Contemplating Cities Skyline

NOw, it’s a game that’s getting rave reviews at the moment for a lot of the right reasons although I would have to call it a little overrated as well. City builders are a very popular genre and after the dismal release and gameplay of the newest Simcity a lot of people seem to have been longing for a game that does the genre right and is a proper successor to the Simcity franchise. While Cities Skyline does seem to get the former right I would be hard pressed to call it a proper successor to Simcity, at least the games I fondly remember and played religiously.

It is done very well. The foundations of a great city builder are here and they have improved on the formulae in a few areas. As per usual you can set particular types of areas you want between residential, commercial, industrial and office space. These grow depending on the demand within your city with the interest growing over time depending on what your city offers. It is great to see your city grow with these too as each type of building has a certain growth factor depending on the area and services. Eventually you go from small humble buildings to large skyscrapers.

My house is on the corner

My house is on the corner

The policy and zoning mechanics are a new iteration on this as well, and a rather needed one that improves well on the formulae while adding new options and ways to play as well as a much-needed element of personalising your city. It doesn’t seem like much but being able to name these zones really helps you get involved with the game further. It’s more personal but I just wish there was more there. More ways to truly personalise these spaces beyond simplistic policy changes that really don’t change much. To allow only certain types of buildings and industries that could have even worked better with the different types of resources. Maybe even work in the benefits and consequences of these policies a bit better too, and the cost because once your city is properly running you have no problem enacting all the truly beneficial ones.

Cities

You have the same kinds of services to employ: education, police, Fire, disease, death and a couple of others that need to be provided for your city to foster with most having a certain area they work within. There is less of an input with these though, you can up the budget but it doesn’t really increase the radius they work from what I see. Then there is the elements of beautification and special interest buildings although I don’t think this part was done very well. There is an achievement style system of unlocks, population based ones as well as some requiring a particular set of fields being fulfilled and while I get that they were creating elements of progression to play I felt it was mostly unnecessary, and at worse frustrating. I don’t want to have to fulfill certain unnatural goals and checklists just to get certain buildings. These could have just been gained during regular play or have the buildings used certain requirements better, needed buildings.

bah thought i ammended here.. you can make bridges and transport lines along different planes… it’s awesome.

Then there is the planning and road building aspect of the game that is probably the weakest, but not for the reasons that have usually been stated. I think how they have planned the ai to move around the city is actually done pretty well. The have specific home points and destinations and these points need to be fulfilled so you get a lot of extra movement around the city, but it’s movement that is real not the kind of falsified Simcity way of presenting traffic. You see the cars moving the entire distance not just certain parts and filling out data points. Unfortunately the AI, or road traffic mechanics aren’t very smart, or grounded in real life traffic movement. You’ll see at intersections traffic doesn’t move as it should, pathing goes through itself at times creating bottlenecks and it also doesn’t take advantage of times where the traffic could keep going, like short left turns. It doesn’t seem to use the entirety of the road lanes either which makes traffic build up as well.

Cities 2015-03-15 17-30-55-438

The other part that I find is an issue is the lack of options for building my roads and transport routes. It’s all on a singular plane and you create a lot of intersections because of it. It would be far better to have in-game methods of creating raised components and bridges but this is mostly left up to the modding to get. I miss underground roads as well. And then there are the railroads, a needed function for transport of people and goods but you have little customisation over the way you plan these. There are no bridges for railroads, intersections to use and from what I’ve seen no modding support to enable this either, it’s all for roads.

The other element that is rather annoying me has been the placement of certain specialist buildings and how they always require a road present to complete. Most of the time this is easy enough but when it involves coordinating a road with a railroad or the shoreline it gets a lot harder. I couldn’t even get the ferry and cargo ship ports to work. Stop the nanny style of play and just let me put stuff down, it already has the tech for autocompleting pathways so it should be a non issue.

