Turtle Beach PX24 Headset – Review

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There are quite a lot of headsets available and, for the price, this isn’t a bad deal at all. The market at the moment is full of differing prices, compatibility and brands making confusion rife for people probably buying one. We do like to do some hardware reviews for those of you who might not have the time to wade through everything, and probably only see the most expensive thing on the market.

Retailing at £69.95, the Turtle Beach PX24 headset isn’t the cheapest (that honour goes to the Gioteck HC-4). You will also need an adaptor if you own an old design Xbox One pad (which, unless you’ve got the 3.5mm jack current Xbox One pad, is what everyone has), but for all other mediums you’ll be fine. The headset itself is a standard headset with a jack input so it can be used with pretty much anything. Which is great if you’re needing a headset for anything PC or Mac based, be it gaming or simple Skype calls. This is also where the mobile compatibility comes in although really it’s just a pair of headphones at this point, but if your serious about gaming and want that quality then having something multi purpose like this definitely beats the overpriced Beats.

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The sound quality is actually very good and listening to other people chat is very clear, as soon as you’ve done some minor volume adjustments on your gaming device. The foam cushions are nice and comfortable and the band part of the headset also has a foam cushion so it’s quite nice on the head. The microphone has some good quality to it and the flexible mount feels very stable and tough, but it also can’t really be moved into many positions make sure it’s away from clothing or you’ll get lots of scratching. Thankfully, you’ll notice that as the mic also plays in the headphone’s output so you can hear your own voice. This feedback is pretty good in stopping you from shouting and looking like a fool to passing people. To me, that’s one of the key components here as audio feedback on yourself is something a lot of lower priced headsets lack and is really useful.

The amplifier itself has a lot of charge to it. I’ve had it on quite a bit and even forgotten to turn it off at times, yet I haven’t had to charge it after a week. To do so is a simple micro USB cable that plugs in to anything. You have four options on your functions, changeable by a central button, which are Volume, Surround Adjust, Mic Volume and Bass Boost. All of those options are altered using the wheel on the side. On the opposite side is the platform selector (PS4/Xbox One, etc) and then two other buttons which are Mute and Superhuman Hearing.

The headset boasts the virtual surround sound option and it kind of works. It’s not as surround as you think it would be but it uses some clever panning on the audio channels. I heard it best when hearing a musical box in Assassin’s Creed Syndicate, one of the many secrets you can find, and was then able to locate it by hearing the change of direction in the audio. This was mostly let down by their being less notable difference in the levels when facing the object and having your back to it, but side to side, it was fine. The speaker quality does pull this off, but it’s something that’s best served with balanced audio and not blowing your speakers out, which the next feature has the potential to do.

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The problem is that the Superhuman hearing is pretty obtuse. It kind of sounds like the headset bumps the volume loudness, trying to make it as uncompressed as it can and kill as much of the noise reduction that engineers spend so much time implementing. It doesn’t really herald any real quality boost but more of a large loudness boost that really hurts your ears if you aren’t prepared for it, or turning it on during and explosion, like I did. I’m sure if you balance the audio levels a bit better then you might like it, but it really didn’t add anything more me that the headset wasn’t already doing. If anything I turned it off pretty quickly in the hope that I didn’t bow the speakers out. If having that kind of loud audio is you’re thing then be my guest, I’ve played in bands all my life and know first hand how much my hearing sucks now. Personally, I prefer a balanced and well mastered audio being reflected in the best quality and the function, by being an amplified volume boost, looses a lot of that quality.

The build quality feels good, compared to another Turtle Beach headset I have which was uncomfortable and had bits of plastic break off it when I tossed it on to a bed one… A soft bed. It’s certainly a good entry level headset and one that’s very useful if you’re in possession of multiple systems and need an all round device and aren’t going to spend over £300 on a wireless pair of Astro’s. For sub £100 this isn’t a bad deal and is certainly comfortable enough for several hours of gaming which, to me, is possibly more important than a volume boost that makes my tinnitus ring.

