The red carpet is set, the people have been groomed, the rebels silenced. All is ready for your speech, El Presidente!
With Anno 1800 on the very near horizon, Tropico 6 has just released.
With its unique serious-but-silly tone, Tropico 6 sets itself apart from other city-building and management games.
Take a vacation from the polluted, traffic-ridden, industrial metropolises in Simcityor the cold and way-too-clean streets of Cities: Skylines.
Come to Tropico. Now!-Or else.
Welcome to Tropico!
If you’re new to Tropico, let me explain why you need to try it out: ‘Dictatorship is just a rude label. You have been divinely appointed to guide your people… but now you need to stay in power. By any means necessary.
Things get trickier over time, as each and every decision you make tips the 8-sided scale of your people’s support towards a certain faction. If you appease the communists with a shiny new school, the capitalists will surely dislike the costs it imposes on your budget and might even rebel. Ah… do not worry Mr. El Presidente, bribery is still an option, and there’s plenty of jail cells available in your island!
The game becomes more and more complex as you play it. It steadily grows the number of actions you’re able to perform, the number of buildings available to build, and the number of factions present. This level-up scalability keeps things fresh and interesting, even for experienced players.
Shiny, sweaty engines & bananas
The landmark game in the city-building genre has a brand new game engine – and it looks amazing. It allows for even prettier graphics, which have always been key to the Tropico series.
One of its major improvements is the new archipelagoes system. El Presidente is now able to expand his godly benevolence to nearby islands. This new iteration also adds true multiplayer features. There might be some concerns over saving 4h-long multiplayer games. However, the prospect of having an archipelago run by several dictators with different ideologies is quite thrilling.
A lot of the game has changed but the essence is still there. You get to run a beautiful Caribbean island whilst struggling with famine, poverty, explosive cigars, religion, rebellions, allegiance to foreign superpowers and rivalry with Caribbean neighbors. You are still able to turn your island into a religious commune or a capitalistic intellectual haven.
The introduction of world landmarks (that actually serve a purpose), raids, and the expanded trade options feel like all previous Tropico DLCs have been added to this new game for free. It also seems like it has plenty of room for new, solid, expansions.
The combat system is still bad, as it has always been in the series, but they’ve added plenty of new buildings, factions, and abilities, which keeps things interesting.
Tropico 6 does not set itself apart from the series. We wouldn’t want that anyway – but it does a few things very well.
The game is really fun to play and explore. New and experienced players will enjoy the type of complexity and progression it provides – and it feels like a substantial upgrade to previous iterations of the Tropico series, without changing its core concepts. Even though it seems like there’s a bit of “soul” missing to the game, it still gets my vote and I can’t wait to play more.
5/5 Pops – a solid score for a solid game that orders you to go play it. Now.
If you enjoy this soviet-era funny-but-not-so-funny approach, you might be interested in checking Papers, Please: The Short Film! Go check it out now!
If instead you would prefer to support this blog and get Tropico 6 at a discount price, buy it through here!
We’re talking about a new successful Kickstarter campaign. It raised almost 38.000$ for the indie game dev studio Isolated Games in Barcelona. It is scheduled to be released in Q1 (maybe Q2) 2019.
This game set in space is actually an RPG hybrid with roguelike, management and shooter aspects.
Following the story of an experienced captain who just lost his/her ship, your objective is to upgrade your ship and crew, make decisions, convince others to join your cause and, obviously, fight the baddies.
The RPG aspects of the game have been reinforced with dialogue choices that actually matter and …dice throwing. -I know. Throwing dice in space is funny.
A space oddity
To be honest, I had a hard time figuring out where to start my analysis for this game. It is so different from other games that it becomes hard to pick a corner to start unveiling it. At the same time, it shares similarities with so many “very” different space games like Star Citizen, Freelancer, X4: Foundations, Fractured Space, Avorion or FTL.
Your path through the stars
Something I love about space games is the inevitability of movement. You’re always going somewhere doing some thing – and the way game devs mimic the movement of a large ship truly enthuses me. I love feeling the (weightless) weight of a large ship moving slowly and sometimes carelessly through an asteroid field.
Oh, by the way check out my post on Sea of Thieves! You’ll understand where my poor space sailing skills come from!
Even though Between the Stars focuses on combat between medium-sized ships, it does that very well. It is not that easy to fight in an asteroid field and you’ll notice that it almost feels like you’re commandeering a real sea ship instead of a space combat fighter.
This somehow adds glimmer to that special Enterprise feel of exploring space and interacting with other crews – which happens often. Combat can be dangerous and …unnecessary.
As expected, they’ve added space stations and planets where you’re able to dock, trade, repair and interact with quest givers. Crew combat is also possible against other ships and it relies strongly on dice throws and crew experience.
To boldly go somewhere
You never really know where the game will lead you to next – you get to interact with other ship crews, explore abandoned shipwrecks or delve into dangerous uncharted territory. Your choices on how to approach these events are critical as they will affect the outcome of the situation.
When exploring an abandoned ship stranded in space I came face to face with a beserk A.I. in critical defense mode. It was trying to protect the ship’s components from intruders.
I felt like my poor choice of words mattered. Even though I knew the final outcome was likely going to be similar since it was still an early mission.
The fact that the game tries to present itself as unique in each playthrough is very refreshing as it does so gracefully.
Procedurally generated space, crews and events work well with the space theme, since you truly feel like an explorer in an unscripted universe.
Here’s a notice to the general public: please stop comparing procedural games to No Man’s Sky. Don’t take one bad marketing example to kill a dev technique that can be incredibly fruitful.
Sound in space
The audio experience is great, except for certain dialogues that seem poorly recorded and an average voice acting.
This is not yet the final release version of the game, but it feels a bit sad that the game lacks characters with a strong… character… and an enticing voice to go along.
The audio graphic representation is incredibly accurate though! It feels like they’ve spent more time coding the audio bars than actually recording the audio!
In the absence of physical characters and advanced facial expressions, the sound is critical to convey strong emotions that will drive the narrative! I know we’re in space but… sound matters!