Cities

I also felt there was just a lack of connectivity. You build a large city and it’s great as the bigger it grows the more space around it becomes available for purchase but I kind of want the feeling of interconnected cities, working together to share and sell. I loved the way in the Simcity 4 how you were specialising cities and their tools of production, which were needed and used by others while you were also gaining things from them. It was that feeling of symbiosis good city builders have… even Simcity 5 was able to pull that off, although in a smaller more restricted fashion. You were growing a world and here, while a large interesting city with different areas is still just a city. I want more than that now.

Although, it is very purrty

Although, it is very purrty

I am enjoying it though, immensely. I love building the foundations of a city and then watching it grow and the way everything moves around is just fantastic. There is probably not enough differentiation in the building types, and zones end up feeling a little too similar (an issue solved through the modding to an extent) but the foundations of it, the elements and mechanics working behind that are done extremely well. From here though, I can only see it getting better as the modding community grows, the recent DLC they’ve unannounced plus the regular support they still plan on providing. Also, I’m rather glad that in the face of Maxis closing we have a company that’s picked up the city building mantle.

Advertisements

Life is Strange: episode 1

I really don’t know what to say about Life is strange except that it represents what it aims to well enough for me to start imagining my own odd duck High school story. One involving a lot of finding oneself, struggling with self-image and dealing with the usual pressures and problems.

There are inconsistencies with this story if you look closely, the kind of inconsistencies that would never be part of the usual life. It is one overruled with a constant state of drama that, while is always a part of high school life has been sped up for the state of the story. It’s also the kind of characters and story where, I think they’ve more got their influence from the many tv series rather than having that lived experience to draw from. Now the team there at Dontnod Entertainment is mostly male, so that’s kind of expected but I still want to give them kudos there for even trying and still creating some interesting and endearing characters.

LifeIsStrange

The lived experience of the environment is a true strength of Life is strange as they really take the time to create a believable space for the game to take place in. The layout and design, the little details of posters and graffiti on wall. I just love many of the dormitory rooms, and living spaces as  they just exude so much character. Just seeing these spaces gives you a far better insight into the personality of the characters you engage with and represent. It is a far more natural way of portraying this information too rather than giving some heavy exposition, that never seems enough anyway.

LifeIsStrange

So far the mechanics are extremely well done and polished as well. The time travel mechanic for completing events and playing with the options of an event are rather simplistic but the way you actually explore the world for information and clues is both intuitive yet not intrusive enough to remove that sense of immersion. They are easy to see, to interact with and give information enough for you to know where and what to do to an extent. They way you move around and use these is so much more natural as well, the animations work and are fluid and far less restrictive than the Telltale games. You can just tell they understand adventure game design, the flaws and features and have worked around this to create a game that is a pleasure to actually play for once.

LifeIsStrange

I kind of like the visuals as well. They are incredibly stylised with relatively low poly models and washed out textures but with the colourful design and the way they often use this to direct the player and to focus on aspects of the environment work really well. There are moments as well where the design, the colours and the atmosphere of the space truly create some memorable moments.

LifeIsStrange

I have to say that I really enjoy this first episode. Now it doesn’t have the in-depth character analysis style play, and maybe not as strong with the wealth and interconnected nature of the smaller stories that you might expect from these indie game, coming of age stories but then this feels far more like a game. A game with a strong narrative, interesting mechanics and a very well designed world.

Darkest Dungeon Preview

Do you like to constantly explore the random nature of a deep, claustrophobic and disturbing underground dungeon?

Do you like watching your team die in horrible, soul crushing ways. To be lost in the depths of madness?

Do you enjoy the constant state of tension from living on the brink of despair. A single moment away from losing it all?

Well Darkest Dungeon might be the game for you.

If you don’t like those things well, you probably will after delving into the darkest dungeon and seeing the depth and strategy within.

