Spice Road, Culturally Confused Economic RTS

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If you’re like me, few things give you greater happiness in life than looking down on an anthill and watching them run around collecting food, attacking other bugs and working the land.  Occasionally it’s fun to spit on them or zap them with a magnifying glass, but even that is just to see how their society absorbs the blow.  Spice road is a game that allows you all the fun of watching an anthill, except that the anthill is full of people and they are establishing a regional trade-network.

To further enhance the insect-oriented analogy, the game regularly quotes economic magnates such as Donald Trump, Lee Iacocca and others.  This gives you the feeling of being a money machine without having the crappy toupee.  If you have a toupee, you have my sympathy.  When you start the game, you are looking down on a region that is clouded by fog and filled with possibility.  Your initial task will always be to establish a town, which will be your primary base of operations.  City-building is a major part of this game, and it is a lot of the fun.  As you build your towns bigger and bigger, you will have more people come to live in your town.  Pretty basic shit, really.

Aw, fuck no.  I am not going into the mysterious clouds of fog!  There could be naked cannibals in there!

Aw, fuck no. I am not going into the mysterious clouds of fog! There could be naked cannibals in there!

Some of the first things that you will build at any settlement will be houses, for the plebs, and scout camps, for innocent exploitation.  On the region screen, you will see your scouts appear as little blue bullet-shaped things.  While your scouts meander the terrain, they will discover resources, which appear as white diamonds.  As you uncover these resources, you will be able to establish more and more resource buildings.  Now, having fucking resources is great, food gets you more people and makes them happy, alcohol lets you get drunk at the saloon etc.  You will be able to manufacture goods from ores you mine and have a full, booming industry.  The thing is, you are in this game to make some serious fucking money.

This is where trade routes come in and make things more interesting, simultaneously making your settlements much fucking weirder.  To start trading, you have to build “trade route” buildings (The names of buildings in this game are pretty abysmal but it is still fucking fun).  Setting up the trade routes will allow you to trade with foreign trade routes (they appear as white arrows on the edge of the region map), other towns you may have set up or other factions.  Sure, you can set up a town and make that your only area of operation in a region, but that makes things a little lame.  If you limit yourself to one town, that limits how much money you can make.  Not to mention, if you can get closer to the foreign trade routes, you’ll have a significant advantage over competitors.  And on top of that, controlling a majority of resources in a region will (fucking obviously) give you an undeniable trade advantage over competitors.  So getting a couple towns, maybe even just a small trade camp or two alongside your towns, will put you above the competition.

Yes! Make me money!

Yes! Make me money!

Now, not everyone is capable of building a massive trade empire and making money appear out of nowhere.  There are some men who just want to watch the world burn, which is where bandits come from.  These guys are fucking annoying, and they will attack your trade caravans.  First, you have to find them, which can be quite a fucking chore; but if you have little angry-colored arrows going after your trade caravans, all you have to do is build a few extra scout huts and they will locate them.  All finding them will facilitate is a solution.  You can pay them off, but as you make more money, these parasites will want more, so paying off a bunch of bandits all the time is not a long-term solution.

Eventually you want to cut their throats and leave their corpses in the sand for the vultures to feed.  You can build a number of public-order buildings like armories and watchhouses to keep your citizens in line; but to deal with external threats, you’ll need to construct a few barracks.  These babies create expeditionary forces that you can use to guard caravans and murder bandits.  Once you have a few of them built, you can go to the region map and select the bandits’ camps to begin negotiating with extreme prejudice.  This is also the final solution that you’ll end up employing with competing trade-nations, because no one likes to share profit!

The goal is to not have your soldiers turned into bones.  That is bad...

The goal is to not have your soldiers turned into bones. That is bad…

Meeting some of the goals set out for you in the campaign is difficult, but once you get the hang of it, the game is a lot of fucking fun.  You can build a vast empire that encompasses and entire region and vie for control of trade routes, like a true imperialist dog!  You’ll also be able to unlock new buildings and upgrade your existing buildings.  For those more keyed up by micromanagement, you can go into each caravan, see its trade statistics and monitor the number of camels in a caravan to optimize the amount of money you are making vs. how much you are spending to get your camels out there.  Chaining trade across a region also becomes useful as having a smaller town is good just to get your main town into contact with a closer trade target and so you can trade across undiscovered areas.  There is a lot to do in this game, and it is a lot of fun for anyone looking for a great economically-driven RTS.  Combat is an option, but not the main thing.