The color of a black hole
The graphics are incredibly sharp and colorful.
Even though the UI, space stations and asteroids lack some style and sophistication, the ships planets and backdrops look amazing and combat and special effects are a delight to the eye. 5760×1080 resolution is supported, but the UI does not adapt well.
The game also lacks the complexity of trade lanes that Elite Dangerous or X4: Foundations sport, but we must keep in mind that this is not really a trading game.
Trading is somewhat present, but this is more like a shooter action-based game where trade lanes are, for the most part, purely cosmetic.
Overall I did enjoy this fresh new take on Space RPGs. I tend to prefer longer campaign-based games, but it felt fresh and I’m curious to explore the release version which will feature more content, stories and new gameplay mechanics.
It is not a triple-A game, but considering the budget for the game it truly is fantastic.
Development is still unfinished and unpolished. I will refrain from rating it. But I will point out that it looks gorgeous, has great potential for an enticing storyline and I’m looking forward to playing the final version.
I just got my hands on The Division 2! It was okay, as expected. I was happy enough.
There’s a reason why The Division 2 is called “The Division 2”. It is not an army reference as one might think at first glance. It instead reflects on the game’s premise: the United States of America aredivided into two factions (…and a half – I’ll explain later on).
Good on one side, Evil on the other. Classic.
The Division 2 takes place 7 months after Ubisoft’s 2016’s controversial success The Division. Unlike the original title which was set in a very snowy New York, this one is set in Washington D.C.
The reason for this change, according to the developers, is that, besides the political aspects – that the franchise seems to enjoy tackling – the city of Washington allows them to expand the playable map into new types of areas.
Green spaces, wide open regions, open rooftops and suburban zones that are harder to depict in the much more urban New York. Wider roads also allow for much more interesting combat with more room for flanking maneuvres.
What has changed?
Not that much! Is it a better game than its predecessor? Sure is. Here’s why:
Gaming development cycles dictate when you’re getting a sequel and whether it is going to be good or bad, innovative or unsurprising. With a bunch of new releases and solid sequels, 2019 is expected to be a good year for the gaming industry.
When a new franchise pops up, it usually delivers a brand new game engine. That was the case with The Division. It had a rough start – it was riddled with bugs and people were complaining about everything from server instability, bugs, weapons getting stuck all the way down to violence and political concerns.
Technical issues tend to occur more often with new game engines. These obstacles take time to fix, rebalance and adjust. When a developer starts working on a sequel, they don’t design a whole new engine from scratch. Instead, they upgrade the one they’ve got from the previous game, which makes it sturdier and feature-rich. It is also much more cost-effective to build and market.
This is the case with The Division 2. It is a solid, expanded and well-polished game, but …unsurprising.
The biggest changes
The game seems like a meatier, tougher, more solid version of the original rather than a brand new sequel – but it introduces a series of small but rather interesting changes.
Scenery: the most obvious change. It has moved from snowy New York to summer Washington D.C. It is still an American urban region that looks somewhat similar to its predecessor. There’s so much more garbage on the streets now!
Lighting has been improved with more detailed light sources and reflections. It also feels less saturated and dramatic when compared to its predecessor. Water effects and glass reflections look brilliant.
Specializations have been added to the game. Three skill trees are now able to be unlocked once you reach the level cap.
Photo mode is a new feature with which you’re able to take the prettiest selfies – it even includes filters that make your eyes pop!
New gadgets available, namely barricade-standing turrets and rolling seeking mines, among others.
Spongier enemies: They seem to absorb bullets! Low-level enemies seem to require a huge amount of bullets to die. It doesn’t really break the game, but it affects immersion and realism and drives the player into much longer (often slightly boring) fights.
Smarter enemies – with the new wider combat zones, you’ll see them perform flanking and cover maneuvres as a group. This makes combat much more interesting as it forces you to retreat and move to cover more often.
NPC settlements form in newly liberated areas. It is actually pretty cool to see them go out and fetch supplies, food, etc. Adds immersion.
NPC Backup – they seem to request and offer backup in sporadic fights across town.
“Free” DLCsfor a year. No further comments.
GUI is definitely different, but the changes are mostly cosmetic as the core features are all there from the previous game.
New faction. Once you finish the campaign the game will reshuffle and redraw by introducing a whole new faction called the Black Tusk. They will occupy previously liberated areas with their drones and robotic dogs and gadgets. Exciting!
It is worth mentioning that the character creator was awful in the public beta, only allowing you to pick randomly generated characters.
All of them looked like hillbillies… And they’ve occupied the White house… Hmm… …
Sure. There are still problems to be fixed – as expected – but in terms of core gameplay, The Division 2 sure is well-built.
A couple of issues stand out from my (limited) experience in the public beta:
Enemies seem to suddenly spawn right in front of the player, preventing a stealth approach on occasion.
All melee enemies are female – why not add more variety?
The yelling sounds by the enemy faction seem repetitive and very limited
Game crashes every hour – apparently due to desynch between the server and the client
I’m pretty confident that all of these issues will be fixed before the release on March 15th.
Did you not enjoy The Division at all? Then this might not be the game for you as it only feels like an improvement to the first one! Or instead… try playing it with friends… They make everything more fun!
In the end, I have to admit that I had a lot of fun with the private beta and I can’t wait to play with my friends tonight! The game is fun and it is actually pretty cool to see all the little details that set it apart from the 2016 title.
I’m curious about the story behind it, but I’m sure it won’t be the main reason why I’ll be playing this game. Guaranteed buy though.
I look forward to publishing a lengthier and updated review once the game is finally released! Stay tuned (subscribe to my blog or follow me on Twitter for updates)!
I’m a huge fan of the Guns of Icarus franchise. Flying a steampunk balloon-ship, firing cannons at the enemy ships and repairing damage with a huge hammer and a group of friends is solid-steel fun and the type of fun you’re able to find in Sea of Thieves as well. Even if it was a different concept, I thought Volcanoids could be just as fun – so I decided to try it out.
Volcanoids puts you in control of a mechanical contraption that works pretty much like a submarine… but on land… It digs like a mole rat!
