Tag Archives: thoughts

Thoughts: Project Wingman

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Project Wingman is an interesting one. It’s an indie take on the arcade-style fighter jet shenanigans of the Ace Combat series that’s been made by a tiny team with a fraction of the budget that a full Ace Combat game would get, but which is attractive to me for precisely that reason. I have never played an Ace Combat game, mostly because the trailers all tend to feature a rather larger quantity of pre-rendered cutscenes and interminable voiceovers than I’m really comfortable with in what’s supposedly an arcade shooter. I bought Project Wingman in the hope that an indie approach to it would cut all of that extraneous stuff out (because it doesn’t have the budget for it) and instead focus all of its resources on the part of Ace Combat that I’m actually interested in: re-enacting Top Gun with a console controller.

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Thoughts: Creeper World 4

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Creeper World 4, then. I do enjoy tower defence as a genre and have got on famously well with games such as Defence Grid and Defender’s Quest and even the ancient Flash classic Desktop Tower Defence, but I’ve never managed to get into the Creeper World series. I think this is down to the series’ gimmick, where rather than defending against waves of enemies who rush in from offscreen to charge through your gauntlet of towers, you’re instead engaged in more of a hybrid RTS experience where you aggressively shuffle towers around the map to beat back a huge, constantly growing mass of purple goo called the Creeper that destroys everything it touches. It’s an interesting spin on the concept, and the guy behind Creeper World basically really likes making games out of simulations of cellular automata so the Creeper has always behaved like a believable fluid, pooling and flowing realistically before surging towards your woefully underprepared defence line. Unfortunately that hasn’t been all that clear up until this point, because the previous three Creeper World games were all top-down 2D affairs where you couldn’t really get a good impression of the true scale of the Creeper infestation; I ended up feeling more like I was fighting a war against the colour purple than I was a all-consuming blob monster and fell out of Creeper Worlds 2 and 3 quite quickly as a result.

Which, in a roundabout way, also explains why Creeper World 4 has been the one to finally click with me: it’s the first title in the series to go fully 3D, and so for the first time I am able to see just how sodding enormous the mass of Creeper bearing down on my base really is. This one change transforms Creeper World from what was ultimately a fairly standard turtling RTS game into something far more distinctive — and fun.

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Thoughts: Per Aspera

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I’m going to state up front that I really wish Per Aspera had turned out differently. My last few reviews have been reasonably negative, and contrary to appearances I don’t like slating bad games all that much; at the very least it becomes exhausting to do it five or six times in a row, so I was hoping that Per Aspera would break that streak. More to the point, though, is that I have been waiting the better part of two decades for somebody to make a game about terraforming Mars. Per Aspera should have been extremely my jam. It definitely looked extremely my jam when I played the demo, with all of the levers I was expecting like modifying atmosphere content, raising the temperature, melting the ice caps and so on. Finally, I thought, somebody has made the terraforming game that Surviving Mars wasn’t, and which Terraforming Mars was a bit too light to really satisfy my urge for1. I tinkered for around twenty minutes and then put the demo down, not wanting to have to repeat (or spoil) myself too much when I played the full product.

In retrospect this may have been something of a mistake, because if I’d played that demo for just a bit longer I might have noticed that Per Aspera is the most broken game I’ve played this year.

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  1. This is not the fault of Terraforming Mars, which is a good boardgame precisely because it keeps things light and abstracted enough for a small group of people to grasp and play in a couple of hours.
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Thoughts: Mars Horizon

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Mars Horizon is a modern take on Buzz Aldrin’s Race Into Space. Is it really any surprise that I had it bought and downloaded fifteen minutes after it released on Steam?

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Thoughts: Assassin’s Creed Valhalla

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The reviews of Assassin’s Creed Valhalla mark yet another occasion where I wonder what on earth the mainstream games media have been smoking. “A saga for the ages!” exclaims Eurogamer, who are clearly hoping I’ll forget that they once gave the Bad Company 2 single-player campaign a 9/10 rating. “A big, bold, and ridiculously beautiful entry to the series!” bleats IGN, presumably because they couldn’t find a more generic set of superlatives for their review strapline. And quoth the usually-on-the-ball PC Gamer: “Valhalla is Ubisoft’s best Assassin’s Creed to date!”, a statement that quite overlooks the fact that the series has undergone so many reinventions over its 13-year history that it’s like comparing Doom to Doom 2016. But assuming, for a moment, that that’s possible: as someone who has also played and reviewed quite a few Assassin’s Creed games, I am here to tell you that Valhalla is nowhere near Ubisoft’s best Assassin’s Creed to date. In fact it barely scrapes in ahead of the worst of the pack, and it is a remarkable step down from 2018’s Odyssey.

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Thoughts: Möbius Front ’83

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If you go back and read one of my earliest reviews on this blog, you might notice a slightly different tone from the one I try to take today. Back then I took bad games rather… personally (this was before I’d formulated my Bad Game Theory1) and if I played a bad one I had a tendency to lay into not only the game in question but also the developers behind it, and with quite a bit of venom, too. Now that I’m older, wiser, and a little bit calmer, I can see now that this was unreasonable and unfair. Making videogames is hard. There’s any number of reasons why a game might not come together in the way it should, many of which are wholly or partially out of a developers’ control — not enough budget, truncated schedule, interfering executives, key personnel leaving, and so on. Nobody sets out to deliberately make a bad game, and so these days while I’m perfectly happy to continue giving bad games the kicking they so richly deserve, and while I might still have some choice barbs for the corporate aspect of game development, I try and give the individual developers themselves the benefit of the doubt. It didn’t come together for them this time. Maybe it will next time. There’s no reason to get nasty about it.

Or so I thought, until I played Möbius Front ‘83.

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  1. Which is that playing bad games is sometimes necessary in order to understand what a good one looks like.
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Thoughts: Cloudpunk

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I really, really want to like Cloudpunk. You’re playing Rania, the driver of a flying car in a cyberpunk city on her first day of work for underground delivery organisation Cloudpunk. You drive around the city, taking packages from point A to point B, while people talk to you over the comm about the city, the world, corporations, identity, AI, androids, the rich getting obscenely richer, the poor being trapped by debt and prejudice and left to die the moment they’re not economically useful — all of that classic cyberpunk shit that’s becoming uncomfortably real as we hurtle headfirst into a capitalist dystopia of our own. Where modern “cyberpunk” properties tend to co-opt the look but not the themes, Cloudpunk at least understands what cyberpunk should be. It’s clearly a labour of love made by real people who have been on the receiving end of some of this stuff themselves, and unlike certain other big-ticket cyberpunk releases that are scheduled (for now) to come out this year, Cloudpunk’s heart is definitely in the right place.

I just wish it was a better game.

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