Looking at the title of this article, you might be wondering what the fuck this game has to do with cultures.  Take a closer look at your town once you get it decently-sized.  Looks neat, huh?  Nations are mostly named after european powers like Burgundy and Moldovia.. You know, all the really important trade powers of their time.  The buildings that you use for trade routes look like these middle-eastern spires from downtown Baghdad and then there are these old-timey, wild west saloon that you build for your peoples’ recreation.  The town hall looks like a plantation from 1880’s Confederate America whereas the religious shrines are either little Ottoman-domed structures or Christian chapels.  Each settlement looks as culturally tangled as a set from Firefly so that you think one half might initiate a Jihad on the other half at any moment.  I was confused and a little terrified, but it just looks like a lot of ideas came together to make this game happen.  This is the only thing is suffers from is a serious thematic disparity.  If everything were added together and you told me this took place in a post-apocalyptic wasteland, and made things look like that, it might be less confusing.  But as it stands, it seems to be pulled between some kind of Age of Exploration and Age of Imperialism discussion with wild west tossed in there somehow.

Dammit!  Where is the level tree for nukes?!

Dammit! Where is the tech tree for nukes?!

Overall, if you are the type of person that likes to win an RTS through economic dominance and politics, this is a game for you.  There are a lot of features that add to the combat aspect, but combat is not directly controlled.  There is equal development to the city-building, economic and political aspects and it constantly allows you to find ways to make money.  The art is a bit on the minimalistic side, but enjoyable.  Music feels a little generic, but the overall design of the game itself feels and looks clean.  One feature of this game is that it eases you into the greater game fantastically.  It is complex and easy to fuck up, and the game itself gives you a number of goals and levels to screw up before you get to the game itself.  Steam will sell you this game for only 19.99$ and I will tell you, it is worth it.  Check this title out, it was a lot more fun than I expected it to be and is worth a few plays!

Flames Rising: The Continuing Chronicle of Vivian James

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I am going to do this in narrative format as everyone pretty much knows everything I am going to say.  This is no longer news: it’s now just turning into an epic journey.  One that had a start in suppression and is now a roaring blaze that is scorching the internet.  This is how I am imagining the unfolding conflict between the SJW standard and the #GamerGate army.  Because, let’s face it, we are an army.  If this doesn’t appeal to you: Step One. Read my About Page. Step Two. Fuck off. Step Three. Eat a comfort twinkie. For all the rest, shit is about to get crazy.  More real gaming and reviews coming this week.  Promise ; )

“I told you fuckers, the frontline needs reinforcements!” Just hours after falling back from their home turf, the denizens of the Clover Nation were hot on seeking a new stronghold.  As Vivian determined ahead of time, planning for the fall of the Clover was necessary.  Rumors abounded long ago of SJW soldiers slowly infiltrating the nation, but now its halls, always far from sacred, had fallen and bent its knee to oppression.  Vivian watched out of the back of the MRAP as explosions rocked the places she had known in her infancy: V Plaza, Pol Street…  But now those talking on the wrong topics were silenced, exiled and worse.  The Clover Nation had long been an independent sovereignty, but the streets, where one could discuss any topic without fear of reproach, now flooded with crowds of refugees; all of them making haste for the borders before the last mines are laid.  No one knew if they’d return home, and few even cared.  Fine Young Capitalists everywhere walked away from the Clover nation as it began to silence its own people.

Vivian looked over the statistics of the initial battles.  The Axis of Social Strengthening, headed by The Peoples’ Republic of Kotaku, The Gamasutra Federation and the Ars Technica Empire, had pulled together with countless others of their kind, even pulling in international support from the America press: their words of victimization echoed in The Boston Globe and The New Yorker’s stygian type.  But not all was lost.  In fact, more and more champions broke away from their own engagements to support the cause of the rebels.  Among them one would find such fine warriors as The Hero of Canton, who earned the support of many an undecided soldier.  His words with various reporters inspired many and amplified the voice of the  Internet Aristocracy.  Even a man known as Biscuit has come out to talk about the situation and facilitate discussion in an open format. The Regal Patriarchy of Shotgun took massive losses, The Gamasutra Federation lost 224 legionnaires in its latest conflicts.  The Peoples’ Republic of Kotaku was taking strong blows, but as the leader of the Axis, it was maintaining its stranglehold.  The Polygon Primacy was also maintaining its footing, but was still sustaining border raids that tried its army’s mettle.

Amidst her strategic ruminations, the direct line buzzed.  It was Breitbart.  “The operation is a roaring success,” Bart’s voice shouted into his receiver.  Their strongholds were now under fire. “a broader audience now has factsheets on the greater issues within the movement!  I will seek…” the line cut dead before Viv could respond.

