The Sunday Papers

Sundays are for doing all the things you’ve been trying to get done the last three Sundays. Or we could put it off again and spend the day reading about videogames. Choose wisely.

Free Loaders: Packing Heat In Latin America

I really am in Costa Rica. I am not just doing one of my 'jokes'.

Hola, amigos. This week’s edition is coming to you from San josé, Costa Rica. As some of you may know, my fearless and tenacious reporting of the Ludum Dare collective and other seditious elements of the free games community has forced me into hiding in Central America. But I will not falter. I will continue to report on these dastardly events, these subversive groups of juegistas, and these craven games, which cost exactly zero dollars. Long live the free press!

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How Risk Of Rain Increases Difficulty Over Time

This is The Mechanic, where Alex Wiltshire invites a developer to help him put their game up on blocks and take a wrench to hack out its best feature, just to see how it works.

The start of a game of Risk of Rain [official site] is quiet. Your small pixel character stands in a vast alien landscape, in which somewhere you’ll find a teleporter that will take you to the next level. The end of a game of Risk of Rain is mayhem, the land swarming with monsters that you couldn’t survive.

And throughout lies constant stress and pressure. You’re ever aware of a meter in the top right corner of the screen that ticks upwards. Every five minutes, a bell chimes and the difficulty changes: from Very Easy, to Easy, to Medium, and further. The constantly respawning monsters come ever thicker and harder, inexorably escalating towards unmanageable chaos. You must never stand still and must never relent, because with every second your own downfall nears. All because of:

THE MECHANIC: Time = difficulty

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XCOM 2’s Day One Mods Reviewed

XCOM 2 [official site] isn’t just a big pile of tactical brilliance, it’s also a big mod-friendly pile of tactical brilliance. Theoretically, that means someone will iron out the things that annoy you and build on the things you love. It also means we can expect anything from an increase in moustache variety to a revamped campaign or series of total conversions.

To kick things off, Firaxis commissioned the clever folks who made the Long War mod for Enemy Unknown to produce three day-one mods for XCOM 2. They are neat additions but, more than that, they’re signposts toward an exciting future.

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Wot I Think: Agatha Christie – The ABC Murders

When I wrote about the preview snippet of Agatha Christie – The ABC Murders [Steam page]I wasn’t sure what to make of it. The art style felt pleasant and the extra points for behaving as Poirot would were a nice touch, but the puzzles were straightforward and you weren’t really playing as Poirot. The overall impression was of a studio trying to make a murder mystery story into a game and adding a lot of superficial interactivity. So does the full game succeed where the snippet failed? Here’s Wot I Think:

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XCOM 2 Is Ridiculously Exciting

I don’t mean “I’m excited that this videogame sequel is coming out,” but rather that the game itself works so hard and does so much to create a constant sense of near-euphoric drama. In an age where sequels=darker, because far too many people believe that The Empire Strikes Back is the highest watermark of popular culture, XCOM 2 [official site]s lurch towards brightly-coloured celebratory heroism is a welcome one – and it does this even though, thematically, we’re talking a post-alien-invasion Earth and all the horror that implies. It wouldn’t be unfair to invoke Independence Day comparisons, but it wouldn’t be quite correct either: XCOM 2 does have that hoorah-heroism, but fortunately it’s bereft of flag-waving. This is the bright dystopia, the heroic rebellion rather than the forlorn resistance.

When I play XCOM 2, I feel incredibly excited most of the time, and it’s not just because of soaring military march soundtrack – there are dozens of tiny things it does to make me feel like an action hero (or a least a commander of action heroes).

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The Flare Path: Alphabetti SPAAGhetti

The amateurs over at Wings, Wheels and Weaponry dot com arrange their sim and wargame news snippets chronologically. The weirdos at Khaki Gaming order theirs according to size. Here at Rock and Paper and Shotgun we do things as God and Samuel Johnson intended. Below the break (spoiler warning!) A reconnoitres for B, C is relieved by D, and F arrives to find all the best billets bagsied by E, D, C, B, A and J*

*J got lost in the fog, took the wrong road, and arrived three hours ahead of schedule. Read the rest of this entry »

Wot I Think: American Truck Simulator

We were somewhere north of Barstow on the edge of the desert – no, really, we actually were, I was so pleased – when awareness began to take hold. I rent squalid office space with two people from different companies, and they were baffled when the dull rock soundtrack of American Truck Simulator [official site]’s title screen began leaking from my speakers. Of all the games in the world, why would I choose to play this? Worst case scenario: every stereotype about PC gaming confirmed. Best case scenario: I was playing this profoundly boring driving simulator ironically. Mad Skill, No Plow, 360 Crop Rotation and all that.

By the end of the day, after hours of watching me drive through California’s forests and Nevada’s deserts, the three of us had grown appreciably closer. As night fell on San Francisco, we swapped rueful tales of love, sex and booze from our youth. As day broke over Reno, we sang in broken harmony to Gimme Shelter. As I rolled carefully into a depot in pitch-black Oakland after a long, long night’s drive, someone volunteered “shall I get some beers in?” We sat back in our seats and sighed contentedly. Our American road trip.

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What Should XCOM 2’s First Expansion Be?

I visited Firaxis in 2014 to see Civilization: Beyond Earth and it was impossible not to wonder which closed doors were hiding the XCOM 2 [official site] team. The game hadn’t been announced but surely somebody was working on a sequel. Would it follow the path of the original games and take to the Lovecraftian depths? Would it reach toward the stars and a battle on various alien homeworlds? Would it take risks or rest comfortably on well-earned laurels?

The answer, as we now know, didn’t quite fit any of the above. These are happy times for the XCOM devotee but I’m hoping for an apocalyptic future. Here are a few ideas and hopes for what the game’s first expansion might be.

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