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Thứ Tư, 26 tháng 10, 2016

Civilization 6 Review

We are the world.

The original Civilization came out in 1991. I was five years old at the time. I didn't fully grasp the game's historical underpinnings or strategic subtleties, but I do remember playing with my dad and racing to build catapults before other leaders had a chance to expand their empires too far. Because even though the first game laid the groundwork not just for future Civ titles but for the strategy genre as a whole, it was, essentially, a glorified arms race.

Yes, you could found cities, build world wonders, and unlock new options through technological research, but inevitably, combat played a central role. Just like a real civilization, however, the franchise evolved over time, gradually grafting new ideas onto its classic framework--a process that’s now culminated in Civilization VI: the deepest, most well-rounded base game the series has ever seen.

Regardless of how you feel about the "cartoony" art style, its detailed animations make busy areas easier to parse.

More than ever, every win condition feels equally rich and equally viable, whether you’re pursuing culture, religion, science, or domination. You can build arts districts that allow you to more quickly accrue culture points and attract great artists. You can create new religious units like apostles to more efficiently spread your gospel to world. You can use the builder unit in new ways to better capitalize on the resources that surround your cities, accelerating humanity’s ascent into space.

And of course, you can still amass a formidable army, but even warfare presents new considerations that force you to lean on other systems beyond battle tactics. Maintaining military units, for example, is expensive, but picking trade routes with a high gold yield helps mitigate the financial impact. War weariness will eventually lead your population to revolt, but using diplomacy to squeeze luxury resources out of your allies can quell rebellion. And espionage, now deeper than ever, lets you not only place spies but pick specific missions for them to carry out.

Civ 6 is packed with added nuances that enrich existing systems, but it also makes some major changes, the biggest of which is “unstacking” cities. Rather than occupy a single tile on the world map, cities now sprawl outward, allowing you to capitalize on each city’s specific surroundings--assuming you exercise some serious foresight. Certain structures, for example, function more efficiently on specific types of land, while others can only be built if certain typographical demands are met. Not only does this change the way you consider the board, it also adds a new strategic layer that fills a gap and creates greater variety in the types of thinking Civ demands.

Along with planning each city’s long-term development, you must also manage its housing and amenity needs. These replace the global food and happiness levels of previous Civilizations and make individual turns more engaging in the process. Where previously you could mentally check out for a few turns while waiting for your big picture decisions to pan out, you must now actively monitor and improve each city’s condition. It can be a little exasperating and tedious, but ultimately, I realized each and every city contributed to my overall success and, consequently, provided unique opportunities for strategic gain.

You’ll find a host of slightly smaller but equally smart changes as well. You can now tailor your government to your specific playstyle by earning various policy cards that impact everything from war weariness to cultural output. Civics replace social policies and now function identically to technologies: pick one from an expansive tree, spend a few turns researching it, and unlock new cultural possibilities like theocracy or globalization. And with the addition of active research, you can cut research time in half by meeting specific, logical conditions tied to individual Techs and Civics--settling next to a coast will boost your research in sailing, for instance. This practice ensures an advantage for vigilant players.

Smart though these changes may be, they are accompanied by several notable imperfections. Tourism, for example, is the metric by which Cultural Victories are measured, yet the math behind it is esoteric at best. Missionaries and other religious units are similarly opaque. Though I did manage a Cultural Victory during one match, it required some frustrating trial-and-error guesswork, and Religious Victories seem slightly too easy to achieve once you uncover the ideal method for maximizing your output. And while you could argue that commerce and diplomacy facilitate every win condition, it’s a shame neither serves as a win condition itself.

The UI could also use a few refinements. There's absolutely no rhyme or reason to "Unit needs orders" notification, for example. Rather than directing your attention to units already on screen, it arbitrarily whips around the map, seeming highlighting units at random. I experienced a few performance hitches as well, like noticable delays between selecting the Civics menu and the menu actually appearing on screen. Nothing I experienced ever became intolerable, thankfully; my frustrations generally topped out at "annoyed." And other aspects of the presentation--most notably the instrumental score and Sean Bean's excellent voice work--definitely won me over.

Perhaps most crucially, though, opponent AI proved to be a bit of a mix. Catherine Medici was clever enough to preemptively declare war against me when she saw my troops massing at her border, and even brought anti-cavalry units to take down my tanks. Cleopatra, on the other hand, seemed to capriciously switch strategies--from religion to domination and back again--and just floundered uselessly as a result.