“Dammit!” Vivian roared and slammed the handset back onto its cradle.  Outside, the booming of mortar fire against the keep rocked her extemporaneous CIC within The Escapist Confederacy.  When the exodus was ordered, Vivian made sure many escaped.  Some were trapped in various harrying assaults, but the spirit of the people prevailed in so many ways, and many lives were spared.  But many more fell.  Above Viv knew that the SJW’s were pounding the fortress with withering fire.  The Confederacy wasn’t the best place to hunker down, but the convoys were reconnoitered and harried by the SJW’s.  While the main force pushed on toward the Eighth Kingdom, what was a supply bivouac became ground zero.  But why?

Throughout the embattled Confederacy fortress, lights died and electricity flipped off.  Vivian’s feeds and monitors went silent and the walls held their breath.  She listened carefully as the explosive hail winnowed her forces, but she knew they reciprocated with an untold fury.  God how she loved the gamers: her fathers, mothers, sisters and brothers.  As the dark seemed to grow confident, the lights flicked back on and hurried boots were heard on the stairs.  Vivian grabbed her Colt .45 and machete.  She loved the old blade, and it never had to reload.  A sequential order of knocks brought her guard down.  It was Archon.

“Enter.” was her relieving reply.  Archon slipped in and shut the door tightly behind him.  He rounded and cleared his throat tersely.

“I don’t mind sheltering you here, Ms James, but once the SJW barricades are torched, we have to address your exit strategy.  You have to get to the Eighth Kingdom.  They are crude, I know, but theirs is an anonymous anarchy.  Only there can you be safe.  Only there can you dig in amongst the chaos and keep the SJW’s at bay.”

“Save it, Archon.  This was only supposed to be a small operation.” Vivian’s velvet tones were clad in a terse verbal armor. “The second we can, I want to take all the readouts and final compiled information with us to the Eigth Kingdom.”  Archon stood tacitly assessing the disarray of the CIC. “Why did you come down here, anyway?  Just to be a good landlord and make sure I emptied the fridge?”  her eyes had a way of going cold and soft.

“No, I came to give you this.  It’s…”

“The list.  The same list we shared with Breitbart.  The Pros list.”

“The very one.  Make them fear our name.” Vivian looked down at the flash drive then clicked her gaze back into Archon’s.

“Get my entourage. we’re moving.”

The SJW’s were using their best doxxing and DDoS attacks and propagating their language of hatred amongst their people.  Morale is important, but more important is human decency, or so they will learn from the movement.  No one cares if more nations stand up to show their colors and alignment, not even if the Cracked States decide to put in their own thoughts of defamation or even align themselves with the very worst of the opposing forces.  No matter.  As the flames rise, more people stand up to take the places of the fallen.  More names add to the list of those disenfranchised by the din of blatant disregard.  As the mighty fall the last thing they will see is the shining light of the sun piercing downward through crumbling walls of ivory.  They call it the end.  We just call it the day the internet burned.

Legend of Grimrock, Tearing Out RPGs by the Root

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Before all the cutesy, fluffy shit that inhabits most RPGs these days, before Final Fantasy and JRPGs had infested every corner of the genre, there were dungeon RPGs.  And they weren’t the Diablo-style one-button RPGs that breed tactical laziness; that’s right tactical fucking laziness.  Diable RPGs are allow for a wider range of motion and strategy, so you can hem enemies in with firewalls and nuke them with fire or something.  Tactics requires the careful execution of a concerted attack effort.  A small group of doomed warriors in a massive dungeon have a solid understanding of tactics.  They know if they break ranks and get isolated, they are doomed.

The first and last of these types of games I ever played was Eye of the Beholder, a game we played on SNES.  In the game, you play a group adventurers exploring the sewers of a place called “Waterdeep” to cleanse some ancient evil.  We did not understand the alignment system although we often chose whatever we wanted and joked about it like kids.  When we were in the game, we never got the gist of how to play.  We would throw our gear at enemies since it was the only way we knew to deal damage.  Eventually it got to where we were disrobing and throwing our clothes, desperately trying to kill the foes.  That never ended well… But we were idiotic 8 and 9 year-olds.

Grimrock makes a lot more sense to me.  Controls are easy and you barely need a tutorial.  Just click around, left click picks up an item and releasing it mid-screen will throw that item. Right-click to attack or to throw a weapon.  Everything is a pretty straight-forward RPG style and this makes combat more exciting, too.

