Author Archive

Wot I Think – The Elder Scrolls Online: Summerset

eso-summerset

I’ve spent the past few days in a sadly cider-free Summerset, the High Elven setting of The Elder Scrolls Online‘s latest expansion pack. Like the Morrowind DLC before it, Summerset functions as both a big, fat barrel of new things to do/kill/collect for established players and a clean entry-point for newcomers.

I’m somewhere in the middle of that, as someone who stopped by for a nostalgic return to Morrowind – The Elder Scrolls III being one of the best RPGs ever, to my mind- last year, but otherwise feels that his days with traditional MMOs are behind him. Another way of putting that is “someone who fancies some more Elder Scrolls while waiting for whenever and whatever the next mainline Elder Scrolls is.” An oddball mix of tranquil solo adventures and extreme MMO noise, Summerset is surprisingly good at scratching that itch, despite also replicating the sins of a hundred other games.
Read the rest of this entry »

Adeptus Titanicus cross-pollinates 40K and BattleTech

adeptus-titanicus

There’s an inherent sense of All This Has Happened Before And All This Will Happen Again when you’ve spent as many years as I have writing about videogames, but I got proper head-spinning deju vu when I read about Adeptus Mechanicus: Dominus today. Didn’t I only just post about an XCOMish Warhammer 40,000 turn-based strategy game with a cod-Latin name? Turns out that was Mechanicus, not Titanticus. Obv. Though these icuses share a genre, Titanicus is ploughing more of a BattleTech furrow. Which is to say, giant bloody robo-tanks knocking seven bells out of each other.

I lost my heart to a 40K Titan when I was 13, and I never got it back – so maybe, just maybe, this can overcome my Games Workshop adaptation fatigue.
Read the rest of this entry »

Sea of Thieves’s first big update washes ashore next week

Far too many gigabytes of Rare-made pirate MMO still litter my hard drive, reserved for an imagined day when Sea of Thieves‘s gorgeous ocean will be blessed with the vibrancy and variety it deserves. SOT achieved the peculiar duality of burning indelible ocean-faring images into my mind while being entirely forgettable moment-to-moment, and the concept that it might blossom into something meatier currently feels more like a fond daydream than a belief.

Newly-revealed full details on its first major update, The Hungering Deep, sadly aren’t doing much to make that dream a reality, but they do at least offer a few hints on what SOT could and should yet become.

Read the rest of this entry »

Double Fine decide to have Kids

kids

Their own output might be spottier than a ladybird farm, but Double Fine most certainly have an eye for a great concept, both in their self-made games and the select few they publish. Gang Beasts, Mountain, Everything, Thoth and the upcoming Ooblets and Knights and Bikes all came up through the Double Fine Presents programme, and joining that number is the cute-but-haunting Kids. It’s an extremely striking game about manipulating huge crowds of faceless people. Including chucking ’em all down a bloody great hole.
Read the rest of this entry »

A Frostpunk diary of certain doom, finale: democracy is death

frostpunk-ending

Concluding my brutish and short first play of survival-management curio Frostpunk. When last you left us, we had survived disaster by the skin of our teeth, and even welcomed a giant robot into the fold. Now, as the nights draw in and the fires dim, can my proud people survive the rest of this calamitous winter?
Read the rest of this entry »

Shenmue III won’t be released in 2018, but you knew that already

shenmue-iii-delay

You’ve been waiting 17 years for Shenmue III – what’s one more year between friends? Sure, a delay until until 2019 makes the time between the wildly successful Kickstarter for Yu Suzuki’s white whale and its eventual reality jump to four years, but I think we all knew this was inevitable.
Read the rest of this entry »

Wot I Think: MachiaVillain

machiavillain-review

MachiaVillain is primarily a game about remembering to sweep severed heads off your porch. Too much visible viscera will scare off the next crop of guileless victims to your hand-crafted house of horrors, y’see. Shamelessly in the tradition of Dungeon Keeper (still my go-to PC gaming nostalgia, along with X-COM), MachiaVillain is a management sim in which the baddies are the goodies. You shepherd a small herd of flesh-eating monsters around, building both an ever-growing lair for themselves and a faux-home to lure in unsuspecting humies with which to feed your festering menagerie.

