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Review: Worms World Party Remastered

Jul 16 // Darren Nakamura
Worms World Party Remastered (PC)Developer: Team17 Digital Ltd.Publisher: Team17 Digital Ltd.Released: July 16, 2015MSRP: $14.99Rig: AMD Phenom II X2 555 @ 3.2 GHz, with 4GB of RAM, ATI Radeon HD 5700, Windows 7 64-bit The trailer below does a good job summarizing what is new in this remastered version. Resolution can now go as high as 1920x1080. Sound effects have been updated. Controller support is in for those who are more familiar with the console versions. Steam features like leaderboards, achievements, and trading cards are all here. While those are all welcome additions, some feel half-baked or manifest in unexpected ways. The Steam integration is a little wonky, since the default screenshot button is F12, which is used in game to select the "Skip Go" and "Surrender" actions. These don't come up frequently and there are ways around it, but I have already taken a few errant screenshots because of it. It goes the other way too; intentionally taking a screenshot will inadvertently bring up the actions. When it happens (or when any Steam notification comes up), the notification window covers a good chunk of the bottom right corner of the screen, where wind velocity and weapon information live. More jarring is the visual upgrade. While the battles (the parts that matter most) can now be viewed in 1080p, the title screen and menus are still their old, fuzzy, 4:3 selves. It isn't a huge problem, but it's a strange first impression to go into a game expecting a clean presentation and be met with pixelated opening screens pulled straight from the year 2001. [embed]295986:59506:0[/embed] In battle, the resolution increase works as it always had: instead of sharpening up the graphics and textures it presents a larger field of view. In other words, each worm, sheep, and banana bomb maintains the same sprites and animations, but the camera is zoomed out so everything appears smaller. Functionally, this is a welcome improvement. Taking long shots and planning big moves (especially the twitch action of the Ninja Rope) are easier with the entire level in view. Calling down an Armageddon and seeing every meteorite hit is a delight. Aesthetically, it doesn't feel like a remaster at all. Eschewing the 3D elements found in Worms Revolution, the looks of these worms and environments are the classic 2D versions, unchanged since 1997's Worms 2, only now we can see more of them at a time. By and large, this is the same game that released in 2001. Play as a team of well-armed worms. Use an array of conventional (bazooka, grenade, shotgun) and unconventional (banana bomb, flying sheep, old woman) weapons to blow up, maim, drown, and otherwise murder the other team. Part turn-based strategy, part action platforming, part artillery game. For many, just being the same game as before is enough. After all, Worms is an institution in gaming for a reason. Still, there are some design elements that betray how dated Worms World Party is. In addition to being ugly, the menus aren't intuitive. Some require a single click to enter, others a double click. Most are represented by images that aren't self-explanatory. After setting up a custom game type so I could practice with the Ninja Rope, I couldn't figure out how to set indestructible terrain. The campaign is a collection of unconnected scenarios. Some are clever and some teach players a new technique or idea, but there isn't much of an impetus to do any of them. Worse, the mission descriptions are often obtuse or incomplete, forcing players to play and replay missions just to understand them or to know what "surprise" pops up halfway through. This is exacerbated by a lack of a way to quickly restart; a failed attempt results in players being kicked back to the menu, forced to click through a text box and to restart the mission, and made to wait for it to load up again. At the very least, load times are quick now that the game isn't disc-based. The merit system is also never explicitly explained, so new players might be confused why a sloppy, "by the skin of their teeth" run might net a gold medal and an expert, no damage run might only be worth a bronze. It's a simple system once you know (it has to do with the number of attempts since the last victory), but it isn't ever spelled out. Worms World Party does this a lot. It assumes players already know what they're doing, which made sense when it first released on the heels of Armageddon but is less welcoming today for new players (or rusty ones like me). Of course, the main selling point of a Worms game is the multiplayer. With six-team local or online action and a bevy of options to tinker with, this does what it needs to do. I did log onto WormNET prior to launch and found exactly zero others online. This will live and die with its community, so we'll keep watching post-launch to see if it's thriving or withering. Worms World Party Remastered might be the go-to PC Worms experience for hardcore fans of the series with a taste for nostalgia. It definitely doesn't serve as a good place to get started for those who might want to try the series out. While it looks a little shinier than it used to, it still doesn't look new, and it certainly doesn't play like a modern game. [This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]
Worms World Party review photo
Dig in
Worms World Party has always been a divisive entry in the long-running series. Released as a followup to the almost universally lauded Worms Armageddon, some viewed it as a welcome refinement to a great game while others saw ...