Wait! I left the garage door open!

Wait! I left the garage door open!

When you start the game, your characters are assumed to have performed some transgression against King and country.  The vague nature of the opening titles leave you to think you could have raped the Princess all the way down to eating the last piece of strawberry cheesecake.  Doesn’t matter.  You’re fucked and they push you down a hole.  Best part is, at the top of the mountain Grimrock your crimes are all forgiven and you are free.  But the only way down is to descend into the bowels of Grimrock.  Oh, by the way, no one has ever fucking survived.  That’s ok, I don’t usually come for the accommodations anyway.

Down in the dungeons, you have to navigate labyrinthine corridors filled with unspeakable monsters, like giant snails, gargoyles, mushroom herders, little magic-casting mushroom guys, undead soldiers etc.  Each creature adds its own challenges to combat, and one should consider combat a feat akin to dancing.  If you just take two warriors and attempt to plow through, axes and swords swinging, you will end up a dusty pile of bones.  Many enemies are able to out-number you, out-damage you or can take a hell of a lot more punishment than you can.  Did I mention you are all prisoners?  Yea, this means they pushed your ass down in the pits with aught but your chapped asses to defend yourselves.  As you progress you’ll find the sparse weaponry left behind by other bands of hapless adventurers, so you’re not exactly a keen-eyed fighting force armed for rigorous combat.  The most common early ranged weapon is a rock while the most common melee weapon early on is a fucking torch.

When enemies come at you, the best thing to do is to lure them off one at a time where possible.  As they round corners you can stab them before back-pedaling toward an open area.  As you back pedal, you can throw rocks at them and ready up a spell.  Spells are a devastating way to deal damage, but you can’t unlock spells with the spellbook until you find the appropriate scroll, which can be frustrating.  Once you get them, though, they are profoundly useful.  Be careful, too.  If someone in your party dies, you’re all fucked.  Sure, you can keep going, but you’ll be needing the full group throughout the game.

Spartans!! Fuck this place.. tonight I'm eating at Denny's...

Spartans!! Fuck this place.. tonight I’m eating at Denny’s…

Character customization is excellent, and you can choose between human, minotaur, lizardfolk and insectoid.  I usually pick two humans, a minotaur and a lizardfolk.  I like having two rogues, as this allows me to have a ranged rogue and a dps rogue.  You know, for extra damage for the rogue since rogues prefer it from behind.  Then there is my mage, human female full of glorious spellcasting magery, and likely the smartest of the entire group.  Finally, I like to take a tank, too.  That is my minotaur.  He has a trait called headhunter where he gets extra damage for collecting skulls.  Finally a use for those useless collectible items!  I also use the minotaur for a pack animal, since they also get major strength bonuses.

The ambiance is terrific, and you get the sense of an ever-present evil throughout the game.  All the time some dark whispers can be heard in your ear, muttering in a chthonic  language some horrid curse, luring you deeper into the dungeon.  The music in the title screen also brought a tear to my eye the first time I heard it and filled me with the glee of a glorious adventure.  Throughout the game there is little more than ominous noises.  Sometimes you can heard the groan or squeal of some distant creature lurking about, waiting for its next meal to come trundling down the corridors.  There is also the fantastic element of eating whatever food you find lying all over the ground, like some kind of mad baker was damned to imprisonment here and he found some magical means to leave bread everywhere.

Hm.. I guess the Keebler elves didn't make it too far either...

Hm.. I guess the Keebler elves didn’t make it too far either…

One of the things this game does really really well are secrets.  Notice how the walls are all constructed of a similarly-colored, moss-grown mortarless masonry?  Well, every once in a while you will see a chink in the stone or a brick out of place.  Click that shit!  Somewhere nearby a door will open and permit you access to a secret room and you’ll get some badass loot, much needed food or a magic scroll!  It takes me back to the old days of Wolfenstein 3D and Thief: The Dark Project where you had to just run along the walls at a certain angle to open secret doors or cut down every wall-hanging you could to unlock secret doors.  I find the best way to search for secrets is to stand in the corner of a room and look from afar.  Secret switches are pretty obvious if you know what you are looking  for, but they can often be just as easily over-looked, so stay sharp!

