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Firaxis

Preview: Sid Meierís Civilization: Beyond Earth

May 20 // Dale North
[embed]275105:53951:0[/embed] I started out in an area called the Lush Biome where the idea was to take the explorer unit from my base and go explore, with the hopes of finding anything that could help us. But these guys are not a combat unit at all so they were quickly trampled by the green miasma-eating aliens that spawned up from a point just above my base. Angry at dying so soon, I sent my only combat unit up to take care of business, but they were quickly surrounded and whittled down to just a few members. It wasn’t but a couple of turns before my one little hex of nearly dead troops was surrounded.  Down but not out, I quickly generated new units and used my base’s defenses to hold the little guys off. That almost dead unit was able to level up and become stronger, too. I was eventually able to take out that troublesome alien spawn point, get a new explorer unit to start exploring nearby ruins, and even build up some defenses. Meanwhile, leaders of other factions were knocking on my door, and none of them were willing to play nice. If that wasn’t enough, I quickly got to a point to where massive Siege Worms were drilling underground and then coming up to attack my base. The plan I had to build a beacon to distract them and then take them out from behind was never going to be realized. Tactical satellite building? Psssh.  I was going to have to leave this demo session without achieving anything.  The three or four dozen turns I had to play Civ: Beyond Earth weren’t enough to dig down deep. I barely got to touch the massive web of a tech tree that the game brings. In this web you start out in the very middle with habitation and expand outward. Even with only a few moves I was able to branch out into some deep science fiction ideas. Computing could quickly move into things like transcendental math, terraforming, or synthetic thought. Going off on a completely unique path would be very easy in this game. Quests? Nope. Not enough time. Some popped up, but I had my hands full. Taking on these quests are how you’ll dig into the story and learn more about humanity’s new home.    I also didn’t get to interact much with any of the leaders or learn their affinities and preferences for humanity’s future. But from what I saw in my brief session, that stuff is pretty interesting. Some groups want humanity to preserve itself without the use of cybernetics, while others think that humanity needs to evolve into something like a native species. What’s clear is that none of them agree. Each’s factions beliefs are reflected in their talk, military units, and even their architecture. I would have needed much more time to begin exploring these approaches. Hopefully I can do that soon. But I was able to take out a single Siege Worm before my time was up. This is a city-sized beast that takes multiple units to take out — one we were directed to avoid. I took it down with desperate measures and felt a bit better about myself. In my game, humanity was probably still screwed. But at least I accomplished something on this harsh alien planet.   Civilization: Beyond Earth launches on PC, Mac, and Linux this fall. Civilization.com has relaunched with new information on Beyond Earth today.
Civ: Beyond Earth photo
I killed a worm and I liked it
I tried to help settlers colonize a new planet (Earth becomes uninhabitable after we screw it up in a big way) in our first hands-on with a pre-alpha build of the upcoming game Civilization: Beyond Earth early last week. I wa...

Firaxis designers speak on Civilization: Beyond Earth

Apr 20 // Darren Nakamura
Destructoid: Anything you want to say about Civilization: Beyond Earth right off the bat? Miller: We've been working on this game for a while, and to announce it today in front of some of our biggest fans is just the coolest thing. It's a really fun game. You know, it's Civilization in space! Our fans have been wanting this for a long time, and this is it. Destructoid: What sort of challenges are there converting Civilization to sci-fi? McDonough: There are lots. It's really exciting. Civ is a game with a great legacy, but it's almost all historically based. Among that legacy are Alpha Centauri and XCOM. This game is inspired by all of those.  The things that make Civ fun, when you play Civ you always want to go "one more turn," but the world around it is already set. Without history we have to make up technology trees, alien worlds, and that has been one of the bigger challenges. Destructoid: We were curious about how you would handle technology in Beyond Earth. How much is based off of what scientists are saying may be possible and how much is more like "hey this would be really cool if we did this"? McDonough: It's both! We did a lot of research on modern day scientific thinking and we thought it was important that our game start in reality, in a plausible setting. For the rest, we were inspired by a lot of current science fiction. But the best sci-fi is also scientifically real, so hopefully we have the best of both. [embed]273489:53496:0[/embed] Destructoid: Take me through the timeline. Where does this start? Is it present day onward? Miller: It's 200 to 250 years after present day. So we're imagining an earth in the future, and things good and bad have happened, and it culminates in an event where nations around the world are sending out expeditions into space to different planets to colonize, to spread the roots of humanity beyond our planet. So, like David said, we start in a very familiar place based on actual science, and we want to be able to draw a clear line from science that we know today and space travel we know today. We're very inspired by things like SpaceX and the new Cosmos with Neil deGrasse Tyson, we just love all that stuff. So we're taking all of the inspiration from that and keeping it very plausible, and starting from a new place 200 years from now and kind of just going wild. Destructoid: You said you've been working on this for a long time. Exactly how long have you been working on this? McDonough: Unfortunately we can't say specifically, but I think Will and I have been designing it in our heads for a really long time. Whispering in some ears around Firaxis. Miller: That's kind of how games get made around Firaxis. XCOM was Jake Solomon's baby for a long time, and he whispered in the right ears, and it eventually became a great game. We were given our shot at this, and it was the right time. We had a team that really wanted to do it, and it fit in our schedule, and we're so fortunate to be able to make this game. Destructoid: Did it start out as "Hey, wouldn't it be rad if we made Alpha Centauri?" and went from there to "Well, we can't really, but let's do basically that"? Miller: It's always been a reality to us that that IP is just sort of off limits, and I don't know if we would have used it if we had it, honestly. This game is such a different thing. It's definitely inspired by Alpha Centauri, but it's also inspired by a lot of other things too. It's a very different game and it has very different characteristics. It feels a lot different. I think it started as "Would it be cool if we could take Civilization into space? What would that game look like?" and then we went from there. Destructoid: Is there any chance for any sort of crossover with XCOM? Miller: The two games exist in their own fictional universes. That gives us the most flexibility, but I think you could expect some nods and winks and homages between the two. McDonough: One of the things about sci-fi is you can make easter eggs with no problem. Destructoid: So you're going off and exploring alien worlds. What's the variety going to be like for that? Strenger: We spent a lot of time making the map so that it isn't just like, earth and then purple earth. So everything in the map generator like landmass features to other crazy things to the alien life that is populating that map can change. We have a lot of different biomes, like an arid biome or a wetter jungle one. So the combinations really make it so every time you play, it's a unique world with its own challenges. Destructoid: You guys seem pretty excited for this. McDonough: The panel today was unbelievably cool, to see the reactions from the fans. We've been waiting a long time to be able to show it. We've been waiting a long time to come back to Civilization in the future. Miller: This game really is for our fans. For so long, our fans have been asking for a remake of Alpha Centauri or Civ in space or whatever, and this really is our game for them.
Firaxis interview photo
Possible crossover with XCOM, inspiration sources, and more
Last weekend during its panel at PAX East, Firaxis announced the next big project for the Civilization franchise: Civilization: Beyond Earth. After the announcement, Destructoid took some time to talk to some of the designers...

