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  1. Developed by: Paradox Interactive Published by: Paradox Interactive Platform: PC, Xbox 360, Playstation 3, Ipad Release: 6 December 2011 Defenders of Ardania is an upcoming tower defense game, set for release in December this year. It is set in the fantasy world of Ardania, the same world from the Real Time Strategy series, Majesty, also published by Paradox Interactive. We were given a chance to play a preview build of the game. In it, players take the role of the human leader, referred to as “Your Majesty” as they attempt to figure out why Sir Foxwalde has attacked. Rest assured that the story progresses much further than that, with players utilising and fighting units from a variety of races along the way. Defenders of Ardania has great visuals. Towers and units are well detailed. Environments also look good, and players experience a variety of them throughout the story. As mentioned, it is a tower defense game, so players are definitely going to be looking at these towers often. Towers range from those with large crossbows and catapults, to flamethrowers and crystals, and those are just some of the human towers. Towers change visually as they are upgraded. There are specific towers to use against different classes of units, and a variety are needed to succeed. One of the first levels of the game, showing the grid and basic towers. Players also get to control their own units, with the goal of destroying the enemy castles. Picking units and sending them in waves against the rival castles is easily done, though it takes some getting used to. Once it is learned, it is easy. Each class of unit, for example soldier, will slowly level up the more it is used. With this, its stats are improved, its character model becomes fancier, and of course, its price increases. If the unit levels up to the maximum, a “Hero” unit of that type becomes available - expensive but very strong. This adds an aspect of strategy to the game, as sending the wrong units into the enemy towers will definitely lead to defeat. The first few missions of the game centre around this, Sir Foxwalde and finding out why he has attacked you. These missions also teach you how things work. It is possible to play without the grid seen in the screenshots, though for the placing of towers it is very helpful. Along the way various spells, units, towers and economy upgrades become available. The story is explained in loading screen monologues and conversations at the beginning of each mission, and is filled with quirky humor. It manages to draw players into the world, and keep them interested until the end. Players of the Majesty series should be interested here, too. Some of the enemy towers on a more complicated map. As this is only a preview build, balancing needs to be done, as some of the bosses are a little too strong, and some levels are a little to easy, but with a good while until release, this will likely be fixed. Regardless of bugs and balancing, the game is good fun, casual but not overly so. The multiplayer allows players to play as any of the three races on a variety of maps in free for all and team modes, which adds replay-ability to the game. As the actual missions are where the enjoyment is, multiplayer should be great fun with friends. Getting a chance to play with the units and towers of other races makes things interesting, too. Overall, Defenders of Ardania is shaping up to be a fun and innovative tower defense game. While not of great length, the multiplayer should sustain those who need more of the action. With variety in environments, towers, units and enemies, it is quite addictive. We here at Gamercide look forward to seeing how it improves by the time it is ready for release. Click here to view the article
  2. Developed by: Paradox Interactive Published by: Paradox Interactive Platforms: PC Release Date: 9/13/2011 Sengoku, a grand strategy game based on the “Sengoku Jidai” or “Warring-States” period of Japanese history will be released by Paradox Interactive on September 13th this year. This first look is based of a preview copy of the game, and so will not fully reflect the final copy. During my preview session with Sengoku, I was given the chase to play through some some campaigns as various clans. This preview will detail my experience with one of them. When you first go into single player, you are greeted with a nice view of the entirety of Japan, along with the various historical starting periods and a panel for info on your chosen group. The map really looks great in full 3D. Rolling hills, rivers, trees and settlements (such as castles, watch towers) litter the landscape and make this Japan a treat to play in. Players are able to zoom in close, or watch from a preferred distance. The camera tilts slightly when zoomed all the way in, and this makes the 3D features more prominent. From this screen we can pick different map modes. These also help choose our character that we will play as. Clan Mode lets us play as a clan leader, controlling larger land masses and having to contend with other, smaller characters in the clan. Daimyo Mode lets us see and choose to play as the leaders of what are best described as states within the clan. These characters control smaller amounts of land, and are under the control of the clan leader. Character mode lets us choose to play as much smaller areas within these states, like local districts. Zoomed in view of the water, and the variation in land height. While it may seem that playing as the clan leader is the best choice, there is actually a lot more to worry about. Revolts, Daimyos wanting to separate from your leadership and the general struggle of power make things difficult. For the purposes of this preview, let’s choose Hosokawa, the easiest clan. We start of at war with many clans, which can make things difficult. It is best to make peace with at least