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Found 38 results

  1. If you're interested in turn-based 4X strategy titles, Praxis Games wants you to know about Interstellar Space: Genesis entering into alpha. The devs have touted the title as "virtually feature complete" and noted that they worked with Neon Dolphin and Grant Kirkhope, composer of such classics as GoldenEye 007, Banjo Kazooie, and Civilization: After Earth, on their space-faring soundtrack. Interstellar Space: Genesis follows much the same premise of other space 4X strategy games (the four Xs stand for Explore, Exploit, Expand, and Exterminate) - players take on the role of a leader on a galactic scale and spread out into an unknown galaxy. There are tons of unknown dangers, both from alien empires and random events left by past or present civilizations across the sea of stars. Players will have to decide to pursue either peace or war when dealing with rivals. Will you rule the galaxy through bloodshed or with a gentle, guiding hand? The title features turn-based tactical combat augmented by the ability to go in and customize ships to fine-tune them to suit different needs. Players will be treated to a Grant Kirkhope musical score; something that's always a treat. Interestingly, each civilization will be given a random tech tree to spice up the different playthroughs, just one part of the many ways Interstellar Space seeks to differentiate itself. Players will be able to create custom alien races with their own unique needs and leaders. Colony management takes up a large part of the game, as does terraforming and diplomacy. Corner the market in asteroid mining or space tourism and use those funds to push even further into the unknowns of space. Praxis Games was founded by the duo who run Space Sector, a website dedicated to sci-fi strategy games, Adam Solo and Hugo Rosado. Mr. Rosado even worked for the European Space Agency as well as the private space sector. He commented on reaching the alpha stage of Interstellar Space: Genesis saying, "Space has been my passion since childhood. I was lucky to have a professional career in the space industry – at both the European Space Agency and private aerospace space company Elecnor Deimos. Now, I’m still in the space industry – but the venue is quite different: We are developing our first 4X title, and our launch is just within reach. Hopefully, everyone who gets to play this Alpha build will love it as much as we’ve been enjoying the development process itself!” People who pre-order will gain immediate access to the latest build and help shape its future with their feedback. However, pre-orders will only be available through the Humble Store through December 16. Praxis hopes to release Interstellar Space: Genesis for PC during the second quarter of 2019. Don't forget to sign up for Extra Life to help sick and injured kids in hospitals around the US and Canada by playing games!
  2. If you're interested in turn-based 4X strategy titles, Praxis Games wants you to know about Interstellar Space: Genesis entering into alpha. The devs have touted the title as "virtually feature complete" and noted that they worked with Neon Dolphin and Grant Kirkhope, composer of such classics as GoldenEye 007, Banjo Kazooie, and Civilization: After Earth, on their space-faring soundtrack. Interstellar Space: Genesis follows much the same premise of other space 4X strategy games (the four Xs stand for Explore, Exploit, Expand, and Exterminate) - players take on the role of a leader on a galactic scale and spread out into an unknown galaxy. There are tons of unknown dangers, both from alien empires and random events left by past or present civilizations across the sea of stars. Players will have to decide to pursue either peace or war when dealing with rivals. Will you rule the galaxy through bloodshed or with a gentle, guiding hand? The title features turn-based tactical combat augmented by the ability to go in and customize ships to fine-tune them to suit different needs. Players will be treated to a Grant Kirkhope musical score; something that's always a treat. Interestingly, each civilization will be given a random tech tree to spice up the different playthroughs, just one part of the many ways Interstellar Space seeks to differentiate itself. Players will be able to create custom alien races with their own unique needs and leaders. Colony management takes up a large part of the game, as does terraforming and diplomacy. Corner the market in asteroid mining or space tourism and use those funds to push even further into the unknowns of space. Praxis Games was founded by the duo who run Space Sector, a website dedicated to sci-fi strategy games, Adam Solo and Hugo Rosado. Mr. Rosado even worked for the European Space Agency as well as the private space sector. He commented on reaching the alpha stage of Interstellar Space: Genesis saying, "Space has been my passion since childhood. I was lucky to have a professional career in the space industry – at both the European Space Agency and private aerospace space company Elecnor Deimos. Now, I’m still in the space industry – but the venue is quite different: We are developing our first 4X title, and our launch is just within reach. Hopefully, everyone who gets to play this Alpha build will love it as much as we’ve been enjoying the development process itself!” People who pre-order will gain immediate access to the latest build and help shape its future with their feedback. However, pre-orders will only be available through the Humble Store through December 16. Praxis hopes to release Interstellar Space: Genesis for PC during the second quarter of 2019. Don't forget to sign up for Extra Life to help sick and injured kids in hospitals around the US and Canada by playing games! View full article
  3. HOF Studios, a small, four-person team based in Atlanta, has been working on Depth of Extinction for the past few years. Fueled by a nostalgia for classic '90s tactics titles like XCOM: UFO Defense and drawing from more modern strategy titles like XCOM 2 and FTL: Faster Than Light, HOF Studios has created a game that makes use of those familiar mechanics to tell a new, challenging tale that delves deep into the unknown depths of Earth's oceans. Depth of Extinction takes place thousands of years in the future. An apocalyptic event shrouded in mystery caused the sea level to rise drastically, plunging most of humanity into its freezing bottom. The remnants, known as the Creators, rebuilt society as best they could, before quietly fading from history. Their advanced technology still litters the planet, leaving great power open to plundering and abuse. The most stable civilization formed out of the ashes of the apocalypse is The Republic. Denizens of The Republic have long relied on Creator machines to live in the new world. However, those machines have begun to fail, leaving it vulnerable to high sea marauders and a rumored army of killer robots. To survive, The Republic needs to send out its bravest warriors to explore the unknown and discover solutions to its mounting problems. Of course, solving the issues facing The Republic will put players into violent conflict in the outside world. To that end, players can customize their soldiers from eight classes and outfit them with over a hundred different pieces of armor, weapons, and special items. Players will have to contend with random encounters with the ever present threat of permadeath looming over each and every action while they move through the . Mike Stumhofer, the founder and lead developer at HOF Studios, released a statement reflecting on the release of Depths of Extinction: I started playing tactics games in the ‘90s with the X-COM franchise. It’s funny to think that I’ve had a long-running love for the genre for a couple of decades now. My favorite game at that time was Terror from the Deep. Depth of Extinction is essentially a spiritual remake of that game with a fresh take on the modern XCOM gameplay mechanics – including random encounters. Most games focus on creating threats to humanity like aliens, zombies, vampires or other monsters. Our game is grounded in something more realistic. The greatest threat to humanity is humanity itself. Our characters don't know what caused the fall or how we got to where we are, but we know that the root of the evil was humanity itself. Depth of Extinction is now available on PC. Don't forget to sign up for Extra Life to help sick and injured kids in hospitals around the US and Canada by playing games!
  4. HOF Studios, a small, four-person team based in Atlanta, has been working on Depth of Extinction for the past few years. Fueled by a nostalgia for classic '90s tactics titles like XCOM: UFO Defense and drawing from more modern strategy titles like XCOM 2 and FTL: Faster Than Light, HOF Studios has created a game that makes use of those familiar mechanics to tell a new, challenging tale that delves deep into the unknown depths of Earth's oceans. Depth of Extinction takes place thousands of years in the future. An apocalyptic event shrouded in mystery caused the sea level to rise drastically, plunging most of humanity into its freezing bottom. The remnants, known as the Creators, rebuilt society as best they could, before quietly fading from history. Their advanced technology still litters the planet, leaving great power open to plundering and abuse. The most stable civilization formed out of the ashes of the apocalypse is The Republic. Denizens of The Republic have long relied on Creator machines to live in the new world. However, those machines have begun to fail, leaving it vulnerable to high sea marauders and a rumored army of killer robots. To survive, The Republic needs to send out its bravest warriors to explore the unknown and discover solutions to its mounting problems. Of course, solving the issues facing The Republic will put players into violent conflict in the outside world. To that end, players can customize their soldiers from eight classes and outfit them with over a hundred different pieces of armor, weapons, and special items. Players will have to contend with random encounters with the ever present threat of permadeath looming over each and every action while they move through the . Mike Stumhofer, the founder and lead developer at HOF Studios, released a statement reflecting on the release of Depths of Extinction: I started playing tactics games in the ‘90s with the X-COM franchise. It’s funny to think that I’ve had a long-running love for the genre for a couple of decades now. My favorite game at that time was Terror from the Deep. Depth of Extinction is essentially a spiritual remake of that game with a fresh take on the modern XCOM gameplay mechanics – including random encounters. Most games focus on creating threats to humanity like aliens, zombies, vampires or other monsters. Our game is grounded in something more realistic. The greatest threat to humanity is humanity itself. Our characters don't know what caused the fall or how we got to where we are, but we know that the root of the evil was humanity itself. Depth of Extinction is now available on PC. Don't forget to sign up for Extra Life to help sick and injured kids in hospitals around the US and Canada by playing games! View full article
  5. Jack Gardner

