Thoughts: Advanced Warfare

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Reviewing two Call of Duty games in one year? What is the world coming to?

I see Advanced Warfare as CoD’s sluggish response to a gaming world that’s starting to leave it behind. CoD 4 was an incredible success that moved the series out of its increasingly-tired WW2 setting and set the FPS trend for the next half-decade, and five years ago you couldn’t throw a rock without hitting a Modern Warfare imitator. Today, though, things look very different. Even this second incarnation of CoD is getting long in the tooth; Modern Warfare-era shooters have become just as overexposed as WW2 was a decade ago, and CoD is facing challengers to its crown (Titanfall in particular) that are innovating in ways CoD simply cannot if it remains resolutely entrenched in the modern world. And these newer games are good enough — and successful enough — that for this shooter with a hundred ripoffs, this FPS that used to dictate the direction of the entire genre, the message is finally becoming clear: adapt or die .

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Thoughts: Door Kickers

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I’m really not sure about the name “Door Kickers”. I think it was chosen on the basis that you’re going to spend a lot of time in this game kicking in doors, and a lot of doors do indeed get kicked since as a matter of policy SWAT teams apparently never use the doorknob. If they really wanted a name that best represented your in-game activities, though, they could have gone with “Get Shot In The Back By A Terrorist You Missed”. I admit it doesn’t quite roll off the tongue — but then neither does Door Kickers.

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Thoughts: Beyond Earth

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Beyond Earth is a doomed-from-the-start attempt to shift the familiar Civilization empire-building action into the future. It’s doomed because no matter how good Firaxis made this game, by setting it around the colonisation of an alien world it draws inevitable comparison with one of Firaxis’ very first products: Alpha Centauri, a game that’s rightfully regarded as one of the genre’s absolute classics. Beyond Earth was never going to live up to Alpha Centauri’s better qualities, both real and imagined, and I’ve tried to take this into account when playing the thing; Beyond Earth should be judged on its own merits, not the nostalgia-fuelled remembrance of a sixteen year-old predecessor. What surprises me, however — and especially so for a Firaxis title — is that even if you take SMAC out of the equation, even when you compare Beyond Earth to the modern Civilization franchise that spawned it, I think it fundamentally still isn’t a very good game.

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Sunday Soundtracks

TIE Fighter .

Yes, I already did TIE Fighter. But I’m resurrecting this series for one week only because I just found these excellent redone versions of the TIE Fighter soundtrack. TIE Fighter’s iMUSE soundtrack was fantastic, but the audio technology of the time did mean it sounded rather more beepy and boopy than it perhaps should have. Just listen to this Pilot Registration music; it really does the original justice.

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Thoughts: Legend Of Grimrock 2

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The first thing you notice on booting Legend of Grimrock 2 is how ridiculously bombastic the main menu music is. It’s a fantastic swashbuckling remix of the theme to the first game , which was no slouch itself but which feels much more cautious and reserved in comparison. Nothing sums up the tonal shift between the two games more effectively than this tonal shift in its music. Grimrock 1 was an accomplished dungeon crawler that successfully resurrected what had previously been a dead genre, but it was limited both by its design and its available resources; it had an intentionally simple concept (start at top of mountain, work your way down through fifteen levels of dungeons, escape) that it executed well, and that developers Almost Human knew they could execute well.  Having used the first game to stretch their legs, though, the sequel gives them the chance to really show what they can do.

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Thoughts: Endless Legend

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Endless Legend is the fantasy-themed followup to 2012′s Endless Space , a space-based 4X that I quite liked, on the whole, but which had a whole mess of technical and stylistic issues. Endless Space was an obvious attempt to produce a worthy successor to Master of Orion, and so while this particular gap in the market got filled quite ably by Age of Wonders III earlier this year it would have been logical for Endless Legend to take a swing at modernising Master of Magic. This is why I was more than a bit surprised that under the fantasy trappings Endless Legend was much more of a traditional 4X in the vein of Civilization; it uses the fantasy 1 elements as flavour and does deviate from formula when it comes to factions and cities, but there are several key elements that distinguish MoM-alikes from the wider 4X genre that are consciously missing from Endless Legend.

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  1. Actually technology indistinguishable from magic, since it’s set in the same universe as Endless Space.
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Thoughts: Shadow of Mordor

I tried to blast through Grimrock 2 so I could review it this week, but it’s quite a bit larger than I was expecting and I have as a result bitten off more than I can chew. I have a backup post in the process of being written but it likely won’t appear until Tuesday (21/10) or Wednesday.

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Is a clone really a clone when it does more to push the genre forward than the clone-ee ever has?

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