some of them. When opening up the diplomacy menu, it becomes evident that Sengoku has a very good looking interface. The gold, maroon and parchment themed menus are very easy on the eye. With a game so centered around the use of the interface, this can only be a good thing. In this preview it was found that all of the warring nations would accept white peace. Keep in mind this is a preview copy, and balancing issues may still be around. By raising my levies from each province, I was able to create a sizable army. This is a gamble, as, if not raised, a levy will help defend it’s home province in the event of a siege. When the war is over, it is easy to return them all home. I moved my army to the border of one of the clans I was still at war with, the Hatakeyama clan. They are at war with multiple neighbours, so their power is split. It is easy to March into their lands, and begin seizing their settlements. The counters for armies look good as well, especially from a strategic distance. Part of Japan showing various Clans, and part of the interface. After fighting off their attempts at resistance, we now control their entire country, aside from a few provinces seized by their rival neighbours. The population of our home provinces are getting rowdy - in all this excitement they have been forgotten. The men of the court, hired to control specific areas of business (Diplomacy, War, Intrigue) Can be used to deal with this by reducing revolt risk, building castles or buildings and improving relations with a province leader, among other things. What comes next is up to you. Will you make the Hatakeyama your vassal, or annex them into your clan completely? Will you start a plot against a powerful rival, recruiting other clans to join you when you carry out the attack? Or will you build up your economy and become a power house, while you are at peace? The possibilities seem almost endless in this promising grand strategy title. Click here to view the article
  3. Developed by: Nitro Games Published by: Paradox Interactive Platforms: PC ESRB: T for Teen Note: Check the bottom of this page for a short update on the state of the game. Pirates of Black Cove is difficult to classify. Players sail around the Caribbean gathering and completing missions on both land and sea, in an aim to gain access to a Forgotten Isle and defeat the Pirates of Black Cove. Part role playing, part strategy, this game is a casual one. When first starting a game, players can choose one of three playable characters. These characters, each with different stats, level up though the game and earn abilities. The character you choose is playable on land, where they can command up to three other units hired from a stronghold. Along the way, the player will become champion of three different pirate factions, the Pirates, Buccaneers, and Corsairs. Through these factions, missions are handed out. Every third mission will be a plot-advancer, often a special mission such as a boss fight. Along the way, you and your pirate crew will take the fight to various pirate icons, such as Sirens and the Kraken. The Pirate Stronghold, the first available, and some units. Missions range from collectable missions, assault missions (going in on land to destroy buildings, kidnap people), chasing down boats and waging war on the seas. The world is alive, with boats from various other factions such as the Netherlands, Britain, Spain and France always sailing around. Missions earn money, which can be spent hiring units, building strongholds, buying a new boat and even upgrading the boats you own. Naval warfare is handled well, with simple controls that are easy to use. Clicking on either side of your boat fires the cannons on that side. Different boats each have their own stats, and even small boats can take down a large one, with the use of good tactics. Items gathered from travels can be used to transport you around the map, or give you special buffs or abilities. The naval battles are the shining aspect of the game, as it should be in a pirate game. Along the way, the player character will be able to become Champion of each of the Pirate factions. Among other bonuses, the leader of each faction will join you, becoming another controllable Hero unit on land. They level up as well, and can even command 3 units each, in addition to every other hero under your command. By the end of the tale, it is possible to amass quite the crew. Each faction has various units that can be hired if the required building is built. These range from lowly pirates or musketeers, to men with thundering cannons or massive hammers. A naval battle, with an island and settlement in the background. The land battles are not often as good as the naval ones, prompting a feeling of “get in, get out” when attempting a mission on land. Often the best strategy is to select everything and throw it at the enemy, which is a shame. Land maps are hard to navigate, the addition of a zoom - both in and further out - would greatly benefit navigation. Weaving through city streets, bag of gold in tow, trying to get to your boat before the inhabitants of the town get you may sound good, but it is difficult when you cannot tell which lane to take. The game is fun, and intriguing enough to pull you into the story. Sometimes it is just as fun to go and be a pirate - start a war with one of the other factions and steal their gold. One of the main drawbacks of the game is bugs. In this review session, a particularly nasty one raised its head, preventing the acquisition of missions and thus the progressing of the story. Also a serious bug that corrupted saves, one after the other. Nothing can be done about this other than starting anew. Other spelling mistakes and frequent crashes (frequent is not overstating it) mar the overall shine of the game. While there is little doubt that these will be fixed quickly, it is a shame that they exist at all. Pirates