    Feature: Review: Into the Breach

    Subset Games really knows how to design a solid game. FTL: Faster Than Light demonstrated that the team possesses the chops to create a game capable of sucking people in for dozens of hours with engaging strategy that often asks players to make tough decisions. Those tough decisions, the kind upon which hang life or death, form the central thesis of Into the Breach. Into the Breach takes place in a far flung future where Earth has flooded, reducing its landmass down to a handful of islands and unleashing the Vek, a collection of horrific kaiju from deep underground. Humanity created fleets of giant robots capable of fighting the Vek to defend the last cities on the planet, but it doesn't seem to be enough. Overwhelmed and on the brink of total annihilation, one last, desperate plan was conceived: Send one experienced mech pilot back through time armed with the knowledge to prevent humanity's doom and win the war against the Vek. The scenario, penned by Chris Avellone, the creative mind behind Baldur's Gate and Fallout: New Vegas, sets the stage for the roguelike elements of Into the Breach. When players manage to defeat the Vek, they are able to send a pilot of their choice to another timeline to continue the fight. Death, on the other hand, results in the last pilot to die engaging an emergency jump to a different timeline. That pilot brings all of the skills and experience they have acquired to the new timeline, giving future playthroughs an edge over the previous ones. It's a helpful feature, as players will need every tactical advantage they can get to make it through Into the Breach. While the decision making in FTL largely centered around preparing for battle, Into the Breach puts almost every decision into the turn-based tactics battles themselves. Each conflict with the kaiju takes five rounds. After those five rounds, the towering monstrosities retreat back into the dark depths from which they came. Players have two basic things to do during those precious few turns: Keep their mechs alive and prevent the kaiju from damaging cities. If a mech's health drops to zero, the pilot dies permanently. If a building takes damage, the power grid takes damage, too. Players lose the entire timeline if the power grid drops to zero hit points. These simple goals quickly become complicated by bonus objectives and map conditions. Each mission can grant reputation, which can be spent on various upgrades after completing an island, or power to replenish and reinforce the power grid's health and defenses. This leads to the player approaching each mission as potentially game-ending. Sure, perhaps using a rocket punch to kill that kaiju might accomplish an objective for reputation or save a friendly mech, but it will likely also damage the power grid bringing the timeline that much closer to failure. However, maybe that loss is worth it if you can get enough reputation to later purchase more power for the grid or maybe complete a bonus objective that provides more power. Each mech in the three machine team possesses different abilities that often do more than just straight damage. These abilities can push enemies, pull them, create a defensive shield, launch barriers, distribute damage in unique patterns, and much, much more. This leads to a delicate balancing act in battle, where every tool at the player's disposal must be employed to move enemies into positions where their attacks miss or hit one another in an effort to minimize damage to the power grid. One aspect unique to Into the Breach is that enemies move and prepare attacks before the player's turn. The game presents all information to players upfront. All attacks hit and do full damage. This allows players to sit back and plan their moves carefully while knowing what the outcome of their actions will be. Of course, that can lead players to make mistakes; something that can lead to absolute disaster in the space of a single turn. Subset included the option to reset a turn once per battle to give players some degree of leniency. While the tactical elements of Into the Breach outshine the competition, it stumbles when it comes to narrative. FTL: Faster Than Light allowed players to name their crews and contained numerous side stories and scenarios that tickled the imagination. Those decisions invested like a much larger game. Subset Games' sophomore outing ditches much of that. This leads Into the Breach to feel more sterile and empty with a world where the stakes aren't terribly dramatic. The cast of characters is composed of a handful of pilots and the four administrators of the remaining pockets of humanity. The pilots mostly speak in reaction to what's happening in battle with one-liners, remarking about how the battle went, or to give a final word to the player as they die. The administrators give comments at the close of every mission. None of that feels intimate; by the time the credits roll, the player does not know any of the characters beyond what stats they can give a mech. That's a shame, because one could imagine a version of Into the Breach where pilots have downtime together between battles to interact with one another and the administrators to show character development outside of their statistics. Chris Avellone is a great writer, one that I think excels at that kind of interaction, so the dearth of narrative outside of the overall scenario baffles me. Perhaps miscellaneous content wound up being cut to reduce development time or it created too much of a barrier between the player and the pitch-perfect strategy of the battles. Whatever the reason, the loss of that storytelling aspect hurts. Returning composer Ben Prunty hits a high note with his work in Into the Breach. The music manages to convey mood and tone quite effectively, adding an ever escalating sense of urgency without becoming too overbearing. Prunty strikes a balance that allows players to focus and plan while also encouraging decision-making with an encouraging forward momentum. It's great stuff to listen to if you want to make progress on a task and avoid distractions. Conclusion: Into the Breach combines the colossal conflicts of Godzilla and Pacific Rim with the turn-based tactics of Fire Emblem and Advance Wars. However, the unique spin on the formula that sets it apart from its gaming brethren put it in a class all its own. Instead of killing, the systems in the game have players employing tactics that create Rube Goldberg-like chain reactions to save the civilians of a doomed world. The satisfaction at achieving a flawless victory or pulling through to the end and successfully defeating the Vek cannot really be overstated. Into the Breach stands as a high point in strategy gaming that should be pulled out in game design classrooms for years to come. That being said, it's hard not to see the possibility for it to have been more. The lack of a compelling narrative beyond the minute-to-minute gameplay experience feels like a missed opportunity. Perhaps a future update or sequel could add something along those lines to bolster the perfect mechanics. If you have any regard for turn-based tactical games, Into the Breach is absolutely a must play game for you. Into the Breach is available now on PC. View full article
  6. Jack Gardner