Apparently, some mean mechanical beings have triggered several massive volcanic eruptions to sustain their own energy needs. Those explosions destroyed villages and turned the land into a sad gray wasteland. It is now up to you to survive and explore and eventually find and dismantle the enemy’s mechanical drill.
You need to be careful though as the volcano is still active and spewing rocks and ash from time to time. When the volcano erupts you need to run to your drill and go underground to avoid damage.
…And the mean robots are still out there. …And they don’t like you.
Because these guys will attack you and your drill, you need to craft bullets and turrets to protect your beautiful machinery. To craft, you will need to gather materials from nearby mining sources.
Managing power supply is also very interesting. You need to bring coal to your drill and turn your systems on and off to be able to keep the whole thing running without going out of energy. This adds a welcome new layer of complexity to the game.
Make it do things!
The game really shines when it comes to the feeling of presence and the immersion you get when you enter the drill and make it do things. When you first start your machine all those cogwheels turning and the noise makes you feel like you’ve given life to Frankenstein. IT’S ALIVE!!!
Just like Frankenstein, this game is still missing some bolts.
We have to keep in mind that this is an early access game by a very small indie dev team. They’ve got a great concept to explore but still many things to fix or improve.
In my view, Volcanoids shouldn’t be available on Steam just yet. It lacks polish – especially in terms of gameplay mechanics that were, in my opinion, missing.
This decision to go public this early in the project might unfortunately result in a cascade of bad and undeserved reviews by unaware or unwilling buyers.
I’m hoping that this won’t dishearten the devs into giving up on this project and move on to something else. That would be worse than a volcano covering us all in ash!
For such a small team of devs they’ve accomplished something worthy of note – it is just the many small things here and there that need improvement.
The truth is that besides the obvious bug fixing that is expected from an early access game (I didn’t encounter any bugs whatsoever – and I was playing at 5760×1080 just fine!), it lacks some core gameplay mechanics and graphics improvements.
I really enjoyed building and expanding the drill piece by piece, section by section. I even enjoyed the countdown (the volcano erupts as timely as a geyser!), which, even though it isn’t very realistic, adds an urge and a sense of purpose to the game.
It would be great to have a seismographer that warns you whenever a random eruption is about to happen but, instead, we’ve got a very precise countdown which is very …predictable.
The tutorial is incredibly long as it details all of the complex crafting processes one by one instead of mixing it with quests and letting the player explore the machines by himself.
Tutorials tend to be unpolished in Early Access games and that’s okay given the circumstances. But let’s be honest, at the very beginning, Minecraft didn’t have a tutorial and it succeeded because the gameplay aspect of building something over time was easy and very captivating.
The same happened with Kerbal Space Program where the player is free to build and make mistakes without a guiding hand going through all of the processes – as long as they’re easy enough to figure out.
Making mistakes is part of the fun.
Nuts & Bolts
I felt like the knobs and bobs inside the drill weren’t as interesting as they could be. There’s a very (unnecessarily?) complex crafting system in place but, to my disappointment, it mostly requires that you use GUI crafting menus instead of pulling levers and pressing buttons. Most of the machines inside the drill are very similar to each other and are often times duplicated, which makes it even more confusing and somewhat frustrating to find the right one. You are able to build them wherever you like as long as they’re on the walls of your drill. This will let you organize them somewhat.
The gameplay aspect lacks some depth. You just go around gathering minerals to build new structures in your drill and destroying the enemy’s structures. The game would certainly benefit from posing challenges to the player, like new minions, more complex quests, exploration areas and gameplay challenges. You also get this feeling that the narrative ends when you start playing as there’s not much of a story afterwards.
The control you have over the drill is very limited. Whenever you wish to move it, a cinematic shows what’s happening from the outside. I found out that I preferred skipping the cinematic and instead look at the inside of the drill moving around like a snake as it digs deeper into the earth. I expected the drilling process to be riddled with clanks and bangs and shakes and smokes – it was instead very smooth, unfortunately!
To graphic or not to graphic
The game looks gorgeous in the screenshots – especially the driller. That’s the beauty of steampunk! It always looks great!
But the reality is that everything else seems a bit too simple, low-poly and jagged. Some would call it “dated” – which is a terrible tag for a new game.
This could be improved by using a different text font, a new lighting system, better resolution textures, more detailed terrains and objects or, instead, a minimalistic and innovative graphic style – which is tricky when it comes to steampunk.
As it is, Volcanoids looks above-average-good. Not yet great – but… with room for improvement. The unique theme makes screenshots very interesting at first glance, but in-game everything seems a bit too simple.
One of the features I fear the most in their development plans is adding co-op multiplayer and PvP. From my own experience as a game developer, single and multiplayer games have two very different development cycles. Adding multiplayer to a singleplayer game is VERY tricky and time-consuming. They’ve got a great premise for a single-player game with a lot of work yet to be done. Allocating resources for the development of multiplayer is a risk that I wouldn’t take… although it could be fun to play with minions on your side and attacking someone else… but the game has to shine in areas like gathering and UI interactions first.
Back to the surface
I won’t give a rating to this game just yet. It wouldn’t befair to rate it as it is clearly still missing features. We can’t really judge it on what it currently is or what it could become.
However, as I stated before, the game has some curious and unique aspects to it that make it fun to discover – but the player will lose interest quickly if he finds nothing new to explore. Multiplayer could be interesting but given the amount of polish and content that is still required, I’m hoping to one day see this just as a good singleplayer game.
If you’re unsure whether to get this game or not, my suggestion would be to let it cook for a little longer before trying it out. If instead, you would like to try something new then go ahead – get this one while it’s hot!
Volcanoids has a Trello page where you’re able to keep up-to-date with development and see what they’re up to. It also features a Discord channel where extremely friendly devs are regularly giving away keys.
I’ll be paying attention to Volcanoids as it could turn into something really fun in a year or so. I’ll review it again by that time!
Meanwhile, why not check out my other post about this other innovative game called Dungeon of the Endless? Go try it out!
I’m trying to figure out what it is… Something feels different when playing Battlefield V.