of Black Cove is a good game, not very “hardcore”, and it doesn’t take itself too seriously. It is a breath of fresh air to just sit down with it and have some good fun, without impending doom looming around the corner. Well made, the game is held back by serious and not so serious bugs. Spelling errors, crashes and game breakers all need to be addressed. With the fixing of these, and the addition of some features such as zoom in land scenarios, the game could be just that little bit better. Update: Since this review was published, Nitro Games have released a few patches for Pirates of Black Cove. One of them totals around a whopping 908Mb. As evident by that size, many of the bugs mentioned in the review have been fixed, along with other tweaks and fixes, small new features and the like. Crashes are much less frequent. The bug mentioned that halted progress has been addressed and removed. Saves are no longer corrupting (in this reviewers experience) though saves that were previously corrupted have not been fixed (that is to be expected). Essentially, the major bugs in the game have been removed, and this is a great thing. While there are some new bugs brought with the patches, or not yet addressed, those that seriously impair gameplay have been removed. With any luck, the game with continue to be patched and these smaller issues will be dealt with. Click here to view the article
  4. Developed by: ReLogic Published by: Jeremy Guerrete Platforms: PC Players: 1/up to 8 Terraria is an 2D open ended world builder game, where players are free to create what they like. The game supports both single and multiplayer modes. Players enter the world with naught but the clothes on their back and some copper equipment, and are left alone to make a world for themselves. Players first create a character and are able to modify the colour of each of the basic components of their character. This character and its inventory stay persistent across all worlds, both single and multiplayer. The playing area, a “world”, can than be generated completely at random. Up to five worlds can currently be created, and any world can be used in both single and multiplayer. Also present is a full day/night cycle. During the day various slimes roam about on and under the surface, ready and willing to annoy the player. At night, things get interesting, with zombies, flying eyeballs and other creatures stalking around. This makes it essential to quickly build some some of shelter for the night time. The surface can be a dangerous place at night. Building is done via small blocks of various materials. These can be mined, cut from trees or simply dug out of the ground. With these materials it is relatively easy to create vast castles and living areas to live in. In the game exists a complex crafting system to create virtually anything the player needs or wants. Doors, tables, swords, armor, candles and countless other items, not counting the basic and complex building materials. The Underworld, deep down underground, is rich with minerals. As the player creates rooms in their abode, NPC characters will move in, offering various services and purposes. This really makes the world seem alive, that what the player is doing really matters. It is necessary to protect these NPCs from monsters through thoughtful building of defenses such as sand traps which, when triggered, release sand to bock pathways and entrances. As well as the smaller, “regular” monsters, it is possible to summon large boss monsters to fight, that drop rare and special materials. The playing experience is driven by an addictive need to craft something better, build something cooler, and be as grand as possible. However, there are small issues that can take away from this great game. Starting a multiplayer game may be a tad overcomplicated for some, with it being necessary to have two instances of Terraria open, one to run a server and the other to play, as well as some less-than easy port forwarding, unless using a third party hosting tool, such as Hamachi. Once one figures out how to get multiplayer working, it opens a great deal of fun. A multiplayer game can be played on any world, including those created in single player. Changes to the world cross over into single player, so friends can drop in and help out with fighting a particular boss, or cooperate to create something great. Players can trade items between one another, useful for helping out a new guy. With the scope of the game, possibilities for fun in multiplayer are vast. A sunny day in Terraria The lack of a pause feature can also be annoying, though the game does pause if another window is selected, such as alt-tabbing to Steam. This is easy enough, as the game has to run in a small window to keep a good resolution. While this could be a big issue, one gets used to the window, and it comes with the graphical style. For the game to have other resolutions, the sprites - basically the games graphics - would have to be individually sized for each resolution. Keep in mind this is a indie game, and this would take a lot of time for such a small developer to do. Overall, Terraria is a great game, one that you could loose countless hours to easily. It is very well made, aside from some small issues mentioned above. For the price this game is well worth it to anyone interested in world builder games and creating their own kingdoms from scratch. Click here to view the article
