We all know that things out there in the real world are scary right now, and many of us are entering into social distancing and isolation. But, games are here to help you get through these tough times, and we here at The Reticule have no shame in offering some thoughts on the games to play in these troubled times.
Grand Strategy Fun
My first choice here would be Hearts of Day, but you can substitute it with any number of Paradox Interactive’s other grand strategy titles, they all offer similar thrills. Hell, if you are feeling bold you could start with Imperator: Rome, hit Crusader Kings, Europa Universalis (and maybe even Victoria) before finishing up with World War Two.
The hours you can while away with these are immense, but you don’t need to do it alone. They all offer some level of multiplayer action, and I had a very enjoyable campaign some years ago with friend of The Reticule and ex-Gaming Daily editor Craig Lager in Europa Universalis.
Find yourself a Discord server with some friends, and get stuck in. The intrigue of building alliances and waiting for a stab in the back will make or break your friendships…well, hopefully make them. The pace of the games also ensure that they are a good social space allowing for plenty of time for general chit chat amongst the empire building.
If the Paradox titles lack the fighting that you desire, the Total War games are quite an attractive alternative.
It was only a couple of weeks ago that I talked about the wonders of a long-term game in Football Manager 2020, but you can also take it online with some friends. Draft a squad of superstars and create a mini tournament to battle for managerial supremacy.
If you have family members indoors with you, then simply add another manager and take it in turns managing your team. Take charge of two teams in the National League and see who can take them all the way to the top. It’s a perfect game for multiple ways of play.
Twitch and eSports
I’m not one for Twitch, but Jon runs regular sessions on Escape from Tarkov while a friend who regularly plays retro classic Age of Empires 2 revealed that a recent tournament had 32,000 people watching. Twitch really is a great source of social community interaction, and with Half-Life Alyx coming out this week, many more will be signing in to experience Valve’s latest.
Even Formula 1, the most steeped in tradition of sports is going online with a virtual series to replace the real world action. Surely that will appeal to both gamers and F1 fans?
I’m going classic with this one, but you can replace this with the modern games or something like Call of Duty. But for me, BF2 is the one. While it requires some third party support these days, there are still plenty of servers active, and the squad play is like nothing else out there. Find five friends, grab a Discord server and take to the battle. Playing as a squad in this game is like nothing else out there, and it runs on old enough kit to pull your PC out of the loft and still get into the action.
All by yourself and missing your friends, family and work colleagues? Build your own little community and embrace your nice…or not so nice side!
The Switch has a brilliant library of games, both first party and third party. If your TV is being taken over with some Netflix bingeing, then take your Switch out of its dock and dive into a deep RPG like Skyrim or The Witcher 3, or get the family involved in a Mario Party game.
The online setup on the Switch isn’t great, but great times can be had with a combination of face time and Mario Kart.
The New Releases
Doom and Animal Crossing have just come out. Rumour is they’re both a bit good.
It’s long been rumoured that Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines 2
was in the works, with Paradox Interactive dropping several hints on Twitter in
recent weeks. Finally, at GDC this week, the big reveal landed, and next year
you will be taking to the streets of Seattle.
Following Paradox taking ownership of the
World of Darkness IP back in 2015, it’s a great news story to see a new game in
the Bloodlines vein being developed
by Hardsuit Labs, with original creative guru, Brian Mitsoda returning as Lead
Jon has already talked about his excitement
for the new game, and I too am pretty excited. I never quite sunk my teeth
into Bloodlines as much as I would
have liked. Released way back in 2004, the original was built upon Valve’s
Source engine that was the backbone for Half-Life
2, perhaps not the best engine at the time for a narrative focused
semi-open world game. Development struggles aplenty led to a rushed release in
the same month as Valve’s titan.
Going head-to-head with Half-Life 2, and being released in a very buggy state made for a
poor initial reception. But, the fans who were drawn into the world of Bloodlines fell hook, line and sinker in
love with it. It inspired such passions,
that fan developed patches for the game have continued ever since, restoring missing
features, fixing bugs and bringing the game up the standards that many hoped
for upon release.
With the backing of Paradox, I have no doubt
that Bloodlines 2 will be released to
the wild in a much healthier state than the original. New Paradox CEO, Ebba Ljungerud
“Fans of the original Bloodlines have been hungry for a sequel for a long time, and we began to hear those suggestions — well, demands — as soon as we began to work with the World of Darkness. We all understood what this opportunity could mean, but it was essential for both us and for Hardsuit Labs that any sequel should be done properly; a true successor guided by the people who knew what made the original so special. Keeping this game a secret for the last few years has been quite the Masquerade for us! It’s both exciting and relieving to finally let everybody know what we have in store for them.”