This War of Mine mobile photo
This War of Mine mobile

This War of Mine now available on Android and iOS tablets


Take this war with you
Jul 15
// Darren Nakamura
Released late last year for PC, This War of Mine provided a thoughtful perspective on war in a video game. Rather than focusing on the glory of battle and how cool it feels to land a headshot on a bad dude, it looks at the l...
Disgaea photo
Disgaea

The Disgaea Triple Play Collection is coming to the US


Expect it soon
Jul 10
// Chris Carter
NIS has announced that the Disgaea Triple Play Collection is coming to the US on September 15. It's currently available in Europe, but today is the first time the publisher has revealed that it will be coming furthe...
Pit People photo
Pit People

The Behemoth's Game 4 becomes Pit People


Strange name for a strange game
Jul 08
// Jordan Devore
The upcoming strategy game from Castle Crashers maker The Behemoth is memorable. Its old temporary name, "Game 4," was not. It's now called Pit People, which is weird but fitting. "Pit People was the name written on the origi...
The Escapists photo
The Escapists

The Escapists meets The Walking Dead later this year


I did not expect this!
Jul 08
// Chris Carter
The Escapists was a pretty awesome little strategy game, and it looks like Team 17 isn't done yet with the series. It's just announced The Escapists: The Walking Dead, which will evidently feature locations and characte...
Project X Zone 2 photo
Project X Zone 2

Bandai Namco delays Project X Zone 2 until 2016


Have a new trailer to pass the time
Jul 02
// Kyle MacGregor
Project X Zone 2 has been pushed back to early 2016. The upcoming tactical role-playing game, which features a myriad of iconic characters from Bandai Namco, Capcom, and Sega, was previously announced for an autumn release i...
Free Steam weekend photo
Free Steam weekend

A bunch of Total War games are free to play this weekend


Have a favorite?
Jun 25
// Jordan Devore
My goodness, Creative Assembly's tactical Total War series has been around for 15 years now. There's a sale for the occasion, naturally, but it goes further than that: Shogun: Total War and Medieval: Total War have landed on ...
XCOM 2 photo
XCOM 2

XCOM 2's mission gameplay looks gooooood


Uh, yes
Jun 25
// Chris Carter
Want to see what XCOM 2's all about? Check out the latest trailer above, which not only details the entire narrative, but also shows an in-game mission, albeit with a more cinematic touch. From what I can see it's XCOM ...
Project X Zone 2 photo
Project X Zone 2

Meow! Felicia confirmed for Project X Zone 2


And Ulala
Jun 19
// Chris Carter
Bandai Namco didn't have a massive prescence at E3 in terms of headlines, but it's provided a ton of new trailers for upcoming projects, one of which is for Project X Zone 2. The video confirms new additions to the franchise...
Starcraft II photo
The first hit is free
Blizzard took the penultimate spot in the PC gaming show at E3 tonight. Executive Producer Chris Sigaty and Game Director Dustin Browder started off talking about Heroes of the Storm, but eventually got to some juicy informa...