    Review: Into the Breach

    Subset Games really knows how to design a solid game. FTL: Faster Than Light demonstrated that the team possesses the chops to create a game capable of sucking people in for dozens of hours with engaging strategy that often asks players to make tough decisions. Those tough decisions, the kind upon which hang life or death, form the central thesis of Into the Breach. Into the Breach takes place in a far flung future where Earth has flooded, reducing its landmass down to a handful of islands and unleashing the Vek, a collection of horrific kaiju from deep underground. Humanity created fleets of giant robots capable of fighting the Vek to defend the last cities on the planet, but it doesn't seem to be enough. Overwhelmed and on the brink of total annihilation, one last, desperate plan was conceived: Send one experienced mech pilot back through time armed with the knowledge to prevent humanity's doom and win the war against the Vek. The scenario, penned by Chris Avellone, the creative mind behind Baldur's Gate and Fallout: New Vegas, sets the stage for the roguelike elements of Into the Breach. When players manage to defeat the Vek, they are able to send a pilot of their choice to another timeline to continue the fight. Death, on the other hand, results in the last pilot to die engaging an emergency jump to a different timeline. That pilot brings all of the skills and experience they have acquired to the new timeline, giving future playthroughs an edge over the previous ones. It's a helpful feature, as players will need every tactical advantage they can get to make it through Into the Breach. While the decision making in FTL largely centered around preparing for battle, Into the Breach puts almost every decision into the turn-based tactics battles themselves. Each conflict with the kaiju takes five rounds. After those five rounds, the towering monstrosities retreat back into the dark depths from which they came. Players have two basic things to do during those precious few turns: Keep their mechs alive and prevent the kaiju from damaging cities. If a mech's health drops to zero, the pilot dies permanently. If a building takes damage, the power grid takes damage, too. Players lose the entire timeline if the power grid drops to zero hit points. These simple goals quickly become complicated by bonus objectives and map conditions. Each mission can grant reputation, which can be spent on various upgrades after completing an island, or power to replenish and reinforce the power grid's health and defenses. This leads to the player approaching each mission as potentially game-ending. Sure, perhaps using a rocket punch to kill that kaiju might accomplish an objective for reputation or save a friendly mech, but it will likely also damage the power grid bringing the timeline that much closer to failure. However, maybe that loss is worth it if you can get enough reputation to later purchase more power for the grid or maybe complete a bonus objective that provides more power. Each mech in the three machine team possesses different abilities that often do more than just straight damage. These abilities can push enemies, pull them, create a defensive shield, launch barriers, distribute damage in unique patterns, and much, much more. This leads to a delicate balancing act in battle, where every tool at the player's disposal must be employed to move enemies into positions where their attacks miss or hit one another in an effort to minimize damage to the power grid. One aspect unique to Into the Breach is that enemies move and prepare attacks before the player's turn. The game presents all information to players upfront. All attacks hit and do full damage. This allows players to sit back and plan their moves carefully while knowing what the outcome of their actions will be. Of course, that can lead players to make mistakes; something that can lead to absolute disaster in the space of a single turn. Subset included the option to reset a turn once per battle to give players some degree of leniency. While the tactical elements of Into the Breach outshine the competition, it stumbles when it comes to narrative. FTL: Faster Than Light allowed players to name their crews and contained numerous side stories and scenarios that tickled the imagination. Those decisions invested like a much larger game. Subset Games' sophomore outing ditches much of that. This leads Into the Breach to feel more sterile and empty with a world where the stakes aren't terribly dramatic. The cast of characters is composed of a handful of pilots and the four administrators of the remaining pockets of humanity. The pilots mostly speak in reaction to what's happening in battle with one-liners, remarking about how the battle went, or to give a final word to the player as they die. The administrators give comments at the close of every mission. None of that feels intimate; by the time the credits roll, the player does not know any of the characters beyond what stats they can give a mech. That's a shame, because one could imagine a version of Into the Breach where pilots have downtime together between battles to interact with one another and the administrators to show character development outside of their statistics. Chris Avellone is a great writer, one that I think excels at that kind of interaction, so the dearth of narrative outside of the overall scenario baffles me. Perhaps miscellaneous content wound up being cut to reduce development time or it created too much of a barrier between the player and the pitch-perfect strategy of the battles. Whatever the reason, the loss of that storytelling aspect hurts. Returning composer Ben Prunty hits a high note with his work in Into the Breach. The music manages to convey mood and tone quite effectively, adding an ever escalating sense of urgency without becoming too overbearing. Prunty strikes a balance that allows players to focus and plan while also encouraging decision-making with an encouraging forward momentum. It's great stuff to listen to if you want to make progress on a task and avoid distractions. Conclusion: Into the Breach combines the colossal conflicts of Godzilla and Pacific Rim with the turn-based tactics of Fire Emblem and Advance Wars. However, the unique spin on the formula that sets it apart from its gaming brethren put it in a class all its own. Instead of killing, the systems in the game have players employing tactics that create Rube Goldberg-like chain reactions to save the civilians of a doomed world. The satisfaction at achieving a flawless victory or pulling through to the end and successfully defeating the Vek cannot really be overstated. Into the Breach stands as a high point in strategy gaming that should be pulled out in game design classrooms for years to come. That being said, it's hard not to see the possibility for it to have been more. The lack of a compelling narrative beyond the minute-to-minute gameplay experience feels like a missed opportunity. Perhaps a future update or sequel could add something along those lines to bolster the perfect mechanics. If you have any regard for turn-based tactical games, Into the Breach is absolutely a must play game for you. Into the Breach is available now on PC.
  7. Released almost two years ago, Stellaris introduced the world to a fantastic game that combined elements of turn-based strategy, real-time strategy, and role-playing in a unique, engaging experience. Paradox Interactive has stuck with their title throughout the years, releasing additional expansions and updates to the core game. The update that released alongside the most recent expansion, Apocalypse, completely changed the way the game is played, warranting a second look. At release, Stellaris offered three distinct modes of space traversal. Players could travel by warping to nearby systems within a certain radius of their fleets, by building wormhole generators and slipping into systems within the range of the wormholes, or via static hyperlanes between the stars. The latest updates removes all methods of travel except for hyperlanes. The decision to do this seems to have been made to enable choke points and improving the usefulness of defensive structures. Before the update, fleets could simply bypass systems with heavy defenses with relative ease. Now there are structures that can be built to hinder an enemy's progress through your space. A fortress on an inhabited world will prevent an enemy from leaving the system until they conquer the planet. This gives players precious time to move their fleets into position for a counterattack. Invading worlds works differently, too. The old way gave each planet a static fortification bonus. Once that number reached zero as a result of orbital bombardment, an invading army could very easily come in with a handful of soldiers to steamroll the defenders. The update gave defenders more of a fighting chance. Now orbital bombardment causes damage to the defending armies, which scale automatically with the population of their world (and more armies can be used to reinforce their numbers), but it doesn't diminish their effectiveness. That means you'll have to have a more powerful army and should expect to take losses if you don't have the time to bomb every single defender into dust when invading a planet. As for the meat of Stellaris' combat, the clashing of space navies, players will now run into limits on how big a single fleet can become. This sidesteps the problem in the original version that had players massing all of their fleets into one giant death ball to roll through enemy territory and the player with the bigger death ball won the day. The update breaks that death ball into several smaller balls adding to the strategic depth and satisfaction of pulling off a successful maneuver against an enemy. As a backdrop to all of this, the way empires expand might be the single biggest change to Stellaris. The old "sphere of influence" system has been ditched as many players complained it was too ambiguous and confusing. Instead, players expand their territory by building space stations in the systems they wish to claim. That station controls the system and whoever owns the station controls the system. Once an empire becomes large enough to be bordering a rival, players can go to war to claim systems from enemy territory. This massive change to the way territory works also adds to the strategies of space warfare and is bolstered by the splitting up of fleets. Players are encouraged by the various in-game systems to have multiple fleets engaging with the enemy. Perhaps one fleet spearheads the invasion of an enemy, traveling through territory as fast as possible to conquer as much as possible while another fleet is tasked with engaging the enemy fleets and another sits with the land armies, bombarding defenders in an attempt to successfully pull off a ground assault. This rework invigorated what had previously been one of the blander parts of Stellaris. Up until this point, all of these changes have been to the base Stellaris game. The Apocalypse expansion brings even more to the table. Planetary destruction stands as the main selling point of Apocalypse. As a game progresses, players will have the opportunity to undertake large research projects and construction efforts that culminate in a weapon capable of devastating entire worlds. These super weapons have no combat power on their own, but they can do quite a bit. Players can obliterate planets to bypass a lengthy invasion or test it on uninhabited worlds to access additional resources. These weapons present the opportunity for a variety of role-playing and tactical advantages. Players can use them to crack open worlds for mining, create an impenetrable, permanent shield around a world to study the inhabitants for science, wipe the minds of the population, cleanse a world of sapient life with a neutron sweep, or even instantaneously turn the creatures on the surface into cyborgs and connect them to the mechanical consciousness of your empire. A new non-player faction has been added to the game, too. Called Marauders, these factions go on raids against the various denizens of the galaxy with powerful fleets that dominate the early and mid-game. Players can pay off raids, redirect them toward other empires, hire mercenary admirals to lead their own fleets, or even hire entire an entire armada to fight under their direct command. One of the coolest aspects of the marauding factions is that there's a chance for them to become an empire in the mid-game. Paradox compared them to the tribes that united under the leadership of Genghis Khan. If such an empire forms under the leadership of a Ghengis Khan-like figure, players might have to either submit to their rule for a time or fight a mighty foe. A series of other special events populate the rule of these space warriors that all add color to the mid-game, which some players found to be a bit slow in the base Stellaris game. Empires can now also build titan-class capital ships, a new size category of vessel that had previously been restricted to powerful non-player factions known as Fallen Empires. These ships can bestow helpful auras on nearby fleets, impose penalties on enemy fleets, and possess weapons capable of destroying entire battleships in a single shot. They represent the apex of what a player can bring to bear in battle - and they feel like it. To compliment the new system where players expand their control of systems via building star bases, Paradox has included a shiny, new option in their expansion. Players are able to upgrade these into ever larger and more easily defended bastions, a feature that replaces the space fortifications previously in the base game. Apocalypse, however, opens up the possibility of building a Citadel, a colossal space station that can house powerful cannons and assist in stopping enemy fleets in their tracks. Conclusion: The new upgrade to the base game of Stellaris certainly diminishes some of the role-playing aspects inherent to it's pre-2.0 patch days, but the game overall gains a better sense of tactical weight. Building star bases everywhere to expand your borders might sound tedious on paper, but in practice it means you can focus your empire's growth in certain directions to block other empires and obtain critical resources or worlds in a sensible way. The changes to navy sizes mean that players can now break apart their powerful fleets to pursue different objectives without risking a crushing defeat. All of these feel like incredibly welcome changes to an already solid 4X strategy title. On top of that, Apocalypse stands out as a must for players who are looking to get the most out of the game. While it doesn't hold much content for the early game, players who stick through to the mid and late game will find a wealth of new options at their fingertips. New ships, colossal space weapons, towering fortresses, interesting technologies, new diplomatic opportunities - Apocalypse stands as an answer to a long list of fan requests that have been collected over the past two years. Stellaris: Apocalypse is available now on PC. View full article
  8. Jack Gardner

