New independent studio Oxide Games wants to reshape the way strategy games are built. The five-man team—mostly ex-Civilization V developers—is building a new 64-bit 3D engine called Nitrous, with a focus on adding some technical muscle to new turn-based and real-time strategy games. The aim, according to the studio, is to help developers add massive scope to upcoming games.
Turn based strategy
Stoic Games have reached the end of a long and arduous journey; one that required the help of an army of crowdfunders, and contained a short intermission for some free-to-play battling. To celebrate the end of their adventure, here's a celebratory trailer. To be clear: their adventure is in the more metaphorical sense of the development and release of tactical-RPG The Banner Saga. As far as I know, they have not personally carried some giant axes through a harsh and mythical wilderness.
It was supposed to be a short break. I told myself Civilization V wouldn't suck me in when I began playing on the big screen. The game will be too tedious. The text will be too small. I was wrong.
I've spent the past couple days going through every game I thought would be interesting to play, and Civilization V on a couch, staring at a big screen TV is among most engaging, relaxing gaming experiences I've ever had with a game.
Sid Meier is a game design legend. He co-founded MicroProse in 1982 and created Civilization, one of the longest-running and most loved series in gaming. Now the creative director at Firaxis—and overseer for both the Civ and XCOM franchises, Meier can be choosy about what he works on. His choice: Ace Patrol: Pacific Skies, a WWI-era turn-based strategy game that's small in price but big on strategy, and even influenced by tabletop games.
PC Gamer spoke to Meier about his interest in smaller game design, and how it let his team take some risks. He also shared his view of the changing strategy game market, and how he thinks all gamers are strategy gamers at heart.
If you took all the pomp and spectacle out of American Football and boil it down to a few key moments, you'd have Frozen Endzone (or a Melted Endzone, if you're being pedantic). You'd also need to randomise the pitch and player positions, make it turn-based, and add robots, but the shoulder pads, balls, and tactical tosses are ripped straight from the playbook.
Playing Frozen Endzone is like watching a coach's game-changing scrawl come to life: each game begins with two teams of five facing off on a randomised pitch of high and low walls, with the attackers running down the screen to the Endzone. Each bot on the field is controlled by placing waypoints for them to follow, drawing out routes through the series of random walls the game generates. Depending on the side, you're either hoping to set-up a glorious series of snaps that'll end with a touchdown, or positioning players to arrest the attacking team's goal charge.
Alpha testing is a bit like inviting a barbarian horde to ransack your city. Sure, you might think you've built sturdy walls and impenetrable defences, but sooner or later the throng of testers will find a crack. That's what happened to Jon Shafer's appropriately named turn-based strategy At The Gates. Its alpha testers, having breached the early code, went on to make a number of reasonable and sensible design requests based on the issues they identified. The savages! In response, Shafer is extending the game's development past the planned mid-2014 release date and into 2015.
Here's an announcement trailer for Warhammer 40K: Space Wolf, the free-to-play tactical card game that was announced back in August. If you follow Warhammer to any extent, you'll have an idea of what to expect. If you don't, I've got some bad news: the Space Wolves are just people, not actual wolves who prowl around and do wolf things in space. I know, I was disappointed too.
If you filled a sock with Dungeons & Dragons dice and knocked Sid Meier unconscious with it, what do you think he'd dream of? Possibly something like Faerun, a mod that brings Forgotten Realms to life inside Civilization V: Gods & Kings. Lead civilizations of elves, dwarves, and orcs, recruit druids and wizards, battle dragons and ogres, and learn powerful spells. (Also, please don't knock Sid Meier unconscious with a sock full of dice. Or with anything else.)
There's a ton of civilizations to choose from in the Faerun mod, all straight out of the Forgotten Realms universe. Play as Cormyr, Land of the Purple Dragon, led by Princess Alusair Nacacia Obarskyr. Or choose the dwarf Bruenor Battlehammer of Mithral Hall. Sarevok Anchev of Baldur's Gate fame? Hells yeah. And about two dozen more, representing most of the major nations you've encountered in Forgotten Realms D&D or video games.
While multi-format publications froth expectantly at the coming release of a plastic box, we might as well laze back and enjoy a bit of strategy news. XCOM: Enemy Within is either out or incoming, depending on your geographical status, but if you're waiting - or just haven't bought the turn-based expansion - an interactive trailer takes you through some of the new features and mission types.
It's actually happening. Kickstarter projects are being released. Between Broken Sword 5's release announcement, and last night's release of turn-based tactical strategy Battle Worlds: Kronos, we're going to find out if these games the community has already funded are even any good. In case of the latter, a launch trailer has appeared to persuade you that while yes, you absolutely should murder your foes with rockets, you should really do it for the right reasons.