Medieval fighter For Honor defies description

Jun 16 // Kyle MacGregor
While there is some sort of story mode to ostensibly explain why feudal soldiers from opposite ends of the planet are sharing a battlefield, Ubisoft is keeping quiet about the single-player campaign. Instead, the publisher has opted to thrust the multiplayer component into the foreground. And what a strange and alluring experience that is. On the heels of its E3 media briefing, Ubisoft whisked the press off to a tower in downtown Los Angeles to compete in a mode called "Dominion." There, groups of eight players skirmished in 4-on-4 matches with an emphasis on territory control. With three King of the Hill-style zones to vie for, it's set up an awful lot like an online shooter. And at a glance, it gives off a Dynasty Warriors vibe, with hordes inept minions fighting battles of attrition while player-controlled hero characters grapple over objectives that, you know, actually matter. Neither of those comparisons really nail what For Honor actually feels like, though. The combat system is far more intricate than Koei Tecmo's hack-and-slashers, at any rate. This is no mindless action game. Each and every encounter with the enemy requires a great deal of care.  For Honor is all about sword mastery; success or failure largely hinges on one's proficiency with a blade. Being overly aggressive is a good way to get flayed, as defense is of vital importance here. Predictable attacks are easily blocked and countered, and even knights, despite being clad in heavy plate mail, can be felled surprisingly quickly after a string of defensive miscues. In some respects this is more of a fighting game, where opponents feel one another out with pokes and jabs, hoping to discern the enemy's plan of attack and capitalize when given the opportunity. You really have to pay attention to where the enemy's weapon is positioned, be ready to counter it while working to read them, and get an opening yourself. I quickly found myself outmatched when going toe-to-toe with the developers on the other team. They seemed to move with lightning speed, feigning attacks and throwing me off balance, only to hit me from my unguarded side a moment later. Thankfully, strategy and teamwork play a central role. When I figured out I wasn't a skilled enough fighter to take enemies on by my lonesome, I focused my attention on sneaking up the flanks and capturing the objectives. Eventually, somehow, after flailing in the early going, our team came back from the brink of defeat to pull off an unlikely victory. (Maybe they let us win.) On top of that, players act as field generals, earning mid-game perks called "Feats" that allow one to call in ordnance support catapults and archers, or even inspire your cohorts to fight better. Knowing how and when to play these cards figures to play a key role in turning the tide of battle. For Honor is a fascinating fusion of genres that has me eager to return to the battlefield.
For Honor impressions photo
Whatever it is, I like it
Ubisoft Montreal's For Honor seems to borrow inspiration from as many places as it does warriors. The newly-revealed project sees medieval knights clash with samurai and viking raiders, warping time and space to bring together foes as distinct as the overarching experience that unites them.

Fire Emblem If photo
Fire Emblem If

Take a nice, long look at the new Fire Emblem


Sweet torture
Jun 10
// Kyle MacGregor
Fire Emblem If is still a long ways off. That is, unless you live in Japan, where Nintendo's upcoming strategy role-playing game is just a fortnight away from its June 25 release. Soon enough people half a world away will be...
New Master of Orion photo
New Master of Orion

Wargaming is bringing back Master of Orion


Hmm
Jun 09
// Jordan Devore
The original Master of Orion was before my time but, like Myst, the sci-fi strategy title was one of my uncle's favorites. He'd leave his laptop unattended and I'd screw around with it, failing miserably to explore, expand, ...
Final Fantasy Tactics photo
Final Fantasy Tactics

Final Fantasy Tactics: War of the Lions is on Android now


$13.99
Jun 08
// Chris Carter
Square Enix has released the mobile version of Final Fantasy Tactics: War of the Lions (itself a remake originally debuting on PSP) on Android devices. It's basically the same version as the iOS release from 2011, with touch ...

