Monday, October 31, 2016

Civilization 6: Time Vampire

Sid Meier's Civilization 6 will suck the time out of you. If you have played any previous games in the franchise you already know this is going to happen. The latest installment is pretty damn good. It's not without it's flaws, but anyone who remembers playing  Civ 5 on initial release will discover a game that is good to play straight out of the box without needing 2 expansion packs to make it a good game.

Welcome to the German capital, an industrial powerhouse.
I will admit, I have struggled in Civ 6 thus far. My strategies are so fixed in Civ 5, having put over 2400 hours in it over that past 6 years, that they just don't work as well in 6. That's my problem, not the game itself since I early on I would ignore the advisers which really do help. I did somehow win a culture victory as the Kongo early on, since I was ignoring the scoreboard and just played. Yay me.

The game is utterly beautiful. I have seen complaints about the graphics being too cartoony, but that is not a big issue for me. I'm not looking for a realistic. This is a fantasy look at world history and the "cartoony" look is perfect for it. I mean when did the ancient Greeks ever go to war with Teddy Roosevelt's America? Fantasy.

Teddy is not happy with me.
The leader animations are great also. My personal favourite is Queen Victoria's nonchalant smile and shrug when you agree to a deal with her. Everyone's personality shines through, and they all have their own agendas. For example, Mvemba a Nzinga of the Kongo will get angry at you if you don't spread your religion to them. Sometimes these agendas can get confusing when leaders will denounce you for seemingly nothing. And with now a selection of 9 differing government ideologies, friends can turn to enemies in a single turn.

The world is mine and I will take it by force.
I like how culture points now go towards it's own civics tree, like science goes towards it's science tree. Earning civics rewards you with cards that can be used to fill out your government tree imparting differing bonuses. It means that in a game that 2 democracies can have differing civics imparting different bonuses. It's a much improved government system from Civ 5's culture policy trees.

Okay and now for the downers. There are a few bugs and AI issues. The AI, well, is kinda bad. Late game I am often using my Infantry to dominate warriors and archers. Whether that civ hasn't had the money or materials to upgrade their units or something else, I don't know.
Also, the AI is supremely good at getting their religions up early. If you want a religion you're gonna have to go for it right away, otherwise you'll more than likely miss out. And since one of the victory conditions is a religious victory, not having a religion means you can't go for it or deny other civs from that victory type.

I have also noticed a few UI bugs. There is a bug that will tell me that a unit needs orders but not centre on the unit I need to give orders to, meaning I have to go through my unit list to find the one that needs the orders. It's happened a few times and can halt the flow of the game. Also, not being able to see what bonuses the wonders impart once they are placed by just putting the mouse over, meaning I have to go to the civilopedia to recheck what it is doing for my city. And the final bug that I have particular issue with is that the game will often switch which unit I am trying to control by whizzing me across the map. It means that sometimes I will accidentally move a unit across the continent rather than attacking the unit right next to them. It's frustrating but I'm sure these things can be patched in the future.

If this is anything like Civilization 5, I am going to be playing this a lot. I am not a good civ player, it's just my go-to game. I am not the one to look to for overpowering strategies to win a single city science victory, I am the guy who just enjoys the experience.

And I love Sean Bean.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

A rant about preordering games

Mafia 3 came out recently. There was a review embargo on the game, so there was no impartial information about the game prior to release. On PC, the game was capped at 30fps (frames per second) which, in this day and age, is unacceptable for a triple A title. Of course, the vitriol from Steam users and their subsequent negative reviews were hardly surprising.

But let's be honest, 2K already have your money. You preordered it, they have your money. They have license to release a sub-par game because they already have your money and consent. 2K, to be fair, have got on the front foot and are already in development of a patch to unlock higher frame rates, but for a game that has had a 4 year development cycle, couldn't this work have been done before release?

Did we forget about the No Man's Sky debacle so quickly?

Review embargoes are bad for consumers. We deserve to have full information before we purchase a product, not just the information that the developers and publishers want you to have. Remember the promises made by Hello Games for No Man's Sky?

Mafia 3, by all accounts, is not nearly as broken or full of empty promises that No Man's Sky had. But beyond the first couple of hours, the game devolves into repetition and monotony. I have not played the game despite my initial interest in it, having enjoyed Mafia 1 and 2 very much. Now that I have had time to read and watch reviews that have now come out I have made the decision that this game is a "wait until a sale" game.

I will admit that I have preordered Civ 6. There is a good reason for this; there has been a huge push by 2K to get the game in to the hands of popular youtubers, especially those who primarily play Civ 5. This gives consumers a great look at the new installment and gives them the information they need to make a decision on whether the game is for them or not. I love the Civilization series and I cannot wait until I can play more. Hell, I'm still playing Civ 5 to this day. I did not preorder until I had been
through quite a few videos and discussions online. There is a bunch of changes I am wary of but I felt the same way in the change over from civ 4 to 5.