  5. Developed by: Paradox Interactive Published by: Paradox Interactive Platforms: PC Players: 1/Multi Sengoku is a grand strategy game based on the “Sengoku Jidai” or “Warring-States” period of Japanese history by Paradox Interactive. Players can take control of the leader of a clan, the leader of a state within a clan, or the leader of a smaller area within those states, with the ultimate goal of overthrowing the current shogun and retaining that power. There are many historical clans, daimyos and smaller characters to play as in Sengoku. In fact, it is quite overwhelming. When choosing who to play as, players are greeted with a full map of Japan, with different view modes to outline the land each character controls. Playing as a clan means players can be much more powerful, dealing with diplomacy first-hand and commanding the armies of the entire clan. However, it also means that players must keep the individual states satisfied. If you are not careful in your leadership, there may be revolts and rebellions. As smaller daimyo leaders or individual characters, players can eventually break off from the clan and forge their own clans. The map, with clans shown. From here you can choose who to play as. The visual aspects of Sengoku are beautiful. Being a grand strategy, interface design is very important, and this game does not fail to deliver. Menus are neat and tidy, buttons look great and are nice to look at. However, in some areas buttons or menus can be hard to navigate if you do not already know what you are doing. There is a learning curve, but it is not as steep as some games in this category. A big step forward in this game is the 3-Dimensional map. The rolling hills dotted with trees, the rivers flowing through them and the snow-topped peaks make the game look great. Players will find themselves zooming in just to look at the scenery. This also helps draw the player into the game, and keeps the game from looking like a “map”. This is a model. Sengoku is definitely centred around war. Through the course of a campaign there will be little time for peace, although war is not the only aspect of the game. Players can upgrade settlements with various buildings through their Master of Ceremonies, whom they can elect to their court. Along with the Master of Arms and Master of the Guard, the people of the court enable the player to keep their lands in check. These people can collect taxes, expand guilds, restore order to settlements and perform many other actions. The court menu makes it easy to control all these options. An example of the terrain. In war time, soldiers can be levied from their home provinces and combined into stronger armies. Players can also recruit retinues for characters or wandering ronin to fight for them. The levied troops can be disbanded and returned to their home province when the player wishes, and may be raised again if needed. Battles are fought on the campaign map. They involve standing an army in the same province as a enemy, and letting them do their business. Sieges are also handled this way: the player can either storm the castles or wait for the enemy to surrender. This game is not one for those who want to see battles up close; it is the strategy that makes Sengoku. Diplomacy is also present, although players can only handle it directly if they are the leader of a clan. There are many options available, aside from the arbitrary “Declare War” and “Offer Peace”. Players can also secure alliances through the exchange of hostages, offer marriages between clans, and many other actions. Players can also start plots against other clans, in which multiple characters conspire to attack at once. This really makes things interesting. Some of the terrain and interface. Sengoku is a very polished game. Unlike in the preview version, no bugs have been experienced this time. There are no serious defects to note. It all seems to just “work”. Sengoku looks great and is a joy to play. While the historical setting and limitations (the only playable area is Japan), along with decreased re-playability may lead to the game feeling less grand than others in the genre, it is evident that it was made with care, and this makes it stand out. Click here to view the article
  6. Developed by: AGEOD Published by: Paradox Interactive Platforms: PC ESRB: T for Teen Pride of Nations is a turn based grand strategy game from AGEOD that tackles the period of history between 1850-1920. It is a very detailed historical game, and as such is a very in-depth game for the player. Players can start the game at different times, setting up different scenarios for play. So far, the scenarios include the grand campaign, the Indian Mutiny, Risorgimento, the Second Boer War and the Russo-Japanese War. The Spanish-American War has also been added by downloadable content. Each scenario has different objectives, and are of different lengths. These range from 10 turns in the Spanish-American War, to 1680 turns in the Grand Campaign. Each scenario has different playable factions. In the Grand Campaign, players can choose from eight different nations. These include Great Britain, France, Prussia, Austria, the United States of America, Russia, Japan and Sardinia-Piedmont (which later becomes Italy). Each of these has a different style of play. The game allows freedom to choose goals for your nation, though these are limited by the historical capabilities of the nation. This means that goals such as huge colonisation are unrealistic for a country such as Prussia, who will have their hands full at home. That is not to say that smaller countries aren’t as interesting as big powers such as the US and Great Britain,as each have its set of stuggles. The game is for those who are into this period of history, and want to hop in and live the history that they love. The game is controlled via a system of map modes and submodes, making it quite easy to control everything, once one figures out how to control it all properly. By going into one of the modes, such as Economic, Military, Decision, and Colonial modes, the map and bottom bar fill with the various options for that purpose. When entering economic mode, the map features icons representing what commodity each region is producing, among other things. When in military mode, all the armies on the map are represented by larger unit cards (see screenshots) Within those modes, there is a