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.

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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

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Plague Inc: Evolved, Eradicate Humanity!

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So I wiped out 99% of humanity today and still fucking lost!  Plague Inc: Evolved is a game for the strategic mastermind in all of us.  Take control of an infectious disease, evolve and kill everyone ever known by everyone you’ve ever known.

This title starts out simple enough, but gives you an idea of the scope you are dealing with in order to get there.  Initially you can only control a bacteria, but later organisms include prions, viruses, nano-viruses parasites fungi and some things I have never fucking heard of.  You then name your virus.  In prior Plague Inc titles (previously known as Pandemic) I always named my disease something insidious sounding like Writhing Death or The Manacles.  I lost every time.  So one day I made a disease named Booty Shoe out of denominational ennui.  Booty shoe eradicated the world population.  So this one got to be Nut Slipper.  I started Nut Slipper out in Indonesia, and altogether solid start location for any disease.  It has ports for oceanic export, planes for aerial export and it’s a warm, moist climate, which puts it two evolutions away from stepping out into the greater world.  Plague Inc seems to have 3 phases of play.  It’s not actually a part of the game, but the way the flow of the game seems to develop.  I call these phases initial spawn, transmission and eradication.  In initial spawn, you get DNA points for evolution from a few gameplay milestones in the beginning.  This is where your disease starts in its natal region and starts to breed.  When you spread out little by little to people in your starting country, Indonesia in this case, you’ll see little red and orange bubbles appear.  Pop these for the DNA points to evolve your disease.

Exponential infection rates and the game gets excited over a few thousand? Psh.

Thousands of nuts are apparently warm and cozy. Why is this bad?

In Plague Inc, you don’t order your little bacteria where you want them.  Consider the game a simulation of the spread of a potential disease.  Your disease will spread on its own in an organic fashion across the various methods.  You control the disease by mutating it, granting it new characteristics along the way.  These characteristics fall into three categories: transmission, abilities and symptoms.  Transmission is how the disease is carried from one host to another.  These can be things like livestock, insects, air, water etc.  Being in Indonesia, I evolved air and water right away.  Now, the game also made it so that transmission via water would be hard off the bat for my disease.  Something about sanitizing boats.  But evolving that water transmission negated the effect.  Nothing would stop Nut Slipper from sailing the seven seas!  This brings us to where you are spreading to every country in the transmission phase.  You get DNA points for spreading to new countries and infecting large portions of the population.  People don’t need to know you are around yet, but you get the DNA points for infections.

Now one of the things that you get concerned about really fast is how well your disease spreads to other countries.  Does it like the climate?  How rapidly does it spread? Do they use class 3 or 4 antibiotics?  All legitimate concerns.  It used to be that getting your disease into Madagascar was a sure-fire win, but now fully infecting Greenland, Canada and other cold-climate countries is the true challenge.  Your disease will spread the slowest in these locations and if you get lethal too soon, you’ll kill the hosts before they can spread it to other people.  That is a no-go.

Only fifty-one percent of the world population is dead!? Time to step up my game.

Only fifty-one percent of the world population is dead!? Time to step up my game.

Once you have enough people eating, drinking and breathing in your disease it’s time to start the extinction of humanity!  This is my favorite part because once people start dying the music, which has sinister techno-ambiance, goes from ominous to downright fucking creepy.  It starts off with the EKG heart monitor noises woven into it just below audibility and the moves on to include some kind of sirens.  I think they might be the noise that ambulances make in countries not mine.  Ours are pretty obnoxious.  Either way, it moves on to people hacking and coughing and children singing ring around the rosey.  Awesome, ambient and creepy as fuck.

Now the extinction of humanity won’t be reached by making your disease resistant and transmissible alone, and this is where it gets tough.  In the eradication phase you get DNA points for wiping out populations and destabilizing governments.  Symptoms are the method for reaching these goals.  If you take symptoms too early in the transmission phase, your disease will be detected and cured fairly rapidly.  Take symptoms too late and you will not have enough points to develop the truly lethal symptoms.  Occasionally you will spawn random symptoms, but the game can be paused in order to devolve those and earn some DNA points.  With your bacteria, you want to aim for 70% – 79% of global infection to start taking symptoms, and when you take them take them fucking hard.  When I pump up the symptoms I will take them 3 – 4 at a time and let them go.  People start dropping dead faster than the game even knows how to react, and by the time the first death hits the news, hundreds of thousands are lying in their living rooms clinging fecklessly to their last breaths.  Even with Nut Slipper taking the world by storm, I was still greeted with this fucking screen at the end.

ninety-nine point nine percent of the world is dead and it is not considered a goddamn victory

ninety-nine point nine percent of the world is dead and it is not considered a goddamn victory

I am only partially joking about that, too.  I wiped out 99.9% of humanity and it was still not considered a fucking victory!  To give you an idea, the people who survived lived in Greenland, Canada, Italy and Sweden.  Everyone else in the entire fucking world was dead.  My problem was that I took symptoms around 65% world infection and killed all my hosts too fast.  I have no fucking clue how Italy, of all goddamn places, fucking survived, either.  I guess they didn’t go to the Olympics in London that year…   Granted none of them survived unscathed, but they survived.  One of the more fun features of this game is how you can make spectacular effects occur, like projectile vomiting, by combining various symptoms.  Projectile vomiting occurs when you have coughing and vomiting at the same time.  Once you have started to wipe out the population of planet Earth, people will start to do research in an attempt to survive.  This is signified by a blue plane that flies around.  You can slow them down by clicking little blue bubbles, too, but the best part is when you stop research by killing everyone in a country.  Then the country just goes dark as everyone slowly collapses.  This game is a tough one, but rewarding for the strategic enthusiast.  It can be gotten for 14.99$ on Steam and.. wait this is early access?  Well for an early access game, this one sure is well done.  Worth the money, in my honest opinion.  It also feels like one of those games that some people think might save the world by thinking about how to solve realistic problems, except in this one you are the problem.

Of all the things this game does right, there is one thing that still haunts my dreams.  The children.  When you start to go nuclear, as stated, you hear a group of grade-school children singing Ring around the Rosey.  I swear to fucking god this is the creepiest thing I have ever fucking heard in ever.  It is like the children of the corn, or some shit.  The music is fucking awesome, mind you.  That just enhances how creepy the children are.  They are like the fucking harbingers of the goddamn apocalypse!  I will be waking up in a cold sweat singing ring around the rosey tonight, I just know it.