Probably the only thing that bothered me about this game was the straight-forward manner of the enemies.  This game could be very well served by some wall-lurking enemies that you don’t see until you are right up on them.  Granted, the current combat system would make that a tad difficult, but putting in enemies that climbed out of grates as you walked by or changed from statues into flesh and blood foes when you walk past them would make this spooky game into a fantasy-horror adventure.  Don’t mind my little intrigues, though.  This game is worth every cent you can throw at its creators.  It is a load of fun in a genre that I have not seen since I was disrobing for battle.  On Steam this game is an overly-reasonable 14.99$, but wait there’s more!  This game has a community of dungeon-dwellers who create new content and new levels and games with the map editor of Grimrock!  It’s fucking fantastic.  And THEN you have Legends of Grimrock 2 to look forward to!  Just in time for Halloween!  You can pre-order it now!  Screw trick-or-treaters!  Crawl the dungeons and unlock the treasures within!

The Best Rash I’ve Ever Had

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When I was a kid, my friend would come over with a copy of Road Rash for Sega Genesis.  We’d race for hours while beating each other over the head with any number of clubbed and bladed implements.  Ah, the joys of youth!  It has been many years since and I hadn’t even heard the name of this spoken, and I had begun to wonder if it was ever real at all.  I played Twisted Metal on the Playstation and any number of other games that tried to emulate it, but none that tried to recreate the balls-to-the-wall motorcycle racing gauntlet that was Road Rash.  Then yesterday, it happened.  I heard of a projecton Kickstarter that was to emulate this game, and it had already reached its funding goal.  Its name was Road Redemption.

In this title, you will be playing a Katana-clad member of a mid-western America motorcycle gang.  You have to move your way up in the ranks and take control of drug trading routes.  It’s a visceral title that will actually hit harder than its spiritual predecessor.  Thing is, it won’t be made by the same people that made Road Rash.  In fact, a lot of these developers grew up playing games on the same systems I did, so they remember the good old days of games that make you earn their respect rather than the spoon-fed titles of today.

Who says real badasses never look back at an explosion?

Who says real badasses never look back at an explosion?

This looks like a title that will take esports to an awesome new level and bring people away from their Xboxes and Call of Duty.  You’ll earn money by racing, sure, but if I can wield a shotgun on a motorcycle, why would I just want to race all the time?  Luckily there will also be assassinations, robberies and other challenges.  Getting the goods will allow you to level your character, buy better hardware and upgrade your bike so you can really take on the tough guys.

The storyline is a sort of made-in-America Mad Max routine.  You are part of stated motorcycle gang in post-apocalyptic mid-west America, and the country is run by a ruthless dictator.  You gang-leader decides that it would be a great idea to ride into the capital with the intent of killing the dictator.  I guess it doesn’t go too well, since the game description implies heavily that shit hits the fan for you and everyone you know.  You then have to track this guy down and, pending his judgment at the gang’s hands, decide what to do about the whole dictator situation.

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Flying blurry men never did know how to ride bikes well…

One of the more vague features of this game comes with the life-system.  There will be no extra lives, but the experience, gear and upgrades you earn should stick with you.  What does this mean? Fuck if I know, but I guess you have a lot of family members who are willing to step up and take over your cause.  You’re probably from one of those massive Irish-Catholic families you see all over television.  What’s more is that multi-player mode will be all about you building your gang and then taking to the internet where you will join up with or against your friends.  Hey, competition is just as much fun as working together, sometimes.  Personally, I cannot wait to throw someone under a bus.. fucking literally!

The best part about all of this?  Road Redemption comes out tomorrow on Steam as Early Access.  So get those bike helmets ready.  We’re info for one hell of a ride.  Get ready for the best rash you’ve ever seen!

Dwarfs!? Man-boobs of Glory

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Tripewire, the same looney bastards behind Killing Floor and Red Orchestra, are the ones that made this game.  It still has me scratching my head, but I try not to think about it too much.  This game, like basically everything else they’ve ever made, is a lot of fun.  It is sn RTS simulator that really lets you sit back, relax and control a colony of dwarfs.  As per the usual mythology, these dwarfs all seem to be male, though the thought of a bearded woman just kind of creeps me out.  Either way, you are talking about a magnificently man-boobed populace out for some digging!  Check out more about the game on Steam or the game’s site!

Ale, Gold and a Pickaxe are the three things necessary to sustain life for a dwarf.  These beardy little buggers probably eat dirt, since it seems to disappear and mysteriously produce gold.  So the game starts with the town hall, which produces the only two types of dwarfs in existence, diggers and warriors.  Your town hall sits on the only green patch of land in a massive cavern and just produces diggers via spontaneous generation, most likely using the combination of dirt, gold and ale.  As each of these dwarfs magically appears, they begin wandering aimlessly around digging randomly with their pickaxes.  At first the game feels like an ant simulator, but then you realize that these dwarfs have no real system and they live only to dig like robots and find shiny objects.

