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Nate Crowley

3 months ago

Feature: Are you a duplican or a duplican't?

Oxygen Not Included review

During its two year stint in Early Access, Oxygen Not Included often came close to becoming one of my major time sink games. It’s a rich simulation of the kind I adore, with an enchanting art style, a unique atmosphere, and a labyrinth of features to discover. On a gut level, I love it. But then, for every time I’ve booted it up, there have…

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Feature: Live by the fist, die by the beakdog

Dwarf Fortress Diary: The Basement Of Curiosity Episode Twenty-One – Return of the Interesting Door

Last time on the BoC: Fort founder Lorbam has lost her mind, and ordered the whole fortress - once a thriving tourist destination - sealed off from the surface so that she can breed her beasts in the safety of the Great Beneath. During preparations for the move underground, the fort was very nearly breached by a Werepanda: only the bolts of a sharp-eyed hunter…

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Feature: Mince raft

Have You Played… Minecraft?

At first, I couldn’t believe nobody had written a ‘Have You Played’ about Minecraft, given the sheer mass with which it looms over the last decade of game history. But that’s it, isn’t it? It’d be like writing “Have You Seen… The Sky?” or “Have You Tasted… Bread?” Even if you’ve not played Minecraft, you know exactly what it is. It was the little indie…

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Feature: Hakuna cantata

Cantata is Advance Wars with logistics and an Ann Leckie glow-up

I’ve tried for about twenty minutes to find an opening sentence that doesn’t sound contrivedly promotional, but sod it: Cantata is one of the most interesting upcoming tactics games around. Taken individually, none of its elements are revolutionary. It’s a case of “Advance Wars, but…”, where the wheel of modifiers has been spun and landed on “bright colours”, “supply lines” and “high brow science fiction”.…

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Feature: Bet u I can eat this whole newspaper

The Deep End: a Zero Context Final Fantasy Diary – Part I: Prologue

It is the height of summer; a lush July evening, and a Friday to boot, with a free weekend stretched out before me like so much blue sky. I’m planning to spend plenty of the next two days outside, with my wife and daughter, enjoying fresh air, laughter and good food. But there’s a dark pit in this fruit of fun; a bitter kernel which…

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Feature: Tankster's paradise

Biotope could have been my dream aquarium simulator

Recently, my eleven month old daughter said her first word. She was pointing into the shimmery blue interior of the new aquarium in our bedroom, and she said “fish”. Unfortunately she was pointing out a shrimp, but hey - it’s the thought that counts. I was elated; much of my life has been consumed by an obsession with watery things, and aquariums in particular, thanks…

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Feature: Tiger tiger burning bright, time to have a massive fight

Dwarf Fortress Diary: The Basement Of Curiosity Episode Twenty – Night of the Self-published Werepanda

Last time on the BoC: Having finally achieved her dream of a breeding pair of chimps, at the cost of making a trade deal with the elves go very, very bad, fort founder Lorbam has become… strange. Increasingly distrustful of the outside world, she has decreed that the whole settlement be moved underground, and at midwinter, the overworld gates of the Basement will be shut…

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Feature: The stuff of legend

Have You Played… Ultima Online?

After reading a lot of “Have You Played” retrospectives, it’s very common to dig up an old game, boot it up, and enjoy fifteen minutes of nostalgia, followed by the creeping realisation that it’s not as good as either you or the author of the post remembered. Luckily, Ultima Online - the first game I ever played online - is immune to this fate. That’s…

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Feature: Chimps can be bad for your elf

Dwarf Fortress Diary: The Basement Of Curiosity Episode Nineteen – Crossing the Rubicon

Last time on the BoC: Due to a prolonged water shortage during a goblin siege, the dwarves finally breached the underground to slake their thirst. Despite attacks by giant bats and a mishap with a captured goblin swordsman, great treasures were unearthed below - basement founder Lorbam retrieved a feather from Tol, the great winged worm, as well as using herself as bait to catch…

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Feature: Fortknight

Have You Played… Stronghold?

