Posts by: Owen Faraday

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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Revealed — Deathwatch: Tyranid Invasion bursts from the chests of Rodeo Games this summer for iOS

Are you feeling lucky, xeno-punk?

Are you feeling lucky, xeno-punk?

If you need a secret kept, you can absolutely trust Rodeo Games with it. Over a year ago we learned that the next game from the makers of Warhammer Quest would be another Games Workshop property, but aside from that we knew nothing at all. I prodded. I pleaded. Rodeo would divulge nothing. Pocket Tactics spies skulked off into the night to uncover what they could.

“It’s a game about 40K Inquisitors,” reported one. Other reports corroborated this. “It’s about Inquisitors, but it’s based on Cooking Mama,” said another. Eventually, I began to suspect that our spies had been turned. “It’s not a game — it’s an app that turns Siri into an Ork.”

Finally last week, after months of fruitless hypotheses and unworkable theories, Rodeo’s Ben Murch reached out to reveal what the Guildfordians had been working on. “Deathwatch: Tyranid Invasion is set in the Warhammer 40,000 Universe, and focuses on the Deathwatch,” Murch tells us. “Our game is set in the Astolat Sector which is under threat of being consumed by Tyranids from Hive Fleet Leviathan. The Deathwatch are tasked with undertaking high risk missions to turn the tide of war and defeat the invaders.”

No Inquisitors. No Cooking Mama. But lots and lots of Space Marines and their most famous foes. “It’s a turn-based strategy game,” says Murch, “with the emphasis on strategy.” Now we’re talking.

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Read receipt: Cancel your Wednesday night plans for TouchTone

The lives of others.

The lives of others.

What are you doing Wednesday night? Cancel that. Oh it’s that thing? Listen, the judge will understand. Tell her you’re with me.

There’s a new game out this week from Mikengreg, the nom de enterprise for indie game dev heart-throbs Mike Boxleiter and Greg Wohlwend, who together created the endlessly delightful Solipskier and the latter of whom was responsible (to varying degrees) for Hundreds, Ridiculous Fishing, and Threes. Basically, these chaps have figured out how to bottle a very particular and highly habit-forming kind of fun. And they have a new bottle for you.

Mikengreg sent me an advance copy of a new game called TouchTone to mess around with, and I adore it. They’ve asked me not to lift the cloche too high just yet so I won’t, but I’ll tell you that this is quite unlike anything we’ve seen from them before: it’s every bit as compulsively playable as Threes, but it’s framed by a politically subversive theme that I quite like. Wohlwend called it a game that “crowdsources” national security.

I’ll leave it there for now. But this is a Wednesday night release worth staying up for. iOS-only, I think. I’ll ask about that.

Back to school: “Massive” update for Auro will overhaul HUD, tutorial

Remedial lessons.

Remedial lessons.

As much as we’ve enjoyed Auro around here, there was a lot of chuckling in the Writers’ Dungeon over the game’s epic 30-stage tutorial, whose combination of extraordinary length and unforgiving difficulty reduced more than one PTer to tears. Nowadays we expect loving, maternal tutorials that coo at our every click, but Auro’s pedagogical prologue was more like a hard-drinking step-father that couldn’t possibly be impressed.

Without a doubt, the game behind the tutorial is a gem (read Davy Lane’s review if you haven’t already) but creator Keith Burgun told me this weekend that he knows the feature-length tutorial was a bit over the top, and a new update is on the way to address that. “The biggest thing [in this forthcoming update] is making the game less intimidating for new players, by cutting the number of tutorials by a third.”

There’s more to the forthcoming tune-up than just that — experienced players are getting some love, too. “There’s also a new HUD, way more feedback for stuff to make things more clear, and like a billion other improvements,” Burgun tells us. “Like the gameplay and difficulty are completely re-tuned now. Defensive play works really well in 1.28 – meaning, just get a few points and then survive until the end of the level. What we’ve always wanted was players to DIVE into the fray, take damage, make something happen. You now really kinda have to do that at higher levels.”

We’ll let you know when that update hits. Watch the Auro trailer after the jump.

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