Review – Dragon Age: Origins

The machine slowly comes to life, the sound of whirring fans and arcane instruments powering up to a deafening howl. Then a blinding flash of incandescence, a painful sense of sudden detachment from where and when you were. Also all your clothes are apparently gone, unfortunately burnt away by the paradox. Uh-oh.

Yes, playing Dragon Age is like taking a trip back in time. Not back to the pseudo-historical-yet-entirely-fictional fantasy universe it is set in, because it never happened! I’m telling you, all that conspiracy theory stuff about William the Conqueror using dragons at Hastings is completely bogus. I was there, it never happened, no chance.

No, the time it takes you back to is around 2004, when the game was first announced. It was an extended development process, and as is often the case, elements of the game feel dated as a result. →  Read the rest

Third party publishers as RPG archetypes

Imagine if you will some kind of strange alternate meta-world, where major third party games publishers form a rag-tag party and embark upon a quest to… make an awful lot of money? I suppose they’re going to steal some Dragon’s gold, that can be the story. Although in reality, in our universe, they’re just corporate entities raking in the cash for their shareholders and higher echelon types. But in this otherworld, they’re taking on a Dragon, and I think we can all get behind that.

Valve – The hero

Emerging from obscurity, our hero plots an unlikely meteoric rise to widespread acclaim and influence. It also emerges that he is the only one who can wield the arcane STEAM, a mystical source of great power which makes him all but unstoppable. →  Read the rest

Game Concepts – Great ideas of Genius

There are those among us who feel games are becoming increasingly predictable – a marketing dominated creative process where developers simply take elements from other successful games, try to throw in some token new thing and call it a day. So I thought I’d just throw out some slightly different ideas, just for the hell of it. If a butterfly flapping its wings can truly destroy the universe (as my people believe) then maybe this article can, uh, take down some butterflies.

Ashes of Destiny: The Cricket Saga

Okay, so you take a sport that everybody loves (Cricket) and you combine it was a genre that everybody really ought to love (RPGs) and this is what you get. I may also be liberally borrowing from the film Lagaan: Once Upon a Time in India, but I can make it different enough to stop the lawyers from getting involved. →  Read the rest

Civilization IV: Champion Edition

Many of the great leaders throughout history were also great warriors. They lead armies, knocked over walls, flags were heavily involved. Playing Civilization IV, this is self evident from the available commanders – Alexander the Great, Charlemagne, Gilgamesh. I considered what would happen if you added the greatest warriors in the world today – the stars of Street Fighter – into the Civilization mix. Why, you’d have the greatest gaming crossover of all time, is what you’d get.

Civilization IV: Champion Edition

Ryu – Japan

Sure, he can afford shoes, but he walks barefoot for comfort. Ryu is a good leader to pick for a beginner, with his balanced mix of traits, starting techs and unique units he gives you a solid base to work from. There are some people who complain when you choose him because “everyone plays as him” or its “dull” or you’re “lame”, but they can all go to hell. →  Read the rest

Thinking about identity in games

As I sat staring at an enormous horde of Mongol marauders storming across the bridge, I felt a certain pride at the waiting ranks of Byzantine heavy infantry that stood on the other side. I’m not sure why, but I’ve always felt a certain affinity for those crazy Byzantines. Positioned at the crossroads of two continents, bordered by distinctly unfriendly Islamic and Catholic nations on either side, one of the greatest cities on earth as their capital. In both of the Medieval: Total War titles, the Byzantine Empire is one of the toughest factions to succeed with, surrounded by enemies and few potential allies, and that’s before the Golden Hordes turn up sometime along the way with their endless armies of terrifying heavy cavalry and horse archers. You can see why they struggled, despite their heritage and wealth. →  Read the rest

Review – Earth Defense Force 2017

Japanese firm Sandalot’s third person shooter, published in the West by D3 in 2007, Earth Defense Force 2017 is a 50s style sci-fi, seen through an 80s lens, set in 2017.

When they came to Earth in 2017 with their flying saucers and their spherical mother ship, we were not sure what to expect. We hoped they would be peaceful and friendly. We named them the Ravagers and then… hold on, hold on – we named them Ravagers before they attacked? Yes, yes we did. It’s almost like we were spoiling for a fight.

So the saucers dropped giant ants and spiders on our cities and the battle began in earnest. The Earth Defense Force is tasked with taking on the most ridiculous and inexplicable hordes of invaders imaginable. Along with the giant insects and the saucers and the mothership, there are small aerial fighters, a giant mechanical dinosaur and large robotic walkers. →  Read the rest

If we all work together, we might just get out of this thing alive

Things have changed. Co-Op is now a big deal in the world of games, and, as ever, there is an exact moment at which a well-informed observer such as myself can point and say “this, this is where the trend started.” Imagine there’s a timeline projected on the wall, and I’m probably wearing a suit, and with a laser pointer I confidently direct your attention to Halo: Combat Evolved, way back in 2001.

That’s right, before Halo there was literally no such thing as Co-Operative campaign mode.

Okay, fine, so that’s not strictly true. Or true in any sense. But Halo arguably marks the start of Co-Op gaming moving into the mainstream so that today, as we stand here in 2009, you literally can’t walk over a pile of games without tripping over one that has a Co-Operative mode. →  Read the rest