It runs much further with its inverted horror movie concept than does the usual “ooh, what if you were the bad guy, eh?” tomfoolery, though witless humour and a needlessly fiddly user interface get in the way of the gruesome good times. Read the rest of this entry »

A Frostpunk diary of certain doom, part 4: fighting back

frostpunk-diary-part-4

The ongoing tale of a desperate first run in survival/management sim Frostpunk.

Mission: coal. Participants: everyone, basically. I need engineers researching a Coal Thumper in the workshop, so my frostbitten waifs can extract the life-giving ore from otherwise unbreakable deposits which remain. I need workers pulled away from wood and steel collection to build and then staff that Coal Thumper. I need everyone who’s off sick from our last near-death experience to bloody well stop being sick so they can work. And I need everyone, everyone, to survive in -40 conditions for a full day, so that our last coal isn’t depleted before we can fix this. Read the rest of this entry »

American Truck Simulator teases the sights, truckstops and random stretches of tarmac of Oregon

american trruck simulator oregon

17 years a games journalist. I was there for the reveal of Half-Life 2, the comeback(s) of Deus Ex, the splendour of Spelunky, the rise of Plunkbat and that horrifying time that grown men wept when they heard they could hold two guns at once in Halo 2. And yet here I am, very probably more excited than at any other point in my ridiculous career, because I’m looking at screenshots of truckstops in Oregon.

American Truck Simulator, bliss-out game to end all bliss-out games, is gearing up to welcome us to its next state, and its greenest one yet. I am so ready for Oregon.
Read the rest of this entry »

A Frostpunk diary of certain doom, part 3: small mercies

frostpunk-diary-3

The ongoing tale of a desperate first run in survival/management sim Frostpunk.

When last we spoke, everyone was starving, everyone was ill, there weren’t enough homes and people were choosing death over amputation. It’s day 10 in the frozen remnants of what was once Britain, and it looks like it’s all over already.

Oh ye of little faith.
Read the rest of this entry »

Hand Of Fate 2 gets gobby

hand of fate 2 goblins

I’ve not waddled back over to solid CCG/rougelite combo Hand Of Fate 2 since reviewing it last year, but the sound of goblin trumpets drew me back today. HOF2’s Arkham-lite fighting was always a lot less interesting than its deck-building and choose-your-own-adventure progression, but that had a lot to do with seeing the same few types of Bad Man time and again.

The free Goblins update, out now, shuffles new threats into the deck, those being pint-sized, pea green murder-bastards with far too many teeth. Equally homicidal gnomes, with a few straight outta Lilliput combat tricks, seem to have been lumped in under the gobbo umbrella too, confusingly.
Read the rest of this entry »

Theme Hospital successor Two Point Hospital is very much 1997 wearing 2018’s clothes

two-point-hospital-4

The main thing I thought as I began to play Two Point Hospital, spiritual sequel to 90s medical management hit Theme Hospital, is that I barely had to think at all. Some alchemy of 90s sim game muscle memory and slick, thoroughly 21st century building assists meant I hit the ground running, immediately in my happy place of dragging out room sizes, rotating machinery and the time-honored architectural Tetris of making all this fit inside a finite space. It felt good – but how much of this was this the placebo effect of nostalgia?
Read the rest of this entry »

Jeff Freezos: a Frostpunk diary of careless cruelty, part 2

frost-punk-radical-surgery

Continuing an increasingly doomed attempt to survive the endless winter of Frostpunk.