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Minecraft Story Mode – Interview

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Last week, we got to play the Minecraft Story Mode with Laura Perusco, the Creative Communication Manager from Telltale Games. You can read our review of the game here shortly.

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Sean Cleaver – Minecraft story mode, it’s lots of fun. It’s been worked on for quite a while. When did you first get the project germinating, how did it come about?

Laura Perusco – It basically came from, you know how we’re doing Tales from the Borderlands? Well that came first and we were already working on a video game that’s set in the world of another video game. We started thinking about what else we can do this with. A whole bunch of people in the office play Minecraft or have kids that play Minecraft, and that’s something that doesn’t have a story. People were just creating their own stories in that world. So we had the idea of reaching out to Mojang and floating the idea of doing a game. This was way back before Microsoft brought them out so our contract is with Mojang.

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SC – Minecraft is a very precise visual style because of what it is. But you’ve also managed to find a cinematic style out of this. There’s a lot of YouTube videos that have done these small animations. You seem to have created almost a movie out of it.

LP –  That’s pretty much what we do. We do playable stories, so our games are often thought of as playable movies or playable TV shows. Just the aesthetic of the world of Minecraft is very unique in and of itself. So we actually built a lot of the environments in Minecraft first and exported them to our engine, so it would absolutely, unequivocally Minecraft. Then we added a little bit to make it look more cinematic like depth of focus and changes and stuff like that but it’s all Minecraft. Absolutely.

SC – You’ve got your main characters, a band of four if you will, it’s a very traditional…

LP – And the pig.

SC – And the pig. I’ll get on to the pig now. The pet pig, Reuben. This year seems to be the year of the Dog for video games, every game has a dog and everybody loves them. You’ve gone with the pig and he seems to be much more charming than any dog that I’ve seen this year so far in a game.

LP – Reuben is my favourite character I actually had new business cards with him on. I think something that’s really cool about Reuben is that no one ever thinks of eating dogs in video games and that’s a new dynamic that comes up because pigs in Minecraft are always thought of as food. So it has that interesting dynamic.

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SC – I don’t think I’ve ever though about having a pet pig in Minecraft. I don’t I ever use them for food either but there you go. I quite like the idea with the story building on, a bit like what Minecraft really is, the convention scene. Creating Minecraft fandom within Minecraft itself with Ender Con and the Order of the Stone. What drew you to create that story out of it? Was there a lot of going around, looking at Minecraft, looking at the world, looking at the real life interactions with Minecraft? And are there plans for any more?

LP – The community around Minecraft is so important. That’s the reason for its huge popularity. There are so many videos online and people creating their own stuff. That’s what Minecraft is, it’s about creating things and sharing them. So we knew that was a huge part of the licence.  I actually went to Minecon in London to show the trailer and that was fantastic.

There’s so much love around this game that we wanted to put something like that in there. You might have noticed but the people who come on stage to introduce Gabriel at Endercon are Lydia and Owen, their director of communications. They voiced the characters too. But the thing about the characters in this game is they don’t know they’re in Minecraft. They don’t have any meta awareness or some other real world. As for more? We hope people play it and people enjoy it but beyond that, anything can happen.

Minecraft: Story Mode by Telltale games is available now on Xbox One, Xbox 360, PS3, PS4, PC and Mac.

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Cities Skylines After Dark – Review

 

There is no secret here – we loved Cities Skylines. So what do you do when one of the best games of the year brings you an add-on that brings you more? Well, you rejoice, naturally as ‘After Dark’ is now here. Except that probably the biggest part of it is actually free. So what are you actually getting by parting with your hard earned money? Actually, quite a bit.

It’s something that SimCity did, and to be fair to Maxis inglorious city-building swansong, it actually did it quite well. Day and night cycles made a fairly middling game look absolutely stunning, especially with some of the futuristic buildings. If there is a criticism of Cities Skylines, it was that the passage of time didn’t really feel very much like a passage of time. Part of this was because there wasn’t a night cycle, but part of it was because the timer and the date function feels rather arbitrary.