Review: Massive Chalice

Jun 08 // Steven Hansen
Massive Chalice (Xbox One, Mac, PC [reviewed])Developer: Double Fine ProductionsPublisher: Double Fine ProductionsMSRP: $19.99Release Date: June 1, 2015 A talking cup with the alternating voices of an old man and younger woman gives you a "Hello Commander," informing you that you, an immortal being tied to the chalice, are the only one who can navigate humanity to victory against the encroaching, monster-filled Cadence. With that brief set up, you pick five pre-generated families to serve as your starting vanguard of fighters. It's an aesthetic choice. Try and pick families with distinct flag colors (and fun surnames) because otherwise keeping track of them is a mess. The Fab Five have different stat-affecting traits (bred) and personalities (learned) and three different base classes that can be combined to make sub-classes with slightly different abilities. You're also seemingly bound to get stuck with an asthmatic early on whom you can rightly cast off into the scary orange mist because they will be useless and the life of an individual isn't worth much in a 300 year war effort. Massive Chalice operates on two levels. Combat is turn-based with grid movement and two actions per turn. Walk a bit and then attack, or walk further and leave yourself unable to attack are the big ones. The latter has a chance of leaving a character screwed if they wander into the obscured battlefield Fog of War and reveal a pack of waiting enemies. Outside of combat, there is scant decision-making and a lot of hitting the Advance Timeline button as you try to make it to year 300 to destroy the Cadence by building kingdoms for your characters to bone in to produce better soldiers and advance the bloodline. [embed]293482:58868:0[/embed] Combat, however, feels one-dimensional, perhaps appropriate for the rote meat grinder that is 300 years of war. There's no cover or overwatch, never objectives beyond kill everything within line of sight. Inch forward, kill, inch forward, kill. I often had to double back through the sometimes obnoxiously routed, procedurally generated levels to off one last monster that was content to, I guess, walk around in circles in the far off map corner for all its turns. Enemies are impressively distinct. Ruptures create a wide berth of corrosive tiles upon death, Lapses sap soldiers' XP, Wrinklers age soldiers on contact. But Massive Chalice only metes out these highly specialized enemies and facing them over and over, in larger and beefed up quantities, gets tiring. Its turn-based strategy feels brute forced and basic. Even with the addition of sub-classes and the tips screen advising carrying members of every class, I still felt like fielding a team of five Hunters to SOCOM its way through fights was ideal and borderline easy (on Normal mode). The Alchemist's volatile, limited projectiles killed more of my own troops than enemies in my last run and sending the melee-focused Caberjack into the fray always feels too dangerous. This, though, raises a huge problem with the lengthy final fight that I've found unwinnable without the area of effect moves of the other classes. Nation management, too, feels simple and sterile. You are asked to choose between research projects which take years to finish. The most obviously necessary are the Keeps, which is where you retire soldiers to and appoint a mate on the grounds of eugenics. I find that once I get Keeps built and Übermenschs screwing, research becomes haphazard. A couple pieces of gear (mainly for Hunters), the experience raising item, and then I'm mostly choosing something at random and slamming on the "Advance Timeline" button until someone else dies of old age and needs to be replaced at their post. It is clinical and the soldier stat effects feel slim (so long as you avoid breeding a handful of proper blights, like asthma). The idea of bloodlines is a good one, but the sparse overworld (the same Simon panel of territory and occasional, stoic look at a throne) does not support any narrative or connection in the vein of a Crusader Kings-like strategy game. All there is are brief, occasional text adventure events that have you make a decision (how will you settle a squabble between two troops?) that might affect some mild stat. Meanwhile, the short shelf-life of fighters doesn't support any connection to individual troops in combat, save for the one or two fights you'll have a high-level troop with a funny nickname. The most attachment I felt was to a flag color. This becomes a weird problem with the ending, which tries to suddenly loop back around and deliver an unnecessary story element that, at best, would "explain," in-universe, subsequent playthroughs. It is odd, unnecessary, and even robs you of basic world-saving catharsis. It also reminded me that, on Normal, I've yet to come close to my kingdom falling, which belies roguelike claims, while on the other hand I sort of dread playing 300 more years (plus failure restarts) on higher difficulties because of the simple combat. Massive Chalice is both beautiful and approachable, somewhat rare qualities in the genre. But its 300 year arc bends toward apathy and inhumanity. By mid-game, what was novel and enticing becomes a slog. The nation and bloodlines are mostly built out, ending the high level tactics, and battles become more brute force as the same enemies double in HP, power, and quantity. I felt like middle management making the same position appointments that a computer could make more quickly and all I got for my click click clicking was combat with bigger numbers on the same handful of stages. There is some payoff with the bloodline idea at the end, but it is not worth the rote meat grinder to get there. [This review is based on a retail build provided by the publisher.]
Massive Chalice review photo
Great fighter with a glass jaw
Double Fine's less scrutinized Kickstarter success, Massive Chalice, has been formally released half a year since entering Early Access. Along with Invisible, Inc., it formed a one-two punch of time-eating, XCOM-tinged turn-b...

