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.
We generally think of grinding in an RPG as the boring part and yet, Blizzard has made billions creating games in which running around and fighting is really the only thing to do. Both World of Warcraft and Diablo center around grinding in order to become a more powerful character, usually by finding more powerful loot.
Knights of Pen and Paper 2 follows suit, although I’m not sure the developers really get what makes those other games so successful. There, grinding is a means to an end, and we put up with it because that end is mighty shiny and also bonks monsters really well. Knights of Pen and Paper 2 ditches all that fancy loot and interesting character development which leaves us with just the grinding. This shouldn’t be a secret, but grinding without a carrot dangling somewhere in front of me just isn’t very much fun.
“Huh, place doesn’t come furnished I guess. Couple skulls…”
You’d be hard-pressed to name more than a couple iconic shields. Yes yes, Captain America’s counts, though it doesn’t even have a name like “Freedom” or “Banner” or “The Philadelphia Escutcheon.” What else do you have to put up against the likes of Sting, Excalibur, Needle, Glamdring, the Vorpal Sword, the Sword of Chaos, the Master Sword, the Sword in the Stone, and so on?
Jason Pickering’s MicRogue has, for what it’s worth, one of the most laughable fictional shields you could imagine. No name for the thing, but plenty of character, and that character is mostly wimpy. The game’s a bare-bones roguelike (a micro rogue, you see, or a micro rouge as my inevitable typo will say a few paragraphs in) which emphasizes movement, positioning, and timing over the accumulation of XP and levels, and one where only three blows to the hero’s gilded shield (or one blow to his exposed flanks) spells “game over.” And yet it says much about MicRogue’s dubious challenge that this wet-cardboard buckler often seems like too generous an armament for the game’s plucky hero.
As far as reviews go, this one might be the easiest one I’ve ever written. After all, Legend of Grimrock originally released for PC and Mac back in 2012. It currently holds an 82 on Metacritic and had enough praise heaped upon it that a sequel was released last year (which has an even higher score on Metacritic).
So, if you came here wondering if Legend of Grimrock was a good game, the answer is, yes. It’s fantastic. I played through it on PC and have had a couple days now to really sink my teeth into the recently released iPad version. The real question then becomes, how does Legend of Grimrock work on a tablet.
Some early bugs, like this poorly positioned window which obscured 2/5 of the data, have been quickly addressed by the developers. Banana & Co., I tip my monocle to you.
Very briefly, Coup is free-to-play Diplomacy in a bottle. Banana & Co have adapted the highly successful tabletop card game into a beautiful app with some fetching (and all-new) art, and have responded to user feedback very quickly, but “free-to-play” is to “game” as “venomous” is to “puppy” around here. A dash of “pay-to-win” before the dreaded “free-to-play” makes that venom lethal. Contrariwise, when you’re indulging in paranoia, scheming, and (simulated) assassination, you’re basically role-playing a fictional villain anyway, and lethally venomous puppies mix adorable and badass in an endearingly batty way.
Neighborhood’s something of a food desert, but the rent’s not bad.
Last Voyage is a puzzle game which trades just as heavily in mood and the suggestion of plot as it does in clever mind-benders. As the title suggests it’s a journey of sorts—an abstract, seemingly space-faring trip in five parts. Each act centers around just a handful of mechanics, each different from the last, with the game’s ghostly cosmic synth running throughout.
None of this is to say that Last Voyage has a story in any traditional sense, though there’s a familiar, filmic quality to how the game presents certain puzzles—the monolith and psychedelic tunnel of 2001: A Space Odyssey are possible touchstones here, though the repeated images of a half-risen sun speak just as readily to The Twilight Zone’s middle ground between fear and knowledge. These similarities don’t stop at passing visuals, though. Varied though its sections may be there’s a strong, mechanical, interactive framework which supports Last Voyage’s thematic aspirations.
I give Reiner Knizia a hard time because his games tend to be abstracts with a thin veneer of theme painted over the top and I, for the most part, don’t enjoy abstract games. There are exceptions, of course. I enjoy Lost Cities and Ra! quite a bit, and I’ve been known to lose games of Tigris and Euphrates with great gusto. Pickomino is another Knizia game that I’ve owned and enjoyed for years which has just made the jump to digital and, like those other games, the theme is thinner than my resumé.
The “theme” puts you in the shoes of a hungry chicken at a worm barbecue. Your job, collect more worms from the grill than your opponents. Seriously. In reality, it’s a simple dice game with clever mechanics and enough “take-that” to make it a very fun family game.
iNigma’s Kingsport Festival advertises itself with the tagline, “Why choose the lesser evil?”, which nicely reflects the game. You play as an eschatological cult leader in a Lovecraftian universe, attempting to summon an Elder One to rule the planet with a distinct lack of benevolence. So yes, pretty darn evil. It’s also an appropriation of an old joke which doesn’t work all that well in this context. The game translates a board game of the same name which itself borrowed very heavily from Kingsburg, a well-regarded Euro. Like the joke, there’s very little about the result which is original, and the new expectations created by the digital format create requirements it fails to satisfy.