So I turned off my Switch and booted up my PC. I started a new game of Battle Brothers on that. And you know what? It’s as good as it ever was. A truly superlative strategy game made better with mods. I could not recommend Battle Brothers enough, but do yourself a favor and avoid the Nintendo Switch version. You’ll avoid one tragic end to meet a much more satisfactory one.
Then again… sometimes I want to play out certain scenarios in gaming. Sometimes I want to pilot a starship and escape from devious traps. Other times, I want to make my way through an emotional family drama. There are different feelings for different days. Evil Genius 2 has a strength that no other game can offer – there’s nowhere else to play out this fantasy. Because some days you want to be Dr. Evil, and it’s pretty cool that there’s an outlet for those megalomaniacal tendencies!
But, now, there are other turn-based strategy games. You can assemble a squad of mechas, a coven of mages, an elite military unit, or even a heavily armed pig and duck. You can fight aliens, fish-men, soldiers, pirates, and existential dread. What I mean to say is that I like the ideas in Black Legend, and I applaud the devs for remaining true to their vision. Although, this is an environment with stiff competition, and it wasn’t long before I felt my attention being pulled elsewhere. Black Legend will doubtlessly have its fans, but the magic simply isn’t there.
The gameplay is fun for a time, but once you see what Curious Expedition 2 has to offer, you will start to look beneath the surface. If you do that and you still like what you see, maybe you’ll have a new indie favorite. Or maybe you’ll find that your curiosity is quickly sated, and you’ll move on to the next thing.
I don’t think the story or characters or themes of Olija will stick with me for a long time, but I will remember the game nonetheless. I will remember the world actually, as if I was the one braving mosquito filled bogs and slimy tombs. Thomas Olsson and Skeleton Crew Studio aren’t telling stories so much as they are crafting worlds. That’s what kind of game Olija is: a world you can get lost in.
Game of Thrones has turned into a very weird franchise, but I know there are still fans out there- I am one of them! And it is unfortunate that the best video game we’ve gotten up until now was a mid-tier Telltale adventure. Until something else comes along (like a really good Crusader Kings 3 mod), this is it. This is the best Game of Thrones gaming experience. You’ll know what I mean when you take Harrenhal, only to lose it the next turn. Or the first time you defend Winterfell as Theon Greyjoy. Game of Thrones: The Board Game is the best way to feel like a devious genius of Westeros.
The complexity of the interlocking systems in Empire of Sin feel like more than the game can handle. For every time a story emerges about love and loss as I described above, there are times when your speakeasy suddenly starts losing money and the game doesn’t communicate why. I’m sure through hours of play a pattern will emerge, but for now too much is too opaque and difficult.
I will fully admit to getting stuck in a few places. On a few tries, I overextended too quickly or didn’t adapt well to the changing planet. I always mismanage my electrical grid, or my maintenance bots, and build my way into a corner. But I keep coming back. Never before has a strategy game offered me such an involved story in such a staid sandbox. I think I’ll be turning Mars green for a long time to come.
That being said, there’s a real audience for a game like this. It’s $20 on Steam, and I’ve got little cousins. This is a great multigenerational game. It’s also the kind of party game that could be fun to play remotely with a group of friends. It’s the same appeal of playing Mario Kart on the couch. In other words, in a world where it’s tough to meet up in person and where a lot of socializing has to happen online, Witch It is the kind of simple game you could play with your non-gamer friends. The kind of person unlikely to drop money on in-game currency in your favorite shooter might feel compelled to join you for a few rounds of Witch It over the weekend. And hey, take them up on it! Enjoy being a floppy pizza for a few weeks of gameplay as you reconnect with your friends. That sounds like it’s worth 20 American dollars of laughs.
Still though, I never complained about character development when I was playing Sunset Riders on that emulator. I played it a zillion times, trying to beat the next boss or get a high score. That game could entertain me for hours, simply because it was nice to look at and felt great. And that feeling, where the controls help make the drama… you can’t fake that. That’s why you’re going to play ScourgeBringer and you’re going to enjoy it.