Now with the addition of the day/night cycle, it does feel like there is a certain progression but only if you don’t pay much attention to the clock. The beauty of the mode isn’t the visuals though (which are indeed absolutely lovely and don’t tax your system that much more than your current operating requirements). It’s the ability to micromanage things that are happening in those cycles. For example, the game will naturally increase crime during the night because it’s dark and criminals often work under that cover. So you can adjust your budgeting to allow for a greater police presence in the night and less of a presence in the day to balance it out. It’s useful for other things too, including trash collection (by creating a time with less traffic to operate these services).

That visual aspect, along with the micro management side of of this expansion has been added for free to the base game. But there are little bits to make going that bit further a lot more worthwhile. There are two new specialisations that bring their own challenges as well. New to the game are the Leisure and Tourism specialities, which allow you to build new bars and entertainment strip areas along with making use of beaches and hotels. So thankfully, all of your map can be used to exploit its natural beauty and give yourself challenges. Fancy making Atlantic City? Go for it!

Also added is the new dedicated lanes for buses and public services. There’s also plenty of new buildings and services for you to unlock which has been helped by the stellar job the modding community has done. In no small part, things have been implemented in to the game because they are popular mods and there is obviously a demand for them. City services, special roads and new additions to existing buildings can make life a lot easier.

For example there’s now a bus/bike lane to help the flow of traffic or at least help your services survive it. There’s a metro station built in to the airport now. There’s better train access for cargo. Lots of things can make your life easier. But make no mistake about it, this is an add-on. Not a new game, not a change in the game’s parameters or a fantasy world, it is a new bunch of stuff to stick in to the already existing stuff and help address a few issues the original had.

It’s arguable whether or not it does that. Traffic is still traffic and will still be a big issue the bigger you are. The crime rates stay fairly similar and Chirpr still overly chirps. The main focus here is that the game is just getting some more stuff. If you want to go further in to the rabbit hole for £11 then you can, but the main focus of the add-on’s title and the benefits that it directly brings are available to you now, for free, in the updated game.

Does this then negate the add-on? Possibly, it depends how much you’re willing to spend and to be honest, the game isn’t expensive so you’ve probably not payed out anywhere near what SimCity asked of you. Plus you will get some extra goodies so that also counts for something, and everyone’s thought of making their own version of Magaluf’s notorious strip in a game before so you can exploit those tourists for all their alcohol money… Haven’t they? Just me? Bugger.

Summary

Cities Skylines After Dark adds some cool new things but that’s basically all it does – Add. It’s not a game changer, or breaker. And the biggest part of the content is included for free in the day/night cycle, which you can switch off from the main menu if your system is struggling. There’s not masses there but for a game that’s got so much mod community support, it needs very little except to start the spark. Which this does.

Good Points

  • New industry specialisation
  • The day/night cycle is visually awesome
  • The biggest part of the pack is a free update

Bad Points

  • The biggest part of the pack is a free update
  • Not a lot of content beyond the cosmetic
  • Hasn’t improved certain issues like traffic congestion

Why a 7.5?

A lot of the value of the add-on will depends upon what you’re actually looking to get. And as the game has added probably the biggest part of it already, and for free, it does question how much is in the paid additional content that you’d use. In that regard, it probably doesn’t add as much as you’d have hoped but is a nice support for the game none the less.

 

 

Gremlins Inc – Preview

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I have sunk what probably seems like a unworldly amount of time in to the mobile game versions of Ticket to Ride and Small World, and probably quite a lot of time playing the board games themselves as well. So when I was asked to go and check out a card game at Gamescom, I was a little bit reticent because I already had my perfect games and I probably knew that, if it was good, I’d lose a lot of my time to yet another game. What happened a was that I lost a lot of my time to the video game version of the game. About half an hour more than I was supposed to… Oops.

