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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Door Kickers is a pausable, real-time strategy game developed by the Romanian indie developer KillHouse Games. In top-down view, it puts you in charge of a SWAT team and lets you command it through missions of varying complexity. Whether you chose to go in with guns blazing, or chose the more sophisticated spy-camera, flash bang, three taps in the chest-way, is up to you.
While the sledge hammer and guns blazing-approach might be good enough to get your team unscathed through a mission, it’s more often than not the wrong way of maxing out the score you can achieve on each mission. In the classic Angry Birds style, you collect stars on each mission, with 3 being the maximum amount of stars you can get per mission. The stars you collect can then be used to upgrade your squad’s equipment and weaponry – and there are quite a lot to choose from: Primary weapons, secondary weapons, armor, support gear and utilities, everything from silenced pistols to assault rifles and breaching charges. That you need to collect stars to unlock new gear give you a great incentive to go back and retry missions you don’t already have a perfect score on. Maybe you also want to try some of the challenges Door Kickers gives you; like using a single plan or just one trooper to complete a mission. The game has virtually no loading time, which makes it very easy to retry a mission you’re not entirely happy with.
That Door Kickers is a pausable, real-time strategy game means that it is played in two modes: When the game is paused, you’re in planning mode. In this mode, you can plot paths for your officers to follow through a location and plan various actions they will take along the path. This can be to throw a flash grenade into a room before entering it, place a breaching charge, pick a lock, change from their primary weapon to their sidearm, or another action in a wide selection available to make sure the bad guys are handled in the most efficient way possible. When you unpause the game, all the planned actions are performed in real time. If you’re of the adventurous type, it’s also possible to play Door Kickers entirely in real-time, without pausing and entering planning mode, but keeping track of everything – squad members, hostiles, evidence, and hostages – in real-time isn’t exactly an easy task. Your squad members will automatically engage any hostiles they see, but that’s pretty much the only thing they will do on their own. Everything else is up to you to tell them.
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