Tidbits to tide you over

Hello everyone!  This week I’ve set aside time to spend with my brothers, which means lots of role playing games and storytelling and laughter and yelling (also probably more food and booze than usual).  But because of all that, I’m unlikely to have much for you here.  I’m certainly unlikely to have full-scale reviews or such.  I’ll return with the usual stuff by next Monday, no worries.

But while I’m not writing as much about things, here, have a few tidbits!

Dying Light is a fascinating game: it has gameplay that I find fun and engaging, but a story and characterizations which so far repel me.  It is definitely fun playing with other people, running around the zombie apocalypse at high speed, leaping from building to building, and getting lost in the warrens while hungry monsters chase me.  But every time the story progresses, I shudder and feel that ugly cold spot in my belly; why the hell does the POV character have to be a tool?  Why do they have to make the villain choices they do?  Why did they think the misogynist themes would be worth including?  Why do I feel certain that the “strong female character” they’ve created is just going to be damseled within the next few missions?  For that matter, why are there two or three women survivors in the tower, and everyone else there that I meet is male?

As someone who loves and is fascinated by stories, I’ll probably keep watching the story cutscenes all the way through.  But that may just make me angrier and angrier about their writing choices.  It’s a good thing that the cutscenes are skippable and basically won’t matter in the long run.

On the other end of things, we have Lois McMaster Bujold’s Mirror Dance, which I just finished.  The first time that I picked it up I bounced off the main character’s narration (a first for me with any of Bujold’s books).  But when I started it this time I fell in and couldn’t climb out… which is about what I expect from Bujold at this point.  She really is fabulous.  I’m going to leave my paeans of praise for another post, when I can give this book it’s due, but if you like the other Vorkosigan series books be sure to keep at it with this one, even if the start is a little disorienting.  It’s worth it.

Okay, that’s all for now.  Enjoy yourselves.

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Europa Universalis IV: Becoming Leviathan

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Out of many, one.

I wrote a love letter to Crusader Kings 2’s intricate dynastic backstabbing a while ago, and I thought I should let you know about the game’s semi-sequel Europa Universalis 4.  I’ll even toss in a few tidbits about the myriad DLC available for both titles at no additional charge.

First, a brief introduction: Crusader Kings 2 is strategy-as-individual, a fascinating look at the intimately personal nature of politics and power, spanning the years from 1066 CE (867 CE with Old Gods DLC) to 1453 CE.  Europa Universalis 4 follows this with a shift from the myopically personal to the strictly national, covering the years 1444 CE to 1821 CE.  With both games and the appropriate DLC, it’s possible to convert a CK2 save game into an EU4 mod, letting you pick up the reins of your budding nation-state right where your Machiavellian ruler left them.

I loved CK2 from the start, even though it took a long time for me to feel like I could play the game without stumbling over my shoelaces.  Despite having an easier time learning how to play EU4, it took longer for me to really fall into it.  I think it was because the game is simply less personal.  It certainly wasn’t because of the interface, which has only improved.

In my first game of CK2, I was presented with a moderately ugly portrait of a lecherous Irish earl, told that that was me, and told that I really ought to get married.  I lived that earl’s life with gusto, trying (and failing) to better my position in the world, and I still have fond memories of him.  I identified with him, in much the same way that I have since identified with Queen Ximena and several other rulers of mine, and I felt connected.  EU4 simply doesn’t offer that experience, and at first I was dissatisfied.  I didn’t understand why I would want to play this grand strategy game without all the little people desperately trying to grease the wheels of power in order to ease their rise to the top.  I put aside the game and didn’t come back for a few weeks.

I’m still not sure what it was that pulled me back in, but I’m glad it did.  Despite looking so similar to CK2, EU4 is a very different game; it offers you the chance to shape a state as it transitions from the deeply personal politics of feudalism to the larger scale conflicts of colonialism, nationalism, and empire.  It gives you a chance to make Thomas Hobbes proud.

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Sir, You Are Being Alpha’d

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Your merciless foes

Jim Rossignol of Rock Paper Shotgun also runs a game company, called Big Robot.  For one month last year, Big Robot ran a kickstarter project to fund their game Sir, You Are Being Hunted (now available both directly from Big Robot and through Steam).  I backed that project.  This summer, just a few days ago in fact, Big Robot released an alpha of their game to their backers.  Can you see where I’m going with this?  Good.

What follows is a collection of my first impressions of Sir, You Are Being Hunted, a game about traipsing across faux-British countryside in search of important MacGuffins while being mercilessly pursued by a very large number of robots with guns.

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DEFCON: How about a nice game of chess?

DEFCON

Just kidding.  We all know you just want to play Global Thermonuclear War.  Poor Theaterwide Biotoxic and Chemical Warfare never gets any love.  DEFCON, developed by Introversion Software, offers all the Global Thermonuclear War you could ever want.  Its spartan and elegant graphics looks just as appropriate today as they did on release in 2006, with clean glowing lines showing up beautifully on the dark background of the world; Introversion took the design aesthetics of the global tactical displays from various Cold War nuclear war thrillers, and created a game that perfectly delivers their inhuman reductionism.  It is a cold, hard, unfeeling game that leaves you feeling challenged, rewarded, and maybe a little bit broken inside as you watch the megadeaths pile up and desperately hope that you can kill a few more people than you lose.

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Artemis Bridge Simulator Offers Arch Entertainment

Pun aside, this game is not about building bridges.  It is about being on bridges.  Spaceship bridges.  While it can be legitimately panned for its exceedingly high computer requirements (it isn’t demanding about system specs, it demands many systems), this game is a multiplayer gem of excellent quality.  I played it for the first time this weekend, and now…

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Even More Crusader-er Kings: Crusader Kings II

There’s another big expansion coming out for Crusader Kings 2 on the 28th of May.  So on Monday I sat down to bring myself back up to speed with the game and polish up my rusty politicking skills; several hours later, I remembered why it was that I had spent 100+ hours playing the game in the first place.  CK2 is a fascinating look into the convoluted hearts of power-hungry medieval rulers, and in order to succeed you must become one yourself.  I love it.

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