Author Archive

DUSK is a delicious cocktail of nineties shooters

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A lot of people are comparing DUSK to Quake. They’re not wrong to do that; there are enough brown polygons and chunky weapons to bring back memories of nailguns, ogres and Trent Reznor’s ominous drones.

My mind turned to Blood though. DUSK begins with b-movie horror tropes as chainsaws whirr and cultists shriek threats, and from there it takes a tour through pretty much the whole of nineties shooters, as I remember them.

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Civ VI: Rise and Fall’s new features explained

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I get knocked down, but I get up again, you’re never gonna keep me down. That’s what I’ll be singing when I play Civilization VI‘s upcoming Rise and Fall expansion. There are loads of new features but the unifying theme is, as the title suggests, success, failure and recovery. That means dark ages that come with hardships but also bring about the possibility of a renaissance into a heroic age. All of that, and much more, is explained in the brand new video below.

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Nowhere Prophet is a post-apocalyptic trip with a soul

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A large dog-like creature had been sniffing around our camp while we slept. The road hadn’t been kind to us and our food supplies were running low. Truth be told, my own altruistic streak was responsible for most of our problems; we’d picked up stragglers and waifs wherever we found them, and had far too many mouths to feed.

But this dog-thing was not joining us, it was trying to steal from us. One of my medics reckoned he knew how to deal with it, no confrontation necessary. To my surprise, he got a group together and simply dragged its bulk away from the camp, and then tipped it into a ravine.

As far as I can tell, it remained passive right up until the moment it hit the floor. Nowhere Prophet is a beautiful game set in a strange and ugly world.

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First footage of Yume Nikki follow-up Dream Diary

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Cult indie horror game Yume Nikki arrived on Steam this week and, more than a decade after its original release, we saw signs that the dream saga might continue. Yume Nikki is free and if you’re at all interested in wandering through subtle and not-so-subtle nightmare realms while trying to decipher their strange logic, you should play it!

A countdown site suggested we’d find out more about the new project in a couple of weeks, and now, with twelve days still to go, we have our first hints about what comes next. Dream Diary appears to be the title and the only other text says: “We can not wake up”. Oh no. I’m fairly sure there are no spoilers here because…well, you’ll see.

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Stellaris: Apocalypse will let you kill planets

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Too many worlds. That’s the problem with space. You develop interstellar flight and hope to find a big emptiness that you can coast around in until all of the stars fade to black, but there’s all this stuff scattered about. Planets and asteroid belts and big alien jellysquids.

Stellaris‘s upcoming expansion, Apocalypse, will let you clear out some of the clutter. It brings planet-destroying weapons into the game, along with new Titan capital ships, massive orbital installations and marauding space nomads, who can be recruited to your cause, but can also trigger a new late-game crisis. There’s some non-violent stuff as well for the gentler souls among you.

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Cult horror Yume Nikki now on Steam, follow-up teased

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I’m not a card-carrying member of the Yume Nikki cult. If I were, I’d be able to tell you how to pick your way through the dreamscape, and might even be able to decipher some of the mysteries that it contains. Since it’s original release over a decade ago, Yume Nikki has fascinated me but I’ve never spent enough time in its surreal environments to become a true acolyte. I hope there’s still room for me if I do decide to sign up because the cult of Yume Nikki is about to expand.

Yesterday, the game arrived on Steam. It’s still free, still weird as heck, but something has changed, or is about to change. Ten years on, solo developer Kikiyama is working on a sequel of sorts. Looks like we’ll know more in a couple of weeks.

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Total War: Three Kingdoms tackles the turbulence of 3rd century China

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Total War has been enjoying its time among the greenskins and the undead, but we’ve been waiting to see exactly which period it’d land in when it returns to its historical roots for its next major installment. Now the answer is here. Total War: Three Kingdoms.

The year is 190CE. China is in turmoil. The Han Dynasty crumbles before the child-emperor. He is but a figurehead; a mere puppet for the tyrant warlord Dong Zhuo. It is a brutal and oppressive regime, and as Dong Zhuo’s power grows, the empire slips further into the cauldron of anarchy… Only one thing is certain: the very future of China will be shaped by its champions. Total War: Three Kingdoms is the next major historical strategy game in the award-winning Total War series.

This is both unexpected and precisely the kind of setting I was hoping for. A mostly self-contained conflict with a clear end-goal and set of factions. The trailer follows.

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Have You Played… Rusty Lake Hotel?

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Have You Played? is an endless stream of game retrospectives. One a day, every day, perhaps for all time.

The Rusty Lake games are beautifully macabre creations. Hotel is my favourite, I think, though Roots is perhaps more ambitious. If you haven’t played them, you should play both. Here’s why…

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Go deep down the hole with the strange and wonderful Rabbit Game

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I’m a cat now. I used to be a rabbit but I went into a hole despite being warned that it was a bad place to go, and then I think I was in something’s guts for a while. There seemed to be a ribcage around me, but I can’t be entirely sure. Then the cat ate me so now I am the cat as is the natural way of things. Now, every time I eat a rabbit, the screen is saturated with blood and then, full of meat and sated, I sleep beneath the stars, quoting Hamlet to myself. Then I dream of hunting rabbits and I don’t know how to escape from this loop and become a rabbit again.

Rabbit Game is a very peculiar thing that reminds me of games made by thecatamites. It’s free and you can play it in your browser right now.

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Rainswept promises mysteries, coffee and pine trees

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Whoever wrote the description of Rainswept that’s attached to the trailer on YouTube manages not to mention a certain TV show even once, so I’m going to avoid mentioning it by name as well.

