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.
I’ve played Pendragon dozens of times. I’ve unlocked most of the characters (I still can’t see to get Branwen the archer to trust me) and I know there are stories I haven’t pursued to their conclusions (Excalibur is out there, and I will find it). So rather than a traditional RPG or strategy game, Pendragon plays like an impressionistic take on a classic Nintendo formula. You’ll tell your own stories and if you play them right, the dream of Camelot will live on.
By borrowing solid mechanics from the best of the genre, Iron Harvest has the makings of a pretty good RTS. What pushes it across the finish line is a well-realized setting, a wonderful aesthetic, and a solid grounding in what sort of story it wants to tell. I personally wish it could have had more fun with the world, but that’s just me.
Beyond its two parts though, Control: AWE takes concepts from the previous chapters of the story and heightens them in every way. This is the best-written chapter of Control yet, and one that has me frantically searching wikis to figure out where the story is going next