Civilization Beyond Earth photo
'We start in a very familiar place based on actual science... and kind of just [go] wild'
To take a brief aside from videogames: are you watching Cosmos: a Spacetime Odyssey? If not, you should be, especially if you are not particularly scientifically literate. It is filled with a lot of important information abou...

Civilization Beyond Earth photo
Civilization Beyond Earth

Civilization explores the final frontier with Beyond Earth


Firaxis announces new direction at PAX East
Apr 12
// Darren Nakamura
We knew Firaxis would be announcing a new game at their panel this morning at PAX East, and now we know what the team has been working on. Civilization: Beyond Earth is taking the series past future tech and into space explo...
PAX East photo
PAX East

2K is bringing Borderlands 2 for PS Vita, Evolve to PAX East


Gearbox and Firaxis announcements too, it sounds like
Apr 04
// Jordan Devore
Evolve. Now there's a game I've been hoping to try out for a while now. PAX East attendees will be able to get their hands on the Turtle Rock Studios-developed multiplayer game next weekend as well as Borderlands 2 for PlaySt...

Review: XCOM: Enemy Within

Nov 11 // Chris Carter
XCOM: Enemy Within (PC [reviewed], PlayStation 3, Xbox 360)Developer: Firaxis GamesPublisher: 2K GamesRelease Date: November 12, 2013MSRP: $29.99 (PC download upgrade) / $39.99 (Console disc) Enemy Within is still the same great turn-based strategy game you played last year, but with a number of added maps, customization options, enemy types, and missions mixed in. It's a really weird way to approach an expansion (almost like an RTS, blending in new and old), and when it was announced I was apprehensive. At first, I thought I'd have to play through the same game again, with the occasional bit of mixed content -- but as I soon found out, there was a lot more added than I had previously assumed. Enemy Unknown was the original title of the game due to the fact that you literally had to discover how to vanquish XCOM's alien menace with very little knowledge going in. Gradually, you would research corpses and live specimens, slowly developing the skillset and upgrades required to best them. It was a unique way to tie in a mechanical crescendo in with the narrative, and it worked out wonderfully for Unknown. But now, the new Within moniker refers to a new enemy -- your own kind, the human race. Instead of simply dealing with an unrelenting horde of extraterrestrials, now you have to deal with organizations on earth trying to put a stop to the XCOM Initiative and bringing you down. While this may not seem like a huge change, it significantly alters the narrative in the sense that everything is a lot more bleak -- which has ramifications not only on the way the story is told, but actual gameplay as well. For starters, a new foe emerges in the form of EXALT -- a super villain-like organization that will stop at nothing to shut you down. They're a thorn in your side in many ways than just physical altercations, hacking your mainframe and raising hell across the world in the form of enhanced panic (if a country reaches a panic level that's too high, they pull out of the program, which contributes to a game over). Missions of the EXALT variety are more covert affairs, kitting down your troops into a more subversive toolset, with pistols and sneaking equipment. The new human AI opponents are fun to fight and do a good job of mixing things up for when you get tired of fighting aliens over and over. Beating EXALT is also a game of cat and mouse, as you eventually have to find out where they're located and shut them down permanently -- or just deal with them, or ignore them entirely with the consequences in tow. You'll have to slowly hunt them down Clue style, and accuse a country of harboring them. Accuse wrongly, and that country pulls out of the program (see a pattern, here?). You'll also have to deal with new alien enemies like the Mechtoid (you guessed it -- an alien mech), and the squid-like Seekers, which can cloak, fly, and strangle your party, among other foes. In short, the game is absolute hell, and is working to crush your spirits around the clock. On Iron Man mode (a setting that prevents re-loading saves) and a high difficulty setting, it's one of the hardest modern games ever created. It's this madness that contributes to the magic of XCOM, and why so many people find it so appealing in an age where games constantly hold your hand and tell you how to win. Having said all that, it is possible to beat the game -- you have the technology! A new substance called "Meld" is now hidden on almost every map, which allows you to perform two new major upgrades on your troops -- exoskeletal cybersuits (MECs), and genetic enhancements. MEC soldiers, at the cost of ripping off their arms and legs for cybernetic implants, have their own tree, weaponsets (like flamethrowers), and unique movement properties, not to mention the fact that their hulking physique looks damn cool on the battlefield. The other big upgrade is the ability to genetically alter your team with options like superior eyesight and Bioelectric skin implants. These upgrades allow you to, as the game calls it, become a "little bit alien." The over-the-top modifications are not only fun to play around with, but they make the world more harrowing and real. Now, the people of earth are significantly altering their bodies just to avoid extinction, to the point where they can barely even be classified as human beings. It all serves to add to the allure of the XCOM universe and add a sense of hopelessness. Another great thing about these two upgrades is that it all feeds into the core game's central tenet of allowing you to play the way you want to play. If you want to only help out certain countries, build an army of MECs, and have an all-female unit -- you can do that. If you want a tactical team of genetic super soldiers all named after Saturday morning cartoons, you can customize that too. With the new additions in Within, the sky is the limit. In addition to that, there's further amounts of customization to get lost in like new outfits and national accents which help give you a sense that the conflict is a real worldwide affair, and not within the confines of a US-centric sphere. There are also a number of interface and mechanical changes, most notably a new tutorial for the Within features, as well as tougher AI, more skills, and 47 new maps that are mixed in throughout the entire game. Controller support on the PC still works great, and I used it throughout my entire playthrough. If you haven't played the newest XCOM yet, now is a perfect time to do so with the Enemy Within package. For all the XCOM veterans out there, you'll find a solid amount of new activities to engage in, as well as an unprecedented amount of squad customization. In other words, this is now the definitive Enemy experience.
XCOM: Enemy Within photo
It almost feels like a sequel
XCOM: Enemy Unknown was one of my favorite games of 2012. As a fan of the original franchise back in the '90s, I felt like it did an excellent job of not only re-introducing the once-beloved franchise back into the fold ...