sub mode, for splitting the features of each mode. For example, the economic submode fills the bottom bar with various buildings that can be constructed. This system of control is quite a lot to get used to when learning how to play the game, and really poses a problem. Military Map Mode showing the unit cards that represents armies. These cards stack upon each other. When creating buildings or units, applying decisions, and moving troops around the map the game uses a drag and drop system. By picking up a building card, for example a railway, you can drag that card onto a region to begin construction. When you pick up a unit or building or construction, the map becomes colour coded so you can see where it is possible to put said building/unit. Green means it is possible, Red means it is not. This is helpful as it isn’t immediately apparent if you have a building of the same type in the area. Colour coded map with building card being dropped onto a province. Pride of Nations suffers from the same disease that many grand strategy games suffer: that of a steep learning curve. While the all text tutorial goes a long way to help, when entering your first campaign it is easy to get struck by the depth of it all. It is a good idea to try one of the smaller scenarios first, before jumping into a grand campaign. The scenarios offer plain historical objectives to be achieved, and have a definitive win/loss/draw. They are great for getting into the roll of the game. When trying a grand campaign, remember it lasts for a very long time, so don’t expect to cripple your enemies with a few quick moves. If you are looking for a casual game, this may not be right for you. The map that you play on looks great from a distance (see screenshot) but when zoomed in is not so pretty. While this is a minor issue if you really are into the game, it doesn’t do much for encouraging new players dig in and learn. This combined with the steep learning curve may well be enough to repel the more casual strategy enthusiast. The games runs on the AGE Engine, which does a noble job, though at some times it can be found to struggle and slow down quite noticeably when moving the camera long distances, for example from a colony back up to the British Isles. Load times are short, and everything fits quite well. The map from a distance imitates 3D well. Pride of Nations is a solid historic grand strategy game that offers a long and involved grand campaign. It comes loaded with varied shorter historical scenarios, great for learning the game and getting a taste of different pieces of history. While marred by a very steep learning curve and some technical and graphical issues, it does what it has set out to do. Historical strategy enthusiasts interested in the period may well find something they like here, this game is made for them. Little features like historically accurate unit portraits show that Pride of Nations was made for history enthusiasts by history enthusiasts. Just be sure you are up to the challenge. Click here to view the article
  7. Developed by: Paradox Interactive Published by: Paradox Interactive Platform: PC/Mac Players: 1/up to 32 Hearts of Iron 3, one of many titles made by grand strategy giants Paradox Interactive, is a grand strategy game set around the events of World War II. In it, players are able to take control of any historical country that existed between the period of 1936 - 1944, though the game can be played to 1948. With hundreds of historical provinces open for conquest, this is as massive as you can get, aside from managing a real country. It should be said that the game is not just a World War II game, but one that features all events in history during this period. Players choose their starting country from any of those that existed at the time, including those that did not actively participate in the War. At the same time, a starting time period is chosen. These are historical points from 1936 to 1944. This allows players to jump straight into the War, if they so chose, or start earlier, to fully prepare. With the addition of the Semper Fi expansion, countries who are the leaders of factions (Allies, Axis, Comintern) can also choose their own victory conditions, giving another level of strategy to the game. Virtually everything is managed by the player. Diplomacy, Politics, Technology, Production, Intelligence (Spy Agencies) and Military movement can all be managed by the player. They can also be set to AI controlled at anytime, though this sometimes creates conflicts if AI and Player control are mixed. This control really make the game shine - those who love their history will be overjoyed with this control over their chosen country. It is definitely a game for those with heavy strategy and simulation in mind. The production window, where you manage resources, produce units and manage trade. But this control is also where the game falls down. Nothing is explained well. A tutorial is present, although it is text only and ultimately too quick and shallow to be of any help in such a deep game. It is necessary to read the manual through, which is well done. There are also great resources online to help players get accustomed to the game. Once this very steep learning curve is cleared, the game is very enjoyable, but the learning curve is so steep that many will just give up. Starting up the game, players are greeted with a quite lengthy load screen. This can be a bit annoying, but it does mean that after this, any loading times within the game are very short. All games are played on the same “map”, i.e the World, at different points in time, so once this is loaded everything is quick. The game is real-time, meaning that time is always progressing. The player can choose the speed at any time, though in stable peace time, even the fastest choice can be too slow. It can get boring when you are waiting for something specific to happen, and everything