Overwork and hunger: the very bedrock of a failed society. Strained beyond belief mere days into proceedings, my people fall ill faster than the attendees of a three-year-old’s birthday party in an airless room. We need all hands on deck to gather supplies for the building of a hunter’s shack and cookhouse, but the only way to achieve this is to forcibly remove a few hands. Read the rest of this entry »

Rollercoaster Tycoon 3 mysteriously delisted from Steam & GOG

rollercoaster-tycoon-3

Back in January, zombie publisher Atari suffered the legal ire of its past-life contractor Frontier Developments over unpaid royalties for 2004’s theme park sim RollerCoaster Tycoon 3.

There’s been no word as yet of how that particular dust – alleged by gossip site TMZ to be worth some $2.2m – settled, but I suspect many of us would raise an eyebrow or six if someone told us that RT3’s sudden removal from Steam and GOG yesterday was merely a coincidence. But, well, it might be.
Read the rest of this entry »

Jeff Freezos: a diary of Frostpunk doom, part 1

frostpunk-diary

The fate of humanity, or at least a slim and freezing remainder of it, rests upon the bewildered shoulders of someone who can’t even keep a basil plant alive for more than 24 hours. Frostpunk does not forgive. Frostpunk does not have mercy. Frostpunk will kill everyone. Unless I can stop it.
Read the rest of this entry »

The true meaning of BattleTech is interstellar giant robot amputation Pokemon

battletech-salvage

Some might say that BattleTech‘s meta-game is the strategy layer – all that base-building, mech-fixing’n’fitting, pilot management and parts-shopping required to ultimately create an unstoppable army of heavy metal death. Those people are dead wrong. The overarching goal of BattleTech, the true purpose of its turn-based fights and base management alike, is that you gotta catch ’em all.

By which I mean, you gotta kneecap ’em all.
Read the rest of this entry »

BattleTech update 1 will bring speed-up options, more customisation and UI improvement

Bad news for people who love it when I bang on about BattleTech‘s speed/delay problems every single time I post about it: the devs are planning to offer “accelerated combat options” in a month or two. More unit customisation, difficulty settings and UI improvements are also due in the first major update, though ahead of that, they’ll be breaking out their welding torches and fixing up this thing’s slightly unstable legs.
Read the rest of this entry »

These easy, player-made speed fixes are BattleTech’s redemption

battletech-speed-fix

Two things stand between BattleTech and true greatness. User guides and videos solve the bonkers decision to not so much as hint at absolute combat necessities that make the difference between grim slugfest and satisfying tactical supremacy, but the other one’s trickier.

The surfeit of frustrating pauses and pretty but time-wasting animations surely require an official patch, right? Hope – turns out that all you need to haul BattleTech out of the quicksand is a spot of ini file editing. The difference is… well, I don’t want to let my prose get too purple here, but it’s so much closer to the turn-based mech combat game I’d long dreamed of. Read the rest of this entry »

Into The Breach patch fixes false victories, adds initial touchscreen support

While we’re all distracted by BattleTech‘s intricate and ponderous mech warfare, the polar opposite, lightning-quick approach to turn-based giant robo-combat has been busy too. Into The Breach‘s latest patch quietly fixes a dozen-odd problems I doubt many of us even noticed this ridiculously slick game ever had, including one that meant getting your whole team killed in the final mission didn’t always mean a game over. Me, I’m happy because this patch marks Into The Breach’s first step into ultimate perfection – becoming a game I can play while lying down. Read the rest of this entry »

Learning to love BattleTech: an evolving opinion

bt

A couple of days ago, I started BattleTech‘s campaign over from the start. For uninteresting technical reasons I’d had to use a different Steam account when playing it for our BattleTech review, but the savegames wouldn’t then load on my usual account. I’d been fairly frustrated by the turn-based mech combat game’s treacly pace and janky interface, and so didn’t intend on this do-over lasting long. As it happened, I played until I reached where I’d left off in my previous campaign.

It took half the time it had done before, and my blood rarely reached the tempestuous boil that had characterised my broadly unimpressed pre-release experience. And then I kept on playing. I have no current intention of stopping. I am enjoying myself immensely, mostly. BattleTech’s failings very much remain failings, but they’re not the obstacle to happy bot-blasting that they once were. So what changed?
Read the rest of this entry »