    Review: Stellaris: Apocalypse

    Released almost two years ago, Stellaris introduced the world to a fantastic game that combined elements of turn-based strategy, real-time strategy, and role-playing in a unique, engaging experience. Paradox Interactive has stuck with their title throughout the years, releasing additional expansions and updates to the core game. The update that released alongside the most recent expansion, Apocalypse, completely changed the way the game is played, warranting a second look. At release, Stellaris offered three distinct modes of space traversal. Players could travel by warping to nearby systems within a certain radius of their fleets, by building wormhole generators and slipping into systems within the range of the wormholes, or via static hyperlanes between the stars. The latest updates removes all methods of travel except for hyperlanes. The decision to do this seems to have been made to enable choke points and improving the usefulness of defensive structures. Before the update, fleets could simply bypass systems with heavy defenses with relative ease. Now there are structures that can be built to hinder an enemy's progress through your space. A fortress on an inhabited world will prevent an enemy from leaving the system until they conquer the planet. This gives players precious time to move their fleets into position for a counterattack. Invading worlds works differently, too. The old way gave each planet a static fortification bonus. Once that number reached zero as a result of orbital bombardment, an invading army could very easily come in with a handful of soldiers to steamroll the defenders. The update gave defenders more of a fighting chance. Now orbital bombardment causes damage to the defending armies, which scale automatically with the population of their world (and more armies can be used to reinforce their numbers), but it doesn't diminish their effectiveness. That means you'll have to have a more powerful army and should expect to take losses if you don't have the time to bomb every single defender into dust when invading a planet. As for the meat of Stellaris' combat, the clashing of space navies, players will now run into limits on how big a single fleet can become. This sidesteps the problem in the original version that had players massing all of their fleets into one giant death ball to roll through enemy territory and the player with the bigger death ball won the day. The update breaks that death ball into several smaller balls adding to the strategic depth and satisfaction of pulling off a successful maneuver against an enemy. As a backdrop to all of this, the way empires expand might be the single biggest change to Stellaris. The old "sphere of influence" system has been ditched as many players complained it was too ambiguous and confusing. Instead, players expand their territory by building space stations in the systems they wish to claim. That station controls the system and whoever owns the station controls the system. Once an empire becomes large enough to be bordering a rival, players can go to war to claim systems from enemy territory. This massive change to the way territory works also adds to the strategies of space warfare and is bolstered by the splitting up of fleets. Players are encouraged by the various in-game systems to have multiple fleets engaging with the enemy. Perhaps one fleet spearheads the invasion of an enemy, traveling through territory as fast as possible to conquer as much as possible while another fleet is tasked with engaging the enemy fleets and another sits with the land armies, bombarding defenders in an attempt to successfully pull off a ground assault. This rework invigorated what had previously been one of the blander parts of Stellaris. Up until this point, all of these changes have been to the base Stellaris game. The Apocalypse expansion brings even more to the table. Planetary destruction stands as the main selling point of Apocalypse. As a game progresses, players will have the opportunity to undertake large research projects and construction efforts that culminate in a weapon capable of devastating entire worlds. These super weapons have no combat power on their own, but they can do quite a bit. Players can obliterate planets to bypass a lengthy invasion or test it on uninhabited worlds to access additional resources. These weapons present the opportunity for a variety of role-playing and tactical advantages. Players can use them to crack open worlds for mining, create an impenetrable, permanent shield around a world to study the inhabitants for science, wipe the minds of the population, cleanse a world of sapient life with a neutron sweep, or even instantaneously turn the creatures on the surface into cyborgs and connect them to the mechanical consciousness of your empire. A new non-player faction has been added to the game, too. Called Marauders, these factions go on raids against the various denizens of the galaxy with powerful fleets that dominate the early and mid-game. Players can pay off raids, redirect them toward other empires, hire mercenary admirals to lead their own fleets, or even hire entire an entire armada to fight under their direct command. One of the coolest aspects of the marauding factions is that there's a chance for them to become an empire in the mid-game. Paradox compared them to the tribes that united under the leadership of Genghis Khan. If such an empire forms under the leadership of a Ghengis Khan-like figure, players might have to either submit to their rule for a time or fight a mighty foe. A series of other special events populate the rule of these space warriors that all add color to the mid-game, which some players found to be a bit slow in the base Stellaris game. Empires can now also build titan-class capital ships, a new size category of vessel that had previously been restricted to powerful non-player factions known as Fallen Empires. These ships can bestow helpful auras on nearby fleets, impose penalties on enemy fleets, and possess weapons capable of destroying entire battleships in a single shot. They represent the apex of what a player can bring to bear in battle - and they feel like it. To compliment the new system where players expand their control of systems via building star bases, Paradox has included a shiny, new option in their expansion. Players are able to upgrade these into ever larger and more easily defended bastions, a feature that replaces the space fortifications previously in the base game. Apocalypse, however, opens up the possibility of building a Citadel, a colossal space station that can house powerful cannons and assist in stopping enemy fleets in their tracks. Conclusion: The new upgrade to the base game of Stellaris certainly diminishes some of the role-playing aspects inherent to it's pre-2.0 patch days, but the game overall gains a better sense of tactical weight. Building star bases everywhere to expand your borders might sound tedious on paper, but in practice it means you can focus your empire's growth in certain directions to block other empires and obtain critical resources or worlds in a sensible way. The changes to navy sizes mean that players can now break apart their powerful fleets to pursue different objectives without risking a crushing defeat. All of these feel like incredibly welcome changes to an already solid 4X strategy title. On top of that, Apocalypse stands out as a must for players who are looking to get the most out of the game. While it doesn't hold much content for the early game, players who stick through to the mid and late game will find a wealth of new options at their fingertips. New ships, colossal space weapons, towering fortresses, interesting technologies, new diplomatic opportunities - Apocalypse stands as an answer to a long list of fan requests that have been collected over the past two years. Stellaris: Apocalypse is available now on PC.
  9. Team17 and Mouldy Toof Studios are gearing up for the launch of The Escapists 2 on the Nintendo Switch. Players will be able to team up with another inmate in split screen local co-op, or grab two more friends to play co-op online. Race against your allies to be the first to escape or work together to overcome prison guards and barricades. Work your way through ever more complicated and dangerous prisons. Frozen tundra, speeding bullet trains, and even space stations make for imaginative prisons that offer the opportunity to flex your creativity to plan and execute your daring escape. Blend in with the crowd by following your daily routine, keeping your head down, and playing your role - all while secretly making your arrangements. The Escapists 2 will launch on January 11 2018 for the Nintendo Switch. It is currently available for Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and PC.
  10. Team17 and Mouldy Toof Studios are gearing up for the launch of The Escapists 2 on the Nintendo Switch. Players will be able to team up with another inmate in split screen local co-op, or grab two more friends to play co-op online. Race against your allies to be the first to escape or work together to overcome prison guards and barricades. Work your way through ever more complicated and dangerous prisons. Frozen tundra, speeding bullet trains, and even space stations make for imaginative prisons that offer the opportunity to flex your creativity to plan and execute your daring escape. Blend in with the crowd by following your daily routine, keeping your head down, and playing your role - all while secretly making your arrangements. The Escapists 2 will launch on January 11 2018 for the Nintendo Switch. It is currently available for Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and PC. View full article
  11. "The truth is we screwed up," said Creative Assembly's creative director Mike Simpson as part of an extended apology and explanation regarding the delay of a new game mode for Total War Warhammer II titled Mortal Empires. The addition of Mortal Empires would effectively combine the campaigns of Total War Warhammer I and II into one colossal campaign that will dwarf previous Total War campaign maps. Essentially, the Total War franchise has had a lot of experience merging content across different games in the same series. They went into Total War Warhammer II's merger with Warhammer I content with the expectation that it would go just as smoothly as it had with past titles. They started merging the content of the two games and quickly began running into problems. Simpson explains that the sticking point has to do with the studio's confidence in their process that happened to overlook the file containers the data for the game was stored within. "We got so good at branching and merging builds, we thought we had it mastered. [...] Although the data itself didn’t clash, improvements to the infrastructure of WH2 meant the containers the data was going into had changed significantly." The team was set on adding the Norsca from Warhammer I to Warhammer II, as well. This meant that as the bugs of merging the two games together grew, the Norsca specific problems reared their head more and more at every step of the process. Simpson elaborated on the challenges they encountered and the various approaches they used to attempt to overcome them: The first attempt to integrate Norsca in the routine way caused an immediate tsunami of bugs. We smacked our heads against it, realised it was unsolvable in a short span, and had to back out. We started on a second, more careful approach, which has been glacially slow, with deeper and deeper issues with the integration tools and process becoming apparent at each stage. Modding Norsca into the final game, just as a modder might, would be much quicker and easier. But adding content to the final game rather than the source, which takes a great deal more careful implementation, would produce the same problems as modding; every new game update may break it. It would be a bodge. The changes to the database structure between Warhammer I and Warhammer II and the ongoing code and database changes for Mortal Empires made it very difficult to un-tangle the Norsca content, once it had been copied across to Warhammer II. As the weeks passed, we realised that it would probably be easier to re-implement Norsca in Warhammer II, rather than straighten out the Norsca content copied over from Warhammer I. And so, having lost months, we’ve now decided to pick the next point where all the branches are back together (after the next major content update), and then re-implement Norsca from scratch in Warhammer II. This won’t be quick, but it is guaranteed to work. And so we add one more thing to the long list of dumb mistakes we’re never going to make again… All of that being said, Creative Assembly has revealed their revised schedule for Warhammer II. December will see the rollout of the Reprisal Update for Mortal Empires that will bring a bunch of new fixes and tweaks for Old World Legendary Lords and Chaos alongside a new game mode that hasn't yet been announced. January has been designated as the release month for the first campaign expansion pack. This will contain new elements for Eye of the Vortex and Mortal Empires. Finally, Creative Assembly aims to have the full implementation of the Norsca in Warhammer II sometime in May. What do you think? Was this a good apology from the Total War Warhammer II team?
