Posts Tagged ‘preview’

What’s next for Crusader Kings 2, EUIV and Hearts of Iron IV DLC

paradox dlc

The Paradox DLC factory continues to diligently extend the lives of its myriad grand strategy romps, with all but Stellaris getting new DLC announcements at PDXCON last month. We’re getting restless pagan warriors, war elephants and even some sharks. If you can match the feature to the game, you get a polite nod of respect.

Rather than tiring you out, making you click on three articles like a thoughtless task master, I’ve gathered all the sizzling deets in one place. Rest those fingers and direct your eyes below to find out what’s changing in Hearts of Iron 4, Europa Universalis 4 and Crusader Kings 2.

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Cyberpunk 2077’s demo at E3 was a vivid, drug-huffing first-person romp of guns and butts

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Yup, the neon future of Cyberpunk 2077 is a first-person RPG shooter. You can create your own character, drive cars through the streets, shoot gangster’s legs off in slow motion, hack their guns, and shag your fellow cyberpunks, among other deeds. All this is based on the 50-minute demo shown to press at E3 yesterday, a demo of asymmetrical haircuts, exposed buttocks, golden prosthetics and plentiful drugs. A demo of street life and futureslang. It was impressive stuff, and it left my brain feeling very fizzy. I’ll run through it below in as much detail as possible.

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Anthem tries to embrace its own Destiny

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During yesterday’s EA’s press conference for E3 (which seemed at times like an hour-long apology for microtransactions) we saw a bit more of Anthem, the upcoming shooter from BioWare. The sliced-together footage followed a multiplayer run through the jungles and rock-pools of the world, ending when the four “freelancers” in robot suits encountered a large insect who eats cameras. But I’ve been braving the LA sunshine and got to see an unedited (or rather, less-edited) version of the same level. I didn’t get to play it, sadly. But I did get to see what happened to that big insect after the camera cut out. They shot it. A lot. Read the rest of this entry »

Video: Is House Flipper dirtier than my real house?

house flipper review

Many things are easy in games that I struggle with in reality. A light jog. Climbing ladders. Carrying stuff (my limit’s an eight pack of Pepsi Max Cherry, let alone five axes and a wheel of cheese). But House Flipper, a first-person handyman ‘em up and current chart champion, is based on my bete noire: keeping a house clean and healthy. I stink at cleaning my house. And now my house stinks. So what better way to test the accuracy of House Flipper’s simulation than comparing its virtual dumps to mine?

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Age of Wonders: Planetfall makes a great case for leaving fantasy behind

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For nearly two decades, the Age of Wonders series has been firmly entrenched in a fantasy realm, with all the tropes that accompany it: Orcs, Halflings, meddling wizards and flying lizards. Triumph Studios’ latest 4X outing, Age of Wonders: Planetfall, does away with all of that. It swaps magic for mechs, pitting alien races against each other in a galaxy reeling from the collapse of the last great space empire, the Star Union.

“We’ve been working on fantasy games all our lives, but we also had the fantasy of making a sci-fi game,” says Lennart Sas, Triumph Studios’ CEO. “It gives us more opportunities than a direct sequel would ever give us. It’s a good middle-ground between doing something that’s close to our hearts, but also something that allows us to experiment.”

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Battlefield V is about making friends, building forts and daily chores

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World War 2 has broken out once again as EA DICE heads back to the 1940s with Battlefield V, a theoretically safe sequel with some curious, and possibly divisive, ideas at its core.