Ex-Civ devs start studio photo
Ex-Civ devs start studio

Mohawk Games founded by former Civilization developers


Backed by Stardock
Nov 06
// Joshua Derocher
The lead designer of Civilization IV, Soren Johnson, has started up his own studio called Mohawk Games. If one Civilization veteran isn't enough to make you happy, the co-founder of the studio is Dorian Newcomb, the art direc...
Oxide Games photo
Oxide Games

Ex-Firaxis and Microsoft devs create new 64-bit engine


Giant brains want to create shiny graphics
Oct 28
// Joshua Derocher
A group of game development gurus have banded together to form Oxide Games, and their first plan is to make a 64-bit game engine called Nitrous. This new engine will focus on taking better advantage of multi-core processors, ...
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XCOM for iOS gets multiplayer, on sale for $9.99


Normally goes for $19.99
Oct 11
// Hamza CTZ Aziz
XCOM: Enemy Unknown on iOS has received a new update that brings in asynchronous multiplayer. Additionally the update brings in iOS7 optimization and a newly implemented leaderboard. The game usually goes for $19.99, but it's on sale for $9.99. Check out our review to see why the mobile version is worth picking up. 
XCOM photo
XCOM

XCOM: Enemy Within trailer shows the Exalt faction


This substantial expansion is set for release on November 15
Oct 09
// Alasdair Duncan
I've put 30 hours into XCOM: Enemy Unknown and I still suck at it. I'm losing soldiers left, right, and center but maybe that's the game's appeal. Still, I'm hankering for new enemies to fight so the upcoming Enemy Within lo...

Defending earth against new threats in XCOM: Enemy Within

Oct 09 // Steven Hansen
XCOM: Enemy Within (PC [previewed], Mac, PS3, 360) Developer: FiraxisPublisher: 2K GamesRelease Date: November 12, 2013 Enemy Within expands the original content on two levels. Down in the trenches, in XCOM’s turn-based, solider-controlling gameplay, we’re seeing new additions like solider modifications and new enemy types. It isn’t just new aliens that look like a mix between the mechanical squids of The Matrix and the alien ghosts from Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within. There are scummy jerks in fedoras, too. Well, they probably own fedoras. Exalt is a comically evil paramilitary secret society that is down with the aliens’ genetic perfection aims. It intends to rule over the world using alien technology and genetic superiority. It is basically a facile, extra occult Nazi party, but with a name that has an “ecks” instead of a “z.” You’ll have to fight with Exalt members in covert operations, which are two new mission types within the expansion. Their AI has been tuned differently than the aliens, too, allegedly making them more cooperative and tactical enemies. In Covert Extraction, you send a plainclothes solider into a scheming Exalt cell, then go pick them up, ensuring they live through the process (and you hack a com relay). In Covert Data Recovery, your solider on the inside doesn’t need to make it out alive but you need to protect two different assets. The first can be sacrificed if you want to hole up and protect the second, but you get less money. I ran a Data Recovery mission -- successfully, in fact. My covert op, a Russian armed with only a pistol, actually managed to hit every overwatch shot and made the final kill. Unfortunately, I lost two in the process soldiers, including a dependable Italian heavy, Maurizio Mancini, who was close to my heart. I mention the soldiers’ nationality because soldiers now speak in their native language, rather than everyone having the same handful of American English combat barks. It’s a subtle addition, but I liked it a lot. On the macro level, Exalt changes your day to day operations as XCOM commander as well. First, Exalt cell attacks are another event you’ll have to respond to. Fail to do so and it can hinder your progress in some way. Exalt will run Propoganda attacks to raise panic, Research Hacks to slow your lab’s research progress, and Sabotage attacks to directly drain your money. You don’t have to take Exalt’s shtick lying down, however, just foiling them in retaliation. For a fee, which increases each time, you can scan the world for potential Exalt activity. An exposed Exalt cell won’t be able to begin its attack, letting you choose whether or not to engage it or to let it go back underground and prepare another attack. Stalling is always an option if you’re not presently up to a challenge. Engaging with Exalt, whether through planned covert ops or otherwise can also yield clues to where Exalt is located; for example, you may learn Exalt is not in Africa. With enough clues, you can take a stab and accuse a country of housing the cell, or collect more clues until you're sure. A wrongly accused country pulls out of the XCOM project, as they are well enemy within their right to do. Choose correctly and you get a shot at Exalt’s challenging, fortified base. Playing Enemy Within reminded me of how good XCOM: Enemy Unknown is. After playing it, I had to go home and start a new game of Enemy Unknown, x-completely aware that to experience Enemy Within’s additions, I’d need to start a new campaign. Maybe next month it will be time for that Classic Ironman run, with an added twist.
XCOM Enemy Within photo
XCOM expansion has me xcompletely excited
If you haven’t played the eXcellent XCOM: Enemy Unknown, you should. However, now there is a caveat to that. You should play it, but you should probably wait until November 12 to do so because that’s when the Enem...