If nothing else, the new agenda system does imbue each leader with a discernable playstyle, and when one denounced me, the game explicitly told me why, making diplomacy a more straightforward affair. And even on higher difficulties, none of opponents broke a treaty or attacked me arbitrarily. In fact, I spent an entire match trading with Norway without issue.

Of course, you can avoid the AI altogether by playing online--just one of Civ 6’s many options. There’s a tight, well-executed tutorial for newcomers that briskly runs through the game’s major mechanics, as well as a “New to Civ 6” tips option that focuses specifically on everything that's changed since Civ 5, which should soften the learning curve for veterans looking to jump straight into the deep end. There's a lot to account for, but the fact that every new system slots logically into Civ's established structure makes the game relatively accessible despite of its depth.

Adjustable match parameters return as well, allowing you to adjust not only the difficulty but also the number of opponents, the presence of barbarians, and the overall map size. That last one is especially crucial since the "standard" size has decreased, most likely to force more interaction. Playing on larger maps with fewer opponents seems to work just fine, though. International trade takes longer and territorial expansion is far easier, but the game still plays largely the same.

Civ 6 has a few rough edges, but they’re pushed far into the periphery by spectacular strategic depth and intricate interlocking nuances. Any frustrations I experienced were immediately eclipsed by my desire to continue playing. Just one more turn, every turn, forever.

Thứ Sáu, 21 tháng 10, 2016

Medieval Engineers "relaunches" with a major gameplay update

Big changes promise to make the game a lot more interesting (and destructive).

We talked about the Middle Ages construction/destruction sim Medieval Engineers a bit last year, in part (speaking for myself, anyway) because it's so much fun to watch great stone structures get smashed into little tiny pieces. That doesn't necessarily make for a great game, though, and so developer Keen Software House has rolled out a major update that "re-launches" the project with a multitude of new features including a more detailed planet, an improved rendering engine, and the ability to claim territory and ally (or go to war) with other players. 

"Having a planet in Medieval Engineers creates a play area that is many times bigger than the flat worlds that we had before. The planet can have many plants, animals and barbarians with plenty of room for players," studio founder Marek Rosa wrote on his blog. "We’ve designed areas of the terrain so that players can build fortifications to defend their territory. The planet and all of its settings can be modded and shared through the Steam Workshop." 

Player may also create their own customized banners that can be used to identify themselves or mark off territory, and like most of the rest of the game's content, they can be modded and shared with others. Smaller improvements to the game include the addition of doors, new particle effects, a wardrobe, and the ability to play as a female engineer. 

Taken together, the update sounds like it will bring Medieval Engineers into a much more game-like state than it was previously, and that's reflected in the new gameplay trailer, too. Whether it will be enough to satisfy the recent Steam commenters who have decried the game as abandoned is another matter entirely, but at the very least it looks like a good start. A full breakdown of the changes is available on the Keen Software House forum. 

Thứ Năm, 13 tháng 10, 2016

Play These Two Games for Free on Steam This Weekend

Saints Row, Metro, and Dead Island are among the games on sale this weekend.

Sleeping Dogs developer United Front Games released its new multiplayer-action game Smash + Grab on Early Access a couple weeks ago, and now it's completely free to play for the next five days.

You can download and play Smash + Grab on Steam for free from now until Tuesday, October 18, at 12 PM PT. And if you want to continue playing it after the free event, you can pick it up at a discounted price of $17. It's important to note that this discount ends on October 17, before the free event comes to a close.
United Front plans to release the full version of Smash + Grab in about six months. According to its Steam page, it currently has "two maps and modes, seven playable Leaders, 13 Lieutenants, 20 different stores and vending machines to smash, and 12 base weapons with 18 weapon mods." United Front says "the full version will have more features and content, like maps, modes, characters, weapons, vanity items and more."

Raw Data, an Early Access first-person shooter that's "built from the ground up for VR," is also free this weekend. Its weekend event lasts from now until Sunday, October 16, while its discounted price of $30 is available until October 17. You can download and start playing it here.
In addition to free weekend events, Steam has a number of sales on for this weekend. Plague Inc: Evolved is going for $7.50, Offworld Trading Company is discounted to $13.60, and Deep Silver has a number of its games on sale as well.
Both Metro games are available in Metro Redux for $7.50, Dead Island and Riptide are discounted in Dead Island: Definitive Collection for $24, and every game in the Saints Row franchise for $60.90. Each individual game from the aforementioned bundles are also discounted. 

Snoop Dogg Will Try to Recover From Embarrassing Battlefield 1 Performance Today

Tha Doggfather himself will appear on a Battlefield 1 livestream today.

cSnoop Dogg didn't put up a very good showing in Battlefield 1 earlier this year at E3, and now he has a chance to redeem himself. Snoop is set to appear on EA's Road to Battlefield 1 livestream today from 1 PM to 3 PM PT.