Gremlins, Inc. is the brain child of Lithuanian studio Charlie Oscar. Much like the drive to bring the games industry to the UK with tax breaks, Vilnius in Lithuania is trying to become the Eastern European regional hub for the video games industry. Charlie Oscar is a great example of this, boasting programming talent from Russia, Ukraine, Germany and even Spain. Charlie Oscar enlisted the help of Alexey Bokulev, creator of Eador. Genesis (a turn based strategy game that hasn’t done too badly itself) to create a new original world for the game. So what is it all about?

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It’s steampunk, steampunk, money-grabbing gremlins, some more steampunk and then a final bit of steampunk to add on top of that. The world of Gremlins, Inc. is populated by gremlins. Not your normal gremlins though with the aversion to water after midnight, these guys are immortal and immortality will always breed corruption, greed and power. Described as “immoral capitalist gremlins”, the idea is that you go around the board and get enough points to win the game. You do this must lie, cheat and steal the wealth of your fellow players to put yourself in the position to earn the most points, either by becoming the local governor or underhandedly keeping everybody else down. You select one of ten playable gremlins that all have their own benefits and attributes. If you imagine the robber from Settlers of Catan, well thats how you feel with every turn in Gremlins, Inc. It’s evil and it’s glorious.

You start the game with a hand of six cards. These cards have a dual function. Firstly, they act as your die for moving around the board. The board itself is a counter clockwise path with an occasional shortcut here and there for the big buildings of the world like a bank, a casino, a jail, a court and fun places like “The Inferno” and “The Astral Plane”. The first move you make is your movement so you expel the card you want to in order to move. This is where you have to think tactically because the second phase of the game is an action.

Your cards will have certain actions that can either benefit you by giving you extra gold, extra power or points, or can ruin the plans of your opponent by stealing points, sending them to jail, or utterly destroying the political gain they’ve just spent ages earning. These actions are also limited as to where you play them on the board. So if you have a card like the “Everybody Dance” card with the casino symbol on it, you can only play it while you are at the casino. This is where the strategy comes in of having to regularly change and use cards, even if they look cool, just for movement as the game can, and will, quickly turn against you.

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Of course you have this issue, as do all of the other players. This is then made even more treacherous by the board itself. There are several places across the board where you will be fleeced for bribes, be at risk of arrest for your corruption, or even have some misfortune (which could also affect other players as well as you). The good thing about this game, regardless of how high you put the points and how hard you make it to achieve a win, is that something is always happening. You’re always thinking about how you’re going to win the next round of turns and are even thinking or planning three or four turns ahead. The board is small and manoeuvrable enough to get to where you’re hoping to go in a few turns, as long as someone doesn’t ruin it for you.

This constant going back and forth in my game with production assistant Monika Dauntye was only halted when we were told how long we’d been going and that people needed to go home. It was utterly captivating and I’m really excited to play more of it with my friends when it comes to Early Access in September. There is also a board-less card game being created in conjunction with the video game version, which is easily transportable and follows the same concept (minus the die movement). Even talking with other journalists later in the day, we were all surprised how much we enjoyed it. Keep your eyes open on Steam for when it comes.

You can find more information on Gremlins, Inc. over at http://gremlinsinc.com/videogame/

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Super Dungeon Bros – Preview

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Super Dungeon Bros is a four-player game that brings some of the best elements of some of our favourite multiplayer indie games. You can see the inspiration of games like Castle Crashers. Dungeon raid, rouge-like, co-op smashing games have been a regular staple on people’s top console indie games lists although not many have done them too well. The aforementioned Castle Crashers is probably the best example.

Super Dungeon Bros takes this action into a top down, slightly isometric 3D view. The aim is to beat traps and puzzles along with occasional enemies to raid the dungeon with your three other compatriots. This is both on and offline, so you can all share a screen in your house or your own screens online. The game also allows you to craft weapons so that you can customise how you play, as well as use each other as weapons. There’s quite a nice set of weapons too from ranged crossbows to swords, hammers and even some mad co-op attacks. But the main joy is the constant trolling that will come.

