PC BATALJ, henceforth stripped of exuberant capitalisation, has released. It features three distinct factions, WEGO combat, a crisp aesthetic and the seal of quality you’d expect from DICE alumni. It is without a doubt one hell of a game. At least. I think it could be. Possibly one of the year’s best, caught in the right light. But so far, in this online-only game, I’ve yet to find a single match.
PC/Mac/Linux While I love Baldur’s Gate, BG2, and all the other Infinity Engine games from the 90’s and early aughts, they did suck in one aspect: combat. Unlike the fantastic D&D Gold Box CRPGs from SSI, the Infinity Engine turned RPG combat into a real-time click-fest, which was so unlike tabletop D&D that I could never quite grok the reasoning behind the decision. Tabletop RPGs are turn-based, why not the digital versions? This bizarre choice was used again by Obsidian when they attempted to reignite the Infinity Engine style games with 2015’s Pillars of Eternity. I tried, I swear I tried multiple times, to play PoE only to discover that the game wasn’t compelling enough for me to put up with combat I despised. Pillars of Eternity 2: Deadfire, also released with the real-time curse, but today Obsidian has made amends. Today, they released an update that allows you to choose between real-time or turn-based modes. Guess what RPG I’m going to be buying and playing this weekend?
PC/Mac/Linux • I’ve been fascinated with the story of Jon Shafer ever since I heard about him back in the Civ IV days where he was a prolific modder catching the eye of Firaxis who hired him as an intern and, eventually, a full-time developer to help with the two Civ IV expansions. Big deal, sure, but the story took an epic turn when he was promoted and made the lead designer for the series’ next iteration, Civ V. Yep, it was his idea to move from square grid to hex and (controversially) abandon the Ultimate Stack of Doom tactic by eliminating units’ ability to stack. Oh, and he did this all before he was 25. When I was 25 I made my own beer bong from parts scavenged from my dad’s garage and Home Depot. Once again, I lose. Since then, he’s meandered around and, eventually, settled with his own dev house, Conifer Games. Their first title, At the Gates, is another epic 4X strategy title and it’s coming to PC/Mac/Linux in January, 2019.
PS4, Xbox, PC • I imagine the right way to open the review of a Lovecraft-riffing game is dark foreshadowing of looming evil, so, uh–don’t look behind you. [Well done. Now clean out your desk. -ed.] Ripstone’s Achtung! Cthulhu Tactics (henceforth ACT) aims at an experience much like XCOM. Not XCOM as it would be now, because you’ve probably already played that. Instead, it has all the pieces needed to give you the experience of playing XCOM for the first time, again. That is, it’s mechanically distinct enough to play quite differently, facilitating the joy of discovery. The setting is almost perfect for this purpose–while I feel the pull of legitimate concerns about continuing to use Lovecraft’s work (starkly put by Michael Barnes here), ACT’s melding of techno-über-Nazis with Lovecraft’s Cthulhu mythos offers players mostly familiar, immediately comprehensible weapons and soldier roles to build from, with such a variety of possible ways of adding strangeness that you never know what might emerge from the shadows.
PC/Mac • Deemed the great moral challenge of our time and discussed at length during summits the world over; the lack of modern mech-based tactics games is reaching a tipping point. The last true Front Mission was released in the mid-Oughts. Do people even remember CyberStorm? I’d love to count the Super Robot Wars titles, but they’re niche and chibi and aesthetically repugnant. Don’t @ me, friends. I’m being cruel to be kind. There is an undeniable, intractable vacuum. Warborn, however, is stepping up.
PC • If there’s one thing missing from today’s high-tech landscape of centrifuge-killing viruses, hacking, long-game defense projects designed surreptitiously in conjunction with Silicon Valley, it’s the warm glow of a NORAD CRT. Fear not, for Terminal Conflict is here to return you to the good old days of mutually-assured destruction.
iPad, Switch, PS4, Xbox, PC/Mac/Linux • While it doesn’t happen very often, every now and then things turn out okay. Last Friday I mentioned that I’m leaving for a 4.5 hour plane trip with my entire family [on Spirit Airlines, no less. The only airline folks with three kids can afford -ed.] and was dreading it. Red Hook Studios was listening and, I’m sure it’s because of me, have finally released the Color of Madness DLC for Darkest Dungeon on iPad. Now I can get frustrated and angry at my tablet instead of my kids! Huzzah!
PC, iPad, Android Tablets • While the name Marek Pańczyk might not ring a bell, no doubt readers of Stately Play are aware of his work. One of the co-founders of Big Daddy’s Creations, they were at the forefront of bringing board games–particularly heavier euros–to digital. We’re talking gems like Neuroshima Hex and the brilliant, yet perennially undercooked, Eclipse: New Dawn for the Galaxy. While Big Daddy’s has seemingly gone to that big compiler in the sky, Marek is alive and well and still making games. His new company is Red Zero Games and their first foray on the App Store is an original title that pokes fun of good ol’ Chris Columbus and imperialism in general. It’s called Here Be Dragons.
PC/Mac/Linux, PS4, Xbox • XCOM2 might just be the most evergreen video game I’ll ever have the pleasure of playing. It never gets old and, honestly, I can see myself sitting down at a laptop ten years from now and blindly rushing into ambushes and getting all my best troops slaughtered. What I’m trying to say is, XCOM2 is really good and I kind of want to marry it. Imagine my shock when, yesterday, I noticed that there was new DLC for XCOM2. NEW DLC! Are you kidding me? I contemplated quitting my day job just to stay home and try it out today but, instead, went to work so I can write posts for Stately Play on the company dime. To quote Bugs Bunny, ain’t I a stinker?
PC (now), Xbox/PS4/Switch (soon) • Back when I first got into the Savage Worlds RPG system, one of the offshoots that attracted me was the Weird Wars setting. This posited that World War II wasn’t just Allies vs. Axis, but that there was a whole lot else going on such as demons, mages, etc. Players would join the Allied version of the 1940’s X-Files and root out the supernatural wherever Nazis were to be found. A few Gen Cons ago, I picked up another RPG source book for a game called Achtung! Cthulhu which was similar, but added Lovecraftian horror to the Nazi backstory instead of the generic supernatural hocus-pocus of Weird Wars. It’s kind of a strange genre considering that the Nazis don’t really need anything added to make them more evil, but, for some reason, I eat this stuff up. The Achtung! Cthulhu brand got big enough to spawn more than just an RPG and, today, Auroch Digital released a turn-based, squad-level game set in this universe, Achtung! Cthulhu Tactics.