It has been a long time since I’ve made a video gaming related article, apologies for taking so long on getting back to them! It’s been an insanely busy past three months, but it should hopefully pay dividends. You will find out about what I’ve been working on in just a few short weeks!
There is a lot of video gaming content coming soon, especially in December with my annual “Game of the Year” rants which will end up being quite substantial. My current spreadsheet for 2020 involves nearly 40 games I need to discuss. There are so many games I want to cover it will probably involve five articles at least. With luck, I can make that happen I December.
So today, I’m going to talk about some games I’ve been playing during the last few weeks. Since the end of April, I’ve been streaming such games on my Twitch channel. Hopefully with my insight as a freelance narrative writer in the industry and the wealth of games I’ve been playing, you guys will enjoy some gameplay!
One biggest problem I have with video games is actually completing some. It’s something that’s become a running joke with some members of my gaming community. I’m trying, I promise!
Ruinarch is a fascinating little game in Early Access: A simulation sandbox game where you create obstacles and cause conflicts in procedurally generated fantasy worlds. I like to refer to it as Reverse Rimworld: while that game focuses on you as a group of survivors trying to escape a planet while an evil, piece of shit enemy director tries to fuck with you as much as possible, in Ruinarch, you are that piece of shit director.
And it’s got quite a lot of tools! It has a little bit of the now long-dead god game sim inside it (A travesty because the god gaming genre was amazing), so you can approach wiping out villages in different ways. You can cast powerful spells like fire, lightning and blizzards to rain hell upon them, if you like the direct approach. You have powerful demons you can summon, which helps the “Operation Fuckup Village” thing. Be careful of course, because the villagers don’t like evil gods by principle.
Or you can go the more subtle approach. Ruinarch has quite a nice system where the villagers have different relationships and personalities, and infecting them with say…darker thoughts is one way to ruin them too. Turn a wife against her husband by making her a vampire, or a son against his father by turning him into a psychopath who only kills other men. There’s a lot to play with, and there’s enough content to keep you interested.
The game is in early access and in a fairly enjoyable state, if a little buggy at times. I completed all six base scenarios (which have some variation on gameplay and need different tactics to complete them) in about 12 hours, but there’s a good amount of replayability with all the options. So far, I recommend it if you want a unique little game to let off steam. You might find me discussing this game more in December!
Crusader Kings III
I…have an odd relationship with Paradox games in general. They make good games, and support them for years, but they do so with a very liberal approach to DLC which makes getting into their games after a few years intimidating. This has been a double edged sword: on one hand you know they will support their games for a long time, the bad news is you often have to spend a ton of money to pick up the “optimal” version of the game.
Crusader Kings III is something I had my eye on ever since it got announced, but I did have my concerns. The last big Paradox game to come out was a god damned mess at launch (Imperator Rome) and it probably pissed off a lot of people. With that in mind as well as Paradox having their hooker love relationship with add on content, I wanted to wait on Crusader Kings III and see what people thought. What softened the blow was the game being available on the rather nice Xbox Game Pass for the PC (an excellent gaming deal, even if their app is a bit shitty.)
I needn’t have worried too much. Paradox likes making complex games with a lot of depth, but there is a sacrifice for that. It usually involves a massive learning curve, and if it takes too long to get into the game, you’ll turn off a lot of people. What they did a wonderful job with this game is easing the player in. Crusader Kings III is complicated with a lot going on, but with much better UI and a tutorial that constantly helps you learn. This is huge, because I found myself getting absorbed by this third edition than any other Paradox management and kingdom builder game. The content is chunky, I care about the characters I make, and it’s just generally good gameplay. Overall, it’s one of the strongest Paradox launch games in years.
Paradox, you have impressed me so far. Keep it up! (And don’t fuck us with DLC without some good lube, at least. Please?)
Pokemon Sword and Shield (Expansion Pass in mind)
I enjoy Pokemon in general, but man. Boy, this game got some controversy didn’t it?
