RTS Galore! Episode 4: Spice Must Flow

«RTS Galore!» is a series of posts where I arbitrarily overthink real-time strategy games. My definition of the real-time strategy game and some sort of a methodological vector for the series have been explained here.

Previously we saw examples of how RTS games simplify various existential issues for the sake of creating addictive and unapologetically fun gameplay. Populous, for instance, gamified religious conflicts without making any meaningful theological statements, while Mega-Lo-Mania basically gamified the nationalistic total war concept and presented it as a natural in-game order of things without delving much into its problematics.

In this article we’re going to see what happens when RTS games are based on other works of fiction, specifically lengthy books filled with thematic intricacies and ideological complexities. Tough to find a better example for this than Westwood’s Dune series. Also, with a new Villeneuve’s version of Herbert’s story hitting the theaters in a couple of days, it’s a great time to write something about Dune. Good for the clicks, y’know.

Continue reading “RTS Galore! Episode 4: Spice Must Flow”

Mass Alienation and Social Atomization in Bloober Team’s Observer

There are several ways you can summarize the plot of the Bloober Team’s Observer. For example, you can say that this is a game about a futuristic cop, played by Rutger Hauer, who chases after a murderous monster in the cyberpunk dystopian setting. This way, Observer reminds us of Split Second—a 1992 sci-fi action flick—not explicitly smart or insightful but nevertheless fun in a guilty-pleasure sense.

But another way to summarize Observer is to see it as a story about the post-plague world, where people live in constant fear of the new outbreak, ready for routine lockdowns. This way, the game paints the picture of a totally atomized society where each individual is tightly confined to the limits of their tiny apartment, which reminds us of something wider and deeper than a ’90s movie. It reminds us of our current reality.

Continue reading “Mass Alienation and Social Atomization in Bloober Team’s Observer”

RTS Galore! Episode 3: Mega-Lo-Mania & Populous II

After trying its design philosophy in an entirely atheistic setting, Bullfrog returned to its god-game roots with a sequel to Populous, making the gamification of the ‘holy war’ concept more fun and ideologically safe. A couple of months earlier, another British developer, Sensible Software, also released a game about gods and their bloody conflicts. But Mega-Lo-Mania’s focus was more human-centered—even almost political, I’d say.

Continue reading “RTS Galore! Episode 3: Mega-Lo-Mania & Populous II”

Neofeud: Pastiche and Critique

Initially, I intended to write a short review of Neofeud and explain how it touched me with its admirable intentions despite several evident flaws in its design. Then I’ve played a bit more and figured that there is something more interesting going on under the covers. Finally, the game’s ending left me with a rather unusual feeling that I couldn’t leave unresolved. Here’s the attempt to fit the experience of playing Neofeud in my head.

SPOILERS AHEAD!

Continue reading “Neofeud: Pastiche and Critique”

RTS Galore! Episode 1: Populous

It was an early December morning. The streets were still engulfed in darkness when I took a sip of fresh coffee. Clouds were gathering above the horizon, and lightning flashes in the distance heralded a coming storm. Then it hit me! I have to play as many RTS games as I possibly can! Because of reasons, you know. It seemed a perfectly logical decision for me at the moment; why the hell haven’t I thought about it earlier?

Edit: There is another thing I should’ve thought about earlier: the need to establish a more solid framework to avoid misunderstandings and make the series less arbitrary and more. Here it is.

So join me on this lengthy, turbulent, and perilous journey through those worlds filled with violence, warfare, moral bankruptcy, and intense mouse-clicking! We’ll start with Populous.

Continue reading “RTS Galore! Episode 1: Populous”

Heroes of Might & Magic: The Rise and Fall

1999 was one of the wealthiest years for gaming history. Legendary titles spawned one shortly after another, leaving gamers—exhausted but happy—no time for rest. Just think about it: Age of Wonders, Homeworld, Sid Meyer’s Alpha Centauri, SimCity 3000, Planescape: Torment, Dungeon Keeper 2, Quake 3, Jagged Alliance 2, Age of Empires 2, etc. They all saw the light of day in the glorious 1999. Like dozens of smaller suns, those masterpieces rose to the skies, making them brighter and brighter.

One of the first titles in this pantheon of ‘99 was the game eagerly awaited by hundreds of thousands of people. In late February 1999, New World Computing released Heroes of Might & Magic III: The Restoration of Erathia—the game condemned to greatness.

Continue reading “Heroes of Might & Magic: The Rise and Fall”

Heroes of Might & Magic: The Classical Era

Since the second half of the ‘80s, Might & Magic series have been accumulating the love and appreciation of the masses. World of Xeen, the role-playing behemoth born from the fusion of Might & Magic IV and V, crowned the series with a luxurious quality cap. New World Computing needed new ideas and technologies to continue the series without the risk of becoming repetitive. Thus it was decided to let the role-playing Might & Magic rest a bit. In the meantime, the studio has made its old ideas work for the sake of its leading franchise.

It was probably the best decision they could have made. For it has led to the birth of the new series in the Might & Magic universe, which arguably became even more popular and beloved than the role-playing one.

Continue reading “Heroes of Might & Magic: The Classical Era”

Atlantis Trilogy: The Remarkability of Unremarkable

Cryo Interactive was a very prolific developer and publisher. During twelve years of its activity, this French company has managed to release so many games, that there is a separate Wikipedia page, listing the most of them. Although you may find quite a variety of game genres in that list, Cryo is mostly remembered for its adventure games.

This legacy is more of notoriety than fame, though. Back in the early ’00s, the phrase ‘adventure game by Cryo Interactive’ bore an a priori meaning of a shallow, not more than a mediocre Myst-like experience, probably based on some public domain property.

Atlantis trilogy is one of the most successful of Cryo’s adventure series (sold over a million copies worldwide) and an epitome of the company’s remarkably unremarkable style.

Continue reading “Atlantis Trilogy: The Remarkability of Unremarkable”

Cyberia: Weird. Short. Unique.

Technological spike in the mid-’90s kick-started a wave of prophecies predicting a fusion of videogames and cinema. A fresh breath of future was in the air: FMV-games and emergence of realistic graphics fueled futuristic fantasies about highly interactive movies ought to bring eternal joy and happiness to our long-suffering world. Alas, the reality is the most ferocious party pooper: it turned out that it is tough to balance interactivity with cinematography. You have to prioritize. As a result, games with a high focus in cinematography were severely lacking in their interactivity, falling between the chairs of two mediums: failing to compete with movies (because of their still immature cinematography and incomparable budgets) as well as with other games (because of their primitive gameplay).

Cyberia was one of the first games that learned that truth the hard way.

Continue