Battlefleet Gothic: Armada is an 18th century tall ships naval combat simulator that just so happens to be set in outer space.
A few years back I wrote a little guide on the best way to approach Steam Sales and how to navigate the bewildering array of sale types to get the best deal. It was a popular post, and still occasionally gets pingbacks whenever a new Steam Sale kicks off. It is also, alas, woefully out of date. The Steam of four years ago was a very different place to the Steam of today (there were far fewer anime dating sims, for one thing) and much of the advice contained within my guide is no longer relevant. With that in mind, and considering I missed last Monday’s review, I thought I’d spend half an hour or so writing a new one.
The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt was arguably1 the best game released in 2015, an achievement all the more remarkable for 2015 being a very good year for games in general. It felt like the first genuine step forward for RPGs in years, portraying both a believable world and empathetic, human characters who effortlessly drew you into a plot that felt like it had real, emotional stakes. Furthermore, it was a plot that was all the better for being a self-contained whole; there’s no cliffhanger or trailing for a sequel, just a complete story that took the time to give itself a satisyfing denouement, with a half-hour coda afterwards where you took stock of what had happened and tidied up loose ends. Unfortunately when it comes to expansions this is something of a double-edged sword: how on earth do you follow up something like that in an expansion pack while keeping the level of quality as high as the original game?
It’s never a pleasant feeling when you wake up on a Saturday morning to discover that your computer will no longer turn on. Or rather, that it will turn on, and then off, and then on again, and then off again, ad infinitum. After an hour of disassembling it into its component pieces and then adding said components one at a time to try and diagnose which one was bust, I finally yanked the culprit from my machine: a four year-old stick of RAM that must have become corrupt or otherwise burned-out. As far as breakages go this is probably the most benign thing that could have happened as the nice thing about RAM sticks is that they come in matched pairs, meaning that I still had one perfectly good one and my PC was back up and running within ten minutes of identifying the problem. Still, it was a Saturday, I couldn’t get a replacement set of RAM delivered until Monday morning, and so my plan of spending the weekend playing the new Witcher expansion was out the window since it had no chance of running smoothly on just 4GB of RAM; similarly I probably couldn’t go back to Total Warhammer either. What I needed at that point was an interim game that was relatively low-tech, something punchy and enjoyable that wouldn’t tax my crippled system too much1 and that I’d be done with it the space of a single weekend.
I think the idea of transplanting the Total War mechanics into Games Workshop’s Warhammer Fantasy universe has been around almost exactly as long as Total War itself has. And for good reason since the tabletop version of Warhammer involves models grouped into units precisely as Total War’s are, and also has most of the same core mechanics like unit type counters, flank attacks and morale; it seems like it’s practically a 1:1 fit that would be very hard to screw up. What a lot of people forget, though, is that it’s been tried before, and the main reason nobody really remembers Mark of Chaos (apart from the perfect intro) is because it wasn’t very good. It is possible to do Warhammer with Total War-esque mechanics and fail, so the Creative Assembly’s job is doubly difficult: not only do they have to get the gameplay right, but they also have to redeem themselves after the fuckup of Rome 2 by releasing it in a state that’s playable at launch.
After 25 hours with Total War: Warhammer, I am pleased to report they’ve succeeded on both counts. Mostly, anyway.
I’m writing this review of Doom on a sunny Sunday probably less than 24 hours before the gaming sites get their own reviews up. I don’t know exactly what they’re going to say, but I predict they’re going to be fairly surprised at Doom’s proof that id Software do still know how to make a cracking FPS. I know I certainly was.
For a game that is in large part about sending Star Trek-esque science ships to discover, catalogue and solve the mysteries of the universe, it’s a little ironic that the thing that’s puzzling me most about Stellaris is why on earth it was released in this state.