Total Warhammer photo
Total Warhammer

Okay, Total War: Warhammer looks awesome


Don't let us down
Jun 04
// Jordan Devore
Some folks were invited to see Total War: Warhammer. We were not. But thanks to the power of the Internet, we can all share in the absurd spectacle. I sincerely hope Creative Assembly works its magic here. The premise alone is the stuff of dreams. I am curious what the DLC situation will be like for this game. "Extensive," probably.

Stonehearth is out now on Steam Early Access

Jun 03 // Alessandro Fillari
[embed]293233:58798:0[/embed] Like many other crowdfunded projects, Stonehearth began as a passion project, but it soon grew into something more. Working on the game in their spare time, the developers eventually were able to attract major interest from their Kickstarter campaign, which snowballed from there. With its release on Steam Early Access, Radiant Entertainment's Tom Cannon (also the co-founder of the Evo Championship Series) spoke about Stonehearth's inception and its growth into what it is now. "We started the game as a passion project. We had jobs in Silicon Valley that weren't really personally satisfying because we're hardcore gamers, so we did the Kickstarter back in 2013 to see if the idea we thought was cool," he said. "And the Kickstarter went well, and then we could make the game, but we had to pitch the game to our friends, which got them on board as well -- expanding the team. We spent two years making out prototype, which we showed in the Kickstarter video, and turned it into an actual game." In similar vein to the notoriously tricky and complex Dwarf Fortress, Stonehearth tasks players with creating their own unique civilizations in a procedurally-generated landscape from the ground up. Starting with just a few settlers, all randomized with their own personalities and skills, you'll soon be foraging for supplies and using tools to craft shelters and other necessities in order to survive. As you mine nearby mountains, bring in new settlers, build roads, raise your castle, and amass gold, your population will thrive and expand in unique ways. But as you build your civilization, you'll soon catch the interest of the local goblins who've got their own place in the dirt, and they may not take kindly to seeing outsiders take up residence in the same plot of land. The goblins serve as a necessary evil, as they not only serve to be your major obstacle from thriving, but they're also an opposing force that builds alongside your civilization. While in some cases you can simply negotiate terms for peace, resulting in trading of goods or paying them off to leave you in peace, other times you'll have no choice but to confront them head on. Among your settlers are those who've got the prowess to fight the goblins, but bare in mind not everyone has the courage to do so, and they could run away at the very sight of even a lowly goblin. Picking the right troops is just as important as collecting gold or building an installation, as losing a battle can have dire consequences. Though I mentioned it was similar to Dwarf Fortress, don't fret. The folks at Radiant wanted to emulate its complexity and depth found but ultimately sought to make Stonehearth easier to get into. Less daunting. Don't think of this as Dwarf Fortress with training wheels, though. Stonehearth definitely retains the hardcore focus and depth found in other sim titles. A neat trick Radiant employs to make things interesting is the A.I. director, which analyzes your behavior and throws in challenges based on your current pace of play. PC titles that take advantage of work created by fans are commonplace, and the team wanted to ensure players had access to the same tools it used to create the game to build their own additions and tweaks to Stonehearth. As an example, Cannon showed off one of the more humorous mods from fans, which reskined the game to look like a Candy Land tie-in. Trees turned to lollipops, and the ground textures looked as though they were caked in frosting. While most mods will add simple user interface and gameplay changes, many seek to alter the aesthetic and overall experience, and it's encouraging to see that the developers are so supportive. "We're incredibly mod friendly, so we love mods," said Cannon while showing off the Candy Land mod. "Our approach to mods is that all of our file formats are just open text files, and we have a modding forum to talk with others, if that's what you want to do. We give our modders all the tools they need to build the game, we want there to be tons and tons of mods because we love seeing what people do with the game." I was impressed with the level of complexity found in Stonehearth. The developers do a great job showing life and action happen during the creation of your kingdom, and I felt that the voxel aesthetic adds a lot to the charm. Though I'm not too into the sim genre, I was pretty taken with the gameplay in Stonehearth. One of the most satisfying aspects of these titles is seeing your hard work result in a functioning and healthy society that cannot only expand and thrive, but do so without you regularly needing to intervene. I'm interested in seeing where Radiant Entertainment's title goes from here. Games such as this need a passionate community to flourish, and given the already extensive mod support in place, it looks like Stonehearth will have a bright future. It's currently the #1 seller on Steam's Early Access page. I'm quite looking forward to seeing the follow-up to the Candy Land mod. Given time, I'm sure the fans will come up with something crazier than that! Stonehearth [Steam Early Access]
Stonehearth photo
3D Dot Civilization Builder
It's incredible to see how Kickstarter has given rise to so many titles. Sure, there's the heavy hitters like Broken Age, Wasteland 2, and Pillars of Eternity, but there are many others that came out of nowhere to leave such ...