  12. "The truth is we screwed up," said Creative Assembly's creative director Mike Simpson as part of an extended apology and explanation regarding the delay of a new game mode for Total War Warhammer II titled Mortal Empires. The addition of Mortal Empires would effectively combine the campaigns of Total War Warhammer I and II into one colossal campaign that will dwarf previous Total War campaign maps. Essentially, the Total War franchise has had a lot of experience merging content across different games in the same series. They went into Total War Warhammer II's merger with Warhammer I content with the expectation that it would go just as smoothly as it had with past titles. They started merging the content of the two games and quickly began running into problems. Simpson explains that the sticking point has to do with the studio's confidence in their process that happened to overlook the file containers the data for the game was stored within. "We got so good at branching and merging builds, we thought we had it mastered. [...] Although the data itself didn’t clash, improvements to the infrastructure of WH2 meant the containers the data was going into had changed significantly." The team was set on adding the Norsca from Warhammer I to Warhammer II, as well. This meant that as the bugs of merging the two games together grew, the Norsca specific problems reared their head more and more at every step of the process. Simpson elaborated on the challenges they encountered and the various approaches they used to attempt to overcome them: The first attempt to integrate Norsca in the routine way caused an immediate tsunami of bugs. We smacked our heads against it, realised it was unsolvable in a short span, and had to back out. We started on a second, more careful approach, which has been glacially slow, with deeper and deeper issues with the integration tools and process becoming apparent at each stage. Modding Norsca into the final game, just as a modder might, would be much quicker and easier. But adding content to the final game rather than the source, which takes a great deal more careful implementation, would produce the same problems as modding; every new game update may break it. It would be a bodge. The changes to the database structure between Warhammer I and Warhammer II and the ongoing code and database changes for Mortal Empires made it very difficult to un-tangle the Norsca content, once it had been copied across to Warhammer II. As the weeks passed, we realised that it would probably be easier to re-implement Norsca in Warhammer II, rather than straighten out the Norsca content copied over from Warhammer I. And so, having lost months, we’ve now decided to pick the next point where all the branches are back together (after the next major content update), and then re-implement Norsca from scratch in Warhammer II. This won’t be quick, but it is guaranteed to work. And so we add one more thing to the long list of dumb mistakes we’re never going to make again… All of that being said, Creative Assembly has revealed their revised schedule for Warhammer II. December will see the rollout of the Reprisal Update for Mortal Empires that will bring a bunch of new fixes and tweaks for Old World Legendary Lords and Chaos alongside a new game mode that hasn't yet been announced. January has been designated as the release month for the first campaign expansion pack. This will contain new elements for Eye of the Vortex and Mortal Empires. Finally, Creative Assembly aims to have the full implementation of the Norsca in Warhammer II sometime in May. What do you think? Was this a good apology from the Total War Warhammer II team? View full article
  13. In 2014, Stoic Games released their Kickstarter indie darling The Banner Saga to massive success. Hailed as "The Oregon Trail, but with fighting and a Norse apocalypse," The Banner Saga went on to generate a sequel as well as a third installment that recently found success on Kickstarter. The high-stakes, turn-based RPG took players on a journey through a hand-painted world full of mystery and intrigue, where it felt like one wrong move could unravel tenuous alliances or get people killed. With schedules being what they are, sometimes coordinating a full episode of The Best Games Period can be difficult. When we can't have a proper discussion, we will be breaking off to do these shorter mini-casts, Honorable Mentions, to talk about fringe games that we might not otherwise be able to talk about on a full episode. Outro music: Paladin's Quest 'Sleep, Beloved Child' by Archangel (http://ocremix.org/remix/OCR03557) You can download or listen to the podcast over on Soundcloud, our hosting site, and iTunes. A YouTube version is (sometimes) available as well, so you can watch what we are talking about while we talk about it! If you want to have your opinion heard on air, share your opinion in the comments, follow the show on Twitter, and participate in the weekly polls: @BestGamesPeriod New episodes of The Best Games Period will be released every Monday
  14. In 2014, Stoic Games released their Kickstarter indie darling The Banner Saga to massive success. Hailed as "The Oregon Trail, but with fighting and a Norse apocalypse," The Banner Saga went on to generate a sequel as well as a third installment that recently found success on Kickstarter. The high-stakes, turn-based RPG took players on a journey through a hand-painted world full of mystery and intrigue, where it felt like one wrong move could unravel tenuous alliances or get people killed. With schedules being what they are, sometimes coordinating a full episode of The Best Games Period can be difficult. When we can't have a proper discussion, we will be breaking off to do these shorter mini-casts, Honorable Mentions, to talk about fringe games that we might not otherwise be able to talk about on a full episode. Outro music: Paladin's Quest 'Sleep, Beloved Child' by Archangel (http://ocremix.org/remix/OCR03557) You can download or listen to the podcast over on Soundcloud, our hosting site, and iTunes. A YouTube version is (sometimes) available as well, so you can watch what we are talking about while we talk about it! If you want to have your opinion heard on air, share your opinion in the comments, follow the show on Twitter, and participate in the weekly polls: @BestGamesPeriod New episodes of The Best Games Period will be released every Monday View full article
  15. The Valkyria Chronicles series returns next year with its fourth mainline entry coming to PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch, and Xbox One. While that might throw off some fans of the first Valkyria Chronicles that released for the PlayStation 3 back in 2008, Valkyria Chronicles 2 and 3 were only ever released for the PlayStation Portable. That means that by the time Valkyria Chronicles 4 releases, it will have been a decade since a mainline game from the franchise has appeared on consoles. It should be noted that Valkyria Chronicles has been considered the core series while titles like the recent Valkyria Revolution and Valkyria Chronicles D are spin-offs of the franchise. The signature watercolor look of the series returns along with its World War II-inspired political turmoil, weaponry, and drama. Players will join the ranks of Squad E as they undertake a desperate mission to capture the enemy's capital and bring the war to an end. Losses in war will bring heartbreak, test friendships, and determine the fate of the war. Of course, Squad E will also have their encounters with the mysterious and powerful Valkyria. Sega has teased that other mysteries will be introduced in this entry, too. In addition to a new engine built specifically to help better render the watercolor aesthetic of the series, Valkyria Chronicles 4 offers the next iteration of its unique mash-up of real-time and turn-based combat. One part strategy, one part third-person shooter, and one part RPG, the revamped system offers a new class, the grenadier, battleship support, a last stand opportunity for soldiers near death, and larger maps than were possible on the consoles of the previous generation. Valkyria Chronicles 4 releases sometime in 2018 for PS4, Switch, and Xbox One.
  16. The Valkyria Chronicles series returns next year with its fourth mainline entry coming to PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch, and Xbox One. While that might throw off some fans of the first Valkyria Chronicles that released for the PlayStation 3 back in 2008, Valkyria Chronicles 2 and 3 were only ever released for the PlayStation Portable. That means that by the time Valkyria Chronicles 4 releases, it will have been a decade since a mainline game from the franchise has appeared on consoles. It should be noted that Valkyria Chronicles has been considered the core series while titles like the recent Valkyria Revolution and Valkyria Chronicles D are spin-offs of the franchise. The signature watercolor look of the series returns along with its World War II-inspired political turmoil, weaponry, and drama. Players will join the ranks of Squad E as they undertake a desperate mission to capture the enemy's capital and bring the war to an end. Losses in war will bring heartbreak, test friendships, and determine the fate of the war. Of course, Squad E will also have their encounters with the mysterious and powerful Valkyria. Sega has teased that other mysteries will be introduced in this entry, too. In addition to a new engine built specifically to help better render the watercolor aesthetic of the series, Valkyria Chronicles 4 offers the next iteration of its unique mash-up of real-time and turn-based combat. One part strategy, one part third-person shooter, and one part RPG, the revamped system offers a new class, the grenadier, battleship support, a last stand opportunity for soldiers near death, and larger maps than were possible on the consoles of the previous generation. Valkyria Chronicles 4 releases sometime in 2018 for PS4, Switch, and Xbox One. View full article
  17. In May of 2016, the development arm of Paradox Interactive released a brand new strategy title called Stellaris. The sci-fi 4X game thrust players into a galaxy full of mysteries and conflicts. Players could construct their own species and society and pit them against the unknown in a bid for galactic dominance using strategy, diplomacy, and conquest. Stellaris became a record breaking success for the indie company that has since put together multiple expansions for the game. With schedules being what they are, sometimes coordinating a full episode of The Best Games Period can be difficult. When we can't have a proper discussion, we will be breaking off to do these shorter mini-casts, Honorable Mentions, to talk about fringe games that we might not otherwise be able to talk about on a full episode. Outro music: 3D Pinball: Space Cadet 'Inter5tellar 5a5uke 5ever' by Sir Jordanius (http://ocremix.org/remix/OCR03132) You can download or listen to the podcast over on Soundcloud, our hosting site, and iTunes. A YouTube version is (sometimes) available as well, so you can watch what we are talking about while we talk about it! If you want to have your opinion heard on air, share your opinion in the comments, follow the show on Twitter, and participate in the weekly polls: @BestGamesPeriod New episodes of The Best Games Period will be released every Monday
  18. In May of 2016, the development arm of Paradox Interactive released a brand new strategy title called Stellaris. The sci-fi 4X game thrust players into a galaxy full of mysteries and conflicts. Players could construct their own species and society and pit them against the unknown in a bid for galactic dominance using strategy, diplomacy, and conquest. Stellaris became a record breaking success for the indie company that has since put together multiple expansions for the game. With schedules being what they are, sometimes coordinating a full episode of The Best Games Period can be difficult. When we can't have a proper discussion, we will be breaking off to do these shorter mini-casts, Honorable Mentions, to talk about fringe games that we might not otherwise be able to talk about on a full episode. Outro music: 3D Pinball: Space Cadet 'Inter5tellar 5a5uke 5ever' by Sir Jordanius (http://ocremix.org/remix/OCR03132) You can download or listen to the podcast over on Soundcloud, our hosting site, and iTunes. A YouTube version is (sometimes) available as well, so you can watch what we are talking about while we talk about it! If you want to have your opinion heard on air, share your opinion in the comments, follow the show on Twitter, and participate in the weekly polls: @BestGamesPeriod New episodes of The Best Games Period will be released every Monday View full article
  19. until
    Hello Gamers, I'll be playing the last game I've worked on in multiplayer in order to raise funds for Extra-Life. I will answer your questions about the game and talk about the developpement of the project. I will also have a copy of the game on PS4 that I will giveaway. To participate, you'll have to donate at least 10$ if you're in Canada, 15$ if you're in the US. Also note that Patrons giving 10$ or more are automatically registered for every and any contest and giveaway. At the end of the event, one random donnors will be sent a PS4 copy of For Honor. See you online!
  20. Most people know Dream Theater as a progressive metal band from the mid 80s that has released albums on and off for the past thirty years. While that would generally lead to a band fading into obscurity, Dream Theater does not go quietly into that good night. The band has partnered with Norwegian indie developer Turbo Tape Games to create a game based on their 2016 album The Astonishing. The game, titled The Astonishing Game, allows players to take part in the album's rock opera storyline, which delves into a conflict between artists and a totalitarian government. It features digital likenesses of the band members and various other musicians as they do battle with the machines of an empire to win over the general population. The turn-based strategy game allows players to choose to side with the musicians or the authoritarians. The game comes with a single-player campaign and a multiplayer mode to challenge other Dream Theater fans (or those curious about what a Dream Theater game would be like). On top of that, players can be eligible to win prizes by playing The Astonishing Game. Those who play can win tickets to upcoming shows, backstage passes, signed merch, and more. The rules for winning prizes can be found on Turbo Tape Games' website. You can grab The Astonishing Game on PC, Mac, iOS, and Android devices.
  21. Most people know Dream Theater as a progressive metal band from the mid 80s that has released albums on and off for the past thirty years. While that would generally lead to a band fading into obscurity, Dream Theater does not go quietly into that good night. The band has partnered with Norwegian indie developer Turbo Tape Games to create a game based on their 2016 album The Astonishing. The game, titled The Astonishing Game, allows players to take part in the album's rock opera storyline, which delves into a conflict between artists and a totalitarian government. It features digital likenesses of the band members and various other musicians as they do battle with the machines of an empire to win over the general population. The turn-based strategy game allows players to choose to side with the musicians or the authoritarians. The game comes with a single-player campaign and a multiplayer mode to challenge other Dream Theater fans (or those curious about what a Dream Theater game would be like). On top of that, players can be eligible to win prizes by playing The Astonishing Game. Those who play can win tickets to upcoming shows, backstage passes, signed merch, and more. The rules for winning prizes can be found on Turbo Tape Games' website. You can grab The Astonishing Game on PC, Mac, iOS, and Android devices. View full article
  22. stodd.ELBoston