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Let's take a look at XCOM: Enemy Within's gameplay


Look at it!
Sep 04
// Hamza CTZ Aziz
Missed gamescom and PAX Prime 2013? Well don't stress about it too much if you were hoping to catch the gameplay demonstration for XCOM: Enemy Within as it's now available to view right here. Lead designer Ananda Gupta shows...
XCOM too big for consoles photo
XCOM too big for consoles

XCOM: Enemy Within 'too big' to be console DLC


XCOM's enemy is size
Sep 04
// Steven Hansen
Over the weekend we posted the trailer for XCOM: Enemy Within, the meaty expansion to the excellent strategy game XCOM: Enemy Unknown. It showed off new enemies that look like a mix between the mechanical squids of The Matrix...
XCOM: Enemy Within video photo
XCOM: Enemy Within video

XCOM: Enemy Within: Ghost robots & transhumanism


I asked for this
Aug 31
// Steven Hansen
You're well Enemy Within your rights to be upset with the lackluster The Bureau: XCOM Declassified, but when you remember that XCOM: Enemy Unknown was excellent, you should be back to appropriate levels of excitement for its...

XCOM: Enemy Within is MEC-ing me crazy

Aug 26 // Dale North
[embed]260465:50140:0[/embed] Those big-headed aliens? They haven't gone anywhere. While I'll never tire of blowing their bulbous heads off at close range, some more fire power to do so would be nice. Enemy Within brings that needed firepower a whole bunch of gameplay advances to the formula and lays them out in a story that's actually parallel to the original. Someone up there in videogame heaven loves us. Let's get the biggest thing out of the first: Mechs. Or, in this case, MECs: mechanized exoskeletal cybersuits. And playing with them is as good as you'd imagine. They do big damage and can take big hits, making them a lot of fun. It's good that they can take the hits, as they can't really get out of the way fast enough. They're big but they're not too big -- there's a guy inside, after all. Let me explain. If an eyebrow raised at what MEC stands for, the other one will raise after my explanation. Enemy Within's MECs and many other gameplay advancements come from modification, namely genetic and cybernetic body modification. Yes, it's just as messed up as it sounds. Your soldiers can be beefed up in one or both of these ways, letting you tweak their body parts to your heart's content. For example, you might need a sniper or two to get up top in a particular map. A genetic modification to a soldier's legs would let them simply jump to the top of a high point for some instant snipe action -- no ladders needed. Or. maybe drop in a brain modification to deflect psi powers. It sounds gross/mean, but hey, it's not your legs or brain! The MECs come in on the cybernetic side of this process. Your poor soldiers go through a modification to get mech'd up for battle. Again, it hurts them, but not you. A side benefit from these modifications is that your troop becomes a new hybrid class entirely, which greatly broadens available tactics.  Being able to simply order up a convenient gene modification sounds like too much power, doesn't it? The twist is that coming by the resource that lets you do this is not easy to do at all. I didn't have to go through as much of the work as a first-time player might as 2K had a map set up from farther in the game, complete with a soldiers that had already gone through modification. But even with that I still had quite a time getting to this required resource, called meld. This technical marvel lets you build up the ability for modification -- after you collect it, that is. My demo session had a glowing canister outpost of meld highlighted, sitting dead in the middle of the hot area of the map. All I had to do was run up and take it. But there were a couple of problems. First, aliens and their new MEC counterparts, Mectoids [we love that name, as you can imagine], lay in wait in the distance. And the meld pod itself has a countdown timer that lets you know that it's only going to available for a short time before it goes kaboom. This puts the pressure on players like me, giving me a lot more to think about than the enemies on the map. So what does this normally careful, highly strategic player do? I run right out there. And yes, as you'd guess, the solider that was sent to retrieve that meld died. And so did a supporter I sent out after him. The ones I sent to flank and one MEC held out for a bit when surrounded, but I eventually paid the price for being the rabbit that dashed out blindly for the carrot. I used some new tricks, like using the MEC to blow up cover, but I didn't last long. I kept looking over my shoulder to see if anyone was watching how badly I was getting smashed. Someone was. I winced. But, in the end, I had one of those satisfying finishes where I barely survived. It ended up where I had crossed enemy lines, left only with one half-dead MEC and one standard solider, up against a really beefed up alien that hid in its ship up until that point. In a totally defeated mind state, I sent the MEC to soak up some hits, hoping he could maybe take the alien down before he died.  I had that remaining solider come up from the side and help whittle the alien down. Again, I barely made it out alive. Was getting the meld worth it? I suppose it would have been if I could have continued playing past this single map. I can't wait to continue playing past that single map. What's great is that this is just a taste of what's to come for XCOM: Enemy Within. There's much more where that came from, including new weapons, new abilities, new enemies, new maps, new challenges on old maps, and multiplayer. I want it all. I know we'll see and hear more leading up to the Nov 12 launch on for PS3, Xbox 360, Windows PC and Mac. My genetic and cybernetic modified body is ready.
XCOM: Enemy Within photo
Mmmmm, cybernetic modification!
Being at gamescom has its perks, especially when it comes to having the first opportunity to play a newly announced game. Or in this case, a new expansion so big that it's essentially a new game. 2K officially announced expan...

XCOM: Enemy Within announced for November 12!

Aug 21 // Jim Sterling
(So ... I got the embargo right on this one?)
XCOM: Enemy Within photo
Official expansion to Enemy Unknown is officially official
2K Games has lifted the lid on XCOM: Enemy Within, an expansion to the wildly popular Enemy Unknown. It'll be available on November 12, and aims to bring a whole host of fresh content to the original game.  New soldier ...

