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Rob Zacny

2 years ago

Feature: Coasting by design

Premature Evaluation: Parkitect

After a couple hours of tinkering and revising, I've almost got a decent amusement park in Parkitect, Texel Raptor's pseudo-remake of Rollercoaster Tycoon. Most of the rides are full or at least half-full, I have a cool rollercoaster or two that are drawing a lot of customers, and I'm turning a handsome profit every month. It's a good-enough park, and the customers who walk back…

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Feature: In the shadow of StarCraft

Premature Evaluation: Meridian – Squad 22

Perhaps a slow decline into niche-status is just what the RTS genre needs. No pressure to include a fistful of cutscene sugar in order to make the gameplay medicine go down, no expectations of lavish artwork and massive unit lists. We can just play more RTS games that aren't at odds with themselves and their intentions, and we can maybe calibrate our own expectations a…

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Feature: Bad beachfront real estate

Premature Evaluation: The Solus Project

Few sci-fi games embrace the menacing strangeness and indifference of the universe as you find it in Kubrick, Tarkovsky, or even Scott's original Alien. Space, and the far future, tend to be familiar analogues to the everyday conflicts we see around us. The aliens are never too alien, and new worlds are never too new. The Solus Project maroons the player beyond the outskirts of…

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Feature: A good Warhammer game

Total War: Warhammer review

Watching the Greenskins approach from a dusty brown hilltop with the remnants of the High King's great Dwarven army, I knew I was probably going to lose this battle and, with it, the entire Blood River Valley that I'd spent most of my game trying to conquer. I'd already defeated three other Orc armies in the last two turns, but this made one unstoppable horde…

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Feature: What is it with New Orleans and zombie apocalypses?

Premature Evaluation: How to Survive 2

Survival games seem to break down into two broad categories. On the one hand, you have the survivalist games, where the focus is on an endless battle against the elements, a hostile environment, and resource scarcity so severe that even basic needs like food and shelter are hard to satisfy. Then there are survival games like EKO Software's How to Survive 2, where some survival…

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Feature: Dead space

Premature Evaluation: Starpoint Gemini Warlords

Every week, Rob Zacny heads into the uncharted systems of Early Access in search of new cargo to bring back to the mothership. This week, Starpoint Gemini Warlords [official site]. Starpoint Gemini Warlords is admirably straightforward in its Steam Early Access statement, warning-off potential buyers with an upfront admission that the game is currently an early alpha with only the most basic systems implemented. The…

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Feature: Angels and demons

No Bullshit: The Culture & Creativity Of Cliff Bleszinski’s Boss Key Productions

When we received an invite to visit the studios of Boss Key Productions, Cliff Bleszinski's new studio, we asked Rob Zacny to represent us. He was there to play Lawbreakers [official site], a game that he approached with some trepidation but the tense multiplayer action won him over. Given that Boss Key is an entire new creative venture for Bleszinski and his team, we wanted…

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Feature: Novel in many ways

Premature Evaluation: Kim

Every Monday, and this Tuesday, Rob Zacny settles down with his game library in search of the next great Early Access game. This week, an adaptation of Rudyard Kipling's Kim. An adventure game based on Rudyard Kipling's novel Kim [official site] is almost as strange and difficult to assess as the book itself. Like its source material, it's full of contradiction and complication, a work…

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Feature: The Shipping Forecast

Premature Evaluation: Man O’ War – Corsair

Every Monday, Rob Zacny heads into the uncharted waters of Early Access in search of plunder and excitement. This week, Man O' War: Corsair. Warhammer is a refuge from both progress and decline. It's a safe space where you can always enjoy a militarist's historical highlight reel from the Late Middle Ages through the Enlightenment, where things will never get much better or worse. And…

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Feature: A sporty shooter, but not an esports shooter

