Planetfall: Jewal Gruvich and the Virginia Cull

, | Game diaries

In the years since Civilization VI was released by Firaxis, you could say it’s gotten a ton of post-release support.  If you consider “support” adding stuff rather than fixing things that don’t work.  The process has been fascinating.  Rather than adjust the design or the AI to make a game that actually works, Firaxis has instead piled up increasingly absurd ways to play, with no regard for balance, tuning, or even the principles of good game design.  Civilization VI has become a ridiculous, slapdash, and profoundly idiotic sandbox.  One of the folks on this site’s forum called it “Goat Simulator for 4X games.”  

And given that every Civilization since IV appeals to people who don’t care whether the AI can play the design, it’s a pitch-perfect approach.  I suspect it’s done very well for Firaxis.  They’ve correctly identified their target audience and they’ve given them what they want.

Meanwhile, I’ve been playing another 4X with pitch-perfect post-release support that includes perhaps the most dramatic change I’ve seen applied to a strategy game, short of a total conversion mod.  Age of Wonders: Planetfall was given a free update last November that introduced Galactic Empire mode.  It’s nothing short of revolutionary and as a result, Planetfall is now the definitive expression of Dune.  

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Do you know there are known unknowns in epidemic management game Raxxon?

, | Game reviews

When it comes to gaming the spread of infectious disease, everyone loves Matt Leacock’s Pandemic.  Not me.  I think it does a terrible job of modeling the outbreak, spread, and containment of an epidemic.  It’s all gamey abstraction loosely held together by a strained disease motif that makes no sense.  It’s not even a very good design.  It speaks volumes about Pandemic that for all its iterations — diseases, dikes, empires, cultists — the best version of Leacock’s design is about puppets and plastic models.

But then there’s Raxxon.

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PlayStation 4 owners may have to commit to one Call of Duty

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It’s no secret that the file sizes for games have gotten pretty large. It’s not unusual if a game balloons over 150GB after updates and expansions. The more recent Call of Duty games being prime examples of this. In fact, Activision has issued a warning to base model PlayStation 4 owners. Due to the 500GB drive, and the way the system needs to copy files for patching, players are going to have to pick their poison with the latest update for Call of Duty Warzone. They will not be able to have Modern Warfare, Black Ops Cold War, and Warzone installed on the same PS4.

If you’re wondering why anyone would need both of the most recent Call of Duty games installed along with Warzone, the answer is that the progression tracks in the base games’ multiplayer feeds into the Battle Royale mode. Weapons from Modern Warfare and Black Ops Cold War are in Warzone. It’s generally easier to level up a rifle in the base game’s team deathmatch, then bring the gun over to Warzone for that mode’s use. It’s a system that has kept Modern Warfare multiplayer active, if only to give Warzone fans a quicker way to beef up their loadouts. Alas, with the latest content drop, original PS4 players will have to clear some space and overcome everyone else’s size advantage.

You can be anyone in Watch Dogs Legion except the guy being used by Player 2

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Cooperative online mode is coming to Watch Dogs Legion on March 9th. It’s been in development for some time, having originally been announced with the reveal of the game in 2019, but was delayed to a post-launch feature just before the game went live. The free addition to the game will offer missions and challenges set in the same drone plagued London as the base game, but your real-world buddies can help out. Ubisoft’s hope is that while you can “play as anyone” in Legion, you can’t play as multiple people at the same time, so your crew can chip in to overcome co-op obstacles.

“We designed it so that if you do bring in a parkour specialist, or someone that does gunkata, or a construction worker, or even a grandma, they all can join in.”

Having a posse of anonymous cargo drone riding construction workers get blown out of the sky by swarms of combat robots sounds like it could shore up some of the dullness of the vanilla game. The overview video is good for a laugh anyway.

Project Cars 3: forget it, Jake

, | Game diaries

The current weekly event in rivals mode encapsulates everything that’s right and everything that’s wrong with Project Cars 3.  It is Slightly Mad Studio’s genius and failing played out in a single lap.  It is simultaneously why I play Project Cars 3 and why I shake my head sadly so often as I’m playing it.

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Project Cars 3: new or used?

, | Game diaries

The career progression in most racing games is linear.  You start out with pokey road cars and gradually unlock events for increasingly powerful cars.  One day, you’ll get to hypercars and supercars and formula racers and various other Batmobile iterations.  But Project Cars 3 wants you to freely sample its wares.  So its career progression is a tree instead of a power curve.  A veritable jungle gym.

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Project Cars 3: hey, did you happen to see the most hideous car in the world?

, | Game diaries

Today’s rivals event is a breakout layout on Monza, using a lime green doorstop with a bunch of random stickers slapped on it.  I am amazed at how gaudy actual races look, with stickers all over the cars, with signs and banners scattered around the track, crowding to get into every shot to peddle motor oil and beer.  It’s just so unsightly.  Races are literally littered with advertising.  I can hardly blame today’s poor car for trying to stand out by being painted lime green.

But I’ve come up with my own solution.  If you can’t beat them, join them.

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River raids in Assassin’s Creed Valhalla would be better with dad jokes

, | News

You’re probably playing that other Viking game now. Valheim is the game du jour. It’s $20 on Steam, looks great, and unlike many early access survival crafting games, it’s not a broken mess of potential. If you haven’t been wooed by the siren call of chopping wood and building huts in a pixelated procedurally generated Norse afterlife, you’re probably still hanging out in the largely static superhero action of Assassin’s Creed Valhalla. Don’t be sad. Ubisoft is bringing a bounty of goodies to lonely Eivors in the 1.1.2 title update.

Prepare your Jomsviking crew for this new highly replayable mode that will take you to unexplored regions of England, which is full of raiding opportunities. New loot, rewards, and challenges await the Raven Clan!

River raids are coming, and with them, players can get new abilities and skills. The Assassin Slide lets you sprint into enemies and dive into their legs to knock them over. Power Stroke pushes your raiding crew to boost your ship’s speed. Berserker Trap fits a bag of rage-inducing powder to your arrow, which you can shoot into surfaces creating a drugged booby trap. If none of those are your style, there’s Shoulder Bash which does exactly what it sounds like. Why that needs to be a thing you unlock is a mystery for Odin.

Unfortunately, the patch notes don’t say a thing about adding more goofball stories to listen to while sailing down the byways of England. Imagine the possibilities for a Jungle Cruise style tour guide bit just before you crash into the dock of a monastery and set fire to the surrounding houses.

Project Cars 3: it was a dark and stormy night on Cougar Ridge

, | Game diaries

Today’s rivals event puts you behind the wheel of an unremarkable Toyota Supra.  But then it adds the dramatic stuff.  There’s a rainstorm.  It’s night.  You’re on a track with plenty of twists and turns and elevation changes.  In other words, lots of rear-wheel drive slippin’ and slidin’, in poor visibility, with a car just sluggish enough to let you enjoy it.

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Project Cars 3: Linda Ronstadt should get this car

, | Game diaries

I’ve driven some weird vehicles in my day.  Once you get into the Badlands in Red Faction: Guerilla, you’ll find some real doozies.  The Batmobile has its share of idiosyncrasies.  Some of the trucks in Spintires, Mudrunner, and Snowrunner are clearly from another world.  I routinely drive a rabbit and a manta ray in Guild Wars 2.  But then today’s rivals event in Project Cars 3 happened.

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