Author Archives: Hentzau

Civilization Through The Ages: Civilization 4

civ4_berlin

And so we reach the arguable zenith of the Civilization series, the peak from which there is only a slow decline into senescence and eventual barbarism. Civilization 4 is actually the game that triggered this whole chain of posts, as I was looking for something relatively meaty to play over Christmas that would run on the Macbook I had with me while I was visiting family. It was meant to give me something to do in the evenings in between coding, reading and writing. Instead it ended up sucking me for two games in a row, like it was just released yesterday instead of almost fourteen years ago, and it’s the only one of the series where I barely notice the seams. Civilization 4 may well be ageless — Civilization 5 has aged far worse than 4 has, for god’s sake — and that’s entirely down to Firaxis’s drive to imbue the game with some of the character it had lost in Civilization 3’s relatively sterile treatment of the world, and an absolutely stellar piece of design work on the part of the game designers, especially lead designer Soren Johnson.

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Thoughts: Eastshade

eastshade_paint

Eastshade is a first-person game where you’re shipwrecked on a fantasy island and, running very much against the grain of the entire first-person genre up until this point, your primary mode of interaction with the island’s inhabitants isn’t to stab them in the face.

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Thoughts: Apex Legends

apex_relay

472 hours. That’s how long I spent playing PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds in 2017. The game which kicked off the whole battle royale craze had its hooks in me for a good long time with its mix of small-unit tactics, orienteering, emphasis on making an intelligent choice between stealth and confrontation — it turns out that I really really like the battle royale concept, and PUBG was doing it well enough that it became my second most-played game on Steam. However, PUBG was buggy and poorly optimised and its evolution was driven by a series of hacky feature implementations and kneejerk design decisions that were tolerable while the game was in Early Access — that’s the devil’s bargain you make when playing an EA game — but which became greatly less so when PUBG hit 1.0 in December 2017; the game eventually diverged from what I enjoyed about it, and I fell out of it soon afterwards.

Most new BRs released since then have been me-too attempts to cash in by repurposing forks of existing projects, or setting out along the same Early Access path that PUBG did. None of them have the level of polish or design focus that my soured experience with PUBG made me crave, and so there’s a huge gap in the market for an established FPS developer to make something that’s designed from the ground up to be a dedicated battle royale title — something that doesn’t crash, and which has good performance, and which doesn’t waste your time with pointless make-work such as waiting in an in-game lobby for the game to start or fiddly inventory management that leads to you getting shot in the head while you’ve got it stuck inside your backpack. In other words, I’m ready for a battle royale made by somebody who actually knows what they’re doing.

Apex Legends may be that game.

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Thoughts: Battlefleet Gothic Armada 2

bfg2_zap

Battlefleet Gothic Armada 2 is another 18th century tall ships naval combat simulator that just so happens to be set in outer space, except this time with more factions, a few combat refinements  and a rebuilt campaign mode. But hey, isn’t that what sequels are for?

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Thoughts: Resident Evil 2

re2_zombie

It looks like there’s something up with the brightness on my primary monitor as the screenshots I took for this review are all far darker than they appeared when I was actually playing the game. Resident Evil 2 is certainly dark, but it is not this dark — I will try to tweak my brightness settings and capture some more representative shots tonight.

I don’t believe I’ve ever talked about Resident Evil on here, and for good reason: unlike what appears to be the entire rest of the world I hated Resident Evil 4 and have singularly disagreed with the direction the series has gone in since then, with the prioritisation of anime knife fights and suplexing zombies over slow-paced B-movie survival horror. (Not that suplexing zombies isn’t awesome, but it’s really not what I want out of a Resident Evil game.) Still, I wouldn’t have had a problem with that tonal shift if I hadn’t liked what the series was doing up until that point;  I really enjoyed the first three Resident Evil games  – especially the first one, with the legendarily terrible voice acting and the tremendously cheap live-action cutscenes — and so my reaction to the announcement that Capcom were remaking Resident Evil 2 in the Resident Evil 7 engine1 was rather mixed. The preview footage looked interesting, sure, but it didn’t look all that much like what I recognised as being Resident Evil 2, and while Dark Souls has demonstrated an appetite for the slower, more thoughtful style of the old Resident Evils I was a little sceptical that Capcom could resist the urge to (for example) put in a quicktime event where the main character punches a boulder to death.

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  1. Which is apparently an excellent game and much more up my street, but I’m not sure I’d get on well with the first-person perspective.
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Civilization Through The Ages: Civilization 3

civ3_empire

Civilization 3 was the first Civilization I actually bought with money. It was released in 2001, and by that point I wasn’t having to rely on bootleg copies or swiping my brother’s Civilization 2 CD when he wasn’t looking; I was still in sixth form1 but had a small amount of disposable income thanks to a rather unpleasant summer job, and so I wandered down to Dixons2 the lunchtime of release day and bought what might actually have been my very last big-box3 PC game ever.

It was a big disappointment.

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  1. Note for any non-British people reading: the sixth form covers studying for your A-Levels between ages 16-18. At the time it was the thing you did if you wanted to go to university, but these days the government keeps people in education until they’re 18 to keep the unemployment figures down.
  2. Note for any non-British people reading: modern British high streets are derelict wastelands thanks to the rise of online retail, but twenty years ago they were in rather ruder health and you could find shops that sold things outside of clothing and food. Still, even back then Electronics Boutique and HMV wouldn’t venture outside of the cities, and so if you wanted to buy a PC game in a smaller town you had to fall back to Dixons, a seemingly-omnipresent electronics retailer who would at least carry the biggest releases for a few weeks as part of their PC section.
  3. Note for any non-European people reading: big-box PC games died earlier in Europe than they did elsewhere (I understand they held out in the US for a few more years before eventually succumbing there too), and by 2001 most new games were being shipped in smaller DVD-style keep cases.
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