For the most part, this game is peaceful, but there are spontaneous issues you might experience like a subterranean version of Sim City.  First there are the natural disasters: lava and water.  Both of these have the same ultimate solution, but each poses its own version of the same problem: stopping the flow before it destroys everyone in your colony.

MUST FIND GOLD... MUST FIND GOLD...

MUST FIND GOLD… MUST FIND GOLD…

That is pretty much a visual representation of what happens every time your dwarfs find water or lava.  This is glowing and hot!… but there might be GOLD!  The reason you don’t just stop them yourself is because you really don’t know, although the outward signs should be pretty obvious in real life.  Of course, it’s a fucking game, so get over it.  As your dwarfs dig out into the.. um.. earth.. they will find small pockets.  These caves can contain nearly fucking anything: treasure, enemies, lava, water etc.  When your dwarfs break through one of two things happens: something comes rushing out, or the digger goes rushing in.

Water is fast, and that is really the biggest challenge that comes with its discovery.  Building a wall will be enough to block it off from the front, but a digger could still break through on another side and you’ll be right back where you started.  To prevent this the game lets you solidify dirt into rock. With beer-magic, I guess.  Once you build the wall, you have to solidify the dirt on all sides of a water cave.  Once that happens, you have to blow a hole with dynamite in front of the wall because.. fucking… IT COULD STILL LEAK THROUGH OR SOMETHING MAYBE!!!!  Not really, but that is how you effectively trap an underground lake.  I thought that dwarfs might use it for plumbing or maybe making ale.  Fuck no.  They trap that shit off and never fucking talk about it ever the fuck again.

Next is lava, which poses its own collection of threats.  Lava moves slow as shit, but it can burn through walls.  Normally, when breaking through into a lava cave (after the unlucky digger has been burned to a cinder), I fill up the cave leading to the cave with walls.  Why the fuck would I do this, you ask? Well, it’s not in case the digger gets wise and decides to run, though it might be fun to watch him shriek in horror as he realizes the hegemonic overseer has condemned him to death encased in liquid rock, that is not the case.  The lava burns down the stone walls, and with the way the dwarfs randomly dig, chances are that the nearest other digger is miles away.  I will need to buy him some time to get there and set off the dynamite to trap the lava.  The best part is that you lose two dwarfs for sure when finding lava or water.  One that finds it and the other that traps it, since the dynamite dwarf runs in like some kind of madman with a heroic martyr complex and kamikazes on it.  I guess these dwarfs haven’t progressed past bite-activated igniting mechanisms.

DW_watch

That’s right. Dig to your death, you little maniac.

Dealing with random water and lava hazards wasn’t enough for the sadistic Tripwire team, though.  They had to throw in some enemies because, realistically, what kind of game doesn’t have actual enemies?  Well, aside from those super-boring simulator games.  I gave up on humanity when I saw rock simulator.  Anyway!  There are goblins, too.  They could be just one or two hiding in a cave, or you could find six of them.  They are pretty easy to deal with though.

Your town hall will let you generate 8 warrior dwarfs, which you can allow to patrol around your town hall or you can divert their patrol to wander out into the caves.  If they get too far out there and you’ve an impending attack, hit the bell to recall your little troops.  A base-level dwarf warrior is usually enough to take on goblins one at a time, but if you have a tribe coming, get those fuckers back to base!  If they destroy your town hall, that’s the end of the game!  Of course, having eight little dwarfs can be limiting if you have a massive army of diggers wandering around an endless map.  At that point, you’ll need to create outposts, which expand your warrior army by 4 more dwarfs.  Doesn’t sound like much, but the outpost can also train them up so they’re powerful as heck.

Another main feature comes in handy when you discover a shaman, which is a giant goblin boss that has the power to summon goblin minions, perform cone area attacks and change the music into a doom dirge.  Often you’ll have to create an outpost just to deal with a new boss.  Once you have it in place and the warriors trained up, though, you can fire the whole squad out of a cannon on top of the outpost.  This springs a little surprise attack on the shaman and they surround and annihilate him!  Make sure you are quick to kill him, though, as he can summon up so many enemies that it becomes impossible to deal with, and you become overrun!

Kill them! Kill them all!

Kill them! Kill them all!

