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Light Blogging for a While

November 13th, 2007 by Troy Goodfellow · 5 Comments · Me

The Thanksgiving holiday will be here soon, so I have to do prep for a family holiday. That means cleaning, shopping, buying mints for pillows, etc. so there won’t be a lot of new content here for the next ten days.

I will, however, give you a few incomplete thoughts about things I am playing.

1) Asian Dynasties is a good expansion, but not as good as Warchiefs was.

2) Armageddon Empires keeps getting patched and I’m always a patch behind.

3) Napoleon’s Campaigns, the new game from AGEOD (the makers of the excellent Birth of America and very good American Civil War) is a little piece of sunshine in this very gray month.

4) The Fall From Heaven mod for Civilization IV is still more color than balance. The AI has no clue what it is doing, but you get to see and make lots of fancy toys. I expect this is a lot more fun in multiplayer, but I can only handle one PBEM game at a time.

5) I still haven’t installed Total War: Kingdoms, probably because I keep meaning to go back to my Europa Barabarorum game.


5 Comments so far ↓

  • jonathanstrange

    My two centavos:

    1) Asian Dynasties – I haven’t purchased yet ’cause Warchiefs exhausted me on the genre/game for now. Expansions can be too good.
    2)ArmageddonEmpires – Wow, what a great purchase in terms of fun/price. Short fun skirmish game that’s so good, I’m tempted to ruin it by wanting more of a “