As you might have noticed from my previous post on gender wars in Battlefield V, there’s a bunch of stuff in that game that feels out of place. Slightly strange and even awkward at times!
I know – it all sounds silly – and it is indeed hard to explain. Battlefield V is very similar to its predecessor, Battlefield 1 (again, EA has trouble with numbering systems), but somehow …its gameplay FEELS totally different. It isn’t easy to figure out what has changed – but something definitely did.
When playing on my first map ever someone was crying in chat:
-“This game has way too many animations!”
I thought that was laughable at first. I couldn’t figure out how that could be a bad thing.
The quantity and especially the quality of animations is one of the key factors in driving immersion in a game. Consider the effort that AAA games are putting into animation nowadays!
GTA V, Star Citizen, The Last of Us or L.A. Noire have amazing casts and technology to provide a truly credible cinematic experience.
Competitive multiplayer games have specific needs…
But I think I get it. He might even be right. There are so many things moving, running, burning, falling, firing, exploding… down to the micro animations that each character and weapon has!
Player characters are now even able to run while crouched or lay on their backs while firing and also roll around while waiting for a revive.
It does take some time before we’re able to get used to all of that. For a new player, it may indeed feel a bit overwhelming.
The truth is that maps are indeed ENORMOUS …and too small at the same time! It comes down to what maps are available in each game mode and how player respawns work. Indeed there are gigantic maps but most of the action is focused around one or two objectives and nothing else is going on on the rest of the map. This is not entirely bad. The problem is the map layout.
The way they built most of the maps as a narrow rectangle doesn’t really entice the enemy to flank and capture an objective behind enemy lines in the Conquest game mode. Which is a good thing as it prevents massive waves of enemies from spawning behind the player.
The problem seems to be the fact that it condenses the action around those two choke or capture points. It becomes a slaughterfest for both sides.
Add to that how easier it is now to spawn next to your squadmate in the middle of a thick battle.
Maps are also uncommonly detailed with plenty of open buildings, rocks and hills, where it is easy to hide for a whole match without the enemy ever seeing you. Yesterday I spent the whole match lying down inside a truck capping an objective and forcing the enemy to stay in that area not to lose it. They never found me. Summit1g also did that a few days ago. He just stood there while waves of enemies went by. Interestingly, at the same time, there are groves everywhere yet it is still terribly difficult for a sniper to get a good and clear vantage point. This pleases some and angers many.
Add weather to the mix: wall-thick fog shows up quite often in larger maps.
Thick fog reduces visibility drastically and it forces players to go into close-quarters and melee combat.
Then there’s the fact that there’s so much more to do now. Starting with the new ability to build fortifications. You are now able to build sandbag defenses, barbed wire, and anti-tank barriers. This is a cool new feature, but plenty of players die trying to build these often times ineffective defenses.
Sure, medics are still healing and recons are still sniping. But you are now able to find new perk packs to picking a class that are probably ignored by most players. They certainly affect gameplay and may take some time for a new player to figure out.
As an example, Support is the only class able to build stationary turrets in specific maps but that isn’t clear to most players.
Every player is now also able to revive squad members – but medics do it faster and can even run faster IF they equip the Swift Effort perk AND tag a wounded soldier. We’re not just talking about class-based effects, but combat perk packs that affect how a class performs.
Having so many new perk options makes the game smarter. Not everyone appreciates these changes, however.
Personally, I don’t dislike them, but information is lacking when you first start to learn to play with these classes – there are many of them – and indeed they do feel very different to play with – starting with the weapons.
Weapons feel incredibly differentfrom class to class. Many people complain that medics have water guns and that support isn’t able to use their LMGs to actually kill enemies – instead only able to lay down suppressive fire. I feel like that’s actually a good thing in disguise.
Even though it is frustrating to play as a medic and not be able to kill the enemy in front of you most of the times, it forces players to focus on their class abilities. In this case, healing and reviving players.
Laying down suppressive fire still feels pointless – and you won’t last long until a sniper gets to you. It only works well in choke points or bad weather where there’s too much going on before a sniper scope finds you.
All these factors only add to the complexity of learning the quirks of the game. It overwhelms new players and it justifies the frustration that many complain about.
There’s also something very strange going on with close-quarter combats.
My ping isn’t high, but it seems like I always lose very close quarters 1-on-1 gunfights. I’m not missing any shots – but somehow I never get to kill the enemy. As if their weapon fires more rounds in the same amount of time. Or if they started firing before me, even though their animation didn’t start before I shot.
Other players complained about this as well. I’m convinced that this has to do with packet delay management or lag compensation for large numbers of players. It feels unfair quite often.
Above all else, the game has a very different pace.
I’m pretty sure it comes down to the aiming system. In Battlefield V it seems to be harder to aim properly until you get used to the way it works.
I don’t think I’ve ever seen such a complex aiming options menu. You can actually go into detail by adjusting the aiming speed according to the zoom value of your weapon!
There are also other options that I’ve never seen before in other FPS franchises like “Soldier Aim Ratio” or “Uniform Soldier Aiming”. They include lengthy descriptions that only make it more cumbersome to understand.
The truth is that this only makes good players better and newbie players worse – as most new players don’t even know how to adjust these settings properly. This leads to newbies calling out good players as cheaters and a lot of bad vibes in chat and frustration to both sides.
Hide. Think. Act.
I REALLY like to have additional complexity in games. I like to feel that my skills and battle sense are progressing over time. But I think that, in the end, Battlefield V is not as newbie-friendly as other previous games.
Last night I had a great run. I was determined to figuring out how to play Battlefield V properly. I decided to take a more relaxed, counterattacking stance. If someone fired at me I would… Hide. Think. Act.
I wasn’t going to run towards the enemy nor would I shoot as many bullets as possible at them. I realized that two shots to the head or three to the body were all it took for my weapon to kill. So I started being more mindful of my presence and taking aim before firing or revealing my position.
Aha! I became the top player in most rounds! I think I may have figured the key to succeeding in Battlefield V.
Something different, something new
In the end, it feels like there’s definitely some balance to do and a learning curvethat most players aren’t used to from previous games.