Review: Civilization V: Brave New World

Jul 14 // Joshua Derocher
Civilization V: Brave New World (PC [reviewed], Mac)Developer: Firaxis GamesPublisher: 2K GamesRelease Date: July 9, 2013 (North America) / July 12, 2013 (Worldwide)MSRP: $29.99Rig: AMD 9850 Quad-Core 2.50 GHz, 5 GB of RAM, GeForce GTX 480, and Windows 7 64-bit The way a cultural victory used to work was that the player simply had to unlock every available policy for their civilization. This meant that all you had to do was earn as much culture as you possibly could to buy policies quickly, and it was important to keep your empire small since more cities would drive up the culture cost of new policies. This system seemed to be fine, but it always felt you were playing the game without any impact from other civilizations. You just had to sit back and build your little culture farms while other players duked it out for world domination. Now players have to fight against each other to become the dominant culture in the world, thus winning the new cultural victory. Cities can produce great works through great artists, writers, painters, and musicians. These great works, which represent cultural milestones that your civilization has created, are placed in museums or other cultural buildings and generate tourism for your empire. To win a cultural victory, you have to produce more tourism than other civilizations have made culture. [embed]258059:49555:0[/embed] Basically, tourism represents your attack points and culture is your defense points. When you have generated more total tourism then they have generated total culture, you win the game. If you have a dominant culture, other players' cities can defect to your side. This new victory is much more satisfying than the previous system, and it can be challenging when you have a lot of players trying to achieve it, since everyone will have a really high culture value. Civ IV players will also be happy to know that great people can "culture bomb" other players, meaning that you can go into their territory to spread your culture and tourism with a massive burst. Along with great people being able to make great works, artifacts can also be found at new antiquity sites using the Archaeologist unit. These sites will appear at places where earlier events happened in your game, places such as where you fought an enemy or you destroyed a barbarian camp. You can either dig out an artifact that can be placed in culture buildings to generate tourism, or you can turn the site into a landmark that will give you culture points. The older the site is, the more culture points you get from it. Later in the game, as players enter the modern era, they can adopt new Ideologies, which are basically a new set of skill trees tied into the existing policy system. Each player can only pick one ideology for their civilization: Freedom, Order, or Autocracy. These each have unique bonuses and new policies that players can adopt, and they also have a big impact on your relationship with other leaders. Everyone who adopts Freedom is much more likely to be friends with each other, and they probably won't get along with anyone choosing Order. Wars can erupt between ideologies, and it adds a really nice touch to the end game. It's not a huge departure from the policy system, but it does add enough to keep things interesting. Another end-game feature is the World Congress, which opens up when one civilization has met every other leader and they have the printing press. This player becomes the leader of the World Congress (which you can rename to anything you like, so my leaders met at the "Greater Council of Sloths"), and players can vote on issues that will affect everyone. The hosting player and the player with the most delegates can propose laws to be put to a vote. Delegates are gained by advancing in eras and by having allied city states. This really makes having lots of city states on your side beneficial. The laws enacted by the World Congress cover a variety of things, including banning a particular resource from play, increasing taxes on standing armies, enforcing a world religion, and events like the World Fair that lets players donate production to win prizes. It's really a system of trying to help yourself while inflicting serious pain on other players. If the winning player has a huge army, you can rally together with other players to bankrupt him by increasing the gold cost per turn of military units. If all of these new changes sound like fun, I have even more exciting news for you. My absolute favorite addition here is the reintroduction of Trade to the series. Players can build trade caravans and cargo ships, which are used to establish trade routes with other players, your own cities, and city states. You can get stupidly rich by investing in a lot of trade routes, and there are wonders and buildings that can improve the amount of gold you earn and how many trade routes you can have. You can earn so much money with trade routes that it adds a whole new way to play the game: being a rich country who just buys anything they want. Money is power, just like in the real world. You can bribe other leaders to vote your way in the World Congress, you can pay them to attack your enemies, you can buy research agreements to speed up your technological growth, and you can buy new units and buildings. If you spend the early game building up your gold income and trade routes, by the modern era you will be rich enough to get anything you want and make other people do your dirty work. It's a glorious way to play, and it is definitely my new favorite method of global domination. In one game, Egypt was being a dick to me, so I payed off three other leaders to declare war on him. His empire fell and I didn't even need to declare war or build an army. I felt insanely powerful, which isn't something that was present earlier in the game if you had a lot of gold. Along with all of these new mechanics there are also nine new leaders, new technologies, new units, two new scenarios, new wonders, new great person types, and a lot of tweaking to older mechanics like Religion and diplomacy. The patch notes and changes are lengthy and detailed, so I won't dive into each item, but it's a lot of little things that all add together to make Brave New World into the best experience I have had with the series, and I have been playing since the first game. My only major complaint is that this essentially makes Gods & Kings worthless since this has all of the mechanics from that expansion included, and you don't need it to play Brave New World. There are still unique leaders, units, and scenarios in Gods & Kings, but it's not enough to warrant the $30 price tag it still has. Brave New World is also currently $30, and that seems a bit steep for an expansion that could also be replaced in the future. If you didn't pick up Gods & Kings for some reason, I really suggest skipping it unless you can grab it for cheap on Steam. Brave New World is the expansion you need to get instead, and I highly recommend it to fans of the series. If you have been sitting out on Civilization V because you feel it's not as awesome as Civilization IV, you really need to get on this side of the fence now. Brave New World brings in all the best parts of Gods & Kings and it makes the game into something complex yet simple to learn. The ways you can play are greatly opened up with the new systems, and you can take very different approaches to each victory type. While it still seems less complicated than Civ IV with all of the expansions, Civ V with Brave New World does have a lot more going on and it's just easier than ever to get to all of it. That's always a good thing.
Review: Brave New World photo
It's the Civ game you've all been waiting for
When Civilization V launched a few years back, a lot of die-hard fans were disappointed with the lack of depth the game had to offer. The graphics were sharp, the interface was clean and intuitive, and the overall gameplay wa...

XCOM photo
XCOM

Critical Hit! XCOM: Enemy Unknown finally out for Macs


Running a paramilitary organization has never looked this trendy
Jun 29
// Jason Cabral
Seems like a fair bit of critically acclaimed titles are finally making their long-awaited hop over to the Mac gaming universe. Last week we had Rockstar's take on a modern noir story in Max Payne 3, and this week we have Fir...

