Posts Categorised: Features

A strange whisper: Six Ages will be 2016’s follow-up to the classic King of Dragon Pass

The Chief is just back from Bergdorf's.

The Chief is just back from Bergdorf’s.

If I were about to be banished to a wifi-less desert island and (through some extraordinary mercy) was granted one game to accompany me for the rest of my lonely, coconut-eating days, I would very probably bring King of Dragon Pass.

There is nothing in the world like King of Dragon Pass. It is part text adventure, part Civilization-style 4X game. It takes place in a low-fantasy world that feels genuinely mysterious; you are the elder of a Bronze Age clan in a land where magic and myths seem very real and your neighbours aren’t always human. This is a game that is big enough to warrant an 800-page wiki of which I have never seen one kilobyte and never will. The mystery of how the game works is too precious to me.

King of Dragon Pass is a game of such intimidating quality and daunting magic that, since its original release back in 1999, no one has ever made a serious attempt to copy or duplicate or “reimagine” it. I wouldn’t trust anyone to do it, anyway. Well, except for one guy: David Dunham, the principal designer of KoDP. And he’s going to do just that.

Six Ages is coming at the end of 2016 (hopefully), a game that Dunham tells me is “a proper successor to King of Dragon Pass”. I’m not sure that the world deserves a follow-up to KoDP. We haven’t exactly been on our best behaviour lately. But I’m not going to try and talk Dunham out of it.

After the jump, everything that King of Dragon Pass creator David Dunham has told me about Six Ages.

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The house that inspired Hitman GO: A conversation with Square Enix’s Thierry Doizon about the art of the GO games

The iconic Kaufmann Desert House, one of SE Montreal's inspirations for the first Hitman GO levels,

The iconic Kaufmann Desert House, one of SE Montreal’s inspirations for the first Hitman GO levels.

Hitman GO was one of last year’s true surprises. A high-quality non-F2P mobile game from a major publisher always elevates eyebrows around here. But Hitman GO was a little stranger than that, even: it swapped Hitman’s trademark third-person wetwork for entirely bloodless puzzles, presented like a executive-kitsch desk toy. At the time it seemed like a one-off experiment, green-lit by Square Enix bosses in after a three-martini lunch, maybe.

But then last month, Square Enix Montreal presented us with a new installment in what’s now looking like an ongoing series of GO titles. In his review, Kelsey called Lara Croft GO a worthy successor to Hitman whose only significant defect was being notably shorter than its predecessor.

Even if you haven’t played Lara Croft GO yet, you might have noticed that it makes some bold deviations from Hitman GO’s aesthetics, fiddling with elements that you might have thought were a core part of the GO look and feel. The new game replaces Hitman’s static chessboard feel with athletic animations of Lara and the giant snakes and spiders she encounters. The cool airport lounge jazz soundtrack is replaced with wispy electronica and creepily immersive ambient sounds.

I had a chance to talk with Thierry Doizon, Studio Art Director at Square-Enix about Lara Croft GO and learned about why it looks and sounds the way that it does.

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The office ecosystem: Somasim talks Project Highrise, their tablet-bound skyscraper sim

I'm out that Brooklyn, now I'm down in Tribeca.

I’m out that Brooklyn, now I’m down in Tribeca.

A couple of weeks ago in these very pages, RollerCoaster Tycoon 3 producer Ben Dowie declared that after a long fallow period as the exclusive domain of German shovelware pumpers, sims are back. I’m starting to agree. My inbox has been blowing up with a most welcome explosion of new simulation games. My favourite of the new crop might just be Project Highrise, a gorgeous building sim with a visual style that developer Matt Viglione neatly describes as “an architectural drawing come alive”.

After the jump, a quick chat with Viglione about his vision for the triumphant return of the once-mighty sim genre.

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Pocket Tactics’ Games of the Month: August 2015

Pardon our dust.

Pardon our dust.

