Shellshock: World of Tanks Blitz sees 6 million players — British tanks and Android edition coming soon

A good plan, violently executed.

A good plan, violently executed.

As regular readers and my team of beleaguered therapists know, I love World of Tanks Blitz. Most mornings I strap on my ivory-handled revolvers and cavalry boots for a couple of matches before I get to work. I’m also working on a children’s show spec script for Thomas the Tank Tank that I’m hoping to sell to PBS. So yes, I love World of Tanks Blitz. I was so stoked by its brilliant combination of thrilling action and historical nerdity that I was inspired to write a strategy guide for the game, which is not an extremity to which I am frequently moved.

I’ve been talking to WoT makers Wargaming.net for the past couple of days. They’ve told me that in the weeks since Blitz went live, the armoured combat shooter has seen over 5.5 million downloads, a number that goes a long way towards explaining why the queues are so short when you want to jump into an online match. They were showing off the nearly-finished Android build of Blitz off at Gamescom last week, so that number will only increase, no doubt.

Clearly, the experiment to bring their PC experience to mobile has worked out pretty OK, so I sought out Blitz producer Dmitry Yudo and interrogated him about what we can expect to see in the game in the near future.

Here’s the big news: British tanks are coming soon — in the next few weeks I’m told. That means my beloved Matilda will soon be in Blitz. Read on for more.

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All the right angles: Legend of Grimrock coming to iOS

It's gotta be better than Coldfire Keep.

It’s gotta be better than Coldfire Keep.

Finnish developers Almost Human sent around news today that PC hit Legend of Grimrock is coming to iOS. Grimrock kicked off the renaissance of first-person party-based dungeon crawlers (FPPBDCs?) a couple of years back, and it got universal praise from critics, including at RPS. Milennials might not believe this but there was a time in RPGs when you could only turn in 90-degree increments — and we liked it that way! Nothing interesting has ever happened at a 45-degree angle to where you’re looking, trust me.

There’s no release date for this venture yet, but the screenshot above suggests that it’s more than just a fanciful wish at this point. We’ll dispatch a raven to Finland to see if Almost Human want to talk more about it.

After the jump, the trailer for the PC version of Grimrock, which will be at least broadly similar to the iOS version.

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Review: Motorsport Manager

Don't be fooled by those cartoon faces.

Don’t be fooled by those cartoon faces.

Motorsport Manager is a game that’s almost every bit as sexy and exhilarating as the sport it simulates. It’s possibly the year’s the most complete gaming package on iOS: beautifully designed and deceptively deep, while still being easy to drop in and out of. It’s so close to perfect that it feels churlish to point out what few flaws it has.

Amazingly, it’s the product of one solo developer — former Hello Games man Christian West — but it has the slick confidence and polish of a game made by a hundred-man studio like Sports Interactive. I’m blown away by that and I’d probably feel a lot better about my own work ethic if turned out to be a lie, and “Christian West” was a nom de développement for a whole crew of chemically stimulated maniacs.

With its cute cartoon faces and toy-like tilt-shifted graphics, you might be under the impression that Motorsport Manager is a casual little Kairosoft sim, and you could probably play it that way and enjoy yourself. But underneath that cherubic exterior is a lean, mean hardcore racing sim.

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Overcome by the vapours: Nival announces Etherlords, an F2P take on the classic strategy series (UPDATED)

Conquering fantasy realms and preserving netted butterflies.

Conquering fantasy realms and preserving netted butterflies.

Nival Interactive have revealed to us that their next game will be the mobile debut of the long-running Etherlords series. Simply titled Etherlords, it’s going to be a PvP-focused with 60-second battles and collectible creatures. It’s also going to feature a world-building mechanic that they told us was inspired by Carcassonne, which is not a bad sheet of music to crib from.

Russian devs Nival have long been the most loyal bannermen of turn-based strategy on PC. Even when big publishers clung to the notion that strategy games “weren’t contemporary“, Nival were unabashedly cranking out the turniest of turn-based games. Stuff like Silent Storm and King’s Bounty — the latter series having so many installments that I’m starting to worry that it’s a Von Neumann machine.

But on mobile, Nival have been bitten hard by the free-to-play bug. Their mobile flagship from earlier this year, Prime World Defenders, was stuffed with in-app purchases like Supercell‘s Thanksgiving turkey. No doubt that Etherlords will suffer from a similar affliction, but Nival themselves seem to feel a bit sheepish about this. Their press materials for Etherlords promise that the game won’t have any energy-limiting mechanics that stop you from playing if you don’t cough up the cash — which just makes you wonder where else the monetisation will be hiding.

I love Nival powerfully — they made me a fan for life with sci-fi/WWII tactical candybox Silent Storm — and I wish they’d just make a proper mobile game. We’ll do our best to give Etherlords a fair shot when it drops for iOS on September 4th.

Trailer below.