In Japan photo
In Japan

PlayStation Vita strategy RPG Makai Shin Trillion out next month


In Japan
Jun 03
// Steven Hansen
Makai Shin Trillion is coming to Vita in Japan on July 23. We first saw it just over a year ago. The Vita strategy RPG comes from developer Compile Heart whose last four developed games (Fairy Fencer F, Hyperdimension Neptun...
Crusader Kings 2 photo
Crusader Kings 2

Crusader Kings 2's Horse Lords expansion brings in the Khans


Dothraki Sim 2015
Jun 03
// Joe Parlock
Paradox Interactive has unveiled the eighth and latest expansion to the kill-your-child-and-marry-their-wife simulator Crusader Kings 2. Titled Horse Lords, the latest expansion lets you become the great Khan. As in Genghis ...
XCOM 2 photo
Firaxis Games is developing
2K Games has just sent word that XCOM 2 is in development, and will be a sequel to XCOM: Enemy Unknown, the recently beloved reboot of the series. Firaxis Games is once again handling the project, which is great news fo...

Hack photo
Hack

Locked Steam achievement requires you to hack game's code


Invisible, Inc.
May 26
// Steven Hansen
It's not to say that secrets are no fun anymore, but the internet sure can take the luster out of 'em. I mean, what would have been the point of my dog eared, note scribbled Myst notebook if I could solve the whole thing cons...
Awakening photo
Awakening

Fire Emblem: Awakening global sales near 2 million


The lil waifu simulator that could
May 26
// Steven Hansen
Let's take a minute from Fire Emblem If minutia (here and here and here) to appreciate how we got here. Fire Emblem: Awakening, once expected to be the last game in a now rejuvenated series, has sold at least 1.79 million cop...
Lethal Tactics on Steam photo
Lethal Tactics on Steam

Lethal Tactics brings its intelligent gameplay to Early Access


Like Frozen Synapse, but with graphics
May 25
// Patrick Hancock
Lethal Tactics has recently popped up onto Steam's Early Access program and will immediately look familiar to anyone who has played the brilliant Frozen Synapse. The gameplay is, at its core, the same: click to assign o...
Utawarerurmono: False Mas photo
Utawarerurmono: False Mas