on the home front is good. When at war, however, the game gets very hectic while managing troops, and repeatedly pausing and assessing the situation is common. There are various map modes to help players easily assess their country, along with those around them. With terrain, political, diplomatic and regional map modes, among others, the game really lends a hand to help with inter-country relations. These allow you to see quickly those countries that you are allied with, at war with, those that are puppet states (protectorates), along with their relations to you. The graphics for military units are quite outdated, but there is an option to change these to counters, which look much nicer and also show more information on them. These counters are shown in the screenshots. The region map mode, with the unit counters shown on the top and bottom. Players control many things via streamlined sliders, for example the production window, where IC (Industrial Capacity) is shared between various tasks. The values that are needed constantly change, as the game runs in real time, with a strategic pause feature. It is a challenge to keep your country afloat during wartime if one does not properly prepare in peace time. Strategic choices have to be made as it is often not possible to be perfect at everything. Securing good diplomatic relations is pivotal. Diplomacy is conducted through its own window, with many different options. To send a diplomat to do business, diplomatic influence points are spent. This means that players have to keep an eye on the DI that they are producing. The game is about choices, and it does a good job, giving players freedom to chose what they want. In no one game can you be the king of everything, and this really provides good replay value. There are hundreds of historical events that occur, and more are added with Semper Fi. These immerse the player in the history of the time. This outlines how the game is one for history enthusiasts. Average players may not find much here if they aren’t really into the time period. Warfare is conducted via a “fronts” system, with the goal being to maintain a solid front line of infantry, pushing forward slowly, with support from artillery, airstrikes and motorised divisions (tanks etc.) While this may not sound spectacular, it is the strategy and tactics of it that provide the enjoyment. Seeing as war will often be fought on multiple fronts, with multiple participants, this simplified system helps with keeping everything under control. Gameplay never leaves the world map, and players don’t actually get in there and control the units as they walk about the battlefield. See the screenshots for an idea of what war looks like. The fronts system, with units lining the borders. This is what war looks like. Ultimately, Hearts of Iron 3 is a very good grand strategy game, made all the better by Semper Fi, with the addition of many new features. The choice offered in the game is massive, the scope is massive, the strategy is massive. Unfortunately, the learning curve is also massive. It is necessary to read through resources on the web to get a handle on the game. There is a point, however, where the game “clicks” and it suddenly opens up. That’s not to say there isn’t anything to learn after that, but the game does become playable if you are ready to work for it. When that happens, Hearts of Iron 3 becomes are very good grand strategy game and simulator. The technology panel, showing the depth of technology. Note: This review was written based on a fully patched Hearts of Iron 3, with the Semper Fi expansion. It is recommended, if you wish to get the game, that the Semper Fi expansion is bought as well. It fixes many bugs, and adds few features that make the game feel more “finished”. Some of the features added are mentioned in the review. It allows players to define their own theatres of war, adds an air superiority map mode to help with managing air units, allows faction leaders to choose victory conditions, allows the sharing of technology between allies, and a bunch of other things. It is a good idea to research the game first, to check out the details. Click here to view the article
  8. Developed by: TaleWorlds Published by: Paradox Interactive Platforms: PC Players: 1/Multi ESRB: T Mount and Blade: With Fire and Sword is a stand-alone expansion to the acclaimed games Mount and Blade and Mount and Blade: Warband. Unlike the previous games With Fire and Sword is based on a historical novel of the same name by Polish author, Henryk Sienkiewicz. It has players enter into an ongoing war between five Eastern European factions during the 17th Century: The Polish Republic, The Tsardom of Moscow, The Kingdom of Sweden, The Crimean Khanate (early Turkey) and The Cossack Hetmanate (early Ukraine). Therein lies one of the greatest strengths of the game: the ability to create your own history. After making your own character, the game allows players to recruit, lead and manage an army of various units as they fight real time battles in third or first person and carry out strategy tactics on the large campaign map. Players can ally with any faction and even control their own fortresses and towns as a lord of that faction. Part of the Campaign map Aside from the action-RTS style gameplay, there is a heavy RPG element. The player character levels up and can distribute points into various attributes, skills and weapon proficiencies. Companions and armies level up as well. Characters and companions can be outfitted with many different armours and weapons. Towns and castles live and breathe, their economic situations changing and reflecting the goods that they produce. Armies get hungry and have to eat. Factions send their troops across the map, winning and losing at every moment. Quests also make an appearance, and there is a loose main quest to follow, if you so choose. When fighting a battle, players