UPDATE: Nival got in touch with one correction and a bit of reassurance.

First, they want to clarify that this Etherlords game isn’t being considered a part of the the PC franchise, but rather a game inspired by it.

Second, they wanted to assuage fears about the free-to-play aspect. I’ll let them speak for themselves here.

“In Etherlords [monetization] will be really soft. It’s context-based offers, for example, it won’t be stuffed with in-apps.”

There you have it. Though while I’ve got your attention, Nival — how about Silent Storm for iPad? No IAPs, charge $10. I betcha we’ve got a few thousand people hanging around this site alone that would buy it.

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Out Tonight: Motorsport Manager, Ancient Battles: Hannibal, Max Gentlemen, Letterpix and more

Safety car's out -- no overtaking until midnight.

Safety car’s out — no overtaking until midnight.

Motorsport Manager has set hearts a-flutter around here like an open-wheeled Mata Hari. Part of its allure must be because it’s resurrecting a long-dead genre of racing management sims (Microprose RIP), but another aspect of the appeal is the game’s beautiful tilt-shifted aesthetic. It’s drop dead gorgeous and looks like a Tyco slot car set designed by Jonny Ive.

After the jump, let’s watch the Motorsport Manager trailer five hundred times and will the clock to spin towards midnight a little faster. Oh yeah, and all of tonight’s other new releases, too.

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Review: Star Realms

The final frontier

The final frontier

Deckbuilding has long been the one board game mechanic that never quite lived up to its promise. It was born from the out-of-game experience every Magic player had of building a killer deck but, in practice, never really felt like that. Instead, games like Dominion and Ascension: Chronicle of the Godslayer use deckbuilding as a means to create a euro-style victory-point generating engine. Compare the feeling you get when your newly crafted Paladin deck in Hearthstone wipes out some poor hunter in ranked play versus the lack of a rush you get as you use a newly crafted Dominion deck to purchase another province. Somehow deckbuilding, an activity closely associated with the most Ameritrashy of genres, had been turned into a euro-styled efficiency engine.

Star Realms changes that. Here is a deckbuilder that actually feels like you’re building a weapon to smash someone in the face with. It feels like Hearthstone, only the deckbuilding takes place while you’re playing instead of outside the game. It’s incredibly simple, and yet layered enough that you can build satisfying combos that are guaranteed to make you grin as you put them together in your hand.

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Review: The Manhattan Project

I think I can hack together a workable prototype using the coffee roaster building from Puerto Rico.

I understand why plutonium and uranium are crucial fuels for a nuclear weapons program, but shouldn’t there be a third column for coffee?

The Manhattan Project bought tickets to the prom before asking anyone, got rejected, then went stag. That is, development on the digital adaptation of the highly-regarded tabletop game was already quite advanced by the time the Kickstarter campaign to fund it launched. Said campaign came up quite short, which left developer Domowicz Creative Group with strong feedback that polishing the app to their satisfaction was unlikely to pay off. In the face of that disappointing reality, they’ve taken pity on those fans of the game who saw the functional prototype in the pitch videos and have tidied up their existing work enough to make it available to the public, albeit in a less ambitious state than they had hoped.

If you’re familiar with Agricola or Lords of Waterdeep, you’ve seen the worker placement mechanic at the core of this game. It’s been a hot mechanic in modern boardgame design for a few years, in part because forcing players to compete for jobs produces subtle but constant player interaction while allowing conflict-averse players to focus on building their own engines of points.

The Manhattan Project innovates on this model substantially. This isn’t the bucolic live-and-let-live world of Agricola; as befits the theme of a high-stakes race to build nuclear weapons, you can deliver your opponents’ nuclear programs a fiery setback with bomber airstrikes, or steal their secrets with spies. You also have a level of control over the allocation of your workers which would make Oppenheimer (or Sammereza Sulphontis) envious. What you don’t have, sadly, is a polished app.

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Dismay trading: The Firm is a frantic Rules-esque puzzler

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The gaming equivalent of rubbing your stomach and patting your head at the same time.

The gaming equivalent of rubbing your stomach and patting your head at the same time.

The Firm is considerably more casual than our usual fare around here but I’m still waiting for somebody to make a really slick stock trading simulation for mobile — this will have to do in the meantime. Is anybody on that stock trading sim? Somebody get on that. There’s a set of steak knives in it for you.

The Firm is a brain-melter puzzler that reminds me of Rules, in that it asks you to keep a few pieces of conflicting information in your head at the same time. As a trader at the titular outfit, you have to make decisions about buying and selling stocks — and quickly, because your inbox is filling up. You have to correctly purchase or sell long and short options, but act too slowly or make too many incorrect decisions and it’s curtains for you and your career.

If you dug Rules, this will scratch a similar itch. The Firm is iPhone-only and it’s on a launch sale for a buck right now.

Hat-tip to Priestman at PG.

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