Posts by: Owen Faraday

Future tech: There’s AAA mobile games on 2K’s roadmap

Nice view, Sid.

Now that’s what I call a feature window.

Of all the major game publishers, 2K have been the most faithful ally of the premium mobile game. That’s not to say Tammy Wynette faithful. There’s no shortage of free-to-play games coming from 2K studios, but unlike EA (who haven’t released a non-F2P game since you could smoke in restaurants), 2K have been stocking their stall with a lot of good old fashioned pay-once-get-a-game fare.

Not all of it has been brilliant, deathless stuff. Bioshock‘s controls (as we predicted) demanded too much juggling for a touchscreen, Civ Rev 2 was lacking in ambition and Starships wore out its welcome too quickly. But those are missteps I’m willing to overlook for XCOM and Ace Patrol. Of all the AAA publishing houses, only 2K seem to realize that there’s a big audience for traditionally-priced games on mobile devices.

And that strategy seems to be paying off. On their Q4 earnings call earlier this week, 2K’s parent company Take Two called out mobile as an area of excellence for the group and suggested that they’re in the mobile games fight for the forseeable future. “As mobile devices (particularly tablets) become more powerful and increasingly ubiquitous,” said CEO Strauss Zelnick, “there will be even greater opportunities to leverage our portfolio and deliver triple-A entertainment experiences to an ever wider audience.”

In case you don’t speak CEO, that means Take Two want to bring more of their brands to life on mobile devices — and in a high-spec way. Could AAA games on mobile mean that we’ll see a full-fat Civ on tablets? XCOM lead Jake Solomon said back in 2013 that 2K and Firaxis were considering it.

Review: Atlantic Fleet

The most English scene in the world: it's raining on a battleship called Nelson. Below decks the crew drink tea and feel a sense of general embarrassment.

The most English scene in the world: it’s raining on a battleship called Nelson. Below decks the crew drink tea and feel a sense of general embarrassment.

Back in 2012, WWII naval combat sim Pacific Fleet turned me into a narcissist boyfriend from a Nick Hornby novel: I couldn’t get enough of the game, but I also couldn’t stop cataloging its faults. Read my review from a couple of years ago and you can see me oscillating between opinions like a manic depressive garden sprinkler. I’d spent hours engrossed in Pacific Fleet, but the longer I played it, the more I realized that it wasn’t a game so much as it was a toy for history nerds.

Pacific Fleet was structured as a linear set of challenges for your customizable flotilla. Sink these two transports. Now sink a transport and a destroyer. Next two destroyers. This is the same basic structure as Angry Birds, which (while delightful) is no one’s idea of a strategy game.

A couple of years later, Atlantic Fleet arrives, flipping venues to the other side of the globe. No more Japanese, considerably fewer Americans, and the Brits and Germans taking over. Atlantic Fleet retains the endlessly playable turn-based combat of its predecessor, but now it’s been fitted with a thoughtfully designed open-ended strategy game superstructure. It is just about everything I could have wanted from a Pacific Fleet sequel, turning my weird, “it’s complicated” infatuation into a straightforward love affair.

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Action stations: Atlantic Fleet submitted to Apple for approval

Got hope for the living, got prayers for the dead

Got hope for the living, got prayers for the dead

Old school PT heads will recall Pacific Fleet, the iOS turn-based WWII naval combat sim from 2012. In its original incarnation, Pacific Fleet wasn’t a brilliant game, but it was like that Woody Allen joke about bad food and small portions — I couldn’t stop playing it.

Creators Killerfish Games have been hard at work on sequel Atlantic Fleet for the past couple of years, and developer Paul Sincock sent me a preview build of it this morning. It’s a hugely ambitious evolution of the ideas in Pacific Fleet, and it’s being submitted to Apple today.

You still fight small-scale turn-based battles on the high seas, but the combat now ladders up to a Battle of the Atlantic campaign mode where the results of your fights effect the course of the whole war. Playing as the German Kriegsmarine or the British Royal Navy, you earn renown from successful sorties which you use to buy historically accurate ships to bulk up your fleet — but ships you lose in combat are gone for good. “Damage and ammo usage is permanent, too,” Sincock told me. “Overall it gives the game that ‘X-Com’ tension.” He just said the magic word, y’all.

Atlantic Fleet will also have single-battle scenarios and a simplified campaign mode that plays like the campaign from the original, in case you’re after a lighter experience. Atlantic Fleet will be available as an iOS Universal app for $10 in the next week or two, and it’s coming to Google Play as well.

Watch a video of the new night combat in Atlantic Fleet after the jump. 2015 hasn’t been all that for premium mobile games so far — maybe Atlantic Fleet can start turning that ship around.

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Review: Sid Meier’s Starships

Kavitha, your Skype connection is breaking up a little bit.

Kavitha, your Skype connection is breaking up a little bit.

It’s an odd feeling, not enjoying a Sid Meier game. A rational person’s first response to disliking a Woody Allen movie or a Krispy Kreme donut or an André 3000 verse is to check himself. Games made by the man who brought us Civilization and Pirates! and Silent Service can’t be dismissed lightly either.