Review: XCOM: Enemy Unknown (iOS)

Jun 20 // Chris Carter
XCOM: Enemy Unknown (iPad, iPhone [reviewed on an iPhone 5], Mac, PC, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360)Developer: Firaxis GamesPublisher: 2K GamesReleased: June 20, 2013MSRP: $19.99 (iOS) At first glance, XCOM may seem like just another turned-based game -- but once you finish your first training mission and get into the nitty gritty, it's much more than that. For one thing, there's one major catch: XCOM: Enemy Unknown features permadeath. Despite the fact that you leveled up a character just right, pumped all your best gear in them, and relegated them to the cornerstone of your army, if they get outflanked by a surprise alien attack -- boom, gone forever. The main draw of Enemy Unknown is the fact that you build your own story as the game goes on with a variety of mission objectives, as the narrative occasionally butts in. Death will have a permanent impact on your game, both emotionally and mechanically, as you scrape up new recruits in a constant effort to best the unrelenting alien menace. Soon, you'll start to feel the sting of an actual commander, deciding whether or not sacrificing a soldier is worth a victory, or saving a certain country is worth the effort. Of course, combat isn't the only focus in XCOM, as the base management and political balancing act is arguably more difficult. You need to decide which projects to research, and where to place buildings. Different countries are all contributing to the XCOM program, and if you don't keep them all happy (or alive), they'll completely pull funding. It's a weird little meta-game, but it absolutely works, as you are forced to decide between the fate of two countries, and weigh the pros and cons of alliances on a constant basis. [embed]256483:49267:0[/embed] A touch-capable device feels right at home for all these portions in particular, as you can select menu options and build new structures with the greatest of ease. Also, given the turned-based nature of XCOM's combat, the game works perfectly on an iOS platform. Yep -- Iron Man Mode (that auto-saves with every turn) and the higher difficulty settings are fully intact, so no worries there. Although Enemy Unknown has taken a hit graphically to fit on a tiny phone, it still looks polished, and it's by no means difficult to tell units apart. I came in skeptical of how well the game's visuals would translate to iOS, but after my first mission, I was sold. The iOS version is definitely at a lower-resolution than its PC and console counterparts, but all things considered, I don't have any major complaints. Truly, the only thing holding back this port is the camera control during combat. For whatever reason, Firaxis didn't enable full "swipe" camera movement, which means you'll have to slowly drag your finger along the screen to traverse some of the larger maps. Additionally, switching the view (which is normally done with multi-touch gestures in other games) is inaccurate, and is best served through the use of virtual buttons. If you're into multiplayer, it's not available at launch, and is planned as a future free update. The good news is the full game is basically intact without any microtransaction nonsense present (I checked immediately and breathed a sigh of relief), and it's a universal app with iCloud and Game Center support to boot. Some maps have been removed in favor of recycling a few -- and fitting the game onto the App Store -- but it's not really noticeable, especially in a single playthrough. XCOM: Enemy Unknown has translated incredibly well to the iOS platform as whole. While there's no way I can recommend it over the PC, 360, or PS3 versions of the game (which you may be able to find discounted close to the price of the iOS version, with the PS3 version currently free on PS+), it still holds its own. If you haven't experienced this modern classic yet and have absolutely no other way to play it, this port is where it's at.
XCOM: Enemy Unknown photo
Relive the despair of permadeath on the go
I was pretty blown away by Firaxis Games' re-imagining of the X-COM universe last year in XCOM: Enemy Unknown. So blown away in fact that it was my second choice for Game of the Year -- and this is coming from a fan of the '9...

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Civ V trailer will be the best minute of your day


Fact: The announcers voice is a safe alternative to sleeping pills
May 31
// Abel Girmay
A new trailer has arrived for the Civilization V expansion, Civilization V: Brave New World. There's quite a bit of meat on Brave New World's bones, with plenty of later-game additions, and an emphasis on trade routes. For a...

