slashing each other’s throats, clashing quietly under the verdant veil of an ancient transcontinental forest whilst ships that fly no flags plunder, pillage and blockade their way along the shoreline.

    It’s all because I quite fancy the vampire wench this is being waged against, really.

  12. Jim Rossignol says:

    Sigh. Gillen will be getting the hose again.

  13. I_still_love_Okami says:

    I played the demo last night. What’s funny about it is, that I pretty much used Kieron’s strategy to learn the game. I’d start a game, play around with it, don’t understand anything of it at first, get frustrated but not before understanding at least a little bit more, quit the game and start a new one.

    The biggest issue I’ve got with the game is it’s UI. Games with bad UIs really get to me. I’ll actually stop playing and start thinking about the UI.

    It’s not just that I’ll immediately notice everything that’s wrong with a game’s interface, I’ll also start thinking about ways to do it better. This might have something to do with the fact, that the best design teacher I’ve ever had was downright anal when it came to interface design.

    Battles especially are a chore. It takes eight mouse clicks (using both mouse buttons) just to order one of your cards to attack another one in a battle and resolve the attack (and that’s not including using re-rolls and Tactics cards). Combine this with message windows that pop up at different locations on screen and you’ve got a whole lot of clicking and moving the mouse around to do.

    This attack isn’t even guaranteed to do damage to the enemy. It can take you as much as ten tries to defeat a single enemy in battle. And battles often include multiple cards on each side.

    And that’s just the battle interface. I haven’t even started on the rest of the game.

    Having said all this:

    Armageddon Empires is one of the best games I’ve played all year and I can easily picture myself spending my christmas holidays conquering post apocalyptic wastelands instead of spending time with my family and old friends I haven’t seen all year.

    Kieron’s review (as allways) really nails it down: The game is all about choice, the fact that luck plays some part actually reinforces that. No matter how strong your army is, you can allways be defeated by a single enemy, no matter how many of your resources you invest in getting the initiative, you can allways loose it to bad luck. And of course it means, no matter how bleak things may look, a few valiant decissions and a bit of luck can save the day.

    Or cement your defeat even further. All in all, I’ve never really felt, that I lost due to bad luck. Especially in long and drawn out battles (which take about a gazillion mouse clicks to resolve) chance evens out and you really only loose due to wrong decissions on your parts.

    Also, the artwork on the cards is just beautifull.

    I’ve forwarded the link to a few of my co workers yesterday who turned up with dark rings under their eyes, cursing me for showing the demo to them, because they’ve stayed up all night, playing it.

    If you are a good person and not one of those who’ll be put against the wall and shot once revolution comes, you’d better buy this game. The people who made it deserve every penny they can get (if only to pay somebody to design them a fucking interface that doesn’t make you want to scream and induces carpal tunnel syndrome!) .

  14. groovychainsaw says:

    Agreed – how difficult would it have been to make the attack button switch to roll dice under your cursor? Having to move the mouse several times for one dice roll (which could amount to nothing) is one of few flaws in this otherwise highly addictive game. I would love to see apatch improve upon some of these interface issues, so i can get even more games completed even more quickly.

  15. Meat Circus says:

    Awooga.

    My Gillenometer is reading dangerously high levels of NGJ. Please evacuate the area immediately.

  16. Kieron Gillen says:

    Okami: The “F” key is the automatic roll key. It saves a whole lot of clicking.

    KG

  17. Hypocee says:

    Thanks for writing about this here, and getting EG to publish about it. I suppose I need to read DQ more often, but there are just so many hours in the day and…blah blah blah. In the end, I thought I kept a fairly good handle on videogames and I’m genuinely ashamed not to have heard about Armageddon Empires back in July.

  18. Andrew Doull says:

    So you’re saying that a well-timed email from the developer can get you playing a game again?

    Takes notes…

  19. Garth says:

    “Okami: The “F” key is the automatic roll key. It saves a whole lot of clicking.”
    Damnit, I learn this NOW?

    I love the game, for many reasons mentioned above. The only thing I don’t understand are the Xenopods. They are not only the only team I’ve ever beaten, they are the only team it takes me 30 turns to create a unit.

  20. Feet says:

    Just in case people haven’t spotted this, there’s a Windowed_Mode update you can download from the website. It does exactly what it says on the tin.

  21. Kieron Gillen says:

    I play it pretty much solely in Windowed mode.

    Andrew: I still haven’t. Sorry, man. I’m enormously behind on everything.

    KG

  22. Andrew Doull says:

    NP

    Gives me a chance to polish things more…

  23. I_still_love_Okami says:

    Cryptic Commet owes you one. I just bought the game. That’s the second indie game I’ve bought over the internet in my whole life (first one was darwinia), since I usually don’t play games that cost less then 20.000.000$ to develop. Can’t be bothered with that indie commie punk stuff usually.

    The power of RPS compelled me!

  24. Segal says:

    oops, wrong thread. delete this.