May I brag a bit? When it comes to virtual battlefields, I consider myself to be quite the grizzled vet. It's doesn't matter if it is the deadly combined arms environment of Battlefield 3 or the high intensity close quarters combat of Black Ops 2, I just laugh at the dangers of the modern battlefield. Laugh! It is only with relish that I grab my rifle and rush off to engage my eager foe. So, that being the case...why do I find myself quaking at the battlefield dangers of Chivalry: Modern Warfare? Why do I get an uneasy feeling in the pit of my stomach as I face off against a foe armed with a nasty looking axe? Why do I find myself needing to hit the 'C' key for a war cry just to put some steel in my backbone? The answer is simple: Torn Banner has managed to produce not just one of the most entertaining multiplayer games in a long time, but has also managed to produce a game that is downright frightening in its medieval hack and slash brutality. For these reasons and more, it is a title not to be missed.
I’ve been really down on PC gaming of late. Heck, not just PC gaming, but video games in general. The reason why I became a gamer in the first place is because I was hooked by the wonderfully inventive and thought-provoking titles of yore - games that got you to furrow your brow in deep contemplation while you forged your own destiny in an immersive alternative reality. Alas, those days seem to be long gone. Gaming is thoroughly, if not completely, ruled by a steady diet of scripted ‘twitch’ titles that place a premium on adrenaline and little else. Not that those games can’t be fun – they most certainly are - but like an amusement park ride, once the experience ends there’s little reason to do it again. Worse, there is no reason to truly cherish the experience either because you know that what you just experienced has been repeated thousands of times before by other people in almost exactly the same way.
I don’t envy those brave coders who venture into the realm of 4X (eXplore, eXpand, eXploit, and eXterminate) gaming. Is there a more demanding genre in the industry? 4X games are inherently complex beasts that need to realistically model innumerable factors - including economics, diplomacy, and combat – all the while avoiding the deadly pitfall of unmanageable complexity. Things become even more complex when a game leaves the confines of, say, earth history as with Sid Meier’s Civilization, and attempts to apply the 4X model to the infinite realm that is outer space. I guess that is why devs who are willing to tackle 4X sci-fi games are so far and few these days.
When Code Force’s sci-fi strategy game, Distant Worlds, arrived back in 2010, it blew me away. Appearing suddenly as if out of a wormhole, Distant Worlds harkened back to the days of deep and expansive 4X gaming and quickly garnered a burgeoning following of would-be galactic emperors seeking to rule some, well, distant worlds (see my review here). No doubt about it: Distant Worlds was an impressive and innovative entry in the space conquest genre.
Not content to rest on their laurels, CodeForce has since released Rise of the Shakturi, an expansion that brings a bunch of new content and tweaks for their sci-fi magnum opus. Is it a worthwhile investment for interstellar Caesars? Let’s find out.
Nature abhors a vacuum, and video gaming appears to as well. When many of the big game studios packed up and abandoned the PC in favor of the easy money that came with the console market, a void was left in their wake. However, contrary to the many pessimists’ predictions of calamity, this void did not linger for long. Rather, it was quickly filled by a number of smaller studios who saw it as a golden opportunity to yank PC gaming away from the corporate group-think that had come to dominate the industry, and put it back on a path that would restore it to its glorious heritage of thoughtful yet addictive gaming that used to be a staple of the platform.
Case in point: Lordz Game Studio’s recently released Panzer Corps. Clearly seeking to capture the magic of SSI’s Panzer General, perhaps one of the most beloved wargames of all time, Panzer Corps combines intuitive gameplay with deep strategy to produce an addictive “one more turn” formula that should prove quite popular with a wide group of gamers. Here’s why….
Back in early 2008, I had the pleasure of going up to the Electronic Arts campus in Redwood Shores for an early play test of a new IP that was to be released later that same year. I had not heard of this game prior to the play test, but it was a third person action game with survival horror elements in a sci-fi setting which turned out to be Dead Space. I had all but written off Dead Space after my very negative play test experience that day. As fate would have it I gave Dead Space a second chance, and I don’t regret it one bit. Dead Space had the perfect blend of survival horror and action with strong characters and a decent story to tie everything together. So naturally when the sequel was announced, I couldn’t wait to see where Visceral Games was next taking the series, and to see if Dead Space 2 could once again scare the pants off someone.
The short answer to that question is: yes...yes it can.
Let’s get one thing out of the way: Dead Rising 2 is the best 2010 game that no one is playing, yet it should be on everyone’s list for Game of the Year honors. Unfortunately for DR2, that prize is usually reserved for the Gears of War, Mario’s and Halo’s of the industry. Is DR2 perfect? Not at all, but it does have the perfect combination of fun gameplay, an awesome cast of characters and a very strong story.
The first Dead Rising was released back in 2006 for the Xbox 360. In it, players assumed the roll of Frank West, a photojournalist heading to Willamette, Colorado to investigate why the town has been sealed off from the outside world. Once there, West finds himself trapped in the local mall surrounded by an endless horde of zombies with only 72 hours to find the information for his big story. What West does find is that the zombie infestation originated from government experiments near the town of Santa Cabeza.
It’s a big galaxy out there. So big, that when it comes to 4X (eXplore, eXpand, eXploit, and eXterminate) sci-fi gaming, there is now a healthy assortment of titles to choose from, with each offering some unique gameplay twist on the classic 4X approach. Even the fussiest gamer should be able to find the perfect galactic fit these days.
One recent entry into the realm of galactic mayhem is Code Force’s Distant Worlds. Combining the elements of a detailed galactic simulator with a real time environment, Distant Worlds attempts to be both brainy and entertainingly accessible. Speaking from experience, this is quite a tall order to fill as one usually cancels out the other. Has Code Force managed to pull off this difficult design decision? Read on, my galactic sovereign….