Author Archive

Have You Played… Swords and Sandals?


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

Gladiatorial combat RPG Swords and Sandals has been part of my life for a very long time, and yet I sometimes forget that it exists. Most recently I was reminded when I saw new Steam release Warriors: Rise to Glory! which appears to be a Swords and Sandals game in all but name. Then I noticed that Swords and Sandals 5 Redux is also on Steam. Maybe I’m not the only person who’s heard of this series after all!

Read the rest of this entry »

Shadow Of The Tomb Raider coming in September


The next Lara Croft adventure will be Shadow Of The Tomb Raider and it’s coming on September 14th, with no period of console exclusivity this time round. Square Enix have been bunging corks into their leaky reveal barge over the last couple of days, but now the teaser trailer is officially here. It contains all of your expected Lara action: she climbs a vertical cliff-face, falls down and slams into a wall, and looks at a sunset above some ancient buildings. But wait! That’s no sunset at all. It’s an eclipse. Everyone knows eclipses are prime ingredients in Top Archaeology. You can raid a tomb in the morning, you can raid a tomb at night. But raid one during an eclipse and you’ll find some proper mysteries.

Read the rest of this entry »

Tropico 6 reveals its isles of plunder


If I were going to steal the Eiffel Tower, I’d definitely strap a giant rocket to it and launch it into the sky. Once it was airborne, I’d remotely pilot it back to my volcano lair and then park it in the Monument Chamber next to the Statue of Liberty (also rocket-propelled) and the Great Sphinx of Giza (trundles around on little wheels).

It’s not clear how El Presidente nicks the various monuments scattered around his archipelago nation in Tropico 6, but a new video shows the Eiffel Tower standing in tropical climes, as clear as can be. You’ll be able to organise raids to steal them, we’re told, but the biggest change is in the lay of the land. Rather than managing a single island, you’ll be connecting several islands together, which means you’ll need new tech and transport infrastructure to keep everything running smoothly.

Read the rest of this entry »

Soon, Voldo and Geralt will meet outside my dreams


CD Projekt Red don’t have to do much to capture the internet’s attention. Remember when they beeped? That was a good day.

Today is also a good day. No beeps or boops or any other sound effects have emerged from the witchy cyberpunkers, but a new chronicle of Geralt’s adventures has appeared on the official Witcher twitter feed.

“Kaer Morhen’s old stones have witnessed many battles… Once more they’ll feel the sting of sparks as blades collide… Check back tomorrow.”

What could it mean? Well, it probably refers to an official Soul Calibur reveal. It almost definitely does.

Read the rest of this entry »

BattleTech isn’t just about mechs punching one another


BattleTech is the game in which giant mechs punch each other until their limbs fall off and the pilots inside those mechs boil to death. It’s out next month and I’m very excited, having already spent quite a lot of time stomping about in superb turn-based skirmishes. It looks great, it plays great, all is well. Except…what about the dynamic campaign? Will it have enough menus and financial reports to really make my heart sing?

Clashes between clans in control of hulking great war machines are all well and good, but I’m here for the cashflow as well as the combat. I’m very pleased that the latest video to emerge shows lots of menus, as well as random events like pilots getting into punch-ups, bored during the long-haul trips from one planet to the next. It really is a mech management game underneath all that shiny chrome and delicious scrapping. Praise be.

Read the rest of this entry »

Wot I Think: All Walls Must Fall


Bullets tear across a sweating dancefloor, heaving with bodies. Flashes of metal and flesh, lights pulsing and skittering across glistening bodies. All Walls Must Fall’s nightclub shoot-outs are a devilish dream, capturing at once the brilliance of Terminator’s Tech Noir horror and the actual punk in cyberpunk. I just wish there was more to the game than a thousand murders on the dancefloor.

Read the rest of this entry »

Have You Played… Dark Souls 2?

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

Dark Souls > Bloodborne > Dark Souls 3 > Demon’s Souls > Dark Souls 2.

But if you like the rest, you should still play number 2. It’s good. Being good just isn’t quite enough when you’re born into a family of geniuses. Read the rest of this entry »

Wot I Think: Where The Water Tastes Like Wine


In Where the Water Tastes Like Wine, stories are currency. You walk the backroads and fields of the United States during the Great Depression, occasionally freighthopping or hitching a ride from one town to the next. Along the way, you meet many people and witness many events, most of them insignificant in the grand scheme of history and the land, but all contributing to a complex tapestry of a certain time and place.

Everything that you witness and every conversation you have becomes a tale in your repertoire, and in retelling these tales you learn about the characters you share them with, around campfires that are dotted around the map. It’s at the campfires that stories become currency, and also where the game’s combination of folktale and interactive systems becomes muddled.

Read the rest of this entry »

Wot I Think: Yume Nikki – Dream Diary


Playing Yume Nikki: Dream Diary is like sitting across from somebody as they explain their dreams to you in great detail. No. Worse than that. It’s like listening to somebody describe an acquaintance’s dreams in great detail.

Every now and then, they pause and say something along the lines of, “you had to be there”, as people do when they’re telling a funny story that nobody is laughing at. In its transition from tiny sprites, abstract backgrounds and obscure free-form exploration to jerky 3d animation and side-scrolling running and jumping, Yume Nikki has lost almost all of its mysterious horror and charm.

Read the rest of this entry »

Have You Played… Messiah?