It is hard to understand exactly what to learn and how to progress… But, there’s light at the end of the tunnel if you manage to relax, learn and enjoy the game for what it is, without expecting it to be something else.
Instead of becoming frustrated, I’m actually enjoying the game now!
Did you know Dungeon of the Endless was free for the weekend? If you didn’t that’s likely because you’re not following my Twitter feed!
How innovative can you be these days?
We live in a world where stamping labels on things and people is, sadly, mandatory. There’s no time to waste! The flow and amount of information to be processed and the need to clarify what something is, or is not, demands that we categorize everything and everyone as quickly as possible.
We have truly entered The Age of Labels.
It is part of who we are as humans. The Universe doesn’t care whether there’s light or shade, day or night, a half-full glass, a dead cat in a box or a tree falling in an unpopulated forest.
But we humans do care.
This is how our brains save disk storage space. We compress info into tiny boxes with labels.
Concepts are easier to access and we can figure them out quickly by simply reading the label on the box.
Unfortunately, this somewhat compromises our ability to think differently. To be innovative. To think out of the box – and to be appreciated and recognized for that.
Music that doesn’t belong to any genre in particular tends to be ignored by most people, as we tend to flock to our tried-and-true favorite genres. The same happens with movies and games.
With so much new content available to us each day, the most productive way for a developer to innovate nowadays is to mix genres. However, like with a nice cocktail, to mix it up properly requires real talent. These guys nailed it.
Missing a label?
Somehow I missed Dungeon of the Endless when it first came out in 2014.
Luckily it isn’t a game that gets old with age! I managed to pick it up recently since it was free-to-play during the weekend and being sold at a discount.
I just tried it out and it really surprised me:
Amplitude delivered Dungeon of the Endless back in 2014 – and it caused an issue for most gaming blogs. Why? Well… there was no easy way to categorize it!
It is NOT a strategy game, not a survival game, not a tower-defense game, not an RPG, not a MOBA, not a dungeon-crawler! It is all of those things at the same time… and yet, very different.
The point of the game is to exit an abandoned sci-fi ship with a team of heroes and a crystal (similar to Dungeon Keeper’s dungeon heart).
Unfortunately, the ship’s architects decided that it would be fun to build elevators that only take you to the next floor… and build them in different rooms on each floor. The type of insanity that GlaDOS would be proud of.
Dungeon of the Endless is a unique game, yet very familiar. It delivers a real-time-turn-based game pace. Does that sound confusing enough? The game presents a real-time game flow, but it grows and expands as you open up doors in an abandoned ship. So, in reality, it only advances when you unlock the next “turn” by opening up doors in real-time.
Over time (aka turns, aka doors opened), you will be gathering supplies and building resource miners or defensive turrets or evolving your heroes.
All these abilities will come in handy when little alien insects start to show up. Apparently, they HATE your beautiful crystal for some reason and will try to destroy it.
Luckily, with all the resources you managed to mine so far, you’ll also be able to unlock new weapons and abilities for your heroes and your temporary “base”.
The game is unlike any other, yet similar to many.
The very pixely graphics and constant smooth animations deliver an intense atmosphere to the game. The very bright colors, somehow akin to fire burning in the background, keep reminding you that you need to escape as quickly as possible from the alien-infested ship. However, some strategy is in order, as resources are limited – but alien attacks are not.
The very pixely graphics and constant smooth animations deliver an intense atmosphere to the game.
The very bright colors, somehow akin to fire burning in the background, keep reminding you that you need to escape as quickly as possible from the alien-infested ship.
However, some strategy is in order, as resources are limited – but alien attacks are not.
An endless dungeon
The gameplay is fast and fun, and the base-building aspect adds a lot of flavor to it. Unlocking new abilities, characters and weapons is definitely the main drive for the player. The superb audio and music also make it a very pleasant experience. I had some trouble with the controls. They’re not complex at all – just very uncommon. Sadly, there’s not much of a storyline to the game, except for a few less-than-funny jokes between heroes. Co-op is a plus, but not necessary since it truly shines as a great singleplayer game.
I truly felt like this innovative game was a breath of fresh air. The freshness that started around 2010 with very popular indie titles like Braid, Minecraft or Spelunky seems to have faded with all the sequels and adaptations of those popular games (just think of how many games mirrored Minecraft’s gameplay mechanics!) and innovation started to take a toll.
Dungeon of the Endless proves that there are many unlikely game genre combos that haven’t yet been explored.
I’m looking forward to trying out Amplitude’s following success Endless Legend.
I truly enjoyed this game. Even though it lacks a good storyline, it balances that with a fast and fun gameplay, beautiful graphics and a great ambiance. If you’re looking for something FRESH, this is the game you want to try.
I would like to apologize in advance if this review offends you. If you feel offended, please send me a private message. My views are moderate but I may sound blunt sometimes – English isn’t my first language and this article features sensitive topics that can be easily misunderstood. Thank you for your understanding.
The saddest day of the year
So, apparently, today is the saddest day of the year. -“That’s ridiculous!” I thought to myself. Apparently, it relates to the fact that the holiday season has come and gone and what was new and exciting a couple of weeks ago is now uninspired and unsurprising. Enough time has passed and now you realize that all your New Year’s resolutions and attempts at becoming a better human have caved miserably – like in every previous year. All that is left is an indiscriminate number of uneventful work days until something happens that actually sparks your interest.
This past season was VERY intense for me. Personal investments, social interactions, and even a brand new blog distracted me… and the season flew by very quickly. The truth is, I got to skip a load of games and new releases. But yesterday I felt the need to play something new and something decent.
I was holding back on buying Battlefield V. The franchise features an over-the-top base price (+DLC content) – and prices tend to lower past the holiday season. So I decided to give it a go. After a painstakingly lengthy 53Gb download and installation (which I cleverly decided to sleep through it), I finally got to try it out.
This drew me to a very tense debate going on in-game.
Following the footsteps of its predecessor, Battlefield 1 (numbering systems are broken at EA btw), which included a negro-based squad that historically did fight bravely in WW1, Battlefield V surprised everyone when it showcased female protagonists in a World War 2 setting.
