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Month: May 2012

Endless Space

I’m beside myself with glee over how good this game is and it’s only in Alpha.

Endless Space is a 4x Space Empire game in the same style as Master of Orion 2, Sword of the Stars and a host of other turn-based games.

With one of the cleanest interfaces I’ve ever seen I was greeted with a simple tutorial page that explained the on-screen elements without actually forcing me into the first few turns’ actions.  Every new panel you expand into (Colony overview, military management, etc)

Exploration is handled by your fleets, ships bound together by bureaucracy.  They explore along system connection lines initially from star-to-star.  Each star made up of up to six planets, with varying values and resources.

Basic colonization is much like other games, a ship with the appropriate module flies to the system and then a simple administration click and shazam, your empire has expanded.  Unlike other games, however, you need not send multiple ships to the system to expand your colonies to the other habitable planets.  This is circumvented by civil works where the system resources contribute to placing a colony on the desired planet.

Each planet gets a single ‘exploitation’, a structure or service that takes advantage of a planets inherent traits.  These exploitations contribute to the four planetary values: Food, Commerce, Industry and Science.  Each system can accomodate their own improvements which often multiply planetary production.

Research is broken into four ‘webs’, independent of each other these webs show branching development options and not inter dependencies as I had expected.  Progression to the top-tier developments follows linear paths to the objective, often requiring you to pay closer attention and manually queue lower-tier improvements if you’re looking for a specific technology.  Many strategic or luxury resources are hidden behind research requirements before you can take advantage of them even though you can see some of them in the map and system views.

Combat is one of the unique elements of the game that I was pleasantly surprised by.  Automatic combat is handled.. automatically.  With the end-results of the engagement being tallied for your examination.  Manual like a half-step beneath that.  Broken into five phases, you’re allowed to choose strategies during the three middle phases.  Played like a simple card game, one strategy counters another and boosts or penalizes combat attributes.  Wonderfully set to a render of your ships vs the enemy, it’s all done inside of 2 minutes and you can move on to the rest of your turn.

I haven’t had a chance to poke too deeply into the game, with five races and an expected 8 by launch sometime in June, I eagerly await a final product.  It’s beautiful, well polished and easy to get into.  If you’re a fan of the 4x Space Empire genre, I highly recommend you get this.

Endless Space

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Game Dev Story – More fun than it should be

I can’t argue with simple gameplay.  Usually it’s done to achieve accessibility over depth.  This in turn leads to replayability or the 36 hour wonder.  After which you’ve spent your 1-5 dollars and received your dosage of Fun.

Scramble with Friends reached that point with me, but it took time.

Game Dev Story got there a hell of a lot faster.  And I’m still playing, in pursuit of some elusive game awards.

I went from Friday evening to Sunday evening playing this game, in between eating/sleeping/showers.

You play the game from a management perspective, taking on the role of a game development business owner and two employees.  You use these employees to develop games, naturally.  Using training and leveling to unlock new genres, styles or even the opportunity to produce your own console, you build games that are reviewed by an unpleasantly hard to please review board and then off to sell.  The game is generous, all your games sell well.  Some better than others and once a year you get into a Game Awards Ceremony where the hot sellers in various fields of Art, Sound, etc are awarded trophies thus increasing your companies’ fame.

For it’s price I recommend it.  Any more and I might have passed on it and the house of amusement it provided me.

Game Dev Story

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Ah, open world territorial mini-quest super hero games.  Why aren’t there more of you?

Infamous sets you as Cole, the unfortunate recipient of electrokinesis, amidst ruined Empire City.  The city didn’t survive the detonation of the device that created you so it’s up to you to cross the regions, restore power and services all while you pursue the agenda of your handlers.  You want out, they want information.  And thus a deal is struck.

The game play is fairly conventional, i’m not sure what I could say on it that would be insightful.  It plays much like Uncharted, with handholds and railings and ledges all with great abundance so you can scale buildings, climb light poles and rail-grind around the city on power lines.

As you progress through the game you’ll naturally encounter gangs, the native enemy element that makes your journey dangerous.  In the wake of the destruction, several gangs have taken control and you’ll meet them in spades if you want to go anywhere.  The upside, is that dealing with the gangs and completing side quests and main plot awards you with XP you can spend to upgrade your powers and unlock special abilities.