    Star Wars X-Wing Miniatures Game

    Is anyone playing this game? I just picked up the Force Awakens Core set at PAX East and got the Tie Advanced and Millennium Falcon expansions. What are your opinions? What do you like about it? Not Like about it? Do you favor any certain ships/cards over others? Are there particular expansions that you feel are necessary/unnecessary?
  23. Jack Gardner

    Feature: Review: XCOM 2

    All sequels dream of improving and expanding on the success of their predecessor. XCOM 2 manages to accomplish that goal by upping its production quality across the board. The drastically improved visuals stun with a frankly impressive level of detail. Locations, items, skill progression, everything has been either created entirely new or reworked into a slightly different, though recognizable, form. A relatively engaging narrative with some depth and pathos I simply wasn't expecting goes beyond “fight the bad aliens." Simply put, XCOM 2 feels like a big step in an exciting direction, setting the bar of excellence for all future additions to the series while also stumbling slightly on technical glitches. XCOM 2 begins with the assumption that the player failed to stop the alien invasion in XCOM: Enemy Unknown. Twenty years after the fall of Earth, the alien forces have coalesced into a worldwide government known as ADVENT, an organization that goes to great lengths to appear benign, but something sinister stirs beneath the smiles they broadcast to the world. A scattered resistance movement has been agitating around the globe, chaffing under the alien’s rule. Spearheading that resistance, remnants of the XCOM project undertake a desperate mission to seize a critical alien asset…. It’s a good hook and a compelling scenario. Most interestingly, XCOM 2 eventually draws the player into the game world as an additional character. The cast of characters in XCOM 2 feels much more alive this time around. As players go about tasks like deciding what to research, optimizing squad equipment, or building new facilities within the alien ship that serves as a central base, characters like Central Officer Bradford, head engineer An-Yi Shen, and Dr. Tygan will share stories or gossip with both the player and each other in the base. It gives off a vibe reminiscent of the interactions from StarCraft II. XCOM 2 goes a long ways toward improving on Enemy Unknowns imperfections. A small change like introducing a trimmed down version of base-building that makes new expansions to your hideout feel more meaningful goes a long ways toward cultivating an enjoyable experience. Gone are the days when an allied nation panicked due to a lack of satellite coverage only to back out of the XCOM project permanently. Instead, a new system for maintaining a monthly income rears its head, requiring the player to merely contact resistance forces in a given area and complete any random missions that might arise in that area. Ignoring missions could lead to those areas being lost and having to spend precious time and resources to regain them again. Instead of satellites, players can build radio towers to lower the cost of contacting additional nearby pockets of the resistance. This eliminates a lot of the frustration the metagame caused in Enemy Unknown, while maintaining the element of choice that makes each attempt to complete an XCOM campaign unique. Firaxis really outdid themselves upping the all around visual presentation of XCOM 2. The level of detail really impresses. Small objects litter combat areas, adding to the sense that these are lived in space. In a shootout with ADVENT forces in a junk yard, small knickknacks and debris would go flying in reaction to gunfire or explosions. A guitar was clearly visible on the ground at one point. During one of the combat animations, the camera actually zoomed in so far to a cafe table that I was able to see a recently abandoned cup of coffee and an accompanying doughnut covered in sprinkles. Little touches like that are instrumental in giving an air of quality to XCOM 2; people clearly spent a lot of love and effort crafting it. No one puts doughnuts that few people will ever likely see into a game without caring about their work. New skill trees for class progressions really work to make classes that feel distinct and fun. Do you want a stealthy ranger or a ranger that can become a death-dealing hurricane? Would you prefer a grenadier who can make anything and everything explode or one that can shred through armor and enemies alike? The specialists all have drones that can be fitted for healing or combat tasks. Perhaps you want a sharpshooter to snipe enemies from afar or be a pistol-wielding nightmare. Maybe you throw all of those classes out the window and heavily invest in training psi operatives to unleash powerful psychic abilities on unwitting alien forces. All of these approaches can be experimented with heavily; mixing and matching abilities to fine tune soldiers so that they can overcome any challenge feels incredibly satisfying. Even more so, perhaps, because those ranks are earned in combat which always carries risk of permadeath. One of the larger gripes that people had about XCOM: Enemy Unknown when it launched in 2012 was its small pool of maps for random encounters. Firaxis clearly went out of their way to address this problem bringing a larger number of maps to XCOM 2. After 50 hours, I am sure I repeated a couple of the battlefields, but the randomized start locations mesh really nicely with the finely crafted combat spaces. I never had the thought of, “oh great, this place again,” while playing XCOM 2, which is surely an improvement over the 2012 franchise reboot. Firaxis also introduces never-before-seen enemies alongside revamped foes from Enemy Unknown, new items, and a commitment to destructible environments. Few things are more distressing than being caught in an ambush when one of the overhauled sectopods simply walks through a building and begins decimating your squad’s fresh recruits. Building more systems to facilitate environmental destruction really expands the tactical choices available to players. Don’t want to deal with an ADVENT officer who has taken up a defensive position on the second floor of an office building? Throw a grenade/shoot a rocket/use a special cover destroying ability and blow the floor out from under it, which causes it to take additional damage from the fall and potentially deprives it of cover. Of course, the aliens are equally capable of taking advantage of environment destruction, so players need to stay on their toes to avoid a total party wipe. All of these changes really help to give XCOM 2 an identity that feels distinct from its predecessor while maintaining the core gameplay that makes XCOM one of the staples of modern turn-based strategy. Perhaps its biggest accomplishment, XCOM 2 embraces the character personalization that arguably made 2012’s Enemy Unknown such an explosive hit. The randomizer that generates soldiers does a fantastic job of creating unique soldiers, each with their own backstories that brought them to be a part of the human resistance movement. You can spend hours agonizing over creating the coolest soldiers or inserting loved ones into the game. However, even without recreating friends and family to bring personal connections into the game, players will slowly develop a sense of who each of these characters are. The near suicidal Kellen “Smokey” Moore who stubbornly refused to die while pinned down by a colossal sectopod and three plasma-toting mutons; the whirlwind of destruction that was Jane “Cobra” Kelly who singlehandedly took down an entire defensive position of alien troops with only her machete; Jaqueline “Buzzsaw” Simon who truly earned her name in the final mission by taking down two charging berserkers to protect a gravely wounded comrade; or Kiriko “Priestess” Hasegawa who consistently beat the odds and hacked robotic defenses and soldiers to give her squad the winning edge they needed – I’ll remember these characters for more than the mere mechanical advantages they provided. We made memories together. I spent over 50 hours playing through one campaign of XCOM 2 and some of those soldiers were with me from the very beginning. Some potent bonding goes on when those characters live or die based on the quality of your tactical choices. Despite the triumph of XCOM 2, technical issues mar the otherwise amazing experience. The framerate can sometimes dip unexpectedly for seemingly no reason. Certain enemies can at times become invisible on the battlefield. Once or twice I had a character fall multiple from a higher elevation and become stuck in a piece of the environment. However, the biggest issue of all was the time many of my saves became corrupted and unplayable; crashing to the desktop every time they were loaded. No one wants to be forced to start a new game after investing nearly 40 hours into an experience. Randomly corrupting saves are a huge deal for a game that spans 50 hours for one campaign. Luckily, I was able to find an functional save file and continue with only a several hours of lost time. I’m sure Firaxis has been scrambling to fix these issues, but it might have been better to delay the game a bit further in order to fix some of these glaring technical hiccups before releasing it to the public. Conclusion: XCOM 2 is a strategic dream come true, but I wouldn’t blame anyone for waiting on it for a few weeks to give Firaxis time to sort out a patch or two for the most grievous glitches. Despite the struggles of modern development schedules cutting down on QA testing time, XCOM 2 delivers a really rich and rewarding experience that improves on Enemy Unknown in pretty nearly all respects. The emergent narratives crafted through commanding a resistance movement stand alongside set piece missions that shake up the standard objectives with really challenging scenarios. The standout for me involves the entirety of the XCOM barracks taking to the battlefield to fight for survival. I haven’t even mentioned the three mods crafted by Long War Studios, the team behind Enemy Unknown’s Long War mod, that were available at XCOM 2’s launch. They add SMGs, a new alien type, and an entire skill tree that allows soldiers to train as leaders, conferring squad bonuses and abilities. They are all excellent and bettered my core experience. Play XCOM 2 right now if you are a strategy fiend and you are jonesing for your next strategy fix, but for those with more self-control hold off for a few more weeks until the technical stuff finishes being ironed out. XCOM 2 is available now for PC, Mac, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One. View full article
  24. Jack Gardner