Utawarerurmono: False Mask is a visual novel, strategy RPG hybrid


3D!
May 21
// Steven Hansen
Aquaplus has released its first trailer for Utawarerurmono: False Mask, the unexpectedly 3D hybrid visual novel and strategy game coming to PlayStation 4, PlayStation 3, and PS Vita in Japan on September 24.  
Expeditions: Viking photo
Expeditions: Viking

Historical RPG Expeditions: Viking announced


Historical means no horned helmets!
May 21
// Patrick Hancock
Expeditions: Conquistador by Logic Artists is a great, and difficult, tactical RPG. So naturally, when I heard that another game is being made in the same vein, I immediately became excited. Expeditions: Viking&nbs...

Review: Swords and Soldiers II

May 20 // Chris Carter
Swords and Soldiers II (Wii U)Developers: Ronimo GamesPublisher: Ronimo GamesReleased: May 21, 2015Price: $19.99 This time around, the playable armies of the Chinese and Aztecs have been replaced by Demons and Persians. Although the former two will be sorely missed (I'll never forget some of their sayings), the replacements have more than enough tricks up their sleeve to justify their inclusion. The way Swords and Soldiers II works is strikingly similar to its predecessor. As a strictly "one on one" affair, players will opt to build and research units, sending them in a straight line against another foe. If one gets close enough your units will start attacking their resource accruing units, and just like a complex RTS, your days are numbered as your enemy whittles down your base for a win. It's not just a "set it and forget it" style, as a constant array of diverse spells that can be used at any time keep you on your toes, and can change the tide of any given battle within a round. My favorite part of this scheme however is how quickly everything goes down. After you have the gold, units can be built instantly. Other than the select few instances in a match where you need to erect towers, no real "buildings" need to be created. It's all action all the time, but there is depth to it. While Soldiers does have a story mode, the heart of the game lies within its head-to-head versus and skirmish gametypes. [embed]292182:58551:0[/embed] The campaign is basically table-setting for everything else, giving you a rundown of the strengths and weaknesses of each individual unit, some ideas for how armies counter one another, all set to the tune of a really goofy story that illuminates some background on all three armies. It's not going to win any awards, but the jokes are occasionally laugh out loud funny, mostly due to the superb voicework that carries over into the other modes. Where the sequel mostly succeeds is diversity between the armies. Vikings mostly focus on spells, Demons, towers, and Persians have a health mix of both with their own unique trappings. Every time I started to embed myself in an army I felt like I was playing an utterly different experience, which is definitely a positive. Over time I ended up gravitating towards the Persians, who have some really cool abilities on-hand. I really love the invisible units that are only seen while attacking, but they're balanced, expensive to build, and have plenty of counters. I also enjoyed the low mana-cost cannon structure, which does nothing on its own, but can fire a low-damage, tiny genie-summoning canon shot across the map. I quickly learned that Demons could counter my stealth units by building barrel riders -- suicidal creatures that would explode and destroy them even if they were invisible, and were at a lower cost. In return I researched the bribe skill, which allowed me to take over specific units at a cost of gold and mana. There's hundreds of counters like that across the multitude of characters and strategies present in the game, and thankfully, it's never too overwhelming at any given time. After seeing a new unit you'll have an incentive to try out the army and use it yourself, which is really easy to do considering how open the research tree is at the start. If you want to spend all of your starting gold just to build one big unit -- you can do that. Likewise, you can bunker up with a defensive-strategy at the start, or "Zerg" rush with some low-cost units. It's surprisingly balanced and open-ended. Another new layer of depth is the gold and mana drop mechanic. On every map, airdrops will occasionally fall down and litter the map. You're presented with a choice -- let your gold gatherers stay within the comfort of your base for consistent riches, or brave the world for a massive reward. This is on top of micro-managing your army, spells, researching, and building responsibilities. It gets even more intense on one map in particular, where the only way to any resources of any kind is to pick up drops. Multiplayer is played by way of one mode -- a local versus setup where one player uses the GamePad, and another, the TV. Although the lack of online play is a bummer, Ronimo really chose a perfect platform that caters directly to the dual army conceit. In short, it's a perfect situation for my wife, who prefers the TV and the Wii U Pro Controller (though a Classic Controller Pro and Wiimote can be used), and myself, who vastly prefers the GamePad. I ended up plugging in some noise cancelling headphones so I couldn't hear her unit sounds (and vice versa), and it was a much easier setup than we achieved with the previous game, getting two PCs together, logging into Steam, and hoping we consistently connect to one another. There is one hangup though -- you can set your tweak a few extra stats in versus like your starting gold settings or change up build and cooldown rates, but you need to do this every round once you quit out of a session. It will work if you stay the same armies on the smae level to "rematch," but it feels like an oversight to have to switch it back every time. Your mileage may also vary if you don't have a friend to play with, but then again, that's where Skirmish comes in. If you don't have anyone on hand, you can opt to play with the AI. Surprisingly it's actually challenging, though I will say that the CPU cheats from time to time, like when it throws down an area-of-effect (AOE) ability on the ground, knowing that your invisible units will cross over it. Still, I can put everything on random and play skirmish for hours, despite the fact that there wasn't anyone to revel in my victories with on the couch. Although Swords and Soldiers II has a limited appeal for those of you who like to only game solo, it's a fine strategy title, and a perfect mix of brevity and depth. I'm likely still going to be learning the ins and outs of each army months down the line, which is a really great thing. [This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]
Swords and Soldiers II photo
Vikings, Demons, and Persians, oh my
Swords and Soldiers, released in 2009 as Ronimo's first game, was an underrated treasure. Although it was soon eclipsed by their subsequent release of Awesomenauts a few years later, it remained a staple in my house, as it was wonderously easy to pick up and play at any time. Swords and Soldiers II builds upon that foundation and adds just enough depth to keep things interesting.