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[Spectral ghost boss… Far more interesting than the title it’s spoofing.]

You can pick your fellow Dungeon Bro up and throw him as a weapon. Which also means you can throw him across chasms, much like dwarf tossing. You can also just descend the game in to constant madness by lobbing your friends off the map and endlessly kill them instead. You go from having great fun, to experiencing great annoyance and eventually end with uncontrollable laughter… a staple of multiplayer gaming if there ever was one. All of this ends with boss battles and then carries on continuously.

Each level is procedurally generated. That’s right, 2014’s buzz word returns and in this case, you get the fun of different levels every time. Although they do follow a basic rule set across the three different worlds of the game, set to some fairly heavy rock music. The game’s story is that it’s set in Rökheim, which is described as “a giant scar of godforsaken earth where wars are waged in underground crypts built by the gods themselves”… *Insert generic town insult here* But they are all yours to loot, pillage and get coin! Dungeons are awesome like that.

Whilst we were at EGX Rezzed we got to have a look at the game at the ID@Xbox stand. It was interesting to see the dynamic of four friends sat down and slowly realise that they can play the game and at the same time, screw each other over. It’s something this writer remembers very fondly, that communal sense of hating someone for ruining the experience of a game, but it was so frequent and often that much laughter was had. That particular experience was on Halo 3, but we can see ourselves having similar experiences with Super Dungeon Bros.

[Rule One: Where there are skull and monk like creatures - Avoid.]

[Rule One: Where there are skull and monk like creatures – Avoid.]

Do not fear though, as despite it being on the Xbox stand, it isn’t an exclusive. As we watched a group of people try hard to throw each other off of a floating tower, the developers told me that the game will also come to Windows 10 and will benefit from the same cross platform play as Fable Legends is going to have between that operating system and Xbox One. Although the game is also coming out on PS4, PC (older versions of Windows) and Mac and is also cross-platform on those formats as well. Which led us to presume that there will be some Steam integration for this cross platform support.

The game we saw was the first every playable version of the game and we were quite impressed with how stable it was (given that we have seen some games lately that aren’t at all). The game is due to be released sometime towards the end of this year by US developer, React Games and Watford based Wired Productions. The game is being developed in the Unity engine too so it should be rather pretty without being too strenuous on a system.

It is early days yet for this game and there’s a lot that is sure to come over the coming months, especially with more game shows and the ID@Xbox banner behind them. The self-publishing vehicle already has a lot of great games that have been released or will be released shortly. This certainly looks like one game that will be an entertaining party choice for those of us inclined to troll our friends.

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Cities: Skylines – Review

 

Balance. Cities: Skylines has it. Whilst it is absolutely awesome to create the huge, truly 3D, Megalopolis that we’ve all yearned for since Sim City 4, city simulation games are actually a giant puzzle of balance. When you make a city, it isn’t just cool looking at the buildings? Isn’t it great to fly down the streets and notice the houses and cars zooming around? It’s one of the biggest things that gets you going in city builders, seeing your work breath life.  But trying to find that equilibrium of harmony so that you don’t grow out of proportion or decimate your resources whilst your population is swimming in filth, the deceased and can’t turn on a light to see that they’re drinking shit-flavoured water, is the biggest challenge. While much was lamented on SimCity’s size constraints, it really did teach you the lessons of good planning and staging your growth economically. It becomes something of a hangover when you come in to Cities: Skylines though.

Because you can just grow to enormous sizes there is a temptation to go absolutely crazy and just create your mega build. Which, if you’re in sandbox mode, you totally can and have the finances to easily manage the demands that present themselves. But in the normal game mode there are things you need to do in order to create the perfect, patient balance. The similarities to SimCity are very obvious in the games user interface and simplicity in its design and accessibility. This game has long been touted as “What SimCity should have been” and players of that game will see how familiar it is.