    Review: XCOM 2

    All sequels dream of improving and expanding on the success of their predecessor. XCOM 2 manages to accomplish that goal by upping its production quality across the board. The drastically improved visuals stun with a frankly impressive level of detail. Locations, items, skill progression, everything has been either created entirely new or reworked into a slightly different, though recognizable, form. A relatively engaging narrative with some depth and pathos I simply wasn't expecting goes beyond “fight the bad aliens." Simply put, XCOM 2 feels like a big step in an exciting direction, setting the bar of excellence for all future additions to the series while also stumbling slightly on technical glitches. XCOM 2 begins with the assumption that the player failed to stop the alien invasion in XCOM: Enemy Unknown. Twenty years after the fall of Earth, the alien forces have coalesced into a worldwide government known as ADVENT, an organization that goes to great lengths to appear benign, but something sinister stirs beneath the smiles they broadcast to the world. A scattered resistance movement has been agitating around the globe, chaffing under the alien’s rule. Spearheading that resistance, remnants of the XCOM project undertake a desperate mission to seize a critical alien asset…. It’s a good hook and a compelling scenario. Most interestingly, XCOM 2 eventually draws the player into the game world as an additional character. The cast of characters in XCOM 2 feels much more alive this time around. As players go about tasks like deciding what to research, optimizing squad equipment, or building new facilities within the alien ship that serves as a central base, characters like Central Officer Bradford, head engineer An-Yi Shen, and Dr. Tygan will share stories or gossip with both the player and each other in the base. It gives off a vibe reminiscent of the interactions from StarCraft II. XCOM 2 goes a long ways toward improving on Enemy Unknowns imperfections. A small change like introducing a trimmed down version of base-building that makes new expansions to your hideout feel more meaningful goes a long ways toward cultivating an enjoyable experience. Gone are the days when an allied nation panicked due to a lack of satellite coverage only to back out of the XCOM project permanently. Instead, a new system for maintaining a monthly income rears its head, requiring the player to merely contact resistance forces in a given area and complete any random missions that might arise in that area. Ignoring missions could lead to those areas being lost and having to spend precious time and resources to regain them again. Instead of satellites, players can build radio towers to lower the cost of contacting additional nearby pockets of the resistance. This eliminates a lot of the frustration the metagame caused in Enemy Unknown, while maintaining the element of choice that makes each attempt to complete an XCOM campaign unique. Firaxis really outdid themselves upping the all around visual presentation of XCOM 2. The level of detail really impresses. Small objects litter combat areas, adding to the sense that these are lived in space. In a shootout with ADVENT forces in a junk yard, small knickknacks and debris would go flying in reaction to gunfire or explosions. A guitar was clearly visible on the ground at one point. During one of the combat animations, the camera actually zoomed in so far to a cafe table that I was able to see a recently abandoned cup of coffee and an accompanying doughnut covered in sprinkles. Little touches like that are instrumental in giving an air of quality to XCOM 2; people clearly spent a lot of love and effort crafting it. No one puts doughnuts that few people will ever likely see into a game without caring about their work. New skill trees for class progressions really work to make classes that feel distinct and fun. Do you want a stealthy ranger or a ranger that can become a death-dealing hurricane? Would you prefer a grenadier who can make anything and everything explode or one that can shred through armor and enemies alike? The specialists all have drones that can be fitted for healing or combat tasks. Perhaps you want a sharpshooter to snipe enemies from afar or be a pistol-wielding nightmare. Maybe you throw all of those classes out the window and heavily invest in training psi operatives to unleash powerful psychic abilities on unwitting alien forces. All of these approaches can be experimented with heavily; mixing and matching abilities to fine tune soldiers so that they can overcome any challenge feels incredibly satisfying. Even more so, perhaps, because those ranks are earned in combat which always carries risk of permadeath. One of the larger gripes that people had about XCOM: Enemy Unknown when it launched in 2012 was its small pool of maps for random encounters. Firaxis clearly went out of their way to address this problem bringing a larger number of maps to XCOM 2. After 50 hours, I am sure I repeated a couple of the battlefields, but the randomized start locations mesh really nicely with the finely crafted combat spaces. I never had the thought of, “oh great, this place again,” while playing XCOM 2, which is surely an improvement over the 2012 franchise reboot. Firaxis also introduces never-before-seen enemies alongside revamped foes from Enemy Unknown, new items, and a commitment to destructible environments. Few things are more distressing than being caught in an ambush when one of the overhauled sectopods simply walks through a building and begins decimating your squad’s fresh recruits. Building more systems to facilitate environmental destruction really expands the tactical choices available to players. Don’t want to deal with an ADVENT officer who has taken up a defensive position on the second floor of an office building? Throw a grenade/shoot a rocket/use a special cover destroying ability and blow the floor out from under it, which causes it to take additional damage from the fall and potentially deprives it of cover. Of course, the aliens are equally capable of taking advantage of environment destruction, so players need to stay on their toes to avoid a total party wipe. All of these changes really help to give XCOM 2 an identity that feels distinct from its predecessor while maintaining the core gameplay that makes XCOM one of the staples of modern turn-based strategy. Perhaps its biggest accomplishment, XCOM 2 embraces the character personalization that arguably made 2012’s Enemy Unknown such an explosive hit. The randomizer that generates soldiers does a fantastic job of creating unique soldiers, each with their own backstories that brought them to be a part of the human resistance movement. You can spend hours agonizing over creating the coolest soldiers or inserting loved ones into the game. However, even without recreating friends and family to bring personal connections into the game, players will slowly develop a sense of who each of these characters are. The near suicidal Kellen “Smokey” Moore who stubbornly refused to die while pinned down by a colossal sectopod and three plasma-toting mutons; the whirlwind of destruction that was Jane “Cobra” Kelly who singlehandedly took down an entire defensive position of alien troops with only her machete; Jaqueline “Buzzsaw” Simon who truly earned her name in the final mission by taking down two charging berserkers to protect a gravely wounded comrade; or Kiriko “Priestess” Hasegawa who consistently beat the odds and hacked robotic defenses and soldiers to give her squad the winning edge they needed – I’ll remember these characters for more than the mere mechanical advantages they provided. We made memories together. I spent over 50 hours playing through one campaign of XCOM 2 and some of those soldiers were with me from the very beginning. Some potent bonding goes on when those characters live or die based on the quality of your tactical choices. Despite the triumph of XCOM 2, technical issues mar the otherwise amazing experience. The framerate can sometimes dip unexpectedly for seemingly no reason. Certain enemies can at times become invisible on the battlefield. Once or twice I had a character fall multiple from a higher elevation and become stuck in a piece of the environment. However, the biggest issue of all was the time many of my saves became corrupted and unplayable; crashing to the desktop every time they were loaded. No one wants to be forced to start a new game after investing nearly 40 hours into an experience. Randomly corrupting saves are a huge deal for a game that spans 50 hours for one campaign. Luckily, I was able to find an functional save file and continue with only a several hours of lost time. I’m sure Firaxis has been scrambling to fix these issues, but it might have been better to delay the game a bit further in order to fix some of these glaring technical hiccups before releasing it to the public. Conclusion: XCOM 2 is a strategic dream come true, but I wouldn’t blame anyone for waiting on it for a few weeks to give Firaxis time to sort out a patch or two for the most grievous glitches. Despite the struggles of modern development schedules cutting down on QA testing time, XCOM 2 delivers a really rich and rewarding experience that improves on Enemy Unknown in pretty nearly all respects. The emergent narratives crafted through commanding a resistance movement stand alongside set piece missions that shake up the standard objectives with really challenging scenarios. The standout for me involves the entirety of the XCOM barracks taking to the battlefield to fight for survival. I haven’t even mentioned the three mods crafted by Long War Studios, the team behind Enemy Unknown’s Long War mod, that were available at XCOM 2’s launch. They add SMGs, a new alien type, and an entire skill tree that allows soldiers to train as leaders, conferring squad bonuses and abilities. They are all excellent and bettered my core experience. Play XCOM 2 right now if you are a strategy fiend and you are jonesing for your next strategy fix, but for those with more self-control hold off for a few more weeks until the technical stuff finishes being ironed out. XCOM 2 is available now for PC, Mac, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One.
  25. Jack Gardner