Tha Doggfather confirmed in a tweet that he'll be taking part in today's 64-player Battle for Amiens match. At E3, he played with a number of celebrities including fellow rappers Wiz Khalifa and The Game and actors Terry Crews and Zac Efron. He finished the match without killing a single opponent. You can watch today's live stream here.

An outspoken fan of video games, Snoop has rallied for NCAA Football 14 to join the Xbox One's backwards compatibility list and let his opinion of Xbox Live going down be known.

"A message to Xbox One or Microsoft or whoever the f***, y'all f***ing server is f***ing wack, man," Snoop said back in January. "Y'all going to make me switch to PlayStation if y'all don't hurry up and get this s**t fixed. It's that difficult to play somebody online?

"What the f*** is you doin', Bill Gates?!" he exclaimed. "Fix your s**t, man!"

As for Battlefield 1, you can play a 10-hour trial of the game right now as long as you're subscribed to EA/Origin Access on Xbox One or PC. However, the trial doesn't feature all of Battlefield 1's content. It includes two single-player missions and four modes and five maps for multiplayer. Progress you make in the trial will carry over to the full game.

Additionally, if you purchase the Early Enlister Deluxe edition, you'll gain early access on October 18 to the entire game without a time restriction. Access members will also be able to play the full game at this time, as long as they have time left in their trial.

For more of GameSpot's Snoop Dogg coverage, check out the links below.

Thứ Năm, 6 tháng 10, 2016

Ubisoft's Next Free PC Game Arrives Soon

Grab another freebie starting on October 12.

The next free game from the ongoing Ubisoft Club promotion arrives next week, the company announced today.
Beyond Good & Evil arrives as a freebie on October 12, taking the place of the current free Club game, The Crew, Ubisoft said on Twitter. Assuming it works like the previous games, which have also included Rayman Origins and Splinter Cell, you'll have about a month to download it for free. By doing so, it'll permanently be yours.

Come October 12, you'll be able to claim the game for free by signing into theUbisoft Club website with your Uplay account (you can sign up for free if you don't have one). If you haven't already, you can still claim The Crew from the same site.
These games are being offered for free as part of Ubisoft's 30th anniversary celebration. There are still more games to come, with the promotion running through the end of the year.
While it's likely a coincidence that Beyond Good & Evil is being offered for free right now, it's impossible not to mention the recent teases by creator Michel Ancel regarding Beyond Good & Evil 2. In June, Ubisoft CEO Yves Guillemot said Ancel was working on the long-awaited sequel, and Ancel recently beganpublishing images online that are presumed to be from the game. Just this week, he indicated it's currently in pre-production.

Chủ Nhật, 2 tháng 10, 2016

Here's how combat works in Dontnod's Vampyr

Use various vamp abilities, or sneak past combat entirely.

Dontnod's Vampyr is a game about being a vampire, something you probably gleaned from the old-timey title. You'll play as bloodsucking healthcare professional Doctor Reid, and unlike Max—the star of Dontnod's hit adventure game Life is Strange—he'll spend quite a lot of time beating up folks and sucking blood through a curly straw, in pox-ridden, Post-Edwardian London taaahn. (Max hardly ever does that.)

Vampyr has combat, then, and if you're wondering what that involves exactly, well, a new post on the PlayStation Blog by game director Philippe Moreau should sort you out. You can avoid combat situations entirely with the aid of your "vampire speed and agility", but if you do choose to get into scraps with your foes, there'll be a range of skills to buy and use in the third-person combat.

"Armed with an array of conventional melee and ranged weaponry," the article elaborates, "attack and dodge enemies to fill up Jonathan’s Blood Gauge, which is required to unleash powerful vampire attacks. From impaling enemies on a spike to draining them of blood at a distance, as Jonathan’s Blood Gauge fills during a combat situation, his Vampire affliction will start to overtake his more human side, unleashing destructive spells and abilities against those who try to stop him".

There's a "non-linear" skill tree, full of abilities that can be evolved in two differing ways, and if you're hoping to evolve all of 'em you'll need to fully embrace you vampiric side.

"Combat difficulty can be affected by player actions out of combat," the post goes on. "Feeding on civilians provides a huge XP boost, which will make combat situations easier—but that comes with caveats; an increased danger on the streets, and narrative consequences for the world’s citizens, to name a few."

You'll "have to investigate and determine who to feed from, and who to spare," when Vampyr arrives, sometime next year.