Mitsoda revealed that the themes and
stylings that drove the cult following of the original will remain:
“Our aim has been to carry on the signature themes that made Bloodlines unique – particularly its dark tone, atmosphere, and humor – and I think that fans of the original will love what we’re doing with Bloodlines 2.”
I’m excited, I hope you’re all excited. Bloodlines 2 will be coming to PC and
consoles, though I don’t imagine the Switch will have the power to drive a game
quite like this. More relevant for the PC fans, Bloodlines 2 is available for pre-order on Steam, the Epic Games
Store, GOD and the Paradox Store. No miserly exclusives here!
Everyone loves a good old expansion pack, don’t they? Especially Paradox Intereactive, who, at this weekend’s PDXCON have announced a slew of expansions, including a dive into the world of boardgames. We’ll get to that in a bit, for now, we’ll start with Stellaris.…
The Age of Wonders series passed me by when it kicked off at the turn of the millenium, and then when it saw a rebirth in 2014. Why? I’m not sure, but for those of you who missed out first time around, and those who are fans of the series, we will all have a chance to enjoy it again next year. Age of Wonders: Planetfall will be landing on PC and consoles in 2019 thanks to original developers Triumph Studios, with Paradox handling publishing duties. …
Summer, 2016, I went to war as Mussolini, booted him out and turned Italy democratic, formed the Novus Imperium Romanum, and conquered Stalingrad. Yes, I am talking about Hearts of Iron IV which will soon be expanding once more with Waking The Tiger this March. Paradox are concentrating this expansion of the Far East, with many changes to Japan and the different actors in the Chinese civil war. National focus trees are being revamped and expanded, but there is so much more to come in this expansion. …
The fine folks at Paradox Interactive have been busy, as ever, working on the next expansion for Hearts of Iron IV along with an associated large free update to the base game. Death or Dishonor is being termed a Country Pack, somewhat less than a full expansion like last year’s Together for Victory which massively expanded and overhauled how the Commonwealth nations played. Death or Dishonor is focusing on central Europe, introducing National Focus trees for four nations.
It’s New Year’s Eve, and about time that I finished my series of entries in Our Year in Games. Through the first two parts of my chatter, I covered games from the last couple of years that I had spent quite some time playing this year, while in Part Three I covered three highlights from games released this year. Now, I have three further games released in 2016 that I want to talk about. Hit the break dear reader for musings on Battlefield 1, Hearts of Iron IV and Dishonored 2. …
The first expansion for Hearts of Iron IV is coming on the 15th December, and will radically shake up how the major members of the British Commonwealth play. Together for Victorywill significantly change the game for Canada, Australia, New Zealand, The Raj (India) and South Africa with further knock-on effects to how Factions work in the game overall. Hit the jump for more information. …
So here’s a question for people who like that kind of thing. What exactly is an evil man? Surely good and evil are simply decided by which side of an army or faction you are born into? Maybe it depends on which views you are brought up with or what you come to believe to be true on your own terms. Or is evil a more personal thing, something that is defined by your actions no matter where you come from or what your background is? Paradox Interactive’s new RPG Tyranny really poses this question to you from the get-go by allowing you to choose your backstory in the lead up to actually taking control of your character. The army of Kyros under which your loyalties lie, have taken over most of the known world aside from one small peninsula in the south. As one of Kyros’ leaders in the eventual occupation of these lands, you begin the game by deciding exactly how your armies go about capturing the district. I won’t spoil any of the important choices for you, as this intro literally shapes the game you play and choosing the level to which your evil or mercy extends is half the fun of the early game.
What I will say is that as with other Paradox games the writing and character development in Tyranny is of a very high standard. Rarely does it feel like you’re reading a piece of filler text but instead insightful and interesting dialogue and backstory, and taking part in decisions that literally shape the game and characters you are playing in and talking to. Just be prepared to do a LOT of reading. If reading is really not your thing, then I would seriously consider your attitude towards this game as skipping text would, in my opinion ruin the enjoyment of the overall game.