Darkest dungeon reminds me of playing pen and paper games, but with a sadistic dungeon master that delights in throwing the absolute worse scenarios at you to watch you fail. At first you mind is awash with this failure and the scenario becomes a routine kind of death march. You welcome the death and an absolute ending. But after coming to terms with it you begin to grow. You learn the systems and how to gain them. Your mind starts working with purpose and strategy, constantly enacting best possible plans for success. You are also the ever removed leader in this position, you learn from your errors and accept your loses but make them count.

That is the core of the experience within Darkest Dungeon. Depressing but also Rewarding.

As for the actual Mechanics it involves the control of a team of adventurers  after glory and fame.. or whatever else really. It is this individuals you basically use as a tool to cleanse the depths below your family’s estate.

There are a number of adventurer classes you’ll get to choose from following the tank, damage, support archetype although each have a certain take on that. You end up balancing this too for maximum impact, enough heals and control skills to minimize harm and then the big damage skills to finish the job.

darkest dungeon

Of course that’s how it should work but remember, sadistic dungeon master who likes throwing the absolute worse things at you imaginable. You will fail… often. People will die… often. The entire dungeon exploration experience is just trying to minimize this damage and working with it when you can. Health will drop, traps will snare and those little items you can’t help touch will continue to add their psychological toll on your characters.

darkest dungoen

Their will be dungeons where everyone just cracks from the pressure and it becomes a hilarious account of constant abuse and paranoia. The damage from which often can’t even be healed before the next time they entire the next abusive encounter.

Through all this though is an element of growth. Your characters grow in experience and skills. Traits continue with them both bad and good and the estate grows as well giving further benefits to these adventurers. You continue to take down bosses and explore harder spaces that reward far more, but take their toll as well.It is a meagre existence even in that state but one you worked towards and be proud you accomplished it.

darkest dungeon

hmm… basically it’s the 2d party based version of Dark Souls.

Now it is in early access, like just about every other game I seem to be playing at the moment but it is remarkably polished in this state with a lot of the depth already developed and put in place. All that seems to be left is adding encounters, diversity to these and the two locked areas before I would call it complete.

Definitely worth a purchase in my mind.

Amazonian Antics in Firefall

BIg changes ahead for Firefall.. AGAIN you say! They are still working on a new crafting system to once again make that aspect more import as well as bring back the usefulness of crafting but they’ve also been working on a lot more it seems. And that is Update 1.3, War in the Amazon.

The biggest part of this update is a vast new land to explore that you can get to using the usual arcporters. It seems just as big as the other maps and also focuses on the Chosen warfront once more with a map aim approaching that of the earlier (like beta) battles for land in New Eden. There is a lot happening on this map at all times with a level of constant conflict that makes the map feel incredible active and gives a constant activities to try for.

Firefall amazon map

So far I’ve actually been enjoying it quite a bit. I forgotten how much I missed this more aimlessly style of play but a lot of defined actions and activities to choose from. For those actions to even feel a little more important and community driven as you are constantly defending and capturing many of the map points as a group. You are building up the strength of the watchtowers through other events and just constantly fighting around the map. There is also a bit to do for the solo or small group player as well which makes for a lot of options.

This area is tough at times. Enemies take more of a beating and I think have had a few upgrades to their ai and movement abilities. A huge amount of them will also spawn for the outpost captures and defence phases as well which is just another way to get players involved as a group. The muti-stage nature of these also seems to make them more enjoyable as well; more to fight, more team work required and it’s just fun slaughtering hordes of chosen.

Social Shooting

Social Shooting

The area is rather nicely designed too, far better than devils tusk. It feels more open with easy paths for traversing the zone, or at least the main parts of it. There is a lot of difference in the height and verticality of the zone but as usual they’ve played around with the style and design of the rocks, walls and ledges to make the best use of the jetpacks and gliders. I kind of like the aesthetic this time as well, not as nice as the Sargosa Sea style murky forests but the large trees, swamps and general greenery is just nice after the desolate wasteland that was Devil’s Tusk.

Firefall amazon

Overall It seems to be once again getting back to the strengths of what made Firefall fun was and the style of gameplay I’ve been waiting for. Large, open and well designed map with a focus on events and group goals.