It has been a very long while indeed since we had Pocket Tactics Games of the Month. Picking favourite games from arbitrary calendar periods is always a bit contentious but when Neumann briefly converted to TimeCubism over the summer we couldn’t even agree on the definition of “month”, much less decide what the good games from one were.

Anyway. Things have calmed down enough that we can resume regular service on Games of the Month. Let’s see what the PT writers’ dungeon thinks of the games from the last lunar cycle (or so).

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The Huntmaster’s Handbook: Rob Lemon’s Galactic Keep strategy guide

For cryin' out loud, people STOP DYING

For cryin’ out loud, people STOP DYING

The wonderfully original Galactic Keep is more than just a pretty, multi-mandibled face — it’s also an RPG whose combat requires a little more nous than might be apparent at first. In the interest of preserving the temporal integrity of this timeline, I asked Galactic Keep creator Rob Lemon to write us some tips on keeping your Coalition agents alive. There’s a heck of a lot going on under the hood of this game, and Rob lays a lot of it bare for us. –O.F.

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A Song for Galactic Keep

"Schematic" means "utterly devoid of artistic merit". In case that wasn't clear.

My maps for D&D were rather more… schematic.

I always preferred folders in school. Three-ring binders seemed needlessly baroque, loud, and treacherous (I must have been pinched by one once, and have ever after been prejudiced against the entire race, like my grandfather who would never buy a Japanese car after being wounded on Guadalcanal). But there was one product I was ashamed to find utterly alluring: the Trapper Keeper.

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“Sims are back”: Frontier talks RollerCoaster Tycoon 3 and the triumphant return of simulation games

For the habitual voyeur of what is known as parklife.

For the habitual voyeur of what is known as parklife.

We’ve burned a few thousand words lighting effigies of formerly respectable game franchises that went free-to-play — we should be giving equal time to devs who are still fighting for the good guys.

When Frontier brought 2004’s RollerCoaster Tycoon 3 to iOS earlier this week, the biggest surprise was that they brought the pricing philosophy back from 2004, too. The Universal app is five dollars with no in-app purchases at all.

Frontier seem to be on a mission to selectively bring back the best aspects of the 1990s: no to C&C Music Factory and bucket hats, but yes to pay-once game pricing, tycoon games, and spaceflight sims. They’ve got a hit on their hands with Elite Dangerous on PC and have planned a new theme park tycoon franchise for 2016.

I had five questions for Frontier producer Ben Dowie yesterday, and here’s what he told us.

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Luca Redwood reveals: Dark Secrets of YMBAB’s Hammerhorn

Oh my god, if I die I'm a legend

Oh my god, if I die I’m a legend

Anyone who’s played Luca Redwood‘s peerless match-3 puzzle adventure You Must Build A Boat has surely noticed hints of D&D complexity lurking around the edges of the game. Every object in the world has a slew of RPG attributes, from the swords and staves to the monsters and the dungeons themselves, but the game mostly obscures all of that cruft so you can focus on the tile-matching.

One mystery of the game is the Hammerhorn, a macguffin your character picks a quarter of the way into YMBAB. Every once in a while, when your character is just about to slump over in defeat, the Hammerhorn blows and summons your boatload of allies onto the screen, where they blast every visible enemy and give you a final desperate chance to prolong your run.

The Hammerhorn is a great example of YMBAB’s playful deeper complexity: you can intuit some of its mechanics, but why and when the Hammerhorn blows is hidden away from you. This philosophy is one of my favourite things about Redwood’s games: you can’t ever fall into analysis paralysis. Redwood invites you to just play his games by feel and gut instinct. The uncertain universe you find yourself in casts you back to playing as a kid, where the world of a video game felt boundless.

I’ve coerced Luca Redwood into revealing a little bit of how the Hammerhorn actually works — a rare peek behind the curtain of You Must Build a Boat, which Redwood tells me still contains secrets and collectibles that no player has found. –Owen

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