From the Dexit nonsense to it’s rather lukewarm reception, 2019’s latest game in the Pokemon franchise really pissed off some people. I initially wasn’t going to pick them up, having gone off Pokemon in recent years. However, before the UK went into its spring lockdown, I ended up trading in at CEX for a copy of Pokemon Sword, based off my few hours playing it at a friends house in Edinburgh.
I’ve missed going out. Fuck viral pandemics, you know?
36 hours later, I defeated the champion. And…eh. I see the criticism. It’s so mindless I barely feel motivated to get the box legendary, and that hasn’t happened to me before in a Pokemon game.
Let’s start with the bad and the bland. Let’s be blunt, Pokemon was never really decided to have a good story. It’s had times with good characters, and Generation 5 (Black and White) were the high point of story in the games. Pokemon Sun and Moon and its Ultra versions had some strong characters and story, but badly let down by its awful pacing. It feels the developers just wanted to race through, as Sword and Shield’s story is both bad and lazy. The Darkest Day never really did much for me, and the main character (you) is completely irrelevant. It might just be the worst story in the entire franchise, and that’s including X and Y. You’re meant to be improving from Sun and Moon, guys, not regressing!
The Wild Area too…I like the concept but the graphics and draw distance is atrocious. The route designs too were extremely undercooked, almost like the game was in pre-alpha. The draw distance really put me off, seeing trees pop up 10 meters away…ugh.
A lot of people blast the game for it’s short playtime, but I feel thats part of its design. The Max Raid mechanic gives you a crapton of EXP candy, and with the EXP Share unable to be turned off (A design flaw), it’s very easy to level up your team. That in itself isn’t a bad thing, I was able to level up 2-3 full teams quickly and experiment.
Which leads me to the good parts of the game. Dexit aside, I really liked the new Pokemon designs, for the most part, and what was in the game, I was happy with. Time will tell whether their Season Pass will be an improvement over the past “Release third version” bullshit, but Pokemon has always been predatory in this regard. While the plot sucked ass and the game was too easy, some characters were well made. I liked the Champion Leon, and his brother Hop as he evolves alongside you. Marnie was a high point as well as well as her brother, who refuses to battle with Dynamax. There is some good writing in this game beneath all the mediocrity.
The Raids were a lot of fun, and in spite of how undercooked a lot of the gameplay is in this game, I really enjoyed the catching and raiding part of it. The Pokemon Camp mechanic while seemingly meaningless was good too, and I couldn’t help feel impressed by some of it. Hence in spite. There is a good game buried in here, amongst all the bad.
With the new DLC…eh. I own Shield now, I picked it up, a Switch Lite and the expansion pass for a really good deal, and I enjoyed Sword enough to play this with hopefully the full content. Let’s see if it shapes up, shall we?
I will make some kind of future post on this when I get the chance to try it out.
A kind word of advice to anyone who wants to develop a game. If you’re going to charge close to AAA price, at least make sure 1) Your launch goes as smooth as possible and 2) Make sure the full game is in it?
People get very testy over video game prices, and if people think it’s too high, they will complain about it. Iron Harvest at its core has a stunning art piece with really strong writing, especially for a strategy game. However, the launch was rough. Not only was the game buggy, but it launched with only a portion of the multiplayer maps available. That, combined with iffy AI interactions make for a difficult first impression. Yes, I know they have a roadmap and plan on changing this, and yes, it has improved significantly since its launch, but this should not be okay.
I try, as my new experience in the gaming industry, to be more sympathetic towards devs. And I really am for these guys. Clearly, something was happening behind the scenes to rush its launch, which must be frustrating. I can’t help but wonder had they charged a more reasonable price for a game like this, reception would have been a bit more positive.
I’m a few hours into the campaign and it’s pretty solid so far though. I’ll update when I’ve played more. The mechs are cool and the worldbuilding is excellent, just probably needed a few more months in the cooker.
That is all from me right now, but join me in a couple of weeks for another segment. I’m going to try and ramp up these little articles in preparation for December.