POTENTIAL SPOILER ALERT - this reveals a new type of alien for turn-based tactical add-on, XCOM: Enemy Within. If you've already decided that you're getting the expansion and would rather encounter and adapt to it yourself, give this preview a miss. This hands-on focuses on one particular encounter, for additional in-depth overview of Enemy Within's new features, you can also check out our other hands-on account.
All rise to salute the fallen. Sergeant Balls, start the bagpipes. AHEM. Lt. April "Congo" Palmer, slain by a Floater's light plasma rifle in Operation Devil's Giant. Eleven kills to her name. Squaddie Eric Stevens, mauled to death trying to taser a Chryssalid at melee range during Operation Flying Skull. My, my, what a mess that was. Lt. Shaojie Zhang, slain by a Thin Man at range in Operation Dark Vanguard. Rookie Dieter Kohler, strangled to death by a flying metal octopus During Operation Devil's Giant.
Wait, flying metal octopus? Balls, stop the bagpipes. Colonel Jenkins, stop crying. Nobody told me anything about a flying goddamn octopus.
Here's a trailer that focuses on the Exalt: those covert enemy operatives that Tyler revealed in his XCOM: Enemy Within preview. They're an enemy within, you see. Within the expansion, within your species, and, as your trailer shows, within your own base. While the trailer consists entirely of cutscene, it does suggest that base defence missions could be making a return.
Damn those pesky wizards! Warlock 2: The Exiled was announced towards the end of last week. Unfortunately, due to a troublesome cloaking spell, it passed us by unseen. That is definitely what happened, and in no way can I be blamed for missing the news of a follow up to fantasy turn-based strategy Warlock: Master of the Arcane. With that disclaimer made abundantly clear, let's take a look at the announcement trailer.
You could read a book in the time it takes for Rome 2 to calculate AI movements between turns. Our Chris Thursten has made good progress with Game of Thrones. I, meanwhile, tend to make a cup of tea every end-turn event, and then run my empire with the urgency and recklessness of a hyper-stimulated general with a permanently full bladder. To the delight of my internal organs, CA are trying to trim those long AI thinking times down. They've posted a list of fixes made by a beta version of the second patch, which went into testing on Friday, of which "campaign performance optimisations" and "AI round time improvements" are the most welcome. There are also GPU optimisation tweaks listed alongside significant in-game changes to unit speed and morale-battering flank charges. The fix-list is here for your perusal.
I'm starting to worry about Klei, you guys. Between new Mark of the Ninja DLC, continued development on Don't Starve, and now the turn-based spy-'em-up Incongnita, they're pumping out an incredible number of games. Has anyone checked to make sure their office isn't full of developers chained to computers; forced to code strategic espionage-based interactions and draw gorgeously stylistic art? They've just opened Incognita for pre-order purchase, giving buyers instant alpha access to the game. Maybe they need to raise funds for some thicker restraints?
Arcen's been pumping out the indie goods this year, with A Valley Without Wind 2 and Shattered Haven and the recent Skyward Collapse threatening our shame-piles with another kind of collapse. And that's not it for 2013—Arcen dev Chris Park has revealed that besides numerous expansions for existing games, there is one more full game release on the studio's calendar this year. Bionic Dues is a tactical roguelike thing which will see us playing as legless, hovering mechs called Exos.
Summer might be coming to an end, but there's still time to indulge in that most traditional of holiday pastimes: getting chopped up by a supernatural psycho who's basically a homing missile for promiscuous American teenagers. 80s-horror-inspired turn-based strategy Camp Keepalive had a demo release back in February, and today the full thing has launched on Desura. As a quartet of counselors, you have to defend your campers from a pack of murderous monsters, including clowns, wolfmen, and Jason Voorhees-a-likes.
Thanks to my photographic memory (read: access to the internet), I can point you to the last time we scouted turn-based strategy Battle Worlds: Kronos. That was in March, when the Kickstarter project hit its funding goal. It subsequently went on to more than double the £120,000 target, finishing on $260,235. Now the developers are drawing out their battle plans, and have picked a mid-November date for the game's release.
Here's 10 minutes of Age of Wonders III footage, introducing the dwarven Dreadnought Gustav and his predilection for technological hijinks. Really, the campaign slice we're shown is a magical - and violent - turn-based Ocean's 11. Our narrator gets himself into a tricky tactical situation, before stealing an entire city with a hitherto unrevealed plan: killing everything. That's a film I would watch.
Space is endless. We knew that much, but it turns out legends are endless as well. Or rather, one Legend in particular, and probably not the one where Tom Cruise shares a curry with a guy named Tim (as is my understanding of the film). Not content with just one 4X strategy game, the Endless Space developers are back at it again, this time using those 4 Xs (eXplore, eXploit, eXpand and eXtreme) in a fantasy setting, with no spaceships or anything. You can see some hexy screenshots after the break.