With Stronghold: Warlords recently announced at E3, now seems as good a moment as any to look back on the game that kicked off Firefly’s seemingly endless series of castle ’em ups back in 2001. In fact, I’m genuinely astonished to learn that Warlords will be the ninth game in the series, as despite loving the first instalment, I’ve managed to play precisely none of…

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Feature: Relaxing times in medieval Estonia

Help, I can’t stop playing Crusader Kings 2 on holiday

One of the games I return to regularly is Crusader Kings 2, and usually, what pokes me back into its torrid embrace is a trip abroad. I’ll go to a place I’ve not really thought about much, then get well into its history and, because my curiosity writes cheques my attention span can’t cash, I’ll fail to read up on it at all. What I…

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4 months ago

Feature: Gonna take my norse to the old town road

Have You Played… The Banner Saga?

An idea I’m happy to see the back of, is the notion that “graphics” is a one-way sliding scale towards photorealistic perfection. While I’m certainly fond of games that exhibit hyperbudget beauty along the lines of Metro: Exodus or Shadow of the Tomb Raider, I’m equally - probably more - excited by those who eschew realism in order to utterly master a particular aesthetic. Often,…

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Feature: The jaws that bite, the claws that catch

Dwarf Fortress Diary: The Basement Of Curiosity Episode Eighteen – Drubbings In The Deep

Last time on the BoC: After a wild summer in which the fortress was revamped, a ghost wrestler arrived, and the Bird Hole was finally bricked over, autumn arrived with its traditional goblin siege. This one was heavier than most: despite an attack from within the enemy ranks by a shapeshifting Werepanda, the blockade remained all season, leaving the fort without a supply of water…

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Feature: It only took 17 episodes to acquire a bloody chimp

Dwarf Fortress Diary: The Basement Of Curiosity Episode Seventeen – Ape Expectations

Last Time on the BoC: With the exception of a squad of sharpshooters hurling themselves off a roof to punch an invading army, and a vast two-headed giant muscling its way into the fort (only to get thoroughly Idded), the Basement entered a period of shocking prosperity...

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Feature: Everything gets a bit Attack on Titan this week

Dwarf Fortress Diary: The Basement Of Curiosity Episode Sixteen – The Tide Turns

Last Time on the BoC: The fort’s period of civil disorder came to a bloody conclusion, and a new wave of immigrants bolstered efforts to begin constructing a suite of new living quarters deep underground. Siege defences were also bolstered, with the construction of a new sniper tower.

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Feature: How can you even bite someone's teeth off?

Dwarf Fortress Diary: The Basement Of Curiosity Episode Fifteen – A Miner Inconvenience

Last Time on the BoC: The dwarves partied through a siege. The tantruming Udil claimed her first life, before starting an apocalyptic pub fight. The underground was revealed, in all its dank glory.

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Feature: Woah-oh here she comes, watch out boy she’ll challenge your deeply held convictions

Maneater would be easy to condemn if it didn’t look a right laugh

I’ve got two completely separate takes on Maneater. It’s almost as if I split into two people when watching the gameplay footage released at E3 -- two fizzing outlines of myself, roughly tethered to my physical form like a bad 80s special effect. One of those outlines, the crackly red one, loved it. I think he’s my inner nine year old, who used to entertain…

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Feature: Scream if you wanna go faster

Square Enix is making a game based on the paintings of the Avengers on the sides of fairground rides

After so many years of the big screen being dominated by the Avengers as portrayed by Evans, Hemsworth and company, it’s great to see the limelight passed on to some less well-known interpretation of the famed superheroes. Namely, those daubed on the side of janky-looking ferris wheels which appear without warning on turd-strewn commons across the UK.

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Feature: I think Halo is a pretty cool guy

The Halo Infinite trailer is sparse and dull, and it’s a job well done

My friend Josh loves Halo. For nineteen years now, whenever a new Halo has come out, I’ve gone round to his place, and we’ve spent a night playing through its campaign as a sort of ritual. I’m garbage at shooters, mind, and Josh insists on playing on Heroic mode, so the whole experience boils down to him protecting me from aliens while we chat about…

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Feature: Welcome to the reptile house

Planet Zoo has a new trailer, a release date, and a lot of potential

Over in LA, Frontier Developments have just shown the latest trailer for their upcoming menagerie-’em-up Planet Zoo, as well as setting a launch date for November 5th - and it’s looking very powerful indeed. I’ll be straightforward with you here: with the exception of the extremely relaxing Megaquarium, I’ve always been disappointed by zoo games. And that’s not because I’m not into the concept. I…

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