Backed by an alignment meter ranging from Hero to Infamous, you’re often faced with a choice that will help people or harm them.  While it allows for a more personal and customized approach, as many abilities can’t be used by good or evil, it doesn’t change up the dynamic enough in my opinion.  While I’ve had fun thus far, I can’t see myself playing a second time to see the other ending.

Mind you, my copy came free as a payment for the PlayStation Network outage of 2011, I recommend this to anyone who likes super hero action games.  There aren’t a lot of those that are worth playing.

And if you like the first, I’m told that Infamous 2 is more of the same with some new powers.

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Avengers – Spoiler Free

Avengers was a great movie.  As a superhero movie it did everything it could well and left me with few irks.  I sat in probably the worst spot in the theater in the second row of one of those big stadium style theaters.  Digital projection and at the far left seat of my row.  I spent the whole time looking up and right and it hasn’t tarnished my feelings on the movie at all.

If you liked the other recent Marvel movies, Iron Man/Thor/Captain America, go see Avengers.  You’re in for a treat.

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First Steps

They say your first steps are important.  They mark the beginning of a journey, the direction of your travel and the weight of your interest.  I took about a thousand of those first steps today.  Shaemoor village was under attack by centaur.  Hooved feet trampeled the fields while houses burned.  It was all the guard could do to keep the innocent from being slaughtered.

I did what I could, ushering people to the inn for shelter.

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What came before

I started my humble beginnings as a common boy, orphaned before I could remember.  The orphanage confining, I found myself time and again at the feet of a dashing illusionist who instructed me in the ways of the mesmerism.

When I came of age and was allowed freedom from the orphanage I found camaraderie with the tavern keeper Andrew, his daughter Petra.

It wasn’t long and within a year I found myself wondering about the outside world.  With little coin I left Divinity’s Reach and took my first steps into the world.  Luck would have it, I didn’t get far before my first ‘adventure’.

More on that later..

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Guild Wars 2 – Post Beta

I can sum myself up into three words on the topic rather easily.  I’m Very Excited.

Very few games try to engage you at the beginning.  Usually standing on the edge of some field, watching the local fauna being slaughtered as a local pastime.

I rolled into my first chance with Guild Wars 2 as a Human Mesmer.  Skilled in misdirection, confusion and illusions.  Character creation was a strange amalgamation of physical tweakings and personal story background adjustments.  In this case, Vestolo was born of common parentage who’s only regret in life was that he never looked for his true parents.

You start the game equipped with a weapon granting you a single meager skill with which to defend yourself.

The first few fights are a boring affair of letting the inherent first powers’ auto attack do it’s job.  Killing earns you xp and progresses you to unlocking the subsequent powers which make fights more involved and help identify one weapon vs another.

Keep in mind, each weapon has it’s own skills associated and you never forget skills.  So you choose to put down that scepter and pick up a mighty staff.  You need to learn staff skills, but again, you don’t forget the old skills.  Your bar changes automatically and away you go.  You don’t unlock the first of your utility skills until level 5, roughly 2 hours of dedicated questing.

Questing, in this case, amounts to traveling the land and helping troubled merchants, farmers and the occasional garrison with their local problems.  I visited an orchard overrun with spiders and apples in need of picking a dam being assaulted by earthen elementals and a farmer who’s field needed watering and it’s own local pests slain.

These objectives appear automatically as you come and go from one area to another.  Events pop up in relation to the areas’ troubles and you never have to actively accept or deny the tasks set before you.  No micro-management of your quest log or careful wiki evaluation before you decide which quest to skip.

If you consider your weapon skills as per-fight abilities, then the Utilities you unlock at 5 and up are the tactical tools for troublesome encounters or pinch situations.  Each class gets a heal button, a power designed to keep you alive when things get tough.  On top of all this there are Elite skills what provide stronger situational options.

I didn’t delve into the crafting a great deal.  From what I’ve heard and read, crafting provides xp and skill training keeping you leveling as you progress.  Based largely off of salvaged and looted materials in the world, you’re never fighting with another player for a node.  You can access and mine the rocks and chop trees all you like while you follow your like-minded Warrior friend as they mine the rocks and chop the trees.  The world is shared in many aspects and makes for a less immediately frustrating experience than any MMO I’ve played in the last 10 years.

I eagerly await a possible release this summer.  For the first two days after the beta, I couldn’t help but frantically refresh the development blog waiting for some sign of life.


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