After forty turns of searching for the Psi-Fish I’m supposed to defeat, and whose dwellings are supposed to be abundant, and with whom I’m supposed to be at war, I have found no Psi-Fish. I have explored enough of the map to discover three NPC factions and their dwellings. A map this size should have three NPC factions, and I’ve found Therians, Forgotten, and Paragon. If there are Psi-Fish here, they’re a fourth faction tucked into tiny pockets of unexplored territory. It seems unlikely.
But just to verify that something is broken, I looked up how to unfog the map using a cheat code. The situation is that dire. I have resorted to cheat codes! Sure enough, there are no Psi-Fish on this map. It is Psi-Fish-less. My mission to capture two Psi-Fish dwellings is literally impossible.
Psi-Fish owned sectors are Abundant! Psi-Fish make more Demands! Psi-Fish start at War with you!
So said the intel briefing for Angelus, a planet supposedly lousy with psionic extradimensional fish. These fish have breached our dimension, bringing with them Void storms and deposits of cosmite. Our empire’s Penumbra faction wants us to wipe out two Psi-Fish dwellings. At which point, I’ve confirmed that we can declare “mission accomplished” and pack it in. This isn’t going to be like the hopperhound fiasco on Virginia, where I ended up having to burn the whole planet because I misinterpreted my orders. Which happens. You can’t make an empire without burning a few planets. But now we’re here to do a job and then call it a day, which will secure the Void Lure for our empire, which will let us recruit Psi-Fish during later missions. “Capable Pets,” the Psynumbra told us when they named the mission.
By order of the Wasila Combine — heck, let’s go ahead and make this a religious thing as well — and by the will of the Promethean god, we’re going to uncork our PyrX refineries (pictured) to flood the atmosphere with toxic gas. Actually, I’m not sure if there’s a Promethean god. It seems like there would be a Promethean god. Or at least an ancient civilization that worshipped some god. Whatever the theology or lack thereof, we’re erasing all life on the planet from within the safety of our own territory. This will require a lot less micromanagement than doing it with armies.
500 energy and 50 operational points later — Planetary Purification ain’t cheap — it’s a doomsday party and everyone is invited!
Okay, I know I said we’d be home by the Dvar equivalent of Christmas. I might have even said turn 50. And here it is, turn 68, we’ve wiped out our fifth hopperhound hive, and we’re still on Virginia. Where we will remain for some time. Let me explain.
I’m occasionally surprised to hear people who play sci-fi strategy games complain that they don’t want to build their own ships. Since Master of Orion, this has been a fundamental part of the genre. It was the cornerstone of warfare in Brian Reynold’s Alpha Centauri. But it’s especially important in a strategy game that emphasizes tactical combat. And being an Age of Wonders game, Planetfall emphasizes tactical combat. In fact, I’d argue it’s a shell for tactical combat. If you just want to scooch armies around a map and plop buildings into your cities, there are other games better suited to your preferences. Planetfall, like developer Triumph Studios’ previous games, is for people who want to play detailed tactical battles set in the larger context of a 4X. Some designers rightly understand that tactical combat can interfere with the flow of a grand strategy game. But those designers didn’t make Planetfall. People who love tactical combat made Planetfall.
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.
And thus ends a month of rivals mode! Every day, right after breakfast, I booted up Project Cars 3 and spent time playing whatever rivals mode had on offer. And this morning, I was greeted with my final results for the month for February.
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.
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.
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.
Today I learned about the revolutionary cooling system in a 1989 Sauber C9 Mercedes-Benz, which is the fancy racecar you drive around a canyon track in today’s rivals event. Wait, don’t go! I know it sounds boring. But it’s not what you’re thinking. It’s like something out of Cyberpunk 2077. I’ve even included video!
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.
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.
Project Cars 3 doesn’t have much of a sense of humor. It’s a serious game, obsessed with cars and tracks and uninterested in silly party games. That’s the next door down. You can’t miss it. It says Wreckfest on the door. Wreckfest is Project Cars’ younger funnier brother that everyone loves.
But sometimes Project Cars 3 tries to tell a joke. It’s not very good at it. It messes up the punchline. Its timing is off. But it’s trying. Here’s how the joke goes:
The last couple of daily rivals events have been forgettable. Generically overpowered cars on generic racetracks. But the current weekly challenge has shaken up my game a bit. It’s been educational. I’ve advanced my knowledge of cars and how to do car talk. And my collection has grown. Let me show you.