So lest you think I haven’t taken my own advice, I’ve run several self-diagnostics on my game evaluation sub-systems and talked to Sigmund Freud on the holodeck before writing this: Sid Meier’s Starships doesn’t quite work.

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New Release Appendix: Tank Battle, Tercio to Salvo, Pickomino, and more

dat massed

dat massed

The Easter Bunny made the arduous trek up Mount Hexmap over the weekend (the funicular was closed due to the bank holiday here in the UK) to scatter an assortment of pastel-dyed HEAT shells and bouncing betties around the grounds of PT HQ. I’m not sure that the Easter Bunny is hip to the current international consensus about land mines, but it’s always nice to see him.

Before heading back down, he mentioned that there were some new games out. Let’s see what those are.

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Sorcery Part 3 summons an April 16th release date

You lead the dragon into a room full of rocking chairs.

You lead the dragon into a room full of rocking chairs.

Inkle are going to remind us why they’re the protectors of the interactive fiction faith in a couple of weeks: Chapter 3 of their fantasy gamebook opus Sorcery is due out on April 16th. Long-time PT heads will recall Sorcery as the 2013 game that punted gamebooks forward into the 21st century, marrying video games and fiction in a way that really made the most of the touchscreen. Then last year Inkle blew our minds again with the genre-shaking 80 Days. It’s almost as if these guys don’t like neat categorization and tropes.

Sorcery Part 3 finds your wizard in the penultimate chapter of their odyssey. After negotiating Khare, The City-Port of Traps, in Chapter 2, you’re on to the cursed wasteland of Kakhabad, where house prices have fallen off a cliff and there isn’t even a Caffè Nero.

The Inklings were playing their cards close to their mythril vests when we talked to them back in February: there was something new about Sorcery 3 that they were dying to tell us. I think — maybe — from the screenshots they’ve sent me that I’ve sussed it out: Sorcery 3’s overworld map appears to be in 3D now. That’s pretty slick.

So: April 16th, and for the first time for an Inkle game, it will be out for Android as well as iOS on the same day. You’ve got plenty of time to run through Sorcery Chapters 1 and 2 again and beseech Ian Livingstone for aid. Check out more screenshots from Sorcery Chapter 3 after the jump.

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Overland gameplay video trades space for time

Pipe dreams.

Pipe dreams.

So wow — I’ve been really busy the last few weeks* and what I’m about to post has been out in the world for damn near a month, but I didn’t want it to pass without comment here at PT. Adam Saltsman has unveiled some extensive gameplay from the forthcoming Overland in a video feature he did with GameSpot a couple of weeks back, and wow does that game look great.

You might remember the gist of the big Overland interview we did with Adam back in February: a post-apocalyptic tactical game that took XCOM’s tactical combat and made it more approachable. That’s already a pretty damn good pitch, but there’s more revealed in this video that Saltsman didn’t tell us about. There’s stuff in this video that reminds me (at a high level, anyway) of Keith Burgun’s fascinating 4X experiment Empire: the world is completely hostile to you, and you’re constantly being pushed to move on. No wiping out the enemy and casually looting their pockets in Overland. In fact, it looks like a lot of what you’re doing won’t even be combat in Overland, just buying time to escape into the next scenario. It sounds exhilarating.

The game’s official website still has that coy “2015” plastered in the release date box, but we’ll let you know as soon as we hear more. In the meantime, set aside fifteen minutes to watch the video below.

*With what, you ask? I’ll tell you soon. It’s… awesome.

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Brian Reynolds will you please come home

why brian reynolds

why brian reynolds

Once upon a time, Brian Reynolds was the dauphin prince of strategy game designers. An early protege of Uncle Sid himself, Reynolds was the driving force behind the narrative 4X masterpiece Alpha Centauri, the hugely under-rated Rise of Nations, and the game that some Civ heads would argue is the apex of that singular series: Civilization II.

Like many prodigies, Reynolds started acting out in ways that defied our expectations for him. Instead of growing into the next Sid Meier, Reynolds (wearing a leather jacket and proclaiming that we aren’t even his real dads) eloped with free-to-play trailblazers Zynga, which in the first decade of this century was a roach motel for promising game developers who checked in and were promptly never heard from again.

While at Zynga, Reynolds created a bunch of the social game horsecrap that the company was known for at the time, most notably Frontierville, a game that transported the mechanics of Zynga’s fading jewel Farmville into the Old West for no apparent reason at all. In 2013, it was announced that Reynolds was leaving Zynga, and everybody who liked actual games breathed collective a sigh of relief. Now Brian could get back to making the proper strategy games that he excelled at.

Except nope that’s apparently not what’s happening at all sorry. Brian Reynolds’ new game is here, and now that he’s free to make any kind of game he wants — he’s made another clone of another godawful F2P game. Reynolds new game is a Clash of Clans imitator called DomiNations, which I fully admit has got a clever title. But dash any hopes you may have had that Brian Reynolds was done with his rebellious phase and was coming home to make real games. Good luck turning a profit with your extremely late arrival in the most crowded and least differentiated corner of the video games market, Brian. I really do mean that. Please make a few million bucks and then make a proper game for the Civ OGs that were with you back in the day.

Watch the trailer for DomiNations after the jump. I’ll meet you there with a handkerchief.

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