When I first saw the trailer for Battlefield V I thought it was so awesome that they included female characters. At the same time players watching the trailer at the event were concerned on how that could impact the game experience.
Even though the role of women was determinant – and there were a LOT of women fighting throughout Europe – the proportion of battling women in this game is pretty much equal to that of men. This can be tricky when you’re attempting to be historically accurate in a game.
“My immersion is RUINED!!!” – someone cried on Twitter.
EA would likely have replied: Dear Bob, We are very sorry that your immersion is ruined. Our statistics show that at least 10% of our audience is female and they are not being accurately represented in our game. This is why we’ve made a game where 50% of our characters are female. Thank you for understanding.
The gravity and complexity of the situation was clear to me when I noticed 3 female characters dressed as German generals stabbing players in the heat of battle while they were using voicechat to scream “FEMINAZI BANZAI CHARGE!!!”
I felt like My trust in Humanity was gone for good. At the same time, my history-nerdy-brain proceeded to die a little.
A sad day for a sad society
The truth is, we live in a sad society where women are still being treated differently… and that is truly unnecessary. EA has taken a bold step to try and break that mold that society imposes on itself. But at what cost? Does it make sense for an entertainment media that takes pride on a certain degree of realism to bring a contemporary perspective to a historical reality through politicized fiction? Will that somehow affect our understanding of the past and blind us to the future? Even though it does spark debate, it mostly seems to anger a majority of their mostly male playerbase.
I am a true believer of diversity and equality, but politicized entertainment feels cringy at best. Are they going for the long run? Re-educating boys into accepting girls in games (when a kid spends 4h every day playing a game he does learn something…), or maybe trying to motivate girls to play in order to expand their female playerbase?
It might be commendable to a certain extent, but let me clarify why this affects me: I see human beings as human beings. If I ran a company, “race”, gender, sexual orientation or religion would be irrelevant to me – but being the nerdy type that I am, sacrificing historical accuracy – for what appears to be a business decision based on modern-day politic concerns – is …disappointing. Playing Battlefield V somehow feels like an advertisement that you paid to play.
Lost in Action
I would LOVE to see a game that focused on the resistance fighters or spies (many of which were women). I would love to see a dramatic aspect to the game that highlighted the effort that young widow mothers had to endure during the war. Women also kept the gun, ammo and canning industries running throughout the war – without that effort who knows how the war would have progressed! …But a game like this wouldn’t be Battlefield would it?
Battlefield V also fails to represent – and thus lacks respect – for the life and death of the men and women who perished in those fights. Instead it leads young players to believe that this was the true reality of war and even treat it more as a fun historic fact rather than an actual tragic event.
While I value the fact that they’ve actually thought about women and “minorities” and made real steps towards embracing them as equals, I feel like this isn’t the right game nor the right way to demonstrate that so profusely. It’s like making surgery with a butcher’s knife – and the player’s reaction might even backfire in the long run. Will EA make every game follow the same logic now? Should it?
It is understandable that Mass Effect does it.
Mass Effect is set in a fictionalized future in an alternate reality of mindset. …Should we be concerned about how to depict our past if we wish to learn from it?
…On a side note, they forgot to add women to Battlefield 1 until the last patch – and she had to be bald – were there no women before WW2?
So, yeah I do understand Bob who shouted that his immersion was ruined… but Bob must realize that even if clubfooted, messy and somewhat reprimandable, this was a step in the right direction.
The features they’ve included are all okay – just in the wrong proportions – and definitely the wrong battlefield.
It’s great that a player is able to pick a female character to play with. It is also great to see more variety in the game and even that women play a non-sexualized protagonist role – just do it in an alternate universe where factual history isn’t a problem.
…well I guess at least EA made sure their clothes weren’t camo bikinis in this game.
This is one of my favorite management games of all time.
Prison Architect is now 3 years old (since its final release), but it was first released as an alpha version 6 years ago after a very successful crowdfunding campaign.
Paradox Interactive has recently acquired the rights to the franchise from Introversion Software. How will that affect the game? Why are so many fans outraged? Why would Introversion do it?…
Introversion Software is a small team of developers known for creating small but deeply innovative games such as Multiwinia, Defcon, Darwinia or Uplink.
Prison Architect is their crown jewel.
In fact, the whole Prison Architect venture has been very successful throughout its crowdfunded open development cycle. The devs kept releasing regular updates with brand new content which maintained a healthy and engaged community over the past few years.
The latest update actually introduced an unexpected and seemingly inadequate feature for a game that has passed its maturity. They added multiplayer!
You might ask: oh really? Why is multiplayer such a surprise ViLa? Other games have it… -True. But besides the fact that you won’t find that many multiplayer management games, most of them haven’t been adapted from a single-player game to a multiplayer one. To have multiplayer in a game is as big as… deciding whether you’re building a 2D or a 3D game! You don’t just build a single-player game and then try to fit multiplayer into it. It doesn’t work that way! Not if you’re a sane developer that is!
However, we’re talking about Introversion Software here… and adding multiplayer to a singleplayer management game is pretty damn cool.
A new warden has arrived!
This is why the news of Paradox buying the Prison Architect franchise hit the fans like a rock. They’re afraid that the garage-built feeling that they get from playing this amazing management game will fade in the hands of Paradox. Above all they fear that Paradox will do what it has done to all of their other games: DLC spam!
In the good old days before the internet, games would either have sequels or expansions. A sequel pretty much meantrecycling of previous game ideas and graphics updates.
Expansions or content packs, on the other hand, increased the depth of the current game. This kept the player base interested in the game – at a fraction of the price – until a sequel would be available. If the game was successful, more expansions would be available. This was as a good commercial compromise for a developer. Instead of building a whole new game they would use the tools that were already in place – this, in turn, saves time and money. Expansions were actually large when compared to the base game and relatively expensive as they had to justify the physical distribution costs. Nowadays, expansions are called DLCs and due to the fact that they are now downloaded, they tend to be cheaper and distributed in smaller chunks.
