Saturday, February 20, 2010

Fable 3 and Civilization 5

My two favourite franchises, Civilization and Fable, are both receiving sequels this year! Fable 3 we already knew about, however the Civilization announcement is new. Please note, Civilization 5 is different from the previously announced Civilization Facebook, which should also be coming out this year.

Fable 3

I mentioned that Peter Molyneux would be demoing and talking about Fable 3 at this years X10. The key things to take away from it are:

  • Traditional RPG levelling and health systems have been cut
  • Like your character, your weapons will now change according to how you use them
  • There are two continents
  • The expressions wheel has been replaced by something called touch, though the details are still hazy as to how it actually works
  • The game will support but not require Natal. How the game will use Natal has not been announced
One thing that Molyneux did say is that they are still not talking about the second half of the game, where you have to rule a country (beyond a few hazy details like you will have a treasury and you will have to decided how to spend the countries money). Judging by the inclusion of a second continent, I would imagine there will be some kind of diplomacy/military conquest.

The weapon development is quite interesting. Basically, as you use your weapon, it will become more powerful and specialised. If you kill innocents, it will constantly drip blood, killing certain types of creatures will cause it to develop a certain appearance. The cool thing is, you can name your sword and then trade it online. Which means you will have actual legendary swords that you have to try and track down. The problem with this is of course the fact the game exists in sub-perfect world; optimal swords will be found and mass produced, flooding the market and near-breaking the system.

The other good thing is they are doing co-operative properly. You can use your actual character. Naturally, it being Fable, I am now super excited for this game.

Civilization 5

Details are still very vague at this point. Probably the most significant change is the move from squares to hexagons. They also said that there would be indirect attacks from units like archers. This all suggest, along with the screen shots, more tactical combat (placing your archers behind swordsmen type of thing) and less stacks of doom.

They also commented on improved diplomacy, which is good. For me, I found the biggest problem with Civilization 4 is that there is little reason the interact with the other nations, particularly in the end game when military victory is far too much of a grind to be seriously considered. Which is a shame as I have always liked the idea of combined military arms.

On that note, one thing I would like to see is a more inter-nation interaction during the end game - taking the UN idea to the next level. For example, maybe requiring nations to work together to overcome an flu epidemic or global warming. Something to force nations to consider each other, rather than just becoming isolationist and pushing for the space victory.

The only other thing specified was improved online, which is good, particularly if they introduce things like clans, leagues and experience points. Civilization 4 had a very robust multi-player, but little incentives to keep you playing which made it feel a bit dry.

Two very exciting announcements for my two most anticipated games of the year. Keep an eye of this site for updates as we approach their release (Civ 5: Fall 2010, Fable 3: Before Christmas)

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Darksiders [Xbox 360]

Darksiders starts off as a weak, bloody version of Legend of Zelda but by the end is serving up interesting puzzles, fun combat and even a little compelling narrative. Providing you are prepared to put up with the opening couple of hours, there is a polished and clever adventure to be had.

The biggest theme in Darksiders is improvement. The game starts of really dreadful. The combat is incredibly boring and yet the game insists chucking you against hundreds of enemies; fighting them becomes a massive chore. When you get to a puzzle, it is mind numbingly simple, usually hitting something nearby to open a door. The environments are drab grey. The only promise of interest, humans running from angles and demons as the two super powers fight out a massive war on earth, dies out when you realise that the main game is set when the two powers are in a stalemate and all the humans are dead.

However, as the game progresses, everything gets better. You learn new moves and the combat is challenging enough so that you have to use them. By the end of the game, you are skilfully diving in with an attack and shooting back out as they come back at you. You use all your moves to great effect and fighting is really rewarding.

The puzzles follow a similar pattern. After the initial few hours, they become really rewarding. The puzzles are all logical and instead of feeling like you spotted the trick the designer wanted you to, you feel like you worked it out and it is your solution to a problem. Some of them follow the Legend of Zelda method of using your latest tool, but others require you to apply everything you have learnt so far and a little imagination. The only draw back is sometimes, especially in some of the boss fights, there is little feedback to indicate if you are doing the right thing, which is disheartening.

Even the story improves. OK, it never gets great, and the way it is delivered is poor: the game feeds you virtually no story line through out the whole game then at about 85% of the way through, it gives you two massive cut scenes one after the other which deliver the entire story. However, it is almost compelling and by the end, your previously boring character has a much more defined personality. The story is very confusing, partly because of the bulk delivery, but the ending is quite neat (hopefully a 4 player co-operative sequel?)

I had a lot of fun with this game. It presents some really cool locations later on, even if you feel you have visited some of them before (the sand dunes, for example, mimic the sand dunes in Legend of Zelda). It looks good, the game loads smoothly when travelling between environments and although the controls aren't perfect, the combat works well.

Zelda fans will have a great time with this game and I would highly recommend it to anyone who has the time to get past the opening section.

This review was based on a promotional copy supplied by the publisher.

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

A Fable 3 announcement

In an interview with Peter Molyneux, the legendary designer said he was going to make an announcement at X10, a Microsoft conference on the 11th of February. He said the announcement was going to "upset people".

Obviously, I don't know what it is. However, given that we know Fable 3 will use Natal in some respect, I would not be surprised to find out the announcement is that Fable 3 will require Natal. He also said that he thought it was "the right thing to do". Given his support for Natal, and the fact that Natal's success depends upon high profile games being released on it, this would appear to support the theory.

I'm of two minds about Natal. I am still struggling to see how it can be used to enhance game play interactions. Sure, it is technically impressive, but the whole emotion recognition thing that Milo was doing isn't magic. That requires impressive software as well as impressive hardware. I fear this means that more likely than not, Milo-style interaction is going to be a rare phenomena rather than the norm. Natal is going to be a lot of money to buy and a lot of money for developers to develop for. Given there is a certain sense of the Wii reign coming to an end, I suspect developers will be weary about jumping on the next band wagon until it has been proven viable.

Obviously, I can't help but be excited anyway.

In other news, I have finished Darksiders and will post a review hopefully before the end of the week. Then I am on to Mass Effect 2, which so far has been amazing.

"All your base are belong to us"