In a majority of games in this genre party interaction is something that I often find tedious and an endeavor that has no meaningful outcome. Party conversations in Tyranny however hold weight as each character that you talk to will react differently to you depending on your choices in game and the ways in which you interact with them on an individual level. You can gain fear or loyalty from them, making their own actions change according to yours. This is the same for larger factions and NPC’s in the game, who you can also gain and lose reputation with depending on your actions. This certainly makes conversation choices a lot more meaningful for me and means if you want to role play the evil guy you better be prepared to deal with the consequences. The only disappointment from the party members is that there is not a whole lot of depth to them after conversation. You may visit an area in the game that they have a connection with and they will hardly even talk. There’s also not much in the way of ‘loyalty quests’ or anything to connect them personally to these places and I feel like they lack a bit of depth in that department, which is a shame. A personal quest or two that included each of the characters you can add to your party would go a long way to solving this problem.
The voice acting is also of a high standard when it shows, but not all interactions are voiced. I’m not sure if this was due to me playing the early review release of the game which im told would be missing the odd bit here and there or if they decided that it just wouldn’t be practical to have every section of the game voice acted. Certainly the main story line arc was mostly voice acted and if I think about it long enough that’s probably enough for me.
There’s a lot to take in to account when getting into your first few proper combat situations in Tyranny, although if you have played Paradox’s other game Pillars of Eternity, you will feel semi-familiar here. Once you build up a party and level them to suit your play style things get a little easier, but initially I found it a touch hard to manage the ability overload you are faced with. There is the option to let AI manage your party members but this is best turned off if you’re thinking about tackling one of the harder difficulty levels as sometimes they can be infuriatingly slow to react, especially when switching between targets that are further apart from each other. Thankfully you can pause combat and manage each characters abilities and if things are moving to fast for you in real-time, there’s an option to toggle slow combat speeds.
Once you get into the thick of the stats, abilities and equipment management, it’s actually quite enjoyable if you like that kind of thing. The spell system allows you to essentially create your own spells and assign them to any character, with higher cost spells being restricted to characters with high lore values which are normally casters anyway. Spells are created with a ‘Core Sigil’ deciding what element or type of spell it will be, an ‘Expresion Sigil’ deciding how the spell will effect the target and an ‘accent’ which modifies anything from casting range to the strength of the spell or how long the effect of the spell will take place for. Each sigil has a lore value and this is what restricts you from just giving the strongest spells to every character. For your mage assuming you have one in your party, spell creation is something of a strong point in the game, allowing you to entirely shape the type of combat style you want later into the game once you’ve collected a lot of sigils.
On top of the spell system each character has their own skill tree with multiple options from which they can learn new abilities or improve combat traits like armour penetration or health. Certain pieces of equipment can also provide abilities but are mostly for stat improvement and aesthetic value. Overall the combat and ability system is fairly in depth and as a person who enjoys tweaking optimal stats and abilities I enjoyed the system that Obsidian have put in place here, certainly when compared to other games of the same genre which almost seem to shy away from making these things in any way complicated for whatever reason. In a game that isn’t entirely about combat it makes sense not to completely overload the player with combat based decisions and I feel this medium depth level worked well at not spoiling my enjoyment of everything else that Tyranny has to offer.
Graphically and in terms of level deign Tyranny is a really good looking game much on the same terms as Pillars of Eternity, which makes sense when you take into account that the same team developed it and it’s made with the same engine. The levels are really well designed both visually and the way in which they can be transversed and interacted with. It’s almost as if concept art has been improved upon by artists and designers leading to some stunning scenes and intelligent design. Throughout the whole game I don’t think there was a single area of the game where I thought the designers had slipped in quality.
Ultimately Tyranny is a game about making decisions and unlike some games who promise a lot it really makes these choices count. During my play I compared my choices and outcomes to that of a friend and I’m happy to say that there was no illusion of choice, your actions really do change things like the people you meet, the areas you visit and smaller sub areas that you may or may not have access to, how people react to you, what people call you, items you find in the game and probably much more than that.
To sum things up Tyranny is a well designed and enjoyable RPG that makes decisions count, has enjoyable combat, interesting characters and well written dialogue. It places itself in a fairly unique setting and certainly makes being evil a lot of fun. Above all of that I think the thing I like most about Tyranny is that it’s not very often in a game that I get to actually make the decision I want. In most other games I may be provided with options but certain game world rules mean that none of them suit exactly what I want to do in that situation. In Tyranny however I can happily kill off an NPC, slap someone in the face, throw them off a building, show mercy, save their life, take a bribe, or basically anything I want if I deem it necessary as I am literally the law bringer and in the end this is what makes it most enjoyable for me.
The Verdict – Red Mist
Platforms Available – PC
Platform Reviewed – PC
Please see this post for more on our scoring policy. Steam review code supplied by PR.