No weapon durability photo
No weapon durability

Fire Emblem If changes up series-staple weapon triangle


Magic, bows, concealed weapons
May 19
// Steven Hansen
The lack of weapon degradation isn't the only difference to the upcoming Fire Emblem If's combat. The swords-beat-axes-beat-lances-beat-swords triangle is changing, too, Famitsu reports (picked up by Hachima Kikou and transla...
'Game 4' photo
'Game 4'

20 minutes of the new game from Castle Crashers, BattleBlock dev


The Behemoth's 'Game 4'
May 19
// Steven Hansen
Because apparently it's 2008 again, I actually played some Castle Crashers this year, which then got me hankering for some BattleBlock, which I prefer. And I'm thinking the tentatively titled "Game 4," with its strategy leanings, might make for my favorite Behemoth game yet. The 20 minutes above is an updated version of what Jordan played and previewed last year, if you prefer words.
Tecmo Koei photo
Tecmo Koei

Koei announces Romance of the Three Kingdoms XIII


Coming to PS4, PS3, PC in December
May 19
// Kyle MacGregor
Koei Tecmo is all about that grand strategy right now, revealing a new Romance of the Three Kingdoms game following yesterday's announcement that the latest Nobunaga's Ambition is coming west in September. Romance of the Thre...
Nobunaga's Ambition photo
Nobunaga's Ambition

Nobunaga's Ambition coming west this September


To PS4, PS3, PC with dual-audio
May 18
// Kyle MacGregor
Nobunaga's Ambition: Sphere of Influence is coming west, Koei Tecmo announced today. Originally released in December 2013 as Nobunaga no Yabō: Sozou, this is the latest entry in Koei Tecmo's long-running grand strat...

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