In Praise Of: Civilization – Call To Power

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A funny thing happened to the Civilization licence in the late 90’s. It started with Sid Meier and Brian Reynolds – designers of Civilizations I and II respectively — upping sticks and leaving a waning Microprose along with several other key staff members to form Firaxis Games in 1996. While Firaxis had the talent, though, what they didn’t take with them were the rights to the Civilization name, which remained firmly in Microprose’s clutches – not that Microprose could do a whole lot with it, seeing as their premier strategy game developers had just left the company. Enter a pre-CoD and WoW Activision, who nevertheless signalled their future bastardry by seeing that there was perhaps some money to be made by capitalising on the Civilization name and acquiring the rights to market PC games called “Civilization” from board game manufacturer Avalon Hill, who had been making a moderately-successful board game with the same name for decades.  Avalon Hill and Activision’s next step was to claim that they had sole rights to the Civilization name and sue Microprose for copyright infringement. Microprose were more than a little annoyed by this since they’d already licensed the Civilization name from Avalon Hill back in 1991 before releasing the first game in the series, and so they countersued. Judging by the results this did not go well for Avalon Hill, who had to settle out-of-court and acknowledge that it was Microprose, not Avalon Hill, who had the right to make computer games called Civilization. It didn’t go so badly for Activision, though, who came out of the whole sorry business with a licence from Microprose to publish their in-development historical 4X title under the name Civilization: Call To Power.

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Thoughts: Kingdom

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Kingdom is a lovely-looking side-scrolling pixel strategy game somewhat in the vein of Majesty. You control a monarch – king or queen, randomly determined when you start a new game — perched atop a horse. The game starts with the monarch fleeing past a huge set of stone letters spelling out “Kingdom”, which crumble into nothing as he/she passes; apparently you’re fleeing some unspecified threat to set up a new kingdom that can withstand the beasties that presumably tore down the old one. You have to do this with a grand total of just four controls: moving left or right, holding shift to make the horse run, and pushing down to drop a coin from your bag of gold.

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Thoughts: Overwatch

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With over 10 million copies sold (and counting) Overwatch might just be the most successful game launch Blizzard have had in the last decade. Strange, then, that from all of Blizzard’s output during this period Overwatch is probably the Blizzard title I like the least.

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Thoughts: Batman – Arkham Knight

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Played on an Xbox, so only publicity screenshots for this review with the usual caveat: the game they portray may appear to be more interesting than it actually is.

The idea that game design is just as much about cutting bad or unnecessary features as it is adding new and exciting ones is one that I tend to bang on about on here a lot, but for good reason: Arkham Knight is a fantastic cautionary tale of what happens when you spend a full trilogy of games just piling on more and more features without taking any of them away — you end up with a bloated mess.

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Thoughts: Battlefleet Gothic – Armada

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Battlefleet Gothic: Armada is an 18th century tall ships naval combat simulator that just so happens to be set in outer space.

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Steam Sales, Again

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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.

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Thoughts: Witcher 3 – Heart Of Stone & Blood And Wine

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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?

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