Firstly there is the big similarity that accessibility and traffic is king. Cities: Skylines is created from the mass transit simulator veterans Colossal Order (Cities in Motion). So it’s hardly surprising and makes sense to have traffic as a big part of your city planning. Getting people around is one thing. Making cool crazy roads is another. But beware as your services also rely on these roads and if they are too far away or hard to get to then your city will be swimming in garbage, dead bodies and burning down before you can scream “REDUCE THE GAME SPEED!!!” Education, much like SimCity, takes a very big presence as without it your city will have smaller buildings, more fires and less growth. It will surprise you, just like power, how much you truly need to build in order to sustain this even in the smaller cities of the early game stages.

Therein lies the puzzle of this balance as, at a moments notice, things can go from pleasantly docile to apocalyptically meltdown crazy. Which is something that Cities: Skylines does very well but it doesn’t go absolutely mad with obstructing your attempts to solve it. Unlike SimCity, the occupants of your efforts are mostly silent except for an initially novel Twitter-esque notification on the top of the screen – None of the screaming for superhero crime fighters or requesting for a church to be built, or demanding futuristic super fuels to increase trade options.

This is where you can divide your gaming audience however. Some people like the kind of quirky tongue in cheek nature that Maxis brings to games and SimCity had lots of it. Cities: Skylines has very little outside the quickly annoying top-of-screen birdy. Which means that outside of its technical gaming goodness, it can feel a bit cold. Given that a lot of your time you’re looking at a mass of green land slowly growing buildings, I personally sometimes yearned for that comedic touch. But the game doesn’t need that and many people will tell me to bugger off and play The Sims instead. So I’m very aware that for the purists and the serious gamers, this is in fact a positive.

Sometimes it can also be unclear what a problem actually is, and what the solution can be. Like SimCity, most of the time the solution is just patience, like waiting for fuel for power stations. Although there isn’t the same trading system that SimCity had so you can’t really see how industry and your specialist industries are doing without individually visiting them. Whilst the forestry and agricultural industries are great additions, I would have liked the opportunity for them to occupy more space. Like huge fields of land instead of the factory sized livestock pens, which have cows that by scale are mutant oversized bovine beasts.

I also find the need to put multiple power stations in your city so quickly slightly aggravating. Power demands are naturally high, but the fact that you can’t upgrade your buildings can leave you, in the early game, spreading multiple wind turbines and coal power stations across your map and barely scraping by. The lack of immediate leisure facilities and parks is a bit of a let down too, although there are some that unlock as you grow your city as “Unique Buildings”. It does limit some of the planning that you might want to do to encompass these but as with all creation, the ability to mercilessly destroy to create something better is a skill you need to possess.

Although your citizens very rarely complain about anything except education, it would be nice to have more options in making your city look prettier. Especially good would have been a brush tool for adding foliage that seems to be obvious UI option that’s missing. The game’s environments and maps are wonderful though, each presenting its own unique look and feel with resource management adding to the puzzle. And if you aren’t happy, you can create your own very easily or download one of the many available on the Steam Workshop.

Technically the game holds up very well. I was playing on a Mac, which isn’t the most stable of the OS’s pre-release, but it hasn’t caused me any problems. It’s available on Linux too as well PC, of course. But the system requirements you will need to get the experience you’ve probably seen in the trailers and watched YouTuber’s play is quite high. The game is perfectly playable on an i5 processor with a decent graphics card and enough RAM. But you have to sacrifice a lot of graphical detail in order to get anywhere near consistent frame rates. I mostly hit 30fps but I had to turn shadows off and textures down to medium. As my city grew, the lag did begin to increase, which I suppose you should expect given the amount that’s going on. But I’d recommend a big system if you’re going to create the mass of steel and concrete that the games can deliver.

The game’s blurb on Steam describes it as a modern take on the classic city simulation and for all intents and purposes it is exactly that. Apart from the moments of resource madness the game is very easy to manage. In fact its lack of adjustable difficulty might irk the most hardcore fans of the genre, although there is a hard mode. And whilst your imagination is fairly unlimited, you still have to imagine within some confines, which is a great puzzle that blurs lines between real life planning and gaming city planning. The support for expansion is brilliant with the Steam Workshop supporting customised buildings and maps for everyone to share with each other. If you’re ticking the boxes, especially against SimCity, this game has well and truly trumped it.

