It looks like I will be wading into Fantasy Flight‘s Star Wars: Edge of Empire Role Playing Game in the new year. I’m looking forward to it for a variety of reasons. What games, tabletop or otherwise, are you looking forward to in the new year?
One of my long-time passions has been tabletop and role-playing games. I’ve played various games since at least high school, and continue to play to this day.
One of the exciting things I’ve been involved with is the development of the Purgatory game and No-Class gaming system by my friends over at Broomstick Fighters (Facebook Page). Purgatory is a weird-west style game with Cthulhuian overtones, and the No-Class system is a new take on the mechanics of role-playing.
It turns out that I also develop my own games, though they are in various states of disarray. If you’re interested in keeping track of my progress, you can watch here, on my gaming page (Facebook page), or head over to my Engima22 Productions Unlimited site (it’s woefully out of date, so be patient).
My gaming has gone mostly mobile and casual these days. I don’t have the time to invest in sitting for hours playing PC games, and my attention span at the moment doesn’t support PC gaming anyway.
That said, I do have a bevy of mobile games I’m playing on my iPad. Of course, the ever-present issue with mobile games is that they always want your money, but I find that playing less frequently and less intensely covers over quite a bit of that.
Right now, my main go-to game is Start Trek Fleet Command. If you want to “win” you have to pay, but I enjoy the base-building aspects of the game without paying.
In the same vein is Star Wars Commander. The base-building aspect of this game is better than Star Trek Fleet Command, and it’s easier to advance without paying. That said, the campaign and PvP aspects of the game get tedious to me.
Speaking of tedium, there’s Star Wars: Galaxy of Heroes. Don’t get me wrong, this game is easy to play without spending a dime, but the gameplay can get repetitive and dull very quickly.
The same can be said for Star Trek Timelines. This game has a lot of potential, but the gameplay is often inscrutable and repetitive.
Rounding out the five games I regularly visit is Pixel Starships. This is a kind of silly, straightforward game of building a starship and attacking other players. Still, it has limited playability as you spend enormous amounts of time gathering resources to upgrade your ships.
Of course, my reviews beg the question, if the games are tedious, why play? The short answer is that they only become tedious if you play for more than, say, five minutes at a time. Played casually, these games are a welcome distraction and are worth that much investment.
What games are you playing right now?
I know, gasp, horror.
That’s not entirely true. I’m playing in a Legends of the Five Rings Role Playing Game campaign once a month. I play Realm Grinder and Forge of Empires as a sometimes diversion. And I play Seaport on my phone. But for the most part, that’s minutes a day, and I just haven’t had the focus or the energy to do more. It happens… Eventually, it will change and I’ll get back into the business of writing about the games I play.
Before I can review the first expansion for Civilization VI, let’s get something out of the way. There have been a lot of complaints about Civ VI, and Civ V before it, and I think they all boil down to two basic problems.
First, starting with Civ V, the team at Firaxis tried to incorporate real time strategy elements into the Civilization franchise. I don’t think many people will seriously argue there is even a close competitor to Civilization in the 4X strategy genre, so I believe most of Civ’s competition comes from the RTS genre, of which there are many good titles. Unfortunately, that attempt on their part was a mixed bag, leading to some of the problems players complain about in specific.
Second, and perhaps far more important, Civ has always had an AI problem. Back in the halcyon days of Civ I or II, nobody expected sophisticated AIs, and the game took full advantage of that fact by plain cheating to make the game harder. Modern players with modern hardware expect a modern AI, but the expansive nature of Civilization makes designing a good AI for the game a challenge at best. I’m not saying the team at Firaxis couldn’t do better, but I understand the challenge they face in doing it.
Keeping those things in mind, most of the things I could say bad about the Rise and Fall expansion are things I’ve already said bad about Civ VI itself. The game play is somewhat convoluted, the AI just dumb sometimes, and the execution sometimes excruciatingly slow.
It’s always dangerous to lead with things I don’t like in a review because that’s what people tend to remember, but the fact is Firaxis has one of the greatest gaming franchises in history in its care, and it needs to do better if it doesn’t want to go the way of EA and lose the loyalty of once fantastic titles like SimCity or Ubisoft with the Anno series.
All of the new elements to Rise and Fall add value to the game, but they’re understated and seem to be designed to add that familiar RTS anxiety to a 4X game. It doesn’t always work because I think it faces the player in the wrong direction. When Civ VI introduced things like districts, it was an intriguing advance on Civ’s core ideas. Instead of building on that, Firaxis has doubled down on the 4X in RTS clothing gambit it seems to have committed to in Civ V, and it still doesn’t quite seem to be working all the way.
Overall, I’d say wait on this expansion a bit yet. It’s not really worth the $29.99 Firaxis is asking for it for what you get, but if they’re listening to the community, future patches and DLCs may yet fix some of what doesn’t work as well as it could yet. If they don’t, there’ll be room for a new king of 4X. Or we can all go back to playing Civ IV, probably still the best entry into the franchise so far.
Banished is a real-time strategy building game in a similar vein to games like the Anno series, The Settlers series, or the Tropico series. I got Banished through Steam via a Humble Bundle. I found the game to be easy to pick up and play without too much of a learning curve for the interface.
Unfortunately, the vanilla game lacks depth, and I found the underlying mechanics somewhat inscrutable. The most baffling of those mechanics is the aging process relative to the game play speed.
Like many games in this genre, you find yourself caught in failure cascades involving resource balances, resulting in various forms of the citizens dying out. Because the game contains no warning system about running low on resources, including the population aging out, you spend a lot of time checking the stats, which I find distracts from the game play.
All of that said, once you master the nuances of the game, it’s pretty straight forward, meaning it gets boring fast. Fortunately, the game supports mods that expand the game play, but unfortunately, some of the best mods for the game are unstable at best.
I enjoyed playing Banished after a fashion, but the underlying premise needs some work to make it a great game.
Field Report rating: 3/5
After about 50 hours of game play so far, I am ready to declare Civilization VI the most Civilization-like entry in the storied franchise, which means some of you will love it more than all the rest and some of you will hate it more than any of the others.
What do I mean?
Civilization VI embraces the one thing all the rest of the games in the series have wanted to be with gusto: being a grand strategy game. Let’s face it, in the end the first five games often degenerated into little more than turn-based combat games with heavy emphasis on tech research and building. Civilization VI retains those traits while also introducing a whole new level of planning that requires the player to be thinking about how to win the game starting with the first turn.
The way the game does so is by clever use of the victory conditions and city districts. The victory conditions are no longer simply matters of who accumulates the most points and can be contended from the start of the game.
More importantly, the game breaks the city out of a single tile, forcing the player to consider how to expand each city by placing districts on tiles the city controls. this fact forces the player to specialize cities from the beginning of the game.
While these elements add a whole new level of play to Civilization VI, the game is hardly perfect. The religious system is vague and brutish and makes the religious victory less enjoyable than it could be. The game is missing diplomatic and economic victories that would help balance the game play. As has been true with every version of Civilization, the diplomatic system is inscrutable and annoying. That said, keep in mind this is the vanilla version of the game, and previous versions of the game have benefited from their later expansions.
All in all, I really like what Firaxis and crew have done with Civilization VI. It’s a good game with the potential to be great, and I will stick with it to see what the future holds for it.
First look rating: 4/5