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.
I managed to dip into a version of Proteus a few years ago, at least I think it was a few years ago, I can’t quite remember– time seems to go so fast these days. It was an early build anyway, and I didn’t play it for long because I’m not a fan of playing betas or alphas when there are so many finished games out there already, all vying for my time and attention. My brief jolly through its crisp, bright sprite-encrusted landscapes however, was enough to put it firmly on my map. Even then it had a hypnotically calming air about it, and following Joel Goodwin’s adorable video of him and his little boy playing it together I only wanted to play it more.
Last week, talented gamers from the Speed Demos Archive participated in their annual games for charity run: Awesome Games Done Quick. Watching the stream has been so fascinating that I’ve forgotten to do many other things I theoretically should have done. But that seems to have been the case for many, as, very late Saturday night, the AGDQ stream made an incredible goal of one million dollars collected for the Prevent Cancer Foundation. Austin Powers jokes ensued.
Haven’t got time to preamble. Too many games to cover.
Remember when I said something like “maybe I’ll get to Red Dead Redemption in 2012!” ?? That still hasn’t happened! Oh all of those lols and such, et cetera as that guy from that Fallout game would say! What I learned– or continued to learn– above all else, in 2013, is that no one should try too hard to do things. For example, why bother saying you’ll try to eat seventeen bushels of broccoli in 2014? When you end up eating one bushel you’ll be ashamed of yourself. Instead, just buy some broccoli when you walk past it and your eyeballs and brain get together and say I guess that broccoli looks like some of the good eating times. Just do that. And heck, on your way out maybe you’ll grab a peach pie too. What does it matter? At the end of the year you’ll have purchased six quarts of broccolis, let four go rotten, and then eat a taco and buy some dumb games on Steam. Whatever, man.
The American holiday of Thanksgiving marks the start of shopping and gluttony, and also the Hollywood Oscar Season, when movies considered “Oscar-worthy” are released in theatres. The thinking is it keeps important films fresh in the minds of the nominating committee, whereas something that came out last spring is easily forgotten. The same happens with gaming, for different reasons, yet this year’s holiday was a very quiet time. Practically nothing of interest happened.
No, not even that.
It’s that time of year again. A time for quiet reflection. A time for looking ahead. A time for staying up super late and celebrating solar mechanics. Most importantly, though, it’s a time for reminding ourselves of some awesome games we played in the last 365 days – measured in the gaming world as “the time between the releases of Retro City Rampage and Dr. Luigi.”
Some years there are games that characterize my gaming experience. That sum up everything that was most memorable about that year in gaming. Other years, like this one, it’s hard to point at any one title or experience. This last year was, for me, more of a tidal shift. I’m a lot more of an indie player than I was twelve months ago (though that’s a highly relative thing). For probably the first year ever, the pinnacle of my gaming experience didn’t come (at least not definitely so) from a console release from a major publisher. That’s not to say I’m shelving my PS3 and swearing off the AAAs, but the reality of how much they’re losing their power really struck home for me personally, rather than just academically, in 2013.
I am proud to announce that as of 2013 I am finally a qualified games journalist. I got an Achievement that told me so, and that’s the recognition that I absolutely needed. As a fully qualified games journalist, I write Games of the Year articles… kind of like I did in previous years. Some things don’t change.
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.
Once, when I was teaching, I brought the original BioShock into the classroom to show it off to students. We plugged the 360 into a big projector and played it large. I handed the controller to a student and let him play around.
I was kind of fascinated by the response.