strategy

Mount & Blade: Warband

Full Review

Mount and Blade Warband CoverI enjoy medieval RPGs. I mean, the majority of games I play - fantasy or not - are based in that setting. There's just something about slicing my enemies up with swords that's just completely satisfying. So when I got to play a few minutes of Mount and Blade: Warband, I knew I'd desperately want more.

What? You haven't heard of this masterpiece from Taleworlds? That's okay, there wasn't a whole lot of advertising, and the original Mount and Blade was made by a married couple virtually by themselves. It's not exactly common that things like this happen.

I played the original briefly, and it was fun, but the overhauled Warband made vast improvements over its predecessor.

So, what is it? Well, it's massive and somewhat complicated, but I shall attempt to explain. Mount and Blade: Warband is a medieval role-playing game that puts you into the world of Calradia, a land filled with several kingdoms, all wanting to unify the land under their rule.

Civilization V

First Hour Review

Civilization 5 CoverI have a long history with the Civilization series, I was first exposed to it when reading Nintendo Power magazine while they pushed the original’s Super Nintendo release for months on end. The game seemed unlike anything I had ever played before, particularly on a console. I read and re-read their strategy articles trying to wrap my head around what this game was exactly supposed to be.

I never had the opportunity to play the original Civilization, but it wasn’t long until the second game fell into my lap, and there went my next few summers. The depth of Civilization II was incredible. Every game I played was challenging and had its own fun quirks. I loved the multiple paths to victory and the differences between each civilization. I really liked the early turns in each game before the game seemed to get bogged down in city management and what felt like watching all the other civs take their turn forever.

After Civilization II it was Alpha Centauri, the game I believe to be the pinnacle of strategy gaming and easily the best “Civilization” game in the series. Alpha Centauri can be described simply as Civilization II in space, but it’s really so much different. You have the ability to create your own units and civilizations are instead broken up by ideological factions, which turns everything on its head.

Civilization III was released and I jumped on it, but it just never felt right to me. I had invested way too much time into Civ II and Alpha Centauri and anything that deviated from those games made me angry. I gave up on III and went back to my old standbys. This might have been for the best, however, as Civilization IV was released when I was in college, and playing that might have been a disaster!

So here we are with Firaxis’ latest entry in the series, Civilization V. I’ll admit, I’m intrigued. I haven’t seriously played the series in a decade, but every time Sid Meier slaps his name on a game, I’ll at least give it a try. So let’s give it a shot, here is Civilization V’s first hour played from the free Steam 100-turn demo.

Ogre Battle 64: Person of Lordly Caliber

Full Review

Ogre Battle 64 CoverOgre Battle 64: Person of Lordly Caliber is a mixed game, and has had mixed reviews. Some hold it as the holy grail of RPG/Strategy gaming, while others find it about as entertaining as a box of rocks.

I’m of the former. When I saw this game in Nintendo Power, and read about it, it was all new to me. I never played its SNES predecessor. But it looked so awesome. Being an RPG fan, and desperately wanting a reason to play my Nintendo 64 other than to play Super Smash Bros. or Star Fox. The game Quest 64 left a terrible taste in my mouth and made me desperately want a Playstation for some good RPG games.

Gratuitous Space Battles

Full Review
Gratuitous Space Battles Cover

We finish off our second annual indie games month with Gratuitous Space Battles, an epic space battle simulator from Positech Games. During our first independent games month last year, we featured Kudos 2, a life simulator also created by the one man team of Cliff Harris at Positech Games. This guy likes his simulators, whether they're of space, life, or Democracy, but Gratuitous Space Battles is a seriously awesome game.

Gratuitous Space Battles is the first game I ever played of its kind. It's almost like one giant, single turn of a board game, or Civilization. Your opponent's pieces are in place and visible on the board, and it is your job to create and deploy a fleet of ships that can combat and destroy them, hopefully while taking minimal losses yourself. Once you click Fight, there's nothing else you can do. It feels very... unnatural at first, like the developer is taking away control of the most enjoyable part of the game. There are explosions and debris everywhere, and you want to be part of the action. But then you begin to realize that the actual simulation isn't the game, but everything before it.

It's fairly obvious that Gratuitous Space Battles is not a game for everyone. There's no real-time micro-management, no hotkeys to quick select a group of ships, and especially no mouse button spamming to get your point across. Gratuitous Space Battles is one of the finest, genre-defining games I've ever played. The game is simply in its own category. I honestly can't give the game a final score because I don't know what to compare it against.

Gratuitous Space Battles was developed for Windows but also works great in Wine on Linux, which is how I played it.

Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon

First Hour Review

Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon CoverFire Emblem: Shadow Dragon is a turn-based role-playing strategy game for the Nintendo DS. It is the eleventh game in the popular Fire Emblem series, but is actually a remake of the original Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragons and the Blade of Light which was released in 1990 only in Japan. Turns out this is really the second remake of the first game, but still the first time gamers outside of Japan have experienced it.

So that's a lot of history just on one story, but you might be wondering what Fire Emblem is in the first place. The series has always pretty much played the same way all these years as a turn-based strategy game. A set of heroes takes on a band of bad guys on a grid-based map. You move all your guys at once and then the bad guys go. There's a twist in Fire Emble though, every character on your team has a name and profile, and if they're killed during battle, they're gone for good. That means you either don't get too attached to your characters, or you reload a level a lot.

All right, let's get into the first hour of Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon.

Ogre Battle: March of the Black Queen

First Hour Review

Ogre Battle: March of the Black Queen CoverOgre Battle: March of the Black Queen is a console strategy game initially released on the Super Nintendo and then re-released on the Sega Saturn and Sony Playstation. I guess the game is rare but I bought the Super Nintendo version at a rental store when they were going out of business for five dollars (also scored that day was Yoshi's Island). I consider myself lucky, too bad the battery has died since then. The game has seen a bunch of sequels including Ogre Battle 64, which I also own.

Decent non turn-based strategy games are tough to come by on consoles, but March of the Black Queen stands out as one of the first and best in the genre. I'm not so sure how the first hour will turn out though, as the game moves pretty slow. Well, let's just get right into it and find out. I'll be playing the Super Nintendo version.

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