By Kieron Gillen on March 18th, 2010 at 2:25 pm.
THE FEAR OF TOTAL ANNIHILATION! Ah, it’s so quaint now (Are you sure? – Ed). News reaches us of a turn-based, somewhat playful take on the material – it’s not exactly Balance Of Power. Us & Them: Cold War from Icehole has a hefty, time limited demo, so – especially since there’s not exactly many games like this – probably worth a look at it if you have an interest in this sort of area. Well, probably. The Borderline probably which we call “maybe”. The impressions that lead to that follow…
In short, somewhat disappointing. Though when this was a screenshot associated with the demo’s release…
…I’m not exactly sure how it could not be.
It’s not really that kind of funny. At least, consistently. It’s an Agent-based world-scale game, basically. You have a variety of agent types, which you place on the board, with the abilities acting on that country. So, for example, spies if placed on a friendly country counter-spy and spot enemy agents. If placed in an country on the other side, they get to – er – do other things, like form a spy network with other spies in other countries to give their bonuses a boost. Assassin’s off people. Political people increase the level of support towards your side, and lead political revolutions when the moment is right. Economics’ chaps boost money or fuck up money. And… oh, you get the idea. Agents are your -er – agents of change. Add to that a larger political modeling (countries are influenced by their neighbours), tech research (Bigger nukes, better spy gear, space race), random events and some splendid appearances of all our cold war favourites and that’s about it. It’s certainly a strategy game buried in here somewhere.
Thing is, after a half-hour or so of prodding, I’ve lost the interest to find it. The main issue is the UI. It’s an enormous issue, so much that I want to actually make a bigger font to make sure the point is made. Even moving your agents around is troublesome, but the biggest thing is simply that – when looking at the map – you have no idea which agents you have where. You can select a menu to list all the agents and their location… but you can’t click through on that menu to go to where they are. You have to remember where they are, go back to the map and then find them. Which, because there’s so many regions, does involve a little more geographic competence than I’m comfortable with. Mainly, having to dig for any crucial information to make your strategic decisions – especially when it’s a game where you have as many pieces in play as you do – is a killer for interest. This reaches an apex when, due to its turn-based system, you just start each turn with a big long list of everything the other side has done. Financial attack in Columbia? Great. What does that mean, in actual hard terms. How much has it hurt me? If you’re going to interupt me to tell me about this attack, how about actually telling me the numbers to save me having to go and find out myself. I’m not going to kill the messenger of bad news. Or maybe I will, if he just carries it that badly.
Still – it’s a five hour limited demo, so there’s plenty of time for you to discover whether the accessibility bothers you enough. I suspect for me, the detail will lose me anyway. The oddest thing in the time I spent with it was when my Spy went to work in Russia. I’m playing communist, and give him the order to try and arrest and capitalist big-dog spy. I fail, and find my agent arrested for failure. Not in a “I’ve been arrested as a failure of the state” way, but because the game gives a chance of success or failure on every action – and actual failure can lead to arrest or death of the agent. Getting arrested when going to arrest someone in your own home country makes me scratch my own head.
Which makes me feel perfectly justified in linking to this…
That remains a brilliant HAH! Also ultra-pugilistic.
(Er… the title was going to be Unilateral Disarmament & Her Nukulele, but there was no bloody chance of that fitting in. And is a reference to the hyper-sacharine joys of…)