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

You are a chubby baby, sent down from heaven to Earth in order to… I dunno… possess workmen and force them to jump into big grinding industrial machinery? That’s certainly how I played Messiah. There might have been more to it than sneaking up behind people, diving into their soul and then making them do a fatal pratfall, but I couldn’t tell you what. Read the rest of this entry »

Insurgency: Sandstorm is a harrowing depiction of combat


This is what it must feel like to enjoy Battlefield or Call of Duty. I’ve tried many multiplayer military shooters over the years but I’ve never thought of one as more than a passing distraction until now. Insurgency: Sandstorm is more than a distraction. It’s one of the most harrowing and thrilling depictions of combat I’ve ever seen, and I think it’s a goddamn work of art.

Read the rest of this entry »

Vampyr isn’t the afterlife of the party just yet


I feel like Vampyr has been part of my life for a very long time. It was only three years ago that I first saw the game, but I’ve been following it closely since then. It’s always been at arm’s length though, seen in the occasional video playthrough or prior to an interview with the developers. Last week, I had my first chance to play it, and spent two hours healing and hurting the people of London. It’s been a long wait and at the end of it, being dead was a bit of a drag.

Read the rest of this entry »

Wot I Think: Civilization 6 – Rise And Fall


Civilization is at its worst when you’re winning. Success breeds complacency as you click the end turn button and acknowledge the news of great accomplishments with the practiced apathy of a regent signing papers on behalf of an infant king. There is an inevitability about your empire’s march through history and it’s easy to feel like a passive pawn.

Rise and Fall, the first major expansion for Civ VI, attempts to address this by introducing global crises, dark ages and citizen loyalty. It gets about half of the job spot on; the fall is much better than the rise.

Read the rest of this entry »

Have You Played… Hidden & Dangerous 2: Courage Under Fire?


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

I thought of the Hidden & Dangerous games as Rainbow Six: WWII. That was no bad thing. Combining stealth, squad management, action, and lots of careful planning that often ended in a few brutal seconds of panic and failure, they were wonderful things. I’ve been revisiting the sequel following its recent arrival on Steam. Read the rest of this entry »

Underworld Ascendant wants you to break all the rules


Underworld Ascendant is a game for anyone who has ever tormented a GM during a tabletop RPG session. The maps have been drawn up, the traps have been primed and all of the plans are coming together. You’re deep in a dungeon and the story is about to take a very unpleasant turn. And then…

“You said the spikey pillars are made of the same wood from which the ancient throne of Catharsia was carved? Fine. I’ll set fire to them.”

“You can’t do that…there are another six distinct phases of this particular peril…”

“I’m pretty sure I can. They’re wood. They’ll burn. Let’s get out of here.”

Read the rest of this entry »

Frostpunk introduces its awesome/terrifying automatons


In Frostpunk, what doesn’t kill you definitely doesn’t make you stronger. It probably makes your arm fall off, or convinces everyone that you’re no longer a capable part of the workforce so that they feel compelled to save some power by cutting off the heat supply to your house. And, hey, if you’re lucky, you might be able to contribute to the survival of your pals even if you do die because there are lots of hungry mouths to feed, and what’s a little cannibalism between friends?

I’ve taken a good, long look at Frostpunk already and I liked what I saw. I’ll admit, I did wonder why there were no towering quadrupedal automatons that filled me with equal parts awe and dread. Guess what just WHIRR-STOMPED into view…

Read the rest of this entry »

Total War Saga: Thrones of Britannia is a smaller game with some very big ideas


It’s not the size of the dog in the fight, it’s the size of the fight in the dog. That’s a useful motto, a pick-me-up for the smaller among us, but the truth is right now, I am a very small dog with very little fight left in it.

I’m the boss of Mide, a province in the middle of Ireland. The 9th century is drawing to a close and everything is in disarray. The coasts are saturated with Danes, there is no unification among my own people, and at the horizon’s edge, England is burning. Total War Saga: Thrones of Britannia has a cumbersome name but it might be the leanest and meanest game in Creative Assembly’s long-running strategy series. It’s a little dog with a whole lot of beautiful fight in it.

Read the rest of this entry »

Wot I Think: Celeste


You’re climbing a mountain. It’s hard, especially when the wind is cutting through you like a knife and angry spikes are pulsing from the walls. Sometimes you’re not even sure if the mountain is actually a metaphor for every difficult thing you’ve ever done in your life. That’s how much trouble you’re having getting to the peak.

That is my brief summary of Celeste, a game that has flung me into the abyss hundreds of times, battered me into submission, and placed me in predicaments that are as unnerving as they are challenging. It’s a tricky platform game, with a beautifully melancholy story, and enough creativity on show to give me strength even when the going got so tough I almost lost hope.

Read the rest of this entry »

Smashing shooter Crimsonland is free to play this weekend


This weekend, why not spend some time surrounded by creeping death that approaches from all sides in the form of horrid aliens and giant spiders? Sounds appealing, doesn’t it? What if I told you that you don’t even have to leave your house and that it won’t cost you a penny? SOLD, you’d say, and I’d patiently restate that you don’t need to pay anything at all.

Crimsonland, the top-down shooter that inexplicably doesn’t have a sequel (more on that shortly), is free to play via Steam right now and for the rest of the weekend. Hurrah! It’s great and you should definitely try it if you’re not allergic to Smash TV, monsters or the killing of monsters.

Read the rest of this entry »

Have You Played… Wunderdoktor?

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

Pulling worms out of eye sockets, popping eyeballs back into those sockets, then retrieving the ghosts from inside someone’s skull might sound like a grisly business, but Wunderdoktor finds the fun in fungal infections. We’re talking actual toadstools growing where toadstools should not grow. Or bits of coral, or little dancing spikes, or whatever the heck else the denizens of Wunderdoktor’s strange and macabre world have managed to get lodged in their flesh.

There’s more to this delightful game than cute-gross visuals though. It’s brill. Read the rest of this entry »