Posted by: maroonmaurader | July 27, 2010

Assorted video game items

1. Starcraft 2 is out! And… my computer just barely makes minimum specs. Maybe, if I’m generous. I’ll probably hold off on that until I upgrade my comp.

2. While Steam’s mid-summer sale is over (it runs basically the 2 weeks leading up to July 4th, and had some pretty good deals), Paradox Interactive (who make some truly excellent Civilization-scope real-time historically based strategy games) are offering great discounts on a lot of their titles right now. I believe I’ve mentioned before that I tried For the Glory (basically EU2) and was a big fan; quite a few of the rest of their games look equally promising.

3. Kotaku is (and apparently has been) running a series of “infographics” about various genres of games. So far, role-playing games. Apparently that includes the Legend of Zelda series. And it once again stoked my anger at the hype and great reception Knights of the Old Republic got – it was a fine game, but there are better ones out there. Not that I’m at all bitter. First-person shooters. The Thief series is not in that category, even as a “first-person sneaker” shooter. Taking out guards in Thief is generally a last resort or a crutch for the novice; they’re “first person try to avoid shooting-er”. Real-time strategy. Did you know that “real-time strategy has been relatively stable since the ’90s” with few “big changes.” News to me. Let’s see… Halo Wars, the new Command and Conquer (which are quite different), Company of Heroes, Black and White, Sacrifice, Rise of Nations, Homeworld, Sins of a Solar Empire… no, none of these are looking at all like any RTS games from the ’90s. Also, the gamerankings top-5 they give* is rather depressing.

4. Watch this, and you will never be defeated by a computer on Noble difficulty or lower in Civ4 again. I’ve played a handful of Civ4 games recently, and think I’ve got a much better idea of how things work than I used to – I’m no longer just flailing around and trying to copy things that worked in Civ2 and Civ3. Incidentally, I’ve found it game not nearly as frustrating in later ages as I used to think once you play on a smaller map and against a tougher AI. Nor are the various civs and leaders nearly as similar as I used to think they were.

5. This looks like an interesting approach to giving nicely varied playstyles to races in a turn-based strategy game. Each race apparently has a very distinct method of transportation between star systems – 4 races. One of them has to build time-consuming, expensive travel-lanes but can then go very quickly between two points connected by them – which should lead to natural choke points and a high emphasis on early scouting (to determine where to connect your initial travel lanes). One has near-instant movement within the empire, extremely slow outside. One has a standard engine that just goes places. And one has an engine that goes faster the further away from mass it gets – which would probably have interesting effects on where you’d want to expand to, and where you’d station defensive and offensive fleets in standby. I may give it a shot; too bad it looks like it also falls into most of the elements I tend to dislike about space 4X games (an insistence on making the human player use clunky controls to “manage” small-scale real-time battles when fleets meet, spending time designing ships which are generally interchangeable and occasionally game-breaking, and an unwieldy, opaque tech tree looming over everything else).

*The top-5 they present as gamerankings’ isn’t quite the same as what gamerankings actually gives, but if you require at least 20 reviews and weed out some games that they explicitly distinguish as not really RTS games I can see how the one emerges from the other.



  1. 1. You will have to inform me re: its quality. My computer cannot run it ever (right now, IE8 is giving it a run for its money), but I might be interested. At this stage, though, I have long given up playing RTSs online (I think the failed attempts to setup age last summer finally killed whatever was left in me) and I don’t think Starcraft’s single player options will sustain me sufficiently.

    2. Its a shame I missed the sales. What is For the Glory about, exactly?

    3. I have come across Kotaku’s infographics before (specifically, the what’s-my-motivation? one). They are surprisingly shoddily researched and written, considering the time that must have gone into designing them. The LoZ categorization is pretty awful (I think you can find few single player games less like Zelda than its “action-RPG” bunkmate Diablo), made doubly so when one realizes they forgot it for the rest of the graphic. Not only does the series clearly not meet any of the definitions of an RPG they lay out (excepting Zelda 2), it also a number of entries ahead of Mass Effect 2* on GameRankings (most notably OoT’s still untouched #1 spot).

    I would have liked to think that the FPS graphic was simply the First Person Games graphic, which would explain the stupid “first person sneaker” sub-class (as well as their #1 inclusion from GameRankings), but alas, they have Fallout 3 and Borderlands over in RPG-land (despite actually being shooters for the most part), so we should just chalk it up to laziness and incompetence.

    3. I learned a thing or two but I think my Civ4 skills (such as they are) are far to rusty to have picked up what exactly one needs to know to beat Nobles (or even lower).

    4. I was intrigued, but those negatives reminded why I avoid these things like the plague.

    *Hey, Chris has beaten Mass Effect 2 and is contemplating a) another Negative Review and b) a discussion of choice in games. Prep those scroll buttons, Lurekers.

    • Europa Universalis 2 is an epic-scope real-time historical strategy game. Basic elements: a huge number of different starting civilizations (if I had to guess off-hand, I’d think ~200), each starting with fairly historically accurate territory, diplomacy, and military power. Fairly simple and straightforward combat (purely strategic command – ordering armies around).

      It has a very large set of historically based events which influence your history (for example, England gets the War of the Roses, which can absolutely f*ck you up just when you think you’re about to achieve complete victory in the Hundred Years War; Aragon or Castile can become Spain; Spain gets several bankruptcy events circa 1600 which can be absolutely crippling; China gets revolts in the 17th century; there’s a whole series of inheritance events relating to the Hapsburgs…). Generally each notable nation has about 5-15 significant events and a few minor ones just to add flavor, while the less famous nations (e.g., some of the small 1-province African or Indonesian ones) might have only a half-dozen events.

      It gives you a lot of options for “dominance” – obviously, you can attempt to simply militarily steamroll your neighbors and build a large empire. You can build a trading empire, keeping just a few small but valuable provinces and dominating the world markets with your traders. You can colonize mostly empty parts of the New World, Africa, or Australia. You can become an imperial power, trying to vassalize and/or conquer the Aztecs, Inca, Mali, India, China… you name it. The individual German states can try to form a German nation via war or diplomacy, Russia can colonize Siberia, smaller nations can fight for survival or dominance against the stronger ones (the Scottish independence fight is a fairly popular one I believe, as is the Aztec counter-invasion of Spain). There’s a lot of effects which make it hard to actually win outright global conquest – you get less popular and more distrusted as you conquer provinces, it’s harder to keep your empire stable, simple supply lines can be a huge problem – it’s possible if you’re really good. Spain and China are the two most popular choices for that sort of game, although I saw an after-action report on the official forums by some guy who managed it as the Inca of all people. Still not sure how that was even possible.

      Anyhow, For the Glory is basically a re-release of EU2 with much improved graphics, a few fixed bug-fixes, improved UI to make it easier to do some common tasks and much more transparent to figure out what was going on, some added events for individual nations, and a few small game-mechanic tweaks for balancing purposes.

      It can be an absolute blast to try for some limited goal (e.g., play as Milan and try to unite Italy under your banner; play as Netherlands and build a trading empire). Unfortunately, all the balancing and rubber-banding issues mean that it’s decidedly not fun to try for anything approaching global domination. I believe the default speed is one month per minute; at that rate, the Grand Campaign (1419-1820) would take about 80 hours to finish. While you can speed up the game a lot, it still can be a drag to wait through periods in which not much is happening and you need to let your empire recover and rebuild before trying whatever you want to do next. And some of the game mechanics aren’t obvious unless you’ve either played an EU game before, or go reading help online (although there’s a great wiki out there for it).

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