There passed an awkward moment when my mom found me in the software aisle staring at the box. I was anticipating the gameplay, Mom! Honest.
Gamers who survived the PC RPG crash of the mid ’90s are sure to regard the SSI Gold Box series with reverence. The number of good RPGs released between 1993′s Betrayal at Krondor and 1997′s Fallout can be counted on one hand. Daggerfall was staggering in scope but almost unplayably bug-ridden. The Realms of Arkania games were excellent, but were not as well known outside their native Germany. The rest of the genre withered and died, casualties of the new wave of high-tech blockbusters like Myst and Doom. It took developers four long years to discover how to make RPG’s that didn’t feel like creaky old vestiges of the ’80s.
Along with Pool of Radiance and Eye of the Beholder, 1991′s Gateway to the Savage Frontier is one of the best Dungeons & Dragons titles of the pre-crash golden age. The box is filled with manuals, catalogs, and weird little inserts with obsolete words like “herewith,” “joystick,” and “retailer.” Join me below for the biggest What’s in the Box feature yet.
Kubrick would never have gone in for the blurry green wireframe look. (Maia)
The AAA release cycle may be spinning down for the holidays, but those godless indies know no boundaries and show no decorum. Now that Steam’s autumn sale is done the pace of releases has picked right back up. The bag’s rather full this evening, so let’s get started.
Of all the new games claiming to be sci-fi takes on Dwarf Fortress, Maia might just be the one to get it right. It’s all about carving out a colony on a planet full of hostile life and wracked by storms. It’s got classic Bullfrog-style room placement a la Theme Hospital or Dungeon Keeper. Also chickens and pigs, and apparently you can dissect the pigs. Scratch that from the list of things that no game has ever simulated.
It’s new to Steam Early Access, where for a limited time you can buy in for $18.74. Trailer after the jump, along with six others of equivalent quality.
Let’s review the meaning of the word “stasis,” shall we?
Here’s some early good news on this month’s crowdfunding front: Stasis, Wings: Remastered Edition, and Interstellaria have all been successfully funded. Now that they’re on to their respective stretch goals, let’s take a look at where they stand. Plus, get the final word on The Mandate, whose well orchestrated Kickstarter campaign has proved something of an obsession for me.
This chapel’s only big enough for one of us… I assume. The weird perspective is kind of making it hard to tell for sure.
Gather ’round children, and I will tell you a tale… a tale of heroes and villains, of great riches and terrible curses, of faith, deception, and… and a monk, a priest, a minstrel and some elf. Mostly those last four things, to be honest. Gather ’round I said!
You’ll have to forgive the squashed proportions of the lead-in image up there. It debuted on the Internet a few years ago and several variants have circulated since. It began with just three panes but now someone’s stretched it out and added a fourth, someone obviously upset with AAA games’ (especially console games’) inexorable march toward fractured dystopia.
Perhaps the most frequently cited objection to microtransactions is the “pay to win” objection: they turn games, especially competitive multiplayer games, into expendable-cash contests rather than games of skill. Though true and well meaning, I feel there’s an even more potent objection: call it the “being prompted incessantly to cough up money for shit I don’t need feels like getting accosted by a telemarketer in the middle of dinner, only for some reason I can’t hang up the phone and return to my meal” objection.
Sheesh, that’s a bit long. Let’s re-title it the “sales pitch” objection.
Not to worry, there’s still time for negotiations.
Gallia est omnis divisa in partes tres: “All of Gaul is divided into three parts.” The famous opening line to Caesar’s de Bello Gallico suggests a remedy for the beleaguered Total War series: divide the sprawling game map into pieces and focus on a more tightly crafted campaign. The Total War design just isn’t compatible with its own world-spanning, centuries-long grand strategic scope. Games inevitably bog down in micromanagement as individual battles lose their significance.
When Caesar speaks, Creative Assembly listens. Caesar in Gaul, Total War: Rome II’s first DLC campaign, restricts the worldmap to the province of Gaul and the timescale to 58-51 B.C. Turns represent just two weeks of game time, and the intimate scale makes the turning of the seasons crucially important. The campaign has just 18 provinces, a greater emphasis on historical characters, and a tight, flavorful setting.
The multitudes who found Rome II underwhelming still have some cause for concern, though. Julius Caesar’s Gallic campaign was won through diplomacy and logistics as much as through battlefield mettle, and it isn’t clear how Creative Assembly intends to capture those aspects of his generalship. The DLC offers a centerpiece Battle of Alesia, but Alesia was a protracted siege exercise, not the sort of thing well suited to Total War-esque real-time combat. There’s also no word whether the DLC will explore the famous Gallic elk hunting technique, but you can read a rundown of new features on its Steam page.
Caesar in Gaul will be available in ten days, on December 12. There’s no DLC-specific trailer as yet, so I’ve tucked a recent Rome 2 semi-documentary about Teutoburg Forest down there below the jump.
Nobody in 2010 thought they needed a game about strapping rickshaws to helicopters, dropping them with pathological abandon from 10,000 feet onto a crowded city and skydiving after them to watch them hit. Then Just Cause 2 showed everybody how vacant their lives hitherto had been. The game was chock full of bland missions and miserable gunplay, but that really didn’t matter: its engine, setting and above all its chaotic grappling-hook hijinks redeemed it completely. It was a toy box loaded with baubles no single one of which would have compelled attention, but which in aggregate were dazzling.
A promising new multiplayer mod is nearing the end of its beta test, and today the team behind it revealed that the mod’ll be available free on Steam by year’s end. You can even get a Steam key now if you make an account on the mod’s website.
JC2MP is presently the seventh most popular mod out of over 20,000 on ModDB, and it’s already got a huge Steam community just licking its chops for the full release. In a happy coincidence, Just Cause 2 itself is only $7.49 for the next 24 hours, the beneficiary of Steam’s ongoing Autumn Sale.
After the jump, the mod’s trailer demonstrates convincingly that Just Cause 2 ought never to be a solitary joy.
There’s a reason we’ve given more attention to The Mandate’s Kickstarter campaign than any other game’s. In the short history of RDBK, it’s far and away the most intriguing game we’ve had the opportunity to crowdfund. If everything goes well, this’ll be one to tell the grandkids about. Not that they’ll listen, mind you, but you’ll need something to ramble on about in your senescence.
With 34 hours to go the funding stands at over $616,000, which is enough to secure the planetary away teams stretch goal. The pace of contributions has increased in recent days, so the $700,000 space station boarding goal is still within reach. I wouldn’t hold my breath for mod support at $800K though.
I’ve already expressed some concern over the extent to which the Kickstarter campaign has relied on concept art and mockups. In a game of such wide scope the lack of in-game assets seems especially worrying. So it’s nice to see a bit of early in-game footage in this latest trailer, which shows off a ship-to-ship boarding action. See what it looks like after the jump.