Paradox has become a master at releasing DLCs – Paradox’s Crusader Kings 2 has 30 DLCs. The reason why Paradox does this is because they specialize in creating niche games (high value to their niche players) that rely on very complex game engines that only they own.
Game engines are the core of a game.
They are the technical aspect of the game that takes the longest to build. It provides games with their core attributes – UI systems, Audio, 2D/3D Rendering, Multiplayer etc.
So instead of building a brand new engine for each game, most companies decide to make different games with the same engine. Europa Universalis, Victoria, Hearts of Iron, Crusader Kings, Sengoku, and even Stellaris all use Paradox’s own Clauswitz Engine.
Paradox Interactive (the publisher) is often seen supporting innovative smaller developers such as Colossal Order (Cities in Motion, Cities: Skylines). They seem to be drawn towards developers who own solid custom engines that will be able to support great games in the long-run. Engines that lean towards having less sequels but more expansions. Paradox is also well known for allowing people to mod their games to exhaustion. Modding adds even more life and value to their games.
The reason why Crusader Kings 2 has got 30 DLCs in its bag is because the game has been released in February 2012! …Think about it… the game is now 7 years old and it still gets brand new updates like Holy Fury which was released last November.
Most of the DLCs are cheap, most of them are cosmetic, many of their major expansions are VERY deep and have parts of it released for free and most of them are fully available for free when you’re playing in multiplayer if the other player owns them. The best part: Paradox’s games are deep and solid enough at launch to provide countless hours of gameplay without the need for DLCs.
The reality is… you don’t need to buy any DLCs if you don’t want to.
Now, I understand that my position regarding DLCs will surely anger most fans. And I must clarify that I completely disaprove the idea of launching DLCs when the game has just been released. That is simply ridiculous.
However, most people see DLCs as a money-grab opportunity – which it is… but… is it that bad really? DLCs represent optional content that you’re able to get if you REALLY like the game. It helps support the company so they are able to keep on updating the games you love with brand new content.
-No, Crusader Kings 3 isn’t coming out tomorrow. But an amazing Holy Fury expansion has just been released at a fraction of the cost – have you played it yet?
A Peace Treaty! Please!
Introversion made a good deal when selling their most-valued franchise when their sales after 3 years are surely gone. Let’s celebrate that! A small company making a ton of money that they can use to come up with brand new ideas!
They would not be making Prison Architect 2 anytime soon – it is not in their DNA to rehash games like that. They would likely need a new engine and many new ideas to pick it up again.
Paradox has likely bought the “Architect” franchise so they can make brand new games with the “Architect” title in them …not necessarily Prison Architect 2+50 DLCs!
Finally, some people are also loudly complaining about the fact that a crowdfunded game was sold to a publisher. Now that the game has been released for 3 years …does that REALLY matter anymore? Is it possible to be happy for having been able to make this game a reality and enjoy it as it is?
TLDR: This is how I see it:
Prison Architect isn’t going anywhere – It is still here. If you own it you’re still able to download and play it!
Introversion made some money – I’m happy for them. Can’t wait for more of their innovative game concepts!
Paradox bought a great franchise – a great publisher might start using the “Architect” theme in other games we’ll love!
Something out of this world happened to me in Sea of Thieves…
I was sailing the high seas with my scallywag crewmates. We were chasing a skull in the skies.
Skeleton fort in sight! – yelled my crewmate from the crow’s nest.
We turned off the oil lamps, raised the sails and slowly docked our ship next to a cliff. Having the ship so close to the island meant we would be barely visible on the horizon. Pirates often roam raiding locations waiting for us to unlock its treasures… and then they attack – so it is important to stay hidden.
Something strange and something wicked was bound to happen…
Once we defeated the last skeleton on the island we unlocked a treasure vault full of gold relics, silver cups, gemstones, rare spices and gold chests!
WOHOO! Someone cryed.
We started hauling our stuff back to the ship… but once we got there… I mean… …once we got there… …ONCE WE GOT THERE…
WE COULDN’T GET ON THE SHIP!!!
Somehow, whenever we climbed the ladder, we would fall through the ship and into the ocean below it!
There we were… treasures in hand and unable to haul them back to the outpost.
Maybe the issue was the sand bank below the ship?
I decided that we were not going to be defeated by a bug! So I climbed to the nearest watchtower and jumped onto the ship – hoping that I’d be able to lower the sails before falling through the lower deck again…
So I jumped…
Unfortunately, I forgot that I was low on health due to having fought the skeletons before. I died once I hit the ship’s upper deck.
Or did I?…
The quickest visit to the Ferry of the Damned
I saw my restless body fall under the ship and then being dragged to the Ferry of the Damned – the place where dead souls linger before being returned to life.
However… my soul’s body fell off the Ferry of the Damned!! …and it kept falling …falling …falling
The screen slowly faded to black…
*SPLASH* I woke up under water.
While I’m pulling myself back to the surface I’m noticing that my arms are green… ghost green! I’m a ghost!
I am a ghost in the realm of the living!
How could this be?! As I get my head above the water I can see the fort island far far away – easily recognizable in the distance because of the big cloudy skull above it!
As I turn around I had to take some time to contemplate and try to figure out what I was seeing.
A massive blob of chests and artifacts was floating above me. I wasn’t sure what to make of it. I touched them and they fell to the sea floating above the water… several high-end chests and skulls! What were they doing here?!
I was in the middle of the ocean, my skin was ghost-green and there’s a bunch of chests hovering right above me. Wow!
While stranded in the middle of nowhere, I ask my crewmates to come and get me before I drown… I give them instructions on how to find me as there’s no mermaid in sight to get me back to my ship.
Then a small fin appears above the water. IT’S A SHARK!!!
While trying to grab my sword I notice that it is nowhere to be found! –Ghosts have no weapons – I thought to myself! – and I can’t really punch it or negotiate a truce!
The shark tries to bite me… but no damage is dealt. I am dead after all… You can’t re-die if you’re dead!
I dove as deep as I could… yet there was no damage to my non-existent health bar. …You can’t drown if you’re dead!