Now, is this the exception that proves the rule? And ironically 2K is on both sides of it. Is it because they knew Mafia 3 isn't such a great game but they have more faith in Civilization 6? They have to make money either way. So build up the hype and don't release preview builds to convince people to preorder, or release preview builds and build hype through the existing fan base for your franchise.

I don't mean to direct it all at 2K, many other publishing companies do the same thing. My only advice is do as you see fit. Preordering is a personal choice, I personally don't preorder willy nilly. If I'm not sure about a game, I will wait. If I know I'm going to play it a whole bunch either way, I will preorder it. It's still bad for the gaming community at large, and publishers aren't going to stop trying to entice you with preorder bonuses regardless of whether the game is bad or not.

So who's preordered Red Dead Redemption 2 yet?

Monday, October 10, 2016

Why I play games: Something about story I think?

When I was 11 years old, my parents took my sister and I out of school for 3 months to travel around Europe before moving to live in England for a year. There was quite a bit of downtime during these travels and we didn't have much in the way of games to play.

I did, however, have a pack of cards and I played a lot of solitaire.
But solitaire on it's own, played over and over, can be a boring experience. So I created a meta game for it. It became a game of cricket.

Each round of solitaire represented a batsman's inning where the amount of cards in the top piles would determine their score. I cannot recall all the rules but I do remember creating a scorecard for each inning, writing it all down in a journal I had. There were penalties to the card deck for batsmen further down the batting order to represent their lesser batting skill, and I even had created a way to determine how the batsmen got out and to whom.

If I just wanted a time waster I could have just played solitaire on it's own. But I wanted more. I needed more. I needed to give the simple game of solitaire a narrative.

My earliest introduction to games was much earlier. My Dad was in to Dungeons and Dragons and would occasionally have his friends over to play. I would watch them creating stories about warriors, wizards and rogues, crawling through lost temples and dungeons, fighting evil monsters and loot galore. I do not remember specifics, but the whole concept of it fascinated me, and still does to this day.

My Dad also introduced me to video games. He played a game called "Tales of the Unknown, Volume 1: The Bard's Tale", a fantasy RPG created by Interplay and released in 1985. It wouldn't have been until about '88/'89 that I would have been aware of it but it fascinated me. I loved the party character creation, the dungeon crawling, the need to map everything by hand.

It was a love that I carried over for the first game my Dad ever bought me, which was "Might and Magic Book One: The Secret of the Inner Sanctum", designed, developed and self published by Jon Van Caneghem in 1987. I recall the MS-DOS version of M&M1 came with a notepad for mapping the dungeons. I still hum the theme song to myself occasionally, something I'm doing right now as I write this.

I am losing track of the point I was trying to make. Thanks a lot, nostalgia.

I play games for narrative. There have been great strides in the way story is conveyed in video games. Games that come to mind are RPGs like The Witcher and Dragon Age series , traditional adventure games such as Life is Strange and Telltale's series of games, and so-called "Walking Simulators" like Gone Home and Firewatch. A game I played recently called Emily is Away, a short free-to-play game on Steam, which caught my attention with the way it delivered it's story through a simulated chat interface.

This doesn't mean that I necessarily play for the story created by the developer, I might just play to create my own narrative. I don't recall the stories of The Bard's Tale or M&M1, but I do recall the narratives I created for my dungeon crawlers. A good example of created narrative would be the Sid Meier's Civilization series. According to Steam I have put in over 2400 hours into Civ 5. That's 100 days of creating new narratives and histories for building my civilizations.

My two favourite board games at the moment are Betrayal at House on the Hill and Gloom. Both create new stories every time you play. I will go in to more depth with both at some stage in the future. However I will say that if you have a group of friends who enjoy playing board games and telling stories, those two games are well worth playing.

Don't get me wrong, there are video games out there where the best way to enjoy them is to switch off the brain and just play. I am currently playing Doom which is great just to jump in and smash a bunch of demons with ludicrous weapons. But I will always crave the next Witcher, the next Dragon Age, the next Civilization (not long for that bad boy).

Honestly I'm still waiting on Star Wars Knights of The Old Republic 3.

Please, Bioware, just do it.

Friday, October 7, 2016

I play games

Hi. My name is Dave and I play games.

I am going to blog about my experiences with games, both video and board.

I have not given myself a strict schedule to write to, but I will write when I feel I have something to write about. This is a pure opinion piece and nothing I say should be taken as fact. I will be talking about games I love, games I hate, and how my life has been impacted by my love of games.

Feel free to comment your own experiences, for I believe sharing is caring. Hopefully my first full blog piece will be up in the next couple of days. I am not a professional writer, I am barely an amateur one.

In the mean time, go play a game. Much Love.