At the start though, I mentioned a hangover. On a personal critical reflection of the game the stigma of SimCity that’s around the genre, and especially the hype of this game, is at times unavoidably apparent. For all of the promise of the game being a better version of SimCity, that the fans actually wanted, this game completely nails it but at the expense of its own character. However this game wasn’t intended for that; it was intended for the dedicated and crazy people to build obnoxious, overwhelming metropolises and to create a supportive game and environment for the passionate modding community. With the seeming demise of Maxis and the buggy recycle that was Cities XXL, there may not be another time where PC gaming, nor any gaming due to console’s lack of strategy games, will have a studio which creates one of the founding staples of gaming so excellently. And if this is our last foreseeable option to modern city building then it is a damn fine one to have, if not the best we’ve had in nearly ten years. Balance is restored.

Summary

This is what not what SimCity should have been, but rather what SimCity could have been. The charm of Maxis is obviously missing but the gameplay, the mechanics and the scope of a good city building game is there. It’s an easy game to pick up and get in to and for the modding community it’s very well supported. Make sure you’ve got a good system though if you want the full experience.

Good Points

  • The game is suitably huge and expansive
  • Builds on SimCity’s easy to play UI and perfects it
  • Adds a few options that trump SimCity’s limited building

Bad Points

  • Lacks the charm of SimCity/Maxis
  • Can be a strain on recommend or lesser spec machines
  • A few building tools are missing that would have been nice

Why a 9?

This is quite simply the best City Building game available today and probably is the best since Sim City 4. In an era of freemium mobile gaming and the apparent downfall of Maxis, Colossal Order could be the heir apparent to the throne for a long time to come. There are a few tools missing and the game does miss some of the charm that its genre contemporaries provide but Cities: Skylines has reinvigorated a sadly sagging genre and is exactly what fans were looking for.

 

This review was based on the Mac version of the game.

Interview – War For The Overworld

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War For The Overworld is a new isometric, real time dungeon strategy game by Subterranean Games. A Kickstarter funded project, the game may seem like a very familiar one but this group of super fans are working to make a new game that is better than the one that drew them towards the project in the first place. Sean spoke with Josh Bishop, the CEO and Creative Director of Subterranean Games in Shoreditch, London to find out more.

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How hard is it going to be for people not to call it Dungeon Keeper HD? You’ve got a lot of inspiration from a lot previous games that are very good and you seem to have brought that well in to this game. How have you come about that?

To be perfectly honest, that’s what we set out to do. We started as a group of fans of Dungeon Keeper on a Dungeon Keeper fan site and there hadn’t been a Dungeon Keeper game released in 10 or so years when we first wanted to do this. We liked it so we thought let’s do this.

[It's hard to tell if it's a dungeon or a night club. They're the same thing though... Right?]

[It’s hard to tell if it’s a dungeon or a night club. They’re the same thing though… Right?]

A lot of people say things like “holes in the market” but there hasn’t really been any dungeon games or building games in this vein for a while. That must have been quite an attractive proposition for the community when you started your Kickstarter and getting everything together.

Kickstarter certainly has seen a big surge in games like this. In the past two or three years there’s been a lot in those genres that hasn’t really existed for the past ten years and suddenly it’s all come back. Which is cool because we love those games. So we’re happy.

And you’re managing to do it on a PC platform rather than having to bastardise it for any kind of mobile platform or anything else. Which must be quite good as a programmer.

Yes. It is nice. PC first always. PC, Mac and Linux.

How did you go in to the design process for this because obviously you had a pretty good inspirational template?