The other big change with this update was removing a lot of the separate tower currencies and making it a flat reputation style mechanic. This is a good thing. Before it was just grinding out a lot of the job board quests, for a single item. This way you get reputation from an area by also doing nearby events, and once you have the reputation gear is bought with crystite. This might help with alternate frames too as you’ll have the reputation already built up.

There are a few other things to check out with the patch. New rare mob style bounty hunts to complete in each area that look fun. New battleframe items that have specific abilities and can change how things work.

Being Firefall there is a few bugs though. One major one seems to be the endless spawning of a lot of chosen from a certain part of the melding which has basically turned into a large scale area for target practice.

and that was just a fraction

and that was just a fraction

There were a lot of people there and you were killing 100’s of chosen but it seems there is no reward but experience. It still runs like donkey balls for me too, pretty sure it’s the way the client sends and receives data as it’s using a lot of my bandwidth at a time, which isn’t much but adequate for ever other online game.

Pretty Impressed though so it seems I’m going back to shooting stuff again.

NEW VIDJAS

Quick Look at Boid

a new early access title that seems quite polished for what it is with an intuitive ui and gameplay with a lot of map options. It’s a game revolving around territory control and capture points. Some points create new mobs while others turn these into a variety of different classes. The gameplay is then creating a strategy from the units you have available, controlling your space and capturing new points all the while battling your opponent.

There are a lot of different maps to choose from, each with their own strategies and difference in CLass types available. They all have varying difficulty too when facing an AI enemy. There is some Multi-player too and while the game sI have played did work well, there doesn’t seem to be many playing just yet.

Project Zomboid Preview

You already know how much I love this game.. just thought I’d make a youtube version professing my undying love as well.

Darkwood Preview

Another Preview vid and written report that varies a lot haha. I just find it easier when talking about these games, and giving a report to mostly just make it up as I go. To discuss the interesting points that I’m thinking about rather than reading an already written report. Feels more natural too.

Ok continue ON

Continue reading

Quick Look at Dungeon of the Endless

So I have a youtube style first look vid up now as well and just wanted to write down my feelings of the title as well. Now, I didn’t actually make a transcript for the video before making it so what you hear and what I write will probably be a bit different.

I love Dungeon of the Endless and am seriously addicted at the moment. I purchased it during the steam sales and from then on have played it quite a bit and barely succeeded at it but yet, that makes me even more addicted.

Continue reading

Repopulation Preview

My initial thoughts of The Repopulation have been a while coming. I’ve been playing a lot lately and even jumping in and out of the alpha clients of late but being a sandbox there is a lot to get acquainted with and I wanted to get a fuller picture of the game first. Now I still haven’t experienced everything yet. The nation management and open world housing is not something I know much about and isn’t really implemented fully. I haven’t been involved much with the player conflict yet either.

What I have done is just check out the foundations of play. The combat types and methods of progression. The elements of the economy like gathering and crafting and well, just what the experience is going to be like.

So far I’m rather impressed although I’m not sure if that’s just the experience of a person stumbling through the desert and finding water, or someone that is actually enjoying what they find on its own merits. It’s a strange feeling.

Continue reading

Link Dead Radio: A Blogging year in review

So instead of the usual link round-up from around the blogging community I’m just going to Self-Promote instead. This time it’s a recap of what I’ve been up to in the year and all that is amazing and awesome of my rants and rambles from the year past.

Continue reading

Dead Island Epidemic Preview

So far I’ve spent a fair bit of time playing in the Dead Island Epidemic Open Beta and rather enjoying it. It’s an interesting mix of Top down hack and slash with a strong mix of Rpg thrown in… Basically Dead Island meets Diablo. Hmmm, if it was that I’m guessing it would be rather brilliant but while the gameplay is generally fun and the mechanics rather solid there are a lot of concerns and ways the experience falls apart.

Continue reading