Author Archive

Why I fell out with Fallout-inspired indie RPG Underrail

Underrail [official site] is a game that wants to be Fallout. That’s okay! That’s a legendary game for several reasons, and some are even good. There’s definitely room for an RPG to be to Fallout what Xenonauts is to UFO: neither remake nor clone, but a new game that does all the same stuff we’ve missed, only without an interface from the Stupid Age.

Underrail, however, is not that game. It’s a bold attempt, but ultimately one that misses too many marks, and copies too many notes from the Bumper Book Of Frustrating RPG Design We Still Have To Put Up With For Some Reason.

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EVE Online’s free to play update might change your mind

I almost uninstalled EVE Online partway through the oddly crashy character creation process. Somewhere out there is a parallel universe in which my only experience with the game is a distant memory of an unpleasant and rapidly abandoned free trial. What a terrible world that is.

For you see, I was wrong about EVE. I suspect a great many people are, as perhaps do its creators CCP, who recently released probably their most significant update ever, called Ascension (aka the Alpha update). The first step in an ongoing effort to overhaul the new player experience, this update introduced a free to play option to the long-running subscription-based spacey-tradey blowy-uppy stabby-backy MMO. Like many, I decided to give it a proper chance, to see whether its new structure was an improvement. That was over a month ago. So what’s the verdict? Read the rest of this entry »

Creeper World 3 has the best monster of any game

What’s the best video game monster? Stop and think. You’ve probably thought of something bristling with claws, which snarls as it rushes to bite you, or some skittering horror that lurks in the shadows. Perhaps it’s a shiny robot or a soldier with particularly fiendish AI. These are all understandable choices. They are, however, wrong.

The best monster is in Creeper World 3 [official site]. It is gunge. It has no weak point to exploit. It has no face. There will be no victory. There will only be gunge.

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Cataclysm: Dark Days Ahead: A roguelike you could play for the rest of your life

I don’t like roguelikes and, like all real people, I was sick of zombies years ago. Plus, somehow in just a few years we’ve gone from having next to no survival games to having so many of the godforsaken things that you can barely move without tripping over a hunger bar.

All this and the keyboard-heavy ASCII affectation would, you’d think, make for my nightmare game. And it should. So I am actively irritated that Cataclysm: Dark Days Ahead an ASCII zombie survival roguelike, has taken over my life. Let me tell you about my latest character, a 12-year-old girl who is surviving the apocalypse by jetting around on rollerblades, pelting monsters with a sling, and studying mechanics so she can hotwire an electric van and run over someone who stole her bag of precious salt.

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Friendless Space: Why Master Of Orion 3 Is Important

Games are either good or the worst thing to ever happen. That’s just how it works. Oh, sure, there are divisive games, but once the consensus has been reached that a game is bad, that’s it. Cast it away into the pit of 1 star reviews, the lair of the Thumbdown, to be spoken of only with frothing hatred and contempt. Never to be touched. Never to be examined.

Master of Orion 3 is one of the most important 4X games ever made. There, I said it. It’s all over for me now. Follow not where I dare to tread.

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Fragile Allegiance & The RTS Formula That Never Was

The youngest of you won’t remember The Before Times. One of the minor side effects of the millennium bug killing off 90% of the Earth’s population was that not long afterwards, strategy games stratified into a tiny handful of highly formulaic subtypes. There’s a downside to the unquestionably better standards of design we’ve enjoyed in the last decade or so. It’s rare to find a genuinely bad game in the same way that games were bad in the 90s. But I can’t help imagining what other ideas were bounced around before everyone agreed that the wheel was indeed the way forward, and Unk and Thogg would have to resign their posts as Chief and Assistant Thing Hurler To The Village And Sometimes The River.

Take, for example, Fragile Allegiance [Mobygames link]. Its position in game history was odd even on release in 1996 – both a port and a remake and a sequel to the Amiga’s semi-obscure, direly-named, but terrific K240 (itself a sequel to 1991’s Utopia) – and its design still defies the neat categorisation we’re used to. Technically it’s a real-time strategy straddling “city builder” and “4X”, but not quite conforming to any common model.

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How Imperialism 2 Took The **** Out Of XXXX

Epic grand historical strategy! Ugh.

Look, I’m not bashing the genre – I had to quit Crusader Kings 2 cold turkey as it took over my life – but when things become fashionable in games, we really overdo it, and something always gets lost in the desperate pursuit of the zeitgeist. Lately, it’s regular old historical strategy that’s felt the neglect. Not insanely complex, not gigantic in scope, not a danger to your circadian rhythm or those ‘social life’ things I’ve heard about. Just plain solid, highly playable strategy games.

So, Imperialism 2, then. Released in 1999 by Frog City Software, both it and its 1997 predecessor are far more obscure than they should be.

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