We’ve all been playing Dungeon Keeper for a very long time. We know what we like about it and what we don’t like about it. We’ve played plenty of other games that are similar to it, other God games and other RTS games. So for the longest time we’ve thought” Dungeon Keeper would be so much better if… this.” And that’s where we started. We use that as our ground work and we went through and anything we felt could be improved upon, we improved upon it. We didn’t start somewhere else, we started there and we didn’t want to change things for the sake of changing things. We wanted to improve.

It’s going to be very hard for people to disassociate the two games as they are very similar, despite the time difference, but this is a very different that’s almost an homage. You’ve got Richard Ridings for the voice narrator, you’ve got the stylistic choices in the way the game operates and in the humour… How difficult was it for you to separate and create your game?

It wasn’t too difficult. We wanted to build on the gameplay that had been laid out. We weren’t really looking to copy from a stylistic standpoint, legally and because it’s dated. From an artistic standpoint we started with the gameplay and followed from there from the ground up. So the visuals more than anything is where we differentiate at face value. The deeper you go, there are quite a few mechanical differences like the tech tree.

[Excuse me, Dungeon Master, but I didn't order the "Flaming Prince"]

[Excuse me, Dungeon Master, but I didn’t order the “Flaming Prince”]

A lot of God games can give you those kind of options on a plate, so the tech tree allows more strategy to be involved.

That’s because we wanted it to work in multiplayer. Traditionally God games aren’t multiplayer things so it’s kind of ok to just give people everything in a sandbox. But we wanted to bring that RTS angle in to it so there’s some sort of strategic choice and so it can work in multiplayer.

Quick fire questions. Favourite Minion:

The Chunder

Favourite room:

The Arena, that’s pretty cool. The Crypt also looks pretty cool.

I just saw The Archive and that looked cool. Especially close up when you’ve possessed someone, looking at the book and the writing on it. How much attention to detail do you pay to the little quirks and humours touches that people may not necessarily notice?

Quite a lot, the thing with this over other RTS and other top down games, is that they don’t have a first person view. We do. So we have to design everything from a birds eye and a first person perspective. We’ve had to keep things relatively efficient so the character models aren’t as high poly as you might see in other things but we scale that quite a lot. But the texture are made at a high resolution so if your PC can handle that then you can go and look at how cool it is. We did have a play with an Oculous Rift just to try it. It isn’t in the game and isn’t supported, but it did look really nice when we played around with it.

So when you’re in your remote offices, what do you do to get to your inner evil designing mode? Do you put on some thrash metal and sacrifice goats at an alter?

We all have cats on spinning chairs so we can turn around with crazy laughter.

[In the Tavern you'll find your minions getting hilariously drunk, talking about the time they were extras in Labyrinth.]

[In the Tavern you’ll find your minions getting hilariously drunk, talking about the time they were extras in Labyrinth.]

You have to have a sense of humour to work on a game like this though, right?

I guess it’s different from person to person. I know our writer can zone out for days before he comes back. Sometimes people communicate a lot, it’s quite a varied bunch of people we have. I don’t know if there are any teams that operate entirely remotely that are our size. There’s 15 of us from Australia, Hong Kong, Russia, to Europe and the US, all the way around the world.

So that goes to show that there is a worldwide desire and demand for games like these?

Especially in Germany. Germany is such a huge market for this type of game.

Where do you see yourself post-release with the game, as you’re all community based so you know what kind of things the community would expect?

There’s a couple of things we’re already planning. Firstly there’s the early adopter bonus so anyone who buys it in the first month of release will get the first DLC for free. We’re doing that as an alternative to pre-order bonuses as we still want people to buy the game early and at full price but we don’t want people to commit to it without seeing a review or whatever. And we don’t want to feel like there’s content being held back for people who don’t pre-order the game. We’re hoping that’ll be out in June but we aren’t great with deadlines. The second is the flex goal content. So during the Kickstarter campaign we had our milestones and for every one after our main goals, we were going to allow our backers to vote on what content they wanted. That vote is still going so we’ll see what content will be next.

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War For The Overworld is due to be released on April 2nd 2015 for PC, Mac and Linux.

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