Ah, yes: the Marble Age. The swords were terrible, let me tell you.
Owen here, temporarily taking back the Out Tonight reins from Neumann. Oh man. I’d forgotten what it was like here in the Pocket Tactics New Release Observatory high atop Mount Hexmap. Cold and airy. A light breeze smelling faintly of freshly rezzed cyberspace. The whole infinite sweep of the App Store stretching out before you for miles and miles. It’s bracing. Stimulating! I notice that the web browsing history has a strangely significant number of searches for sexy pin-up pictures of Vlaada Chvatil. I should probably talk to Neumann about that.
Anyway, let’s have a look at the new releases tonight, shall we? This is the penultimate batch of new games we’ll see in 2014, as the App Store’s game-extruding orifices will all shut next week for Christmas. We’ll have a slew of games coming in at the very last minute on Friday, but let’s look at the ones landing tonight for right now.
We know nothing about them, their language, their history or what they look like. But we can assume this. They stand for everything we don’t stand for. Also they told me you guys look like dorks. [Image by David Buchmann]
Our own Kelsey handed me a note the other day with part of GMT’s monthly newsletter clipped out. The missive from the board game publishing giants included a paragraph that will be of interest to a fair few of you.
Our digital team developing SpaceEmpires for iPad is getting close to the point where they’ll need an initial batch of testers.
Space Empires 4X (no relation to the classic–abandoned?–PC series of the same name) is exactly what it says on the tin — a meaty sci-fi empire-building game for one to four players. This is still an under-exploited genre on mobile: the best stuff in the category is very good (Starbase Orion, Eclipse) but there’s no dominating 800-pound cybergorilla. Let’s see what GMT can do.
The neighborhood *is* a bit rundown. But it’s also a short walk to the metro station!
It’s a rare 4X strategy that fails to cast you as a high-minded prodigy and social architect–even if the title then gives you room to craft your “perfect” world through either deft political maneuevers or ruthless warfare. Whether it’s as a historically proven leader in Civ or a Tolkien knockoff in Age of Wonders, your avatar will see themself as the hero (even if you’re playing as a villain).
Antihero is, naturally, the counterpoint to this. The game’s an in-development, streamlined 4X that sees you as a gentleperson thief running a guild of Victorian street urchins and fellow pickpockets. A recent announcment in /r/gamedev revealed that Antihero now has the billowing London fog (orphange-factory runoff) befitting its setting, as well as some improved visuals.
Designer Tim Conkling has also told us, via email, that this fog isn’t just a literal take on fog of war–rather, these new visuals herald “a significant change to the game’s dynamics.”
I love real-time touch controls. It took me 20 minutes to get these ships to move
Real time strategy games don’t have a storied history on touch devices. There might be an exception–I can’t think of one–but for the most part, the genre just doesn’t work as well without a mouse and keyboard or a controller. With that rousing introduction, let me introduce you to Haegemonia: Legions of Iron. Yes, it has real-time space battles, but it also has colony and resource management, technology trees, and all that good stuff we associate with the 4X genre.
Haegemonia is actually a port of a 2002 PC title that was actually around well before it’s closest, and better known, competitor Sins of a Solar Empire, and it sounds like it should tickle all my fancies: colony management, espionage, 40 different ships, 200 inventions to develop, and 50 types of planets. The game is available in a $4 version or a free version that lets you try out the game and then unlock the full title for $4. Sounds like there’s nothing to lose.
Haegmonia is out right now for iOS and Android. Check out the lengthy gameplay trailer from Touchgameplay after the break.
Lady F and I were at the RA this weekend to see the Dennis Hopper photography exhibit, and were greeted by this installation of U-boats lurking in the entryway. None of the young ticket-rippers working that day seemed to know who the artist was or what the work was called. Sorry about the glare — unlike Mr Hopper I’m a crummy photographer.
This week’s Almanac isn’t a story or a rant; it’s just a clear-out. My sinister office here at PT HQ high atop Mount Hexmap is almost completely papered over with post-its and notes written to myself on the backs of Woolworth receipts and racing forms — I can hardly keep my plans for superweapons straight from my schematics for mind control devices. Intolerable.
After the jump: small updates from developers we care about and stuff that has slipped through the cracks over the last couple of weeks.
Spare me your space age technobabble, Attila the Hun.
