I don't typically get excited about E3 the way that other gamers do. I try not to buy into hype, since I've been burnt before. I prefer a good review over the most stellar of previews. E3 tends to be a lot of pomp and circumstance; a cacophony of light and sound and flashy presentations of scripted, pre-rendered previews that are hardly ever representative of the final product.
I also haven't been paying much attention to the new consoles. They just don't excite me that much. Most quality games are seeing multi-platform releases these days, which usually includes a high-quality PC port that is at least as good (and sometimes better) than any console iteration. Gone are the days of sub-par, buggy PC ports. Or at least, that is how it seems to me. So I just don't see the new consoles as being worth while as long as I have a decent gaming PC. And in fact, these consoles will likely be inferior to good gaming PCs within a couple years. So what's the point in investing in one?
There are a few games on the horizon that look intriguing. I've already talked about Evil Within and Alien Isolation as being two of my most anticipated games of this fall. Both of these games will have PC versions that I will likely purchase, so no need to invest in a new console yet.
There's also a new project by the developers of Demon's Souls that was announced as a PS4 exclusive. That game could have the potential to sell a PS4 to me, but I'm going to wait to see more of the game before I get too excited.
But E3 did have one stand-out surprise that really piqued my interest. It's a new game by a developer called Hello Games. The game is called No Man's Sky.
This game was presented during the PS4 E3 press conference, but it's likely to see a PC version as well. If not, then this title could also turn into a PS4-seller for me.
The game is being advertised as an "infinitely-expanding procedurally-generated science fiction universe"... [More]
After 2012's Amazing Spider-Man tie-in game presented some interesting ideas, I was really hoping that Beenox would have an opportunity to take the things they'd learned and apply them to a new, stand-alone Spider-Man game that would not be constrained to the plot and release schedule of a film tie-in. Sadly, that hasn't happened yet, and we have a new movie tie-in game that suffers from almost all of the problems associated with a movie tie-in.
Once again, Beenox was smart enough to know better than to follow along with the movie's asinine plot and opted to write their own side-story. Unfortunately, this one isn't as well written or as well presented as the previous game. It could have been a good story, but plot is clumsily-executed, and the associations to the movie only drag it down further.
The Kingpin is comically (and ridiculously) oversized.
The bulk of the story is based around Wilson Fisk (the Kingpin) using rising crime rates as an excuse to deploy his private anti-crime task force in New York city. His company partners with Oscorp (who supplies the task force with its tech), and sells the task force to the public as a way of stopping crime and ending the vigilante justice that has plagued the city. But secretly, the task force is really out to destroy rival crime bosses and give Kingpin a monopoly on New York's organized crime underworld.
There's another secondary plot about hunting down the serial killer Cletus Kasady, who is killing criminals. This plot is only barely tied to the Kingpin thread, but it takes center stage during a large chunk of the second act of the game, and almost seems to become the main story - almost as if the writers couldn't decide if they wanted the game to be about Kingpin or about Carnage.
Web-swinging uses pseudo-physics that requires more active involvement from the player.
It's more rewarding than the prevoius game, but still not up to the level of earlier Spider-Man games.
Aside form a couple obligatory super villain boss fights with Electro and Green Goblin (Harry Osborn), the game has very little relation with the movie on which it is supposedly based... [More]
Rounding out my series of strategy posts about Brave New World's new civilizations, here is the Zulu. But first, I want to take a moment to thank the readers and everyone who has provided feedback and constructive criticism for these posts. When I first started with Assyria, I wasn't sure if I'd bother doing any other civs at all - let alone all of them! But people read the posts and encouraged me to keep writing them, and now they are among the most popular posts on this blog! I have been very humbled and gratified with the responses that I have received. I'd like to specifically thank all of those who posted suggestions and feedback on the forums. I really appreciate your participation. Many of your ideas and strategy alternatives have been incorporated into revisions of these posts, and I've taken your criticisms to heart in writing the subsequent posts. I'd also like to thank the fine folks at PolyCast, who have taken the time to discuss and publicize these posts, as well as provide additional feedback. Keep up the good work!
As for my future plans: I expect to take some time away from Civ to catch up on some other games, like Dark Souls II and some Steam games that I've had sitting on my computer for a while (like Europa Universalis IV). I also intend to get back into modding and some other personal projects. This does not mean that I am completely done with Civ V strategies though. I do intend to look at some of the civs whose strategies were significantly changed by the Brave New World expansion (particularly France and Arabia, whose uniques were redesigned). I will continue to write strategies as time permits, and will continue to check the forums and comments and possibly update these posts if readers provide new insights. Thanks again, and keep on Civin'!.
Now, without further ado, the Zulu!
Little is known about the regions of southern Africa prior to European invasions and colonization. The region was divided up into small tribes and kingdoms, but they kept very few written records of their histories. In the early 19th century, the Zulu Kingdom (lead by Chief Shaka) came to dominate large chunks of the eastern coast of southern Africa. Shaka's successors expanded the kingdom through wars with rival tribes and European settlers for almost a century before the British offered an ultimatum in 1878 to King Cetshwayo regarding a territory dispute between the Zulu and the Boers (Dutch settlers in Africa). Cetshwayo rejected the terms of the ultimatum, leading to the Anglo-Zulu war. The Zulu won an early victory, overwhelming the British with their tactics and sheer numbers, handing the British their single worst defeat to a native African fighting force. In the long-term, however, the Zulu were incapable of standing up to the British army that was equipped with firearms. The British sieged the Zulu capital, Ulundi, exiled King Cetshwayo to Cape Town, and divided the Zulu Empire into 13 "kinglets". This lead to internal conflict between the kinglets, forcing the British to reinstate Cetshwayo as the King of the Zulu. But conflict continued, and Ulundi was again sieged by one of the kinglets and Cetshwayo was killed. When the Union of South Africa was formed, the Zulu Kingdom stopped being recognized as a sovereign power, although several Zulu kings did retain significant influence in the region through the middle of the 20th century.