Preview: Civilization V: Brave New World

May 17 // Fraser Brown
Civilization V (PC)Developer: Firaxis GamesPublisher: 2K GamesReleased: July 9, 2013  Although Brave New World's focus is ostensibly on the late game, there are a number of additions that players will have access to right from the get-go, while others appear a wee bit down the line. In some cases, their impact won't be fully appreciated at the start, but they slowly build up to have a meaningful impact.  International trade is one of the most notable new features, and can be dabbled in extremely early on. Trade routes can be set between player cities and those of other powers or even city states, moving goods via fragile caravans and cargo vessels, vulnerable to attack from barbarians or foreign aggressors.  Appropriately, I played as Morocco, one of the new civilizations with a penchant for trade. With the "Gateway to Africa" bonus, Morocco gets three gold and one culture for every international trade route. It may seem like small potatoes, but with multiple routes weaving throughout the world for thousands of years, it adds up to a tidy sum.  Trade isn't just about lining one's pockets, either. There's a give and take between trading powers, as gold, culture, religion, and science is exchanged. Trade is integral to those looking to spread their culture abroad, but it can be a double-edged sword, as foreign ways of thinking might find their way into your civilization. So what at first seems like an economic boon quickly reveals itself to benefit culture-focused civilizations. It's flexible, though, providing good reasons for any empire to take advantage of it.  The system amounts to bugger all if you don't have much culture to begin with, however. Luckily, Brave New World has a fair few new cultural wonders just waiting to be built as well as expanded great artists. These special units have now been split into three, with writers, artists and musicians all potentially appearing should you encourage them through social policies and other decisions.  Not only can these new great people be spent to give an instant boost to culture, they can be commissioned to create important works of art. Musical compositions, paintings, and pieces of literature can be put together, and then attached to slots provided by certain buildings and wonders. Ultimately, this generates tourism.  Foreign civilizations will be influenced by the tourist attractions of other civilizations, and the greater the rating, the more awestruck they will become. If you've wasted your time trying to get a peek at the Mona Lisa in the Louvre, or the Tutankhamun exhibit in the Museum of Egyptian Antiquities, then you'll know first-hand how big the crowds can get and the impact these pieces have on people.  In Brave New World these tourists get so impressed that they start wishing their own civilization was even half as awesome. They might even go so far as to start demanding their leader make some drastic changes.   Tourism and culture can be further augmented with the advent of archaeology. Cities can start producing archaeologists and sending them out to start digs. Once something is unearthed, the dig can either become a cultural landmark, or the artifact discovered can be brought back and put on show, generating more tourism.  A really wonderful touch is how these artifacts relate to each individual game. While digging up sites in my Moroccan empire, archaeologists discovered ancient Polish weapons, dropped by my enemies when I conquered their lands and removed them from the continent. There's still an element of randomization, but it's all connected to the unique history of your civilization and your experiences with it.  By the 20th century, there's a very good chance that players will have exhausted the social policy trees, with the only remaining options being ones that they've avoided due to them not providing appropriate or desired bonuses. Brave New World expands social policies by adding ideologies: Freedom, Order, and Autocracy. Once selected, instead of unlocking new social policies, players can start spending culture on their chosen ideology. There's a long list of bonuses split into three tiers, so even if there are, say, three civilizations following the freedom ideology, there's a good chance that they will have quite different boons.  This way, one can customize their civilization well into the 21st century, and these changes will have a tangible impact on the society, unlocking new wonders and drastically changing how a civilization functions. Through tourism and trade, the citizens of other civilizations might end up favoring your ideology, pestering their government to switch.  Fanning the flames of dissent in such a way can be extremely beneficial to a sneaky civilization. If the opposing leader refuses to capitulate, then they may have a full-blown rebellion on their hands, and if they choose to change their ideology, they must sacrifice a lot of previously held benefits. As civilizations become more advanced, the World Congress (and later the United Nations) is founded, bringing empires together to dictate the fate of the entire world. It's extremely reminiscent of the council in Alpha Centauri, but is far greater in scope.  Leaders can vote on global decisions from putting on a World Fair or a global athletic competition, to embargoing nations and states or banning certain luxuries. The list of possible actions is absolutely vast, and while the goal of this body is to create peace (and eventually leads to a diplomatic victory), there are plenty of ways to completely screw over the opposition. In my game, I managed to make my ideology and religion global, ban the luxuries used by my enemies, and further enhance my own culture. One's ability to dictate what's on the agenda and what passes or fails depends on how many delegates that can have voting, and I ended up having more delegates than all other civilizations combined. Not only did this mean I was the host of the World Congress, it meant that I had complete control over it.  It might need some tweaking, because at no point from the moment the body popped into existence did any of the other civilizations have a hope in hell of outvoting me. I had money, lots of culture, and all of the city states in my pocket, and so I dominated the Congress right up until the end of the game, where I was proclaimed leader of the world.  Although I ended up getting a diplomatic victory, it would have been perfectly possible for me to switch to another victory path. These new features are all intertwined, so while my initial goal was to take over the world thanks to my superior culture, that culture also gave me the political clout to go for a diplomatic victory. Likewise, thanks to my expansive international trade network, I had every city state at my beck and call -- paid off with funds from my caravans and cargo ships or in awe of me thanks to cultural and religious exchange -- so it would have been quite easy for me to declare war and wipe my opponents off the map. Brave New World will contain nine new civilizations, of which I saw the Zulu, Assyrian, Polish, and Moroccan civilizations; eight new wonders such as the Parthenon and Broadway; and two new scenarios: The Scramble for Africa and The American Civil War. Only the latter was playable, and I can't say I was particularly enamored with it. All war and no empire building makes Fraser a dull boy. For those looking to flex their military might, it will likely appeal more.  Civilization V: Brave New World launches on July 9 in North America and July 12 in the rest of the world. I'm rather looking forward to it. 
Civilization V preview photo
I have seen many things
With the arrival of the 20th century, I can sometimes get a bit bored in Civilization V. It continues to engage me enough so that I power through to achieve whatever victory path I had chosen, but therein lies the issue. I en...

Sid Meier photo
Despite developing for mobile, the design legend is open to all platforms.
Sid Meier is a legend to PC gamers for strategy games he lent his name to but the man himself admits that the Meier name doesn't mean much to mobile players. In an illuminating interview with GamesIndustry, Sid revealed his n...

Civilization photo
Civilization

Sid Meier brings back culture with Brave New World


Knock other civilizations off the block with your sweet culture
May 10
// Jason Cabral
It has been over a year since the release of the Civilization V's last expansion, Gods & Kings, but Firaxis and 2K have been hard at work on injecting some new units, civilizations, and culture with the next expansion, B...

