In my review of the Brave New World expansion for Civilization V, I expressed some disappointment that some of the legacy civilizations didn't receive significant updates. I also complained about a few mechanical issues such as how the "warmonger" mechanic works and the value of trade routes. Well, Firaxis has released a major update to the game earlier this fall that addresses some of these complaints.
Several of the vanilla civilizations received a major overhaul. As I mentioned in my review, Germany and America seem to have been completely one-upped by the Zulu and Shoshone. Well, Germany has been given a major update, and America has received a small tweak in order to better differentiate them from the BNW successors. In addition, Japan has received a small (but significant) buff.
Germany was probably the civ that was in the most dire need of a facelift, since the Zulu leave them completely in the dust. Both civs had a huge military flavor, discounts for unit maintenance, and a unique Pikeman replacement, and the Zulu had Germany beat on all accounts. In order to differentiate the two, The Landsknechts unique unit was replaced with a new unique building, the "Hanse". [More]
I had high expectations for Total War: Rome II. Shogun 2 is one of my favorite games of the recent years, and its second expansion Fall of the Samurai made it even better!
Total War is one of the few game franchises that has managed to keep itself outside of the grasp of the casual-gaming market, and has time after time provided some of the deepest, and most engaging strategy games available. But it was only a matter of time before Sega and Creative Assembly began to treat their flagship franchise as a mainstream release rather than a niche title, and they chose to begin with Rome II. The result is a series of questionable changes to the way the game is played, a dumbing-down of the overall interface, a gutting of features, and a host of bugs and balance issues in a game that feels more like a paid-for beta than a full release.
Creative Assembly has been tweaking the game with patches every one or two weeks since release trying to bring the game up to par, so it's in a state of constant flux as major balance tweaks, mechanic changes, and even new feature sets are being introduced. As such, I don't feel it's appropriate to fully review the game quite yet, and I will treat the release version more like a public (paid for) beta. Hopefully, the game will see marked improvement, and it will not end up like disastrous SimCity "reboot". I also wrote an impressions post about that game, but never got around to a full review because the game never became worth playing.
The most immediately noticeable area in which depth and control have been lost is in the interface. I'm not going to complain too much about the campaign interface, since it still has most of the information that you would expect. Provinces are divided up into regions, and each region contains a settlement, but the province interface allows you to manage all the settlements in the province. This is a little bit of streamlining that makes sense. You don't have to manually click on every little settlement in order to give build orders or view public order. The only downside is that this system has minimized the role of resources. You don't build specific structures on improvements (such as mines or pastures). Instead, this is all apparently handled by the cities, which would be fine, except that now enemy armies can't pillage your resources directly. Instead, a more abstract "raid" order has been tacked on to armies that lets them automatically pillage resources in the province. [More]
One of my biggest criticisms with the Gods & Kings expansion pack for Civilization V was that none of the features added really felt all that fresh. They were just redesigns of old features that were present in previous games. Granted, they were also the most highly-requested features by the player community, but as concepts, nothing really felt new or original.
The new expansion, Brave New World changes all of that by adding never-before-seen concepts to the game, and they add a great deal of flavor and dramatically change the way that the game unfolds.
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A few more of the missing concepts from Civilization IV are re-introduced with a new coat of paint in Civilization V: Brave New World: trade routes and a world resolution system. Both systems are implemented differently than in the previous game, and both are kind of hit-or-miss this time around
I have long been asking for the introduction of some kind of international trade route mechanic to be added to Civ V. Without such a feature, the vanilla game (and Gods & Kings) were missing one of the key incentives to maintain peaceful relations with your neighbors. Well now we have such a feature. In some ways, it's a step forward from Civ IV's completely non-interactive trade routes, but it's also a bit clumsy.
Coastal cities might seem weaker due to the lack of gold on sea resources, but sea trade routes are more profitable and have longer range than ground routes, so coastal cities are still valuable.
Since Silent Hill Downpour failed miserably to scratch my survival horror itch, I’ve been looking for something else to fill that niche. I picked up Amnesia: the Dark Descent on a Steam sale for pocket change, and am very glad that I did.
Mainstream game companies don’t seem particularly interested in releasing good survival horror games. It’s a very niche market and difficult to find mass-market appeal. Modern horror games mostly ape off of Resident Evil 4 by being designed as an action shooter first, and survival horror game second (if at all). The genre is dominated by fast-paced "boo"-scare games like Dead Space and F.E.A.R., and gone are the days of the deliberately-slow-paced psychological games like Silent Hill 2 and Fatal Frame. The "survival" element has mostly fallen away since resource management is widely regarded as too tedious, and the "horror" is usually just represented with difficult combat.
But where mega-publishers and AAA developers have dropped the ball, the Indie market filled in the gap 3 years ago (Sept 2010) with Amnesia: the Dark Descent.
Amnesia goes to the opposite extreme as Resident Evil 4 and Dead Space. This game is not an action game. [More]
This review was originally published 10/17/2010 on Game Observer. In anticipation of the soon-to-be-released Brave New World expansion pack, the review has been republished here for archival purposes.
For better or worse, I probably won’t be able to go back to Civilization IV after playing this.
I want to put my review into perspective before I begin. I’m not a day-one Civilization player. I didn’t start playing the franchise until Civilization III (after it had already been out for several years and both expansions had been released). Civilization IV, however, is probably my favorite video game ever -- or at least, my favorite PC game. The only games that I’ve probably logged more hours with than Civ IV are the Sims 2 (plus all the expansions) and the cumulative sum of all the Madden games I’ve played since 2000.
My hopes for Civilization V were sky-high from the moment the first details of gameplay were revealed about a year ago. This was despite my misgivings about the vendor and edition-exclusive gameplay content -- gameplay content should NEVER be exclusive to a vendor or edition of a game; anybody who buys a game should have the right to play any content that is released for the game (even if they have to pay extra for it) regardless of where they got it or when they bought! But now is not the place to discuss industry politics -- I’ll save that rant for another day.
Back on-topic: Civilization V promised a lot: competitive, tactical combat with a totally new rule-set; intelligent, interactive AI leaders; a simpler, streamlined interface; and simpler, more streamlined gameplay without sacrificing any of the series’ trademark depth. I’ve been spending almost every free moment playing this game for the two weeks since release. Does it measure up? [More]