Shaka kaSenzangakhona was the first King of the Zulu Empire. He united several small tribes and then initiated significant military, spiritual, and cultural reforms. He used innovative and highly-aggressive military tactics to conquer neighboring tribes and establish the Zulu Kingdom as a dominant force in the southern Africa region. He was a brutal and efficient leader and introduced the iklwa stabbing spear and large cowhide shields that allowed his soldiers to quickly surround their enemies and engage in visceral close-quarters combat. His impi soldiers employed a novel "bull horn" formation consisting of three parts:
- the "chest" was the main force composed of senior soldiers who would engage the enemy to keep them pinned and immobile,
- the "horns" were squads of young, fast warriors who would flank the enemy that was engaged with the chest,
- and the "loins" were a reserve force behind the chest and with their backs to the battle who would defend the army from flanking maneuvers and chase down escaping enemies.
These tactics proved incredibly useful to Shaka and to his successors (even against the muskets of European invaders), and it was even used to crush the British in the opening battle of the Anglo-Zulu war. However, these tactics could not survive against the killing efficiency of more advanced firearms and cannons and were eventually abandoned. [More]
As any reader of this blog can probably tell, I consider myself a fan of old-school survival horror. There haven't been too many big-name survival horror releases lately, and the few I've played haven't been particularly good. Indie developers have done a decent job of scratching the survival horror itch, but there's only so far that indie games can go. It would be nice to see AAA developers and publishers regain some faith in more traditional survival horror gameplay and experiment with the genre on the newer generations of consoles and PCs. It looks like that might finally be happening, as there are several survival horror titles that I am eagerly anticipating!
Among the Sleep, The Forest, and Dreadout have already been released on Steam, but I have not played them yet. But these are relatively minor titles. The two big-name games that I'm looking forward to are The Evil Within and Alien: Isolation.
This game is under the creative leadership of Shinji Mikami, the original creator of the Resident Evil series. Despite my well-established passion for the Silent Hill series, I'm also a strong fan and defender of the classic Resident Evil games. Resident Evil 4, however, was not my cup of tea. Despite being a well-designed action game, I harbor a deep resentment towards it for single-handedly killing the survival horror genre and shifting all action games towards third-person shooter gameplay. But that's a discussion for another time...
The Evil Within looks to be a return to more traditional survival horror styles...
Click here to read more of my impressions about The Evil Within.
I am cautiously optimistic. This game looks much more promising than Colonial Marines in both concept and execution. As far as I can recall, this is the first time that any game has been based on the first movie in this franchise...
Click here to read more of my impressions about Alien: Isolation. [More]
Over the weekend of May 24 (Memorial Day weekend), I participated in a special edition of the bi-weekly Civilization podcast called "PolyCast". It was the two hundredth episode, and in celebration, the hosts (DanQ, MadDjinn, Makahlua, and TheMeInTeam) invited as many of the guests hosts from the previous seasons as they could track down. First, however, listeners were treated to a special Q&A session with some of the Firaxis staff, in which Civ V was discusses, as well as the recently-announced Civilization: Beyond Earth!
The episode can be streamed in its entirety at thePolyCast.net.
Among the notable points of Civ V discussion was the Firaxians' response to the question of whether Civ V would receive any more patches. Although a straight "no" was not given (leaving the door open to the possibility of one more patch this summer), they made it seem like [to me] that support for Civ V has effectively ended. This was no surprise to me, but it was still a bit of a disappointment, considering that there are still a few annoying bugs (lingering auto-annex issues, broken promotions, and multiplayer bugs) as well as some in-game descriptions that are outright misleading (such as Shoshone's Great Expanse trait description). There is also still a great deal of concern on the forums about the balance of the initial policy trees (Tradition feeling much stronger than Liberty, Honor, or Piety). So it's a shame that these issues are not likely to be addressed.
The bulk of the conversation, however, was focused around the upcoming Civilization: Beyond Earth. I'm excited about this game, but also a bit skeptical, considering the poor quality of Civ V's initial release. However, I'm hopeful that Firaxis has learned their lessons, and will release a much more stable and compelling game this time around, so that we won't have to wait for six-to-twelve months of post-release support to get a decently-playable game.
The remainder of the show was brief discussions with many of the guest hosts who have participated in the show during the years. My segment was the first such chunk. I used the opportunity to thank the PolyCast hosts for discussing and publicizing my strategy posts, and talked a little about my future plans for Civ V and Beyond Earth strategies before they had to stop me to allow others to speak. I hope I didn't come off as too self-promoting or inconsiderate...
Anyway, I look forward to PolyCast continuing to provide great material, and the release of Beyond Earth should give them plenty to talk about in future podcasts. I hope I will be invited back soon, as I enjoy the discussions with my fellow Civ-heads. [More]
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