Other than that, this game is drawing arrows for retardedly simple AI and mining gold and minerals.  It is a little on the simple side, but it is still a lot of fun.  I often find myself wishing there were more to it than just all that, but the endless mode makes it a lot of fun.  I feel like there should be a way to trade with other cities, or a way to contact the outside world.  There are little objects that randomly appear, too, but it might be more fun if we could actually build a small city that had some purpose?  Maybe go to war with some sissy dandelion-eating elves.. mimsy fuckers…  If you really look at this game though, there is a dark undercurrent.  Think about this a second.  You are the dwarfs, living underground on the only piece of fertile land in this entire cave system.  You have these goblin, which probably need to cultivate some mushrooms or something to survive, but your dwarfs can just eat dirt, as long as they have their ale.  So you go on, killing the goblins and depriving their starving children of food until you have consumed everything.  Terrible. Tragic.  Oh, well!  Let’s go dig for some gold and get wasted on ale!  Definitely a lot of fun, and it’ll cost you 9.99$ on Steam.  Worth it, I’d say, but I love dwarfs in general.  So yea, a little bias there : P

Why do they fear indie gaming?

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In September’s issue of Game Informer the “esteemed” publication seems to be initiating its own quiet assassination concurrent with the #GamerGate wars of Twitter.  While they do not seem to have leapt on the “fuck all gamers” bandwagon with most major games reporting outlets, they do seem to be digging beneath the walls that separate major gaming from indie gaming.  Turn to the two-page spread on 31 and Behold! Matt Bertz throws down his wall-less theory of gaming entitled ‘The Mutating Meaning of the Word “Indie.”‘  I call offended and uproarious bullshit.  Indie isn’t mutating, it means just what it always has: independent.  What this should be entitled is “Why we want to destroy the meaning behind the term indie.”  Strap in, this another rant of bombastic proportions.

Bertz poses the following question in the first paragraph, which will serve as the thesis for the GI article:

“When the majority of games in the contemporary landscape are already coming from outside the walls of big publishers like Electronic Arts, Ubisoft and Activision, what does becoming indie really mean?”

I am a firm believer that within each question lie the roots of its own answer.  In my opinion, the answer Matt wants you to come out with is “When the majority of games in the contemporary landscape are already coming from outside the walls of big publishers, being ‘indie’ really has no meaning.”  He then goes on to try discrediting the term indie saying that the number and style of the projects that fall into the category “indie” that the term is no longer “useful.”  That is a charming thought but being indie is more than just “breaking away from the standard studio-publisher” model.  Sure, that is a major centerpiece for the concept, but that is not the only thing it’s contingent upon.  Going rogue in the gaming industry takes serious balls, especially in the face of major publishers that are trying to muscle into the region of indie gaming.  The simple fact is that being an indie developer means putting in countless thankless hours developing a game that will likely be swallowed up by the sea of other small titles.  Sure, indie as a genre is useless, which is why people need to stop letting Steam make them think indie just means an artistic game with hand-crafted backgrounds and a bizarre concept.  Indie isn’t a genre of gaming; it is a community of indifferent rebellion.

Bertz then takes two indie developers, Cloud Imperium Games of Star Citizen fame and Lucas Pope of Papers, Please, lays them against each other and claims a multi-million dollar company, such as Cloud Imperium, and lone developers residing in the same sphere degrades the purpose of calling something indie.  Honestly, anyone that would make this claim is just fooling themselves.  I don’t wholly blame Bertz, either.  His misconception is one born of an artistic medium still striving against its own over-bearing identity to define itself properly.  Taking an example from the music industry, Eminem has his own record label and I would call it an independent record label.  At the time of its inception, Shady Records was not a giant in the industry, but it surpassed those lofty heights.  Just because he ‘got big’, doesn’t mean he ever stopped being independent.  Likewise, when developers such as Lucas Pope or Mojang become big they don’t stop being indie developers.  Sure, indie is a genre of music, and that community defines itself with easily identifiable features: retro glasses, a taste for music no one has heard of, flannel.  But Bertz is suggesting that gaming has to take on the same restrictive reasoning.  You are defined by an easily identifiable array of elements that collaboratively structure “how indie games are supposed to be.”  The point of indie development is that there is no structure.  You can create whatever crazy fucking idea you have concocted.  Like Minecraft, possibly the most successful indie game of all time.  Even those musical miscreants labeling themselves as indies listen to a respectable variety of musical types ranging from rock to chiptunes.  Trying to label them all as the same ‘genre’ is just as useful as stating indie games are all the same ‘genre’.

