Enemy Mind is a game being developed at Schell Games in Pittsburgh, PA. Schell occasionally does an internal game jam, and allows employees to work on their own independent game projects for a week. Enemy Mind was the brainchild of engineer Mike Traficante, and after a debut at the jam, was selected by the studio to receive further development. It was Greenlit on Steam and is already available through Early Access.
The approach to meet with Jane Jensen kind of seemed like a scene from one of her games. I had an email, a time, and a location: an unnamed building off the main conference site identified only by a number. When I arrived, I had a secret code to enter into the door. Behind the door was one shiny elevator, and a series of mailboxes. One was marked with a mysterious note. I was worried that there was going to be a puzzle here to solve. But then to my relief I was buzzed up, and invited into the Phoenix Online Suite.
Then I checked out some of the games. Read on…
Much has been said about Double Fine’s Broken Age. Maybe because it’s Tim Schafer’s first point-and-click adventure game since 1998’s Grim Fandango. Maybe because it’s a huge Kickstarter success story, earning well over $3 million by the end – one million of that in the first day – after only asking for $400,000. Maybe because of the near-catastrophic announcement last year that development on Broken Age was behind schedule and over budget, enough that hitting their original release goal would require cutting 75% of the game.
Yesterday afternoon found me at my desk with the vague expression of a lobotomy patient or a recreational user of thorazine. If a passerby had said “whatcha thinking about?” I’d have said, “Nothin’,” which was better than the truth. I was really thinking about narwhals, and Kate Beckinsale. I rarely think of narwhals, since they don’t usually impinge on my day. Kate Beckinsale is a more frequent mental guest, though not one I typically associate with narwhals – or, indeed, with any marine life. Then, because I hate myself, this reverie was interrupted by The Other Voice: “No wonder that Thief article is four days late, you’re so busy there.” God damned Inner Guilt.
Being a couple days late on a game nobody expects much from isn’t a big deal, but yesterday had been a bad day – and I’ve been late on stuff a lot recently, and kinda kicking myself for not having as much time to write like I did, and the usual. Something about the day made an otherwise innocuous deadline push feel like a double helping of Ennui Cake topped by the Scrotum-Pulverizingly Judgmental Cherry of Self-Loathing. Fortunately, my mood was about to improve dramatically.
I love a good city builder, particularly classical or medieval-themed ones. From Caesar III to Tropico to Grand Ages: Rome to Hinterland to Pharaoh to others that escape me and must therefore not have been overly memorable, if you’ve made a game about putting together and running a city, chances are I’ll be in line to buy it. So when Rock, Paper, Shotgun shared what was – for me – the first gameplay video of Shining Rock Software’s Banished, the question was less whether than when.
Does it live up to my hopes? Read on to find out!
The Castle Doctrine is probably one of the most cynical and brutal games I’ve ever played. I bought it for a few reasons: the premise sounded fascinating, it’s by Jason Rohrer who was responsible for Passage, Sleep Is Death, Inside a Star-filled Sky and Gravitation (amongst others), and it was 50% off and due to go full price a few days later to coincide with the game’s release. According to Rohrer the game will never go on sale again so it was as good a time as any to check it out.
It’s a rough game to start though, and if you don’t know what the game is about then stick with me here, you’ll be perfect to illustrate this to.
I’ll tell you: twenty minutes is a very long time to know you’re going to die.
I played a bit of Alpha Centauri when it was new, and, more recently, I’ve played a fair amount of Civ V. But I’d hardly call myself a 4X-Expert. All said, I’ve probably spent more time with the last act of Spore than with any other space strategy sim. But since I’m one of the few Tap-Repeatedly writers who is generally positive about the possibilities of Steam Early Access, I thought I’d give a new indy strat sim a try this month. This is Horizon, a 4X Strategy Space Sim by Canadian based team L3O Interactive. I’m not very good at it yet, but I’m getting there.
FORCED, as it’s listed in block caps in my Steam library, isn’t just another ARPG or dungeon crawling hacking and slashing click-fest as you might first assume. In a nutshell FORCED cleverly combines the puzzle-y goodness and seductive challenges of Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light, the less-is-more customisation and twitchier targeting-based combat of Bastion, and the kind of frantic survival co-op madness reminiscent of Magicka and Alien Swarm. I love that it has no loot to tediously sift through and sell, no inventory Tetris — hell, no inventory — no experience points, no leveling, no grinding, no unwieldy hotbars chock-full of timers and symbols, no woefully unsatisfying stat increases like +1% chance to critical or +5% resistance to fire damage, no specialisation that irritatingly locks you in for the rest of the game, no convoluted skill trees, no mind numbingly inevitable dungeons, no quest drudgery and the typically awful (and pointless) dialogue accompanying them, no long-winded time wasting story that takes itself too seriously — FORCED just lets you get straight down to what matters: the trials and working out how best to conquer them.
Last week on Twitter I was alerted about the existence of a little game called Ossuary. This is one of those situations where I hundred-percented the game, but it’s a odd enough experience that I’m posting long impressions rather than a full review. I definitely recommend it; it’s certainly not for everyone; but then again what is, especially in games?
Escape Goat was a puzzle platformer released in 2011 for Windows and XBox Live Arcade.
It’s quite possible you missed the original Escape Goat. That’s fine now though, for two reasons: one, because there’s currently a web-playable version of Escape Goat that you can try out for free, and, two, because the upcoming Escape Goat 2 is more or less a high-resolution re-imagining of the original Escape Goat game.
If video games were Roman defeats, Rome II: Total War would be Manzikert, which was a pretty bad showing for the Romans, one with a high cost. But the long-term effects of that battle are complex and far-reaching, over-analyzed and often over-weighted. Some historians go so far as to describe Manzikert as the event that kneecapped the Roman Empire, which is ironic because the part of it you know about was long gone by 1071 and the other part would totter on for another four hundred years. Me, I don’t buy it. Manzikert was bad, but post-Manzikert misgovernance did more damage than the battle itself. Byzantium could have recovered, it just failed to. Similarly Total War: Rome II has ample opportunity to recover from the scattershot problems of initial release and turn itself into a genuinely remarkable game. If Creative Assembly bungles that opportunity, then Rome II, like Manzikert, will be remembered as the beginning of the end.
Viewing the comments threads on video game web sites is like stepping into some alternate universe where people are sincerely anticipating Grand Theft Auto V.
Maybe I could’ve written “I am old and out of touch” and said the same basic thing. Or maybe I’m being a hipster; I’m not buying Grand Theft Auto V, you plebeians, because it is too mainstream, and it’s what everyone will be playing and I’m way too cool for that. Or maybe it’s because I’m a woman and chicks just aren’t into this sorta thing.
Except that none of these things are true.
I’m not very good at real-time strategy games. I attribute this to my inability to multitask well, but that’s not to say I don’t enjoy playing them. The biggest problem I have with them is that most revolve around micromanagement, and since AI War, with its robust automation and smart unit management, I’ve become more of a macromanagement kind of guy. Why? Because it means I can focus on the strategy part. You know, the important part. Not the frantic juggling and tedious busy work part. Homeworld and Company of Heroes, allegedly two of the finest real-time strategy games evar, turned me off because I had to nanny certain units. I’m sorry but, engineers, you need to fix those tanks right in front of you. And repair frigates, those nearby damaged ships need looking at. Do your fucking jobs. The more granular my level of involvement the more distracted I am from the strategy, and for me, that’s a problem.