Rainswept is an adventure game in which a detective comes to a small town to investigate an apparent murder-suicide. As he digs deeper into the rumours and mysteries surrounding the crime, he discovers that nothing is as it seems and “his own sanity will be pushed to the edge”. Along the way he’ll work with local law enforcement and learn about the locals and their secrets. There’s a demo, about an hour long, that you can try right now.

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Cree concerns hammer home why Civ needs to reject its own traditions

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In Civilization, civilization is a competition. Land and resources are limited, and even those nations that don’t expand through military might are attempting to climb to the top of the league table in other ways. Geography, technology, culture, religion, diplomacy – they’re all, to some extent, weapons to be deployed, or at least arenas where an advantage can be gained. Culture and history are the clothes that Civ wears but it’s not really about building an empire or a nation, it’s about sharpening a knife.

The upcoming Rise and Fall expansion for Civ VI introduces several new playable nations, but the introduction of one civ has led to criticism from an unexpected source. Yesterday, Milton Tootoosis, an elected headman-councillor of the Poundmaker Cree Nation, spoke to CBC News about the inclusion of the Saskatchewan First Nation. He acknowledged excitement about the news and noted that historical chief, Poundmaker, is to be portrayed as working to build “a bridge between settlers and First Nations”. But he also voiced a fundamental concern about the portrayal: “It perpetuates this myth that First Nations had similar values that the colonial culture has, and that is one of conquering other peoples and accessing their land.” It’s a concern that cuts to the heart of what Civilization has always been and – I hope – to what it could become.

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Have You Played… A Wolf In Autumn?

Have You Played? is an endless stream of game retrospectives. One a day, every day, perhaps for all time.

David Szymanski makes short games that experiment with interactive storytelling in ways that are usually fascinating and often creepy as heck. On the rare occasion I meet someone who has played through his back catalogue, The Moon Sliver is usually the game we spend most time discussing. I find my mind returning to A Wolf In Autumn more often though. It’s a very strange game and I don’t think it’s entirely successful, but it’s a beautiful and thoughtful thing well worth playing.

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Herding skeletons and settling scores in Rise To Ruins

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The skeletons don’t care about the storms I’m lobbing around the place. They’re marching onward, through the maze of walls and gates I’ve constructed, and a little bit of rain isn’t going to deter them. I was hoping for skull-splitting bolts of lightning but instead I’ve just made everyone a bit damp.

Rise to Ruins is a village-building simulator that’s somewhere between the complexity of Dwarf Fortress and the relative simplicity of The Settlers or Banished. I’m currently preparing to watch my latest creation collapse.

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How Playerunknown’s Battlegrounds’ replays humanise the game

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You were wearing a motorbike helmet and underpants and fired a burst from your assault rifle as I drove through the village. I was driving the broke-down Dacia 1300 with two friends bleeding to death in the backseat. I feel very silly writing this, but would you like to meet up and go for a chicken dinner sometime?

For some people, Playerunknown’s Battlegrounds’ replay feature may be an educational tool, helping them to refine their tactics, but for me it’s all about stories and missed connections, and it elevates the game from something I enjoy to something I adore.

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Bad North is a gorgeous tactical roguelite

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Your island is under attack! That’s always cause for concern, I guess, but this island is definitely worth holding on to because it’s the prettiest island you’re ever going to own. And Bad North is one of the prettiest isometric games I’ve ever seen. That’s almost certainly because of Oskar Stålberg’s involvement. We’ve covered his beautiful planet and building generators before, and I’m delighted to see him working on a game that looks so immediately appealing. DEFEND THE ISLAND FROM THE VIKINGS, it tells me, and I am very happy to do that.

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A Fine Mess is an apocalyptic walk on the beach

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Something terrible has happened. In the distance tower blocks burn and when I look to the sky, there’s evidence of an even greater catastrophe hanging overhead. A Fine Mess is a short game about surveying a disaster from a distance. You walk around an inlet, stopping to look through tower viewers at various intervals. Scanning the scenery, you can get a closer look at the devastation and clues as to your own place in the world. And down on the beach, someone is skipping stones…

I was watching Black Mirror last night and A Fine Mess’ bleak grayscale landscapes remind me of series 4 episode Metalhead. This isn’t a violent game though. I’d describe it as eerily tranquil.

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Have You Played… Heart’s Medicine – Time to Heal?

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Have You Played? is an endless stream of game retrospectives. One a day, every day, perhaps for all time.

Romance! Drama! Surgery! Ambulance crashes! Heart’s Medicine – Time to Heal is a time management game by way of medical soap operas, like Gray’s Anatomy or Casualty, and I kind of love it.

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Phantom Doctrine is much more than a Cold War XCOM

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Phantom Doctrine is a game of ‘ifs’ and ‘buts’. I would have completed my mission without being spotted if one of my agents hadn’t been compromised but the fact that she turned on me and I managed to neutralise her at least means the enemy has played their hand and she can’t do any further damage. Now, even though our cover is blown, if we can make it to the extraction point this will still be a success.

But I’m really tempted to leave one member of my team behind if he keeps attracting the attention of guards and…oh, now there’s a helicopter and we’re apparently troublesome enough that missile strikes are an option. I am a bad spy.

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Enjoy thecatamites with a discounted 51 game bundle

“I didn’t get the crystal but I had a lot of fun.” So says one character in thecatamites’ RPG Magic Wand. Fun is the real objective, or is it the MacGuffin? I thought the crystal was the MacGuffin. Who can say?

The creator of Murder Dog, Space Funeral and (my personal favourite) Crime Zone has included his latest release and 50 Short Games in a brand new winter bundle, perfect for gifting to that one relative or friend who doesn’t yet know about the wonders of leg horse. To be clear, there’s no leg horse in this bundle, but you can meet that noble beast in Space Funeral. It’s free!

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