As I come back up to the surface I notice the chests that were previously floating above the water slowly falling down into the abyss. I managed to grab them and brought them up to the surface again and again like a juggling act!
A ship approaches me! My friends have arrived!
They’re stunned when they see my character undead which granted a few laughs and some poorly constructed jokes!
We proceeded to haul all the chests and skulls floating above the water… we weren’t going to let them go to waste! We headed back to the fort to finish what we started and then proceeded towards the outpost to sell our stuff.
On the way there I saw something shiny in the distance – so I aimed the cannon, got myself inside it and fired it to go check it out.
Meanwhile, the sea around the ship turned ink-black and we were attacked by a giant 10-legged Kraken! That slimy creature wrecked our ship! My crewmates were running very low on supplies and unable to survive the fight!
I ran and swam towards the ship as fast as I could and when I got there all of our treasures were floating above the water and the ship was nowhere to be seen!
My crewmate was being attacked by sharks and I kept feeding him my bananas – a ghost has no need for bananas. Eventually he died and I was left there by myself hauling stuff above the water as they sank slowly.
Our ship’s silhouette was visible in the distance! They picked me up and we hauled everything back onto the new ship.
After what seemed to take ages hauling stuff, we were finally able to sell our loot for a massive profit.
What exactly does it mean to be a ghost in the realm of the living?!
Maybe it was all just a bug that caused an exception and made me live when I should be dead. Apparently immortal – but without weapons, I wasn’t able to cause any harm. I was able to cross rock walls… would that be an issue for the game in the long run? Would that make me able to go through fort walls and steal the loot?
We joked that I should go to other player’s ships and act as an NPC giving them weird quests like “Fetch me a spotted 4-legged pig so a golden chest you may pick!” and then handing them a skeleton captain’s chest or something. Or instead, pose as having a Ghost-Legendary Character Skin unique to the pirates that delivered 500 chicken!
We had a lot of fun with that peculiar bug for a while but, eventually, the server spit me out and I had to reconnect – back to being a regular living pirate with the sun laying down above a small ship floating on the waves of the Sea of Thieves.
While writing this post I found a video on Youtube by Cyx in which he finds what they think is the ship of the damned deep underwater at the exact same location where I came back from the dead! You can check it out here.
I’ll see you on the Ferry of the Damned, -Cap’n ViLa4480
Which games are you most looking forward to play in 2019?
This list will always be under construction! Let’s build The Best Upcoming Games 2019 list together!
Check it out below and share your suggestions!
Please note that this is an ever-evolving and ever-incomplete list of games based mostly on my own personal taste – but if you guys have any cool suggestions please drop a comment here or via Twitter! -ViLa4480
Anthem is a 4-player co-op open world third person shooter. Players are able to equip exosuits that allow them to fly and swim across a huge and detailed scenery riddled with mean looking enemies and absurd atmospheric effects. It might be one of the best Co-op Games of 2019. You should look forward to this one.
The dawn of the industrial age is upon us. Anno 1800 puts you in charge of a growing colonial trade empire. Although the recipe stays the same as in previous games, this new Anno takes its always impressive graphics to a new level and adds brand new top-level management gameplay mechanics. If you’re into management or city-building games, make sure you don’t miss this one. A definite landmark for this Upcoming Games – 2019 list.
Grab a stick! No, not that one! -Lead your tribe through the rough early times of pre-civilization. Survive in a pre-historic setting against famine, wildlife, disease and warfare. A new management and tribe-building game that promises to deliver a very unique experience.
Check the full review here!
Sandy beaches, pirates, pillaging and bananas… No, we’re not talking about Sea of Thieves. This is the return of El Presidente! We’re not expecting a great revolution (notice the clever pun here?) in gameplay mechanics, but Tropico 6 features multiplayer archipelagoes, new roads and transportation systems and “imported” landmarks. What’s not to like? We’re all looking forward to a few days of summer after a cold winter. Go play Tropico 6! Or else.
Total War: Three Kingdoms is a new iteration on the Total War series. It takes place in ancient China and is loosely based on the Romance of the Three Kingdoms. The game won’t stray too much from previous titles, but it should introduce several brand new game mechanics that focus on narrative, cinematic combat, and character progression. Battles can now also be resolved with an epic duel between generals. This should be an interesting title to explore!
Check out my full review HERE! -Tom Clancy’s: The Division 2 takes place in Washington D.C., 7 months after its predecessor, where different survivor factions escalated their rivalry into a full-blown civil war. The Division 2 will feature decent co-op gameplay, PVE & PVP and astounding graphics in a large open-world map. The Division 2 will be ideal for a relaxed gaming session with friends. Can’t wait to try it out!
With graphics that will somewhat remind you of a pixelated Darkest Dungeon, Stoneshard is a turn-based RPG focused on exploring a procedurally-generated medieval world, managing your own caravan while trying to stay sane. The prologue is available right now on Steam. Decide the fate of a kingdom in this grim adventure!
Trüberbrook might be the most unique game in this Upcoming Games 2019 list. Not because of its gameplay, since it seems to be just another point-and-click adventure, but because of its theme, atmosphere and graphic style. The scenery and characters have literally been hand-made and animated frame by frame. The game is set in the 1960’s rural Germany in a tense Cold War context. The player will find himself amidst a puzzling sci-fi mystery.
Paradox does it again! They decided that the middle-ages was not enough and pushed the timeline further back. Imperator: Rome is the new grand-strategy game that every Crusader Kings, Europa Universalis, Victoria and Hearts of Iron player craves for right now. It should keep up with the general gameplay tradition from the aforementioned games, but it focuses a little bit more on character progression, battle tactics and provincial management. An easy first pick in this Upcoming Games – 2019 list due to the high-quality grand-strategy games that only Paradox is able to accomplish.
Boo! Mansions of Madness is the amazingly popular board game that now will have a videogame counterpart in 2019! Set in a Lovecraftian ambiance, the players are sent to a haunted mansion to meet their fears in a journey to insanity …or death. Even though it seems to be a single-player exploration game with multiple characters, this creepy-but-not-necessarily-horror title should be a thrill to play.