and their armies take to the field in real time, controlling their characters like a western RPG. Whether fighting on foot or horseback, on land or on castle walls, with a sword, spear, axe, musket, pistol, bow or throwing weapon, the battles can be quite spectacular. Horse riding is handled well, with options to control weapon direction, based on enemy position, making it easy to ride around and slice at people on the ground. It is a pity then that the graphics aren’t up to scratch. While the game is enjoyable none-the-less, they could certainly be much better. Horseplay Another aspect where the game is lacking is in the interface department. The user interface works, though it is clunky and does not look very pleasing. Loading screen hints are placed simply on rectangles of a lighter colour. Text is sometimes too large for the button it is placed on. Points like these really hold the game back from going that extra step higher. The game needs to learn what it does well and stick to it. Too much dialogue, unexplained hints and generally not preparing players well enough makes the game very hard to get into, and risks turning players away before they can get their foot in the door. Multiplayer and custom battles also make an appearance, though only as a side track to the main game. There is nothing new to see here in the multiplayer. Players choose a server and a side, then outfit their character with various weapons and armours by spending the money earned in the game. There are various modes, and the classic deathmatch and capture the flag of course make an appearance. There are some new ideas here, such as a mode where players take control of a squad of npc’s and lead them against other human players and their squads or the siege mode, where one team defends as the other climbs the walls and attempts to capture the castle via a flag in the middle. A multiplayer map Overall, Mount & Blade: With Fire and Sword is a game for those interested in forging their own history and managing their own army as they go about their business raiding towns, sieging settlements and fighting wars on horseback and on foot. Aesthetic issues with the interface and graphics combined with a slow start and poor tutorials for the campaign map can hold players back from really enjoying this title. Multiplayer is a enjoyable sidetrack, but multiplayer enthusiasts won’t find much here. With Fire and Sword is good game if you can get past the smaller issues. Update: Mount & Blade: With Fire and Sword has recently received quite a large update. With it come many bug fixes, rebalanced and even some new features. Check here for the full changelog at Paradox. While none of the deeper issues with the game have been fixed, this update certainly adds features that make the game more enjoyable. The update tightens up the game well. The re-balancing of various aspects of the game (both single and multiplayer) is a welcome addition. In short, if you didn't like the With Fire and Sword before, it is unlikely that this will convince you. If you enjoyed the game before, this patch is a good one. Click here to view the article
  9. Developed by: Neocore Published by: Paradox Interactive Players: 1 Platforms: PC King Arthur: Fallen Champions, the latest addition to the King Arthur strategy roleplaying franchise by Neocore fills the gap between King Arthur I and II. It is, however, very accessible to new players as well. One might assume from the name that this is a strategy based in reality, but this is not so. Along the journey, players will come across many fantasy elements as well. Set in a fictional land in ancient Britannia, players will fight knights, twilight creatures, tribals, and other fantasy creatures The game follows the stories of three heroes on their respective paths. Players take on the roles of Sir Lionel, a human knight, Lady Corrigan, a magical Sidhe, and Drest the Chosen, a shaman from the northern regions. The player can play any character at any time, but must complete all of their stories before the finale. This provides a good level of variety, as each character and their units are different on the battlefield. Characters can be leveled up, and gain experience points to spend on abilities and acquire equipment, like armour and weapons. Some of the great details on units. Before a battle is played, however, the game shows one of its most interesting points. After selecting a character on the campaign map and moving to a mission, the player is presented with a written story, accompanied by sketched images. This helps advance the plot and really draws players into the world. It is almost a choose-your-own-adventure style story, allowing players to actually decide what their character will do. This helps players relate to the characters. The choices made in the story often affect the coming battle - what sort of battle it will be, how many units on each side and of what type. It is a nice feature. Battles are handled on real time 3-Dimensional maps, and really allow the graphics engine to shine. Units are very detailed, and environments are lifelike. The game is great to look at. A variety of unique environments are present during the game, adding a lot of variety. Maps are usually quite large and detailed, providing various ways to meet objectives, and allowing for different play styles. The game can be strategically paused at any time, which allows players to stop and assess the situation. A scene in one of the interactive stories, with choices underneath. Battles are generally quite long with a specific objective rather than just “kill enemy”. They are well set out and fun to play. One particular battle, for example, takes place on another plane of existence, with an fast day/night cycle. During the night, players can move their troops around and advance towards the goal, fighting some enemies, while slowly summoning spectres to join their army. During