After the thematic reset that was Battlefield 1 I wasn’t expecting much from this year’s instalment of the long-running shooter series – class tweaks, new period accessories and still-higher fidelity explosions, all of it fed through the same mix of giant, vehicle-strewn maps and objective modes. There’s certainly a lot here that’s familiar, but EA DICE has made some dramatic changes to Battlefield’s squad system that shunt an already team-oriented game even further away from lone wolf play. That’s in addition to the ability to rebuild trashed structures, fortifying maps that hitherto existed only to be ripped apart, and, less attractively, a tsunami of live service and earning mechanisms gathered under the banner of the “Tides of War”. As I discovered during a two-hour presentation today in London, it’s a riskier, more stimulating prospect than the “return to roots” messaging suggests. Read the rest of this entry »

Imperator: Rome has a world ripe for conquest

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When Paradox unveiled the map for its latest grand strategy romp, Imperator: Rome, I don’t mind admitting that I made an involuntary noise that normally only comes out of me when I’m biting into something delicious and unhealthy. It is excellent map porn. Zoomed out, it’s clean and no-nonsense, but when you narrow your focus, it explodes with colour and detail, particularly on the coast, where golden beaches hit seas gorgeous enough that you’ll want to lap them up. Europa Universalis looks drab in comparison.

It makes an excellent first impression, but it doesn’t have many opportunities to make a second one. While Imperator is due out in 2019, the build I got to see is still so early on that, were I to get a glimpse of any other corner of the map, I’d only see barren wastelands waiting for the touch of an artist.

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Video: How does Two Point Hospital compare to Theme Hospital?

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Do no harm, goes the Hippocratic Oath. So it’s with trepidation that I approach Two Point Hospital, a spiritual successor to Theme Hospital that could all too easily do harm to fond childhood memories of Bullfrog’s heal ‘em up. Thankfully, Alec’s recent visit to these shiny new wards have put my mind at rest – it sounds like the team has successfully transplanted the heart of that game, but grafted on smart quality of life improvements (to muddle my medical metaphors). And now you can see it all in action in one handy video.

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

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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?
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Artifact feels like Valve’s solution to post-Hearthstone card games

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Collectible card games have been around for decades, but they’ve really been running hot ever since Blizzard unleashed Hearthstone four years ago. Since then, we’ve seen Shadowverse, Gwent, The Elder Scrolls: Legends, Duelyst, Faeria – there are a lot of these things, if you haven’t heard. They all put their own spin on rectangles with numbers on ’em, but they also universally take cues from Hearthstone and, just as often, each other, and as a result they regularly run into similar problems, the biggest two being how to balance a competitive system and how to price card packs fairly.

Artifact, Valve’s upcoming Dota-inspired card game, is definitely using some pages from the same books, but it’s also doing enough things differently that it has the potential to solve a lot of those problems. Read the rest of this entry »

Video: State of Decay 2 goes for the jugular and jugglers

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Come the zombie apocalypse the jugglers are the first against the wall. What to do with an unemployed children’s entertainer is one of the tamer dilemmas thrown up in the three hours I spent with State of Decay 2. But it’s indicative of Undead Lab’s slightly goofy take on zombie survival, one that has you desperately scavenging for supplies one second and weighing up the combat potential of a barista the next. I condensed all this, and the game’s other new features, into one convenient 20 minute walkthrough.

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Artifact pairs the best ideas of Dota with the best parts of card games

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You’ll often see characters in sci-fi stories play seemingly incomprehensible games like multi-dimensional space chess, and that’s basically what it’s like playing Artifact, Valve’s upcoming Dota-inspired card game. It’s an ambitious hybrid of the studio’s MOBA and Magic: The Gathering, and it works shockingly well. So much so that it only took two games for me to understand and get on board with Valve’s vision. Read the rest of this entry »

Terraforming Mars but without the fiddly bits

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Bits are both the joy and bane of board games. You know, bits – those fiddly counters, miniatures and cubes of plastic, wood or metal (oooh, fancy). On the one hand, the tactile sensation of slamming down a plastic train in Ticket to Ride, cutting off your opponent’s train route to their howls of anguish, is one of life’s greatest pleasures, and a feeling that’s near impossible to replicate in videogames. On the other hand, what a motherclucking pain in the posterior they are. When they’re not being eaten by the dog, they’re being ricocheted off the walls by a careless dice roll or nudged into oblivion by inebriated players slamming into the table on their way back from the loo. “Harold, you absolute numpty, what have you done? Can anyone remember how much wool I have?”