    Feature: Review: Planetbase

    A lone pod lands on a distant, inhospitable world under an unfamiliar star. A small group of colonists have come to tame a deadly new frontier. Planetbase tasks players with the construction of a facility that will allow these colonists to survive and eventually create a self-sustaining community. It’s a fairly topical release, coming days after NASA released a 36 page plan to put humans on Mars in the next couple decades as well as the recent critical and financial success of The Martian. Space colonization has become a part of the cultural zeitgeist and looks more and more like an impending reality. I don’t think it is a stretch to say we’re all interested in the inherent drama of inhabiting space, where one small mistake can spell doom for everyone involved. It represents perhaps the ultimate test of human will and ingenuity. A game that asks players to solve the problems of oxygen, food, shelter, and isolation (among other things) through brilliant base construction is a truly tantalizing prospect. Unfortunately, Planetbase stops just shy of realizing its full potential. The opening hours of base building are really quite great. Juggling the limited resources available at the outset with the immediate needs of shelter leads to some really moment-by-moment, do-or-die scenarios. Planetbase shines in those opening hours, capturing that elusive just-one-more-turn vibe that the best simulation games offer. As soon as the basic necessities are taken care of players need to begin working toward sustainability by building mines, processing plants, bio-domes, labs, and more. Simultaneously, players must expand the power grid and its support systems to be able to accommodate those structures. It is a tricky balance to maintain; if you don’t put enough resources toward the power and water grids, you could find your facility completely powered down and running out of oxygen. As you expand your facilities and become self-sustaining, you’ll be able to build a landing pad which allows for trade and population growth. Trading is the only way to obtain powerful new technologies through blueprints. New blueprints could mean being able to construct a massive solar array or gigantic wind turbine or it could be the ability to construct new robots to more efficiently perform menial tasks around the base. As all of this is going on, remember that you are usually only one poorly timed solar flare or meteor strike away from complete disaster. Random events could happen at any time around the base and result in some tense challenges. The problems with Planetbase seem relatively minor at first, but slowly magnify as the base grows and more colonists enter the mix. On the game’s Steam page, developer Madruga Works claims Planetbase has been beta tested, but there are so many little things that should have been caught and fixed prior to release. Trading is slow and grinds the game to a halt while you click several hundred times to finish your late game transactions. For some reason, colonists can’t sleep in beds when a room is not powered. Access to vitally important UI options, like bringing systems to a minimal power state or putting the base on high alert for a solar flare, feels inconveniently put behind two or three clicks, when it could be readily available. Let’s really dive into the minor annoyances with trading. When a trade ship arrives, players can exchange excess resources for different items their base might need or for new technologies. One of the things that can be traded is a currency simply referred to as coins. You can earn coins by allowing visitors into your base for some space tourism and then use those coins to even out trading transactions. However, heaven help you if you earn a lot of coins and want to use those to pay for the entirety of a transaction. You can only offer one coin every time you click and coins are only worth one in space currency. That means if something costs 600 units of space currency, you will have to click 600 times to pay for it entirely in coins. That’s just irritating and could be fixed with some simple UI tweaking to allow for typing how many units of each thing you wish to trade. However, that’s just a small, easily fixed issue. A much more pressing and complicated problem is that of the colonists’ AI. Early on, it functions adequately. However, once Planetbase enters its mid-game the AI becomes frustrating in the extreme. There are several different types of colonists: Engineers, medics, biologists, workers, and guards. While workers can mine and process raw materials, engineers are the only type of colonist that can use those materials to create more complex objects like guns or spare parts to fix power systems. As the game progresses being able to fix your solar panels and wind turbines becomes incredibly important. Without power, everyone dies very quickly. However, sometimes the AI just decides to take a break for a while. I watched in horror as one by one my power generators deteriorated and shut down while my engineers stood around the room where they could be making spare parts. They had the material in the machines, the room was the number one priority in the base, and the simply stood by as all non-essential rooms were powered down and then even oxygen systems were taken offline to maintain power in that one room. As everyone began asphyxiating, one engineer finally started making the much needed spare part until even that room powered down, leaving him to die cold and alone. That anecdote repeated itself several times with slight variations throughout my time with Planetbase, but there are also several other strange problems. As my base grew larger and larger, some colonists would choose to don space suits and make their way around an entire mountain and across a plain to reach a different part of my base rather than walk inside the base to their destination. I’d see robots broken in the middle of nowhere or get notified that a colonist had suffocated only to see them fallen prone, alone in the middle of a hostile wasteland. Watching AI make decisions this bad is like watching the dignity of the human race curl up into a fetal position and cry. An even larger problem was the priorities the AI seemed to have. Even if you have a room prioritized, the most control you have over colonists, many will simply drop what they are doing to carry supplies to a trade ship if you have struck a deal or decided to construct several items in a room. This can throw off a precious balance and leads to starvation or power loss, destabilizing the entire colony for practically no reason at all. All of these issues make the colonists of Planetbase feel more like lemmings than capable space settlers. What should feel like triumphant achievement in the face of adversity feels more like wrestling with esoteric systems. At one point, I lost all of my biologists, but had plenty of workers and engineers. Unfortunately, biologists are the only type of colonist that can cultivate and maintain crops, so all of my settlers shortly died from starvation. As smart and as capable as an engineer or worker might be, they apparently couldn’t handle even poorly attempting to grow crops. All of this frustration compounds when you finally work around all of these issues to reach the late game and find relatively few interesting things to do. Only a handful of technologies exist for players to obtain from the randomized trading ships. Even the technologies that you can acquire aren’t all that interesting or exotic; most are just bigger versions of the things you could build before. Random events start to feel repetitive due to the small pool of circumstances that can occur. There are some minor goals, like getting a population of over 300, but no rewards or cool things that happen if you manage that feat other than a small box being checked. It feels like a lot of struggle for a disappointing payoff. Conclusion: Planetbase begins brimming with hope and good ideas. It captured my imagination and filled me with such enthusiasm that I spent hours grinding through irritation to see if different environments or events might reignite the promise of the early game. Unfortunately, they do not. Planetbase feels like a game that should be an early access title, working through kinks and refining both the AI and UI while adding more mid and end-game content. If Planetbase was a work in progress I could forgive its faults, but as a fully priced title on Steam for $19.99? Not so much. Planetbase is available now for PC. View full article
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