the day, players would have to hide under giant clouds, and other, stronger enemy raiding parties would attack. This sort of diversity and construction in the battles is great and provides a lot of diversity. Players control various units depending on their chosen character, though they are basically in the stereotypical groups (archer, cavalry, foot soldier etc.) Units sometimes have abilities they can use for specific purposes, like turning invisible for a short time. Hero characters have several abilities that can be bought and leveled up. These provide tactical avenues, which can be worked into a strategy. For example, when faced with lots of enemy archers, you can cast Fog of Avalon to create a fog to weaken the accuracy of the archers, then charge to meet them head on. A chaotic fighting scene with a variety of units in the fray. At this point, the game is quite polished, aside from some balance issues (for example, a group of archers took out a group of cavalry) which should be fixed by release. Most issues can be found with the controls and interface. The controls are a little unintuitive, for example scroll out to zoom in, scroll in to zoom out. The camera is also a little hard to control at times, though this does get better as players get used to it. The interface can be, at times, cluttered, as abilities, stats, a moving model of the unit selected, and a map, all reside next to each other. This is mostly a problem only in the heat of battle. Overall, Fallen Champions is a good mix of role playing and strategy. Structured battles provide good fun and diversity when playing. The role-playing aspects are handled well, the story will likely draw players in, and the stories before each battle are a great interactive way of setting the scene. Balance and control issues hamper the experience but these could be patched or fixed by release. Click here to view the article
  10. The theatres interface. Another development is the Air Mapmode. This allows players to view each airbase across their nation, and the range of the planes stationed there. This shows how far a plane can go before coming back to refuel. It is great for planning bombing runs or sending in fighter planes to battle it out, as you can quickly see where each plane needs to be based. Having bombers based just behind the front line allows them to easily travel into enemy territory. The new partisan system adds a new level of warfare. This allows you to be a bit sneaky and turn the enemies people against them. By slipping in some of your men, you can begin to create turmoil without actually marching in your armies. This is great to regain lost territory, via supporting rebels, and even to just distract the enemy. You can destroy or support various ideas, in your country or another, in order to twist the people into the place you want them. Coups have also been added, further increasing the ways by which the player can take the war to the enemy. When entering a war, each member of the alliance or faction (Allies, Axis, Comintern) can now set their own War Goals. This allows players to define their reasons and goals for the war, and also helps in keeping the war under control. One can state that he is entering the War for a specific reason, for example, to recapture territories X, Y and Z from the enemy. Once he or she has these territories, they can respectfully withdraw from the war without having to fight a battle that is not in their interest. In this war, Germany's goal is to conquer Poland and expand into France. Also present are a lot of little changes and improvements that add to the overall flow of the game. Previously, when playing, in-game time moved by at a speed of 1 real second to the hour in game. While this speed was often fine when managing forces during a war, it was painfully slow in peacetime, when your country is doing fine. The expansion introduces many more speed settings that can get up to the very fast, which fixes this problem. One of the major points added, for previous Hearts of Iron 3 players, is that of multi-core support. This means that the game now uses more than one CPU core, if more than one is available. This has a drastic effect of gameplay and everything now runs fluidly for those with multi-core machines. This is a feature that should have been in the original, but it is welcome now nonetheless. A zoomed out view of the Air map mode, highlighting airbases and the range of the planes stationed there. Also added by the expansion are smaller battle scenarios, such as Operation Desert Fox, the Southern Conquests, Fall Blau, and a couple of others. These are limited, historical scenarios that can test a player’s abilities or even act as a sort of tutorial to get a new player going. They have have a limited map, so gameplay can only take place in the area that it historically did. These are fun little chunks of gameplay, and a nice side track from the grand campaign. For the Motherland is a great addition to the already good Hearts of Iron 3 repertoire. It brings in a lot of new features and is a solid package. All of the new features added, be they war goals, map modes, theatre management or the partisan system build on the original and really make the game seem full and finished. While there are still some issues from the original that are present - it is not perfect - it does not bring many new problems to light. Still sporting a steep learning curve and heavy, historic, grand strategic, For the Motherland will be enjoyed by all those who liked the original. If you are interested in the time period, or like good grand strategy, this game may be for you. Be sure to check out our review of the original Hearts of Iron 3 and the expansion Semper Fi here. Click here to view the article
  11. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K6ZmzIvrAUA
  12. Click clock, click click clock!
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