Soon you shall have more choices of space exploration sims than you have for mobile phone providers, TV talent competition shows, and ways to contract influenza. Aspiring Captain Kirks already have the incomparable FTL, and will soon have Tiny Trek and Interstellaria to muck around the galaxy in: you can add Spacewrights to that list.
Spacewrights calls itself a 2D empire-building game, though you will apparently be a lot more hands on than your average space Caesar. You build your own ships and control them in real-time combat and lead your own away missions to explore strange new worlds and seek out new life etc etc. This empire isn’t ever going to get its crap together if the Emperor doesn’t learn to delegate — but the game sounds fun.
Here’s a note of caution for you: this is the first release planned from Missouri-based ArithmeBit, who don’t seem daunted by such a big project. I hope they pull it off, but we’ve seen ambitious titles from first-time developers get derailed before.
You can read all about the planned features on Spacewrights’ website, and the devs tell me that there’s a Kickstarter in this game’s future. The game is in development for iOS and Android (both phones and tablets and the ever-increasing number of devices in-between) and for desktops. There’s already a playable demo for Windows.
No nation has friends, only interests. And open border agreements.
Like an Albanian eagle, I was of two minds about 2K’s mobile-only Civilization Revolution 2. I was glad to see the game get a refresh as the original game had not exactly stood the test of time on iOS — but I was disappointed that Civ Rev 2 offered essentially no gameplay changes at all from the previous iteration, possibly owing to the fact that Civilization mothership Firaxis weren’t involved in its development.
In my review, I said that the one promising change in Civ Rev 2 was 2K’s promise of regular updates with new challenge scenarios and other content. It’s about a month on from release and 2K are making good on that pledge so far. There’s an update live right now for Civ Rev 2 that adds a new scenario (Guadalcanal, featuring the US versus Japan), some unspecified enhancements, and a new civ leader: the noted kepi-wearer and airport namesake Charles de Gaulle, making his first appearance in a Civ game since Civ IV: Beyond the Sword.
The update is free to Civ Rev 2 owners. If 2K can pump out a few more of these over the next few months maybe I’ll change my tune on Civ Rev 2. Maybe.
In other Firaxis news, I haven’t heard anything about the studio making another Ace Patrol-sized mobile game for us, and they seem to be all-hands-on-deck for the October launch of Civ: Beyond Earth on PC. But the legendary studio announced the other day that they’re going to be hosting a convention at their headquarters in Maryland at the end of this month: Firaxicon, which includes a chance to meet Sid Meier and maybe Jake Solomon and Ananda Gupta, too. Holy shit. If I wasn’t getting married a couple of weeks later, I would be right there for that thing, man. Maybe it’s not too late to move the wedding to Maryland.
Though I’d be the last person to bemoan the current Renaissance of 4X games, you might have noticed that there’s only ever two flavours of them: subjugate various aliens to build an empire in space and subjugate various ethnicities to build an empire in Civilization. Sure, the latter one occasionally subs in orcs and elves. But you get where I’m going.
Antihero is taking 4X mechanics and wrapping them with a theme I’ve never seen before. In a grimy Victorian city, you’re the master thief at the head of a band of street urchins, planning burglaries, blackmailing your betters, and performing other dirty deeds as catalogued by AC/DC.
It’s a great idea, and it’s being executed by experienced developers. The game is the brainchild of Tim Conkling, a veteran of Puzzle Pirates studio Three Rings Design, where he created the Edward Gorey-inspired puzzle RTS Corpse Craft for iOS. He met artist Jiyoun Lee-Lodge during a stint at Gamelab, and now they’ve reunited to work on Antihero. “I spent about 6 months prototyping Antihero on my own before hiring Jiyoun to be the lead artist,” Conkling told me. “Antihero is a pretty typical indie production, I think — we collaborate over Slack and Skype (I’m in San Francisco and she’s in NYC), and the game is entirely self-funded.”
Antihero won’t require the stamina demanded by Civ — Conkling is intending for it to play fast, with a whole game taking around an hour, either in single-player or in planned cross-platform multiplayer between PC, Mac, iOS and Android. Antihero is due out early next year, with mobile versions to follow the initial desktop release. You can vote for the game on Steam Greenlight, and follow its development on Facebook and Twitter.