Hands On: Lawbreakers

Earlier this month, we sent Rob Zacny to the offices of Boss Key Productions in North Carolina. The studio are working on their first game, Lawbreakers, a multiplayer action game from a team led by Unreal's Cliff Bleszinski. Approaching with a healthy dose of skepticism, Rob spent some time playing the game and learning its secrets to see if it could win him over, and…

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Feature: CORPORATE TAKEDOWN

Premature Evaluation: Bunker Punks

After spending three hours filing my taxes last week, I wasn't feeling very punk. Fortunately, a code for Ninja Robot Dinosaur's Bunker Punks [official site] arrived in my inbox to let me stick it to The Man, from the safety of my (partially tax deductable) home office. Within seconds, I was shooting at jacket-and-tie wearing aliens who defended levels filled with corporate propaganda like "CONSUME"…

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3 years ago

Feature: Tales of Suspense

Premature Evaluation: Poly Bridge

Every week, Rob Zacny crosses the chasm of Early Access to find a treat on the other side. Sometimes the path across is perilous, sometimes it is as sturdy as a horizontal oak. As something rolls across a painstakingly-constructed series of spans and supports in Dry Cactus' Poly Bridge [official site], you can see the structural elements changing color as load is added or subtracted…

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Feature: Here comes the neighbourhood

Premature Evaluation: Block’hood

One of the major selling-points of Cities: Skylines was that, unlike SimCity, its maps would let your cities sprawl for miles until they became the San Angeles-style megalopolises of your dreams (though with a cheerier, Scandinavian aesthetic sensibility and fewer killer androids. Run out of space for that next critical piece of utility infrastructure? No problem, just annex another 25 square miles of land and…

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Feature: Surviving, not living

Premature Evaluation: H1Z1 – Just Survive

There's an archetypical plot running through a lot of post-apocalyptic fiction, and particularly zombie fiction, where the survivors realize that they never before felt as alive as they do in the midst of their fight for survival. World War Z has no shortage of characters who found meaning and purpose in the zombie apocalypse, a disaster that liberated them from postmodern malaise. A similar sentiment…

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Feature: Potential but as yet unrealised

Premature Evaluation: Last Days Of Old Earth

Every Monday, Rob Zacny ... Early Access … a worthy in-progress game. Last Days of Old Earth [official site] has tons of potential to be a great strategy game, in much the way a story outline has the potential to be a literary masterpiece.

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Feature: The Long Dark meets Gone Home.

Premature Evaluation: Kona

Every Monday, Rob Zacny braces himself for the chilly wastes of Early Access and attempts to find warmth by the side of a worthy in-progress game. From its opening on a park-bench at a roadside rest stop in northern Quebec, Kona tantalized me with a combination of period detail and immersive-sim mechanics. Before my character, private detective Carl Faubert, even finished his cigarette, I'd made…

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Feature: Rust is hell.

Premature Evaluation: Rust

Every Monday, Rob Zacny gathers the raw materials of Early Access and attempts to survive against a world of crazed, screaming unfinished games. This week, he visits the ultra-popular survival game. As I died screaming between a wolf's jaws, collapsing in the snow that dusts the top of the mountains while listening to it gnaw through virtual flesh, I had a realization: survival games are…

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Feature: Sid Meier's Diminishing Returns, more like

The 4X Genre Has Grown Stagnant, Here’s How To Fix It

When Civilization II came out, I spent an entire summer playing it for several hours a day. The only check on my binging was the fact that my parents would eventually come home and force me to pretend, for a few hours at least, that I cared about things other than Civilization II. I was a senior in college when Civilization IV arrived. I'd barely…

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Feature: More Men of War

Premature Evaluation: Call To Arms

Every Monday, Rob Zacny calls out to the assembled masses of Early Access games but only a few are brave and hardy enough to respond to his summons. Call to Arms [official site] has a lot to make up for. Its predecessor, Men of War: Assault Squad 2, was one of the most bitter disappointments I've ever had with a game.

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