I reported on a fantastic game crowdfund which found itself on IndieGoGo called X-Tactics.  This is a game that will be developed by veterans of Square-Enix, Capcom and Sega, and, as far as I know, it will be an indie game.  This is because it will be a game developed under a name and publisher separate from the major development community.  Other major developers have broken away from the gilt Alcatraz of major gaming and gone rogue.  This sort of thing happens in music all the time with supergroups of famous stars that get together to form an awesome musical entourage.  They don’t feel the need to label themselves indie, although many found independent record labels, I would speculate this is due to a lack of oppressive horseshit experienced in the gaming indusrty.  They have their own struggles with record labels and within their industry, and I am not trying to diminish their battles.   But when you look at the size of the gaming industry and its unrivaled power to crush dreams, the music industry seems positively navigable.  Lorne Lanning, creator of the Oddworld series, is another of these major names, and Oddworld is a game that deserves to call itself indie.  In his interview on VG247 he goes into exhausting detail about why major developers would ever go indie, but my favorite line is:

“I’d rather not make games than go fucking be a slave for public companies who care more about their shareholders than they do about their customers.”

Yea he really says that, and more, but saying ‘established developers going indie would similarly render it useless’ is equally quaint.  The fact is that major developers are terrified of indie developers.  Scared down to their quivering, flaccid cores of achieving the same level of irrelevance populated by Leigh Alexander and Anita Sarkeesian.  But why would they be afraid?  Here’s why:

Some people estimate that Mojang made 84.2 million USD and 66.4 million Euros from Minecraft in 2012.  Sure, they are on the Minecraft forum, but they were estimating out of nerdy interest and had no real motivation other than spontaneous curiosity.   If a fraction of that is true, it still doesn’t account for the numerous other countries that play Minecraft and how much money they’ve spent on it.  When Mojang became a money machine overnight the collective bowels of major game publishers voided into unsuitably diminutive pants.  Mojang showed that a bizarre game with a solid concept and motivation can conquer the world, and they didn’t have to pass through the close-guarded gates built by major developers.  Simply put, major developers weren’t getting a share of that money.  That millions and millions of currency of your choice, and it hurt.  If not in their pockets, somewhere deep in their dark, dusty souls.

Turning back to Berts, he goes on to attack indie from numerous angles: big budgets, large staff, companies that make both major games and indie games, and honestly he continues attempting to discredit the concept of indie games.  It is a shoddy attempt to convolute the real issue behind the conversation.  See, major publishers see everyone jumping ship for this concept of “freedom.”  More and more, major developers are leaving them, and, like a jilted ex, major publishers try to bring them back.  This article points to companies like Ubisoft, which was responsible for Valiant Hearts, and says that the “easily identifiable elements” that make these games ‘indie’ are artistic, retro features of a game that make it bizarre or deviant from the norm of gaming.  Thing is, this article tries to make it sound like indies are becoming just as independent as major developers, when really major developers are just afraid of becoming as small-time as indie.  They are afraid of the change in the industry bringing about new giants and contenders and themselves losing relevance in the swarm of rising stars.  Mostly, this is just the result of gamers becoming largely disenfranchised by major publishers, who want to make the same bullshit over and over and have us swallow their crap forever.  The fact is, funding autonomous studios to make games for you is nice, but the fact is if your game is published and distributed by someone like Sony or Ubisoft, you aren’t independent, which is the source-word of indie.  You are just following the same tired model of the studio-publisher model except that they grant you a little more freedom.  Because that is what is making money nowadays, right?  Indie games are innovative and bold in ways that major publishers don’t have the balls to be, they’re creative in ways that major distributors can’t rely on and they’re unpredictable in ways that can’t be monetized by a massive company effectively.  Indie games are indie games because they succeed by their own virtue, not under the cultivation of a major publisher, which has all the power of a totalitarian propaganda machine at its disposal.

Then again, I am reading this in Game Informer, a magazine that is commonly perused by the Mountain Dew and Doritos abusing target audience of major publishers.  Not like they would ever publish an article that is biased in favor of the people who directly profit from the sale of games created by major publishers (who publish this rag mag), rather than the sale of indie games that sell through Steam or even indiedevs’ websites.  My suggestion is to refer to “indie” games that have been incubated and published by the likes of Sony, Activision et al as subbed indies:  Independent games that are subsidized by major publishers.  Granted, people will likely not care about the distinction, as long as the game is fucking fun.  I just find it annoying when they say the label is no longer “relevant” or “useful” just because major industry gaming thinks so.  Indie games should remain indie because it keeps them from being enslaved by major companies that just want to put their dick in it and soak up profits.

Have your own crotchety thoughts on this?  Join the discussion in my Steam group, Crotchety Gamers United!