Terraforming Mars suffers more from calamity Harolds than most board games. This massively popular strategy game was released in 2016, and it’s currently sitting at number five in the BoardGameGeek top 100. Now, it’s coming to PC. Read the rest of this entry »

Shadow of the Tomb Raider appears to be beautiful but a little vacuous

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In the course of 45 minutes with Shadow of the Tomb Raider, Lara Croft gatecrashes a fiesta, scales a cliff, wrestles an eel, levels a temple, steals a magic dagger, murders a bunch of dudes in Mariachi skullpaint and drowns a city after triggering the apocalypse. That’s quite the evening’s work, especially if you factor in all the times I accidentally impaled her on rebars, but I’m already struggling to remember the details. The first Tomb Raider game with Eidos Montreal at the helm, Shadow is so far exactly the blend of handholdy exploration, uneven combat, wilderness stealth, gauntlet runs and grisly snuff footage we’ve come to expect from the series under Square Enix. Two games on from the 2013 reboot, that could be a problem. I realise it’s old hat to moan about major franchise sequels lacking originality, but even by blockbuster standards this game is surprisingly unsurprising.

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Chasing tanks in Close Combat: The Bloody First

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The development of Close Combat: The Bloody First has lasted for as long as the war it depicts, but four years after its original intended launch date, Matrix Games’ World War II RTS is due to storm the beaches soon. As well as being the first 3D game in the series, it’s the first that’s been built in publisher Slitherine’s Archon engine, but more interesting is the focus on individual soldiers instead of faceless platoons. I recently tried to get to know them during a brief, whirlwind tour of ‘40s France, Italy and Tunisia.

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X-Com spiritual successor Phoenix Point is doing $100k per month in pre-orders

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Snapshot Games, lead by David Kaye and X-Com creator Julian Gollop, is a runaway success. Or at least I would think $100k a month in pledges would give a game studio some breathing room. But Snapshot isn’t sleeping at night. The prevalence of cheap games and promotional bundles has the studio spooked because, while this is a time of incredibly bounties for consumers, not every game can have the financial safety net of, say, Sea of Thieves. This makes creating a game of the scale of Phoenix Point exceptionally perilous.

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Phoenix Point is so much like XCOM it scares me

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The mutant spider queen ripped through another building and I knew my team was dead. This didn’t bother me, I’ve played enough of nu-XCOM to accept the loss of humanity’s last hope. But there’s something more unsettling than being impaled by a large arachnid in Phoenix Point. Its the game’s uncanny and unnerving resemblance to its XCOM cousins. It’s like seeing a doppelgänger of your mate suddenly appear behind him, walking to the bar. You sit there stuttering, looking over his shoulder, wondering who’s really sitting in front of you. Read the rest of this entry »

Lamplight City promises a detective story where you can screw up everything

After the delights of sci-fi adventure Shardlight we were always going to be interested in what Francisco Gonzalez did next. Now having played a small section of his follow-up, Lamplight City, I can confirm such anticipation is well merited. This is a steampunk detective adventure where messing everything up is an entirely legitimate way to play.

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Unavowed aims to be an adventure that borrows the best of RPG narrative

It really doesn’t feel like it, but it’s been five years since Dave Gilbert released one of his splendid point-and-click adventure games, and twelve years since he worked on a brand new story, following his series of Blackwell games. Unavowed is that brand new story, due out later this year, and it’s ambitious in ways I wasn’t expecting: it’s a very traditional-looking adventure, that belies a depth of narrative RPG ideas.

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Noita lets you break the world in beautiful ways

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Noita is how Spelunky looks in my dreams. It’s a game in which the world is simulated down to each individual pixel, so that liquids drip, flow, splash and stain. You’re tasked with travelling ever downward through a series of caverns, collecting new magical weapons and slaying beasties.

That wasn’t always the case though. As I learned when I sat down with the developers at GDC, Noita was once more Dwarf Fortress than Spelunky, but changes had to be made when the wildlife kept drowning in pools of their own urine. Now, Noita is a real-time roguelite, and a beautiful cocktail of fire and fluids.

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