Review: Haunted Hollow

May 03 // Chris Carter
Haunted Hollow (iPhone [reviewed on an iPhone 5], iPad)Developer: Firaxis GamesPublisher: 2K GamesReleased: May 2, 2013MSRP: Free (With microtransactions, and a $7.99 Season Pass) The concept of Haunted Hollow is simple: scare the entire town, and win the game. You'll attempt this task on a symmetrical map, with two player-owned mansions on either side, and the town in the middle. Each turn you'll start with a certain amount of "scare tokens," which you can use to build pieces of your mansion, build units, or complete individual actions like movement, attacking, and "scaring" the neutral houses in the middle (the latter of which is the only way to win, ultimately). Units generally derive from three types -- scare-only units, fighters, and hybrids. How you choose to approach each map is entirely up to you, as it's easily possible to outwit your opponent with zero fighters, practically all fighters, or an army of halflings. As you start scaring houses, you'll earn a "neighborhood" bonus for hitting up everything in a segmented area, and eventually, you'll piss off the town enough for them to organize a mob and fight back. Like a lot of tabletop games, you can choose your stable of potential units before each match, and if you're not careful when balancing out your choices, the game can potentially be lost at deployment. At first, all of these mechanics may seem fairly complex, but it's all pretty easy to pick up. As you come to realize that each round the game is giving you a random mansion tile to build, you'll learn that you have to make due with what's given and adapt on the fly. As you start laying your mansion on brick by brick, you'll put new units into the fray, and adapt to those as well. It's a genius way to pace a game and help new players get used to the feel of the action. But that's not to say it isn't deep in general though. Once you've played your first full game, the tactical ceiling of the game is immediately evident. Haunted Hollow essentially gives you a finite amount of moves and lets you do whatever you want with them. Do you build up your mansion first, and thus increase your army size and prowess, or do you immediately start scaring up and capturing houses to amass more turns and map control? [embed]252691:48493:0[/embed] For example, you may start out with the hybrid vampire units who can both scare and fight, then slowly amass an army of werewolves, who are fierce fighters, and can counter-attack, blocking off choke-points as your vampires slowly take the town. Whatever you choose to do, it'll earn you experience (which resets every individual game, and earns you one-use items like buffs or heals), which helps keep you in the game as you're always getting somewhere, even if you make a few tactical errors. If you're ever lost, you can hit the question mark button and see what every unit, building, or room in the game does -- even your opponent's, which is a nice touch. Visually the game is fairly simplistic in nature, with some character designs vastly more detailed than others. Haunted Hollow barely manages to forge its own identity, as most of the designs are "been there, seen that" in nature; the team really could have stood to re-imagine a lot of these creatures in their own way. It runs silky smooth on my iPhone 5, but I was able to witness it on an iPhone 4 as well, and noticed significant frame-rate issues, so be warned. As you can see, the game is free: so what's the catch? Well, you can buy different types of monsters and items to augment the experience, ranging from $1-2. As you can imagine, buying new characters in a strategy game can easily throw off the balance -- but for the most part, the monsters you get with the core game are enough, especially when powered up. What I'm not a fan of is charging for select items that can give you a more clear-cut advantage depending on the situation. While you do unlock the item for unlimited use, and still have to level up (within each round) to earn the right to use it, the mere fact remains that this style of monetization simply shouldn't be in the game. Monetizing characters makes sense, but paywalling simple items that can instantly turn the tide of battle seems a bit petty. These items aren't overpowered per se, but given the fact that they can be used instantly and anywhere on the map, it can get dicey. Thankfully, there's a Season Pass available if you want everything on offer right now, which is a nice concession, since most games would happily charge you $50 or more through multiple transactions that you won't notice over time. There's a single-player mode, but it gets dull fairly quickly as there's no real joy in playing the AI in Haunted Hollow. This is exacerbated by the fact that there's no difficulty settings, so once you outpace your AI opponent, the mode is basically useless. What else can you do? Outside of a few scant single-player challenges, the game really shines in multiplayer. Now, the challenges are basically built to show off all the cool DLC characters you can buy, but you know what? They're actually fun, and serve well in teaching you some more advanced tactics. It's just a shame that there's only nine brief total missions in the current build, as adding more would vastly increase the game's replay value. Just like Advance Wars, Haunted Hollow has a "pass and play" option that allows you to hand off your iOS device to another person in-between turns. If you're so inclined, you can also play with friends through Game Center online in an asynchronous manner. It's pretty smooth, as I didn't really experience any delay with my play sessions online. If you're planning on playing this specifically with friends (either locally or online through Game Center), it'll take some time before you get bored with the game -- especially if you mix things up with a few purchases. But if you're going at it solo, you'll quickly saturate everything there is to do in a few days, as playing with the AI isn't really compelling and there aren't nearly enough challenges to keep you busy. You can play with randomly matched people online, but I've found that randoms will eventually quit due to the long time commitment involved -- even if it's asynchronous. Haunted Hollow is a surprising little game. It manages to rise above the status of a throwaway mictoransaction-begging App by providing a deep and compelling system at the core of the experience. With a few more tweaks, it would be worth spending more time with, but as it stands, depending on your ability to play with others it may be a more fleeting experience.
Haunted Hollow review photo
Build, fight, scare, and conquer
Firaxis Games is on fire again after the launch of XCOM: Enemy Unknown. Both a critical and commercial hit as well as one of my favorite games of 2012, it seems as if they could only go up from here. So of course, Firaxis dec...

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Sid Meier's new game Ace Patrol comes to iOS next month


New mobile IP from 2K and Firaxis
May 01
// Dale North
Game designer Sid Meier's newest title has just been revealed. Ace Patrol is a mobile strategy game based on WWI air combat. You'll defend camps in allies in the sky in any of 30 aircraft, in more than 120 missions. You'll be...

XCOM reboot director and original creator hug it out

Apr 02 // Allistair Pinsof
Now that designer Jake Solomon and Firaxis has released 2012's XCOM reboot to rave reviews, Gollop has only kind things to say about Solomon and the game. Gollop was vocal last year about being surprised by the game's quality, but it's nice to see him discuss the title and its history with Solomon, who is a nervous, giddy fan in the above interview. It's nice to see these two great designers get along and inspire each other, as we could use more talented strategy developers in the market. X-COM to XCOM: 20 Years of Turn-Based Strategy [Rev3 Games]
XCOM photo
Make alien love, not war!
Adam Sessler and Rev3 Games brings two noteworthy turn-based designers together in the same room to chat and hug it out. On one end is X-COM (1994) creator Julian Gollop; the other is occupied by 2012 XCOM reboot designer Ja...

New Civ V expansion photo
New Civ V expansion

Huge expansion heading for Civilization V


Brave New World
Mar 15
// Joshua Derocher
Dozens of new units, nine new civilizations, eight new wonders, seven swans-a-swimming, four gameplay systems, and a partridge in a pear tree! This is all incoming in Brave New World, the freshly announced expansion pack...
Awards photo
Awards

Journey wins big at the BAFTA Game Awards


The Walking Dead and Unfinished Swan win two awards each
Mar 06
// Alasdair Duncan
Looks like the folks at thatgamecompany might need a new trophy cabinet after Journey picked up five BAFTA Game Awards last night at the ceremony in London. The PlayStation Network title won awards for Artistic Achievement, A...
XCOM for Mac photo
XCOM for Mac

XCOM: Enemy Unknown is coming to Mac soon


Save the earth on your Apple gizmo
Feb 26
// Joshua Derocher
Last year's awesome "save Earth from evil aliens" simulator, XCOM: Enemy Unknown, will be finding its way onto Macs very soon. The port is being handled by Feral Interactive, who has ported a lot of good titles like Bat...






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