You might or might not have noticed that there hasn’t been a lot of activity on this site lately. The reason for that is Stellaris.
Over the last couple of years, Paradox has become a highly respected brand in strategy gaming circles. The Swedish publisher/developer, operating as Paradox Interactive and Paradox Development Studio respectively, has published and developed some of the most popular strategy games and strategy franchises on the PC platform in recent years. Titles like Crusader Kings, Hearts of Iron, Europa Universalis, and Cities: Skylines will make most strategy gamers giggle of joy.
Paradox’ grand strategy games, in particular, have amassed a considerable amount of dedicated fans. Despite their steep learning curve, complicated mechanics, and non-intuitive user interface, Paradox’ grand strategy titles are among the finest in the genre. It was not a huge surprise then, that the strategy gaming community got very excited when Paradox announced their first science fiction title back in 2015: Stellaris.
There were some skeptics. Of course. There always are. Until Stellaris was announced, Paradox had dabbled exclusive in historically based strategy games. Would they be able to conquer space as well? One year after release, it’s time to see if Paradox’ first science fiction title has turned into everything it set out to become.
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In 1999, Vancouver-based developer Relic Entertainment released their first game. The game was Homeworld, a real time strategy game set in space. For its time, Homeworld was a visual feast. Beautiful, 3D modeled space ships in combat against glorious backdrops of star fields and nebulas. In 2015, 16 years after the release of the original game, Gearbox Software released Homeworld Remastered, with both upgrades visuals and a refined user interface. But does Homeworld stand the test of time?
Both critics and players rejoiced when the original Homeworld was released. Even I wrote a preview of sorts. But the visuals wasn’t the only aspect that made the game stand out. Homeworld came with an intricate, original backstory, a feature that wasn’t exactly in abundance among the strategy games released at the time.
An ancient space ship is discovered buried in the sand at the dessert planet Kharak. It contains a stone map showing Kharak and another planet across the galaxy labelled “Higara” – home. The clans of Kharak unite to build a giant mothership that will carry 600,000 people on the long journey to Higara to reclaim their home planet. But during a final calibration test of the mothership’s hyperdrive things go bad. It turns out that strong forces in the universe are prepared to do whatever it takes to keep the Higarans from leaving Kharak, and start the journey back home.
Homeworld Remastered and its beautiful space combat.
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Three years after the initial release, developer Cardboard Computer has finally finished work on Kentucky Route Zero: Act IV.
Kentucky Route Zero is an episodic point-and-click adventure game. The funds necessary to start development of the first episode was raised through a successful Kickstarter campaign in early 2011. The first episode was released three years later, in January 2013.
Short recap: In Act I, we meet the truck driver Conway, who works for an antique store. Out on a job, he has to stop at a gas station to ask for directions. The attend tells him that the only way for Conway to get to his destination is to take the mysterious Route Zero. In the rest of Act I, and the subsequent two acts, we follow Conway’s travels along Route Zero. Along the way of the he meets other travelers, who are just as lost as he is himself.
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This is the Police is the result of a $25,000 Kickstarter campaign launched in January 2015. Belarusian developer Weappy Studio managed to raise a sweet $35,508 to finish development of their “strategy/adventure game about power and corruption, duty and choice”. Estimated delivery date for the game was December 2015, but as we all know, computer game developers always fail to finish on time. In August, 2016, however, Weappy Studio delivered on their promises and the game was finally released.
In This is the Police you’re put in the big – and probably sweaty – shoes of Jack Boyd, the police chief of Freeburg, a average sized city with above average crime problems. Boyd is retiring in 180 days, but before those 180 days are up, he wants to get his hands on half a million dollars “retirement fund”. There are many ways for a retiring police chief to amass that kind of money. Do you chose to serve your city like an honest cop, with the money coming from your monthly paycheck and rewards from locking up wanted criminals, or do you prefer to get rich by working with the mob, and other shady characters you find lurking in Freeburg’s dark underworld? Is it possible to stay friends with everyone, have a clear conscience and make the necessary money, all at the same time?
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I’m not entirely sure how I heard of The Silent Age or where I picked it up. It was probably just a spur of the moment purchase during the final hours of a sale somewhere: It’s a point-and-click adventure. I like point-and-click adventures – it’s one of the few types of adventures I’m comfortable with. It’s developed by Danish indie game studio House on Fire. I like indie studios. And it was on sale. I love sales.
In The Silent Age, you play as Joe, a simple janitor working for Archon. It’s the groovy 70s, and Joe mostly spends his day emptying trashcans and staying out of other people’s business. But when Joe stumbles across a dying man in the Archon basement, his uncomplicated life is turned upside down. The man gives Joe a tiny time machine, capable of taking him back and forth between 1972 and the apocalyptic future of 2012, where mankind has become extinct. Can Joe save humanity without going insane in the process?
The time machine is an interesting concept, and traveling through time can be used as a neat trick to solve some of the puzzles in the game. But Anniken and I only had to think as a time traveler twice, and it’s perhaps a concept the developer should have considered using more. The use of a time machine also gives the developer another huge opportunity; to brain fuck their audience. Take the movie Primer, for instance. No one is able to explain that movie. The Silent Age, on the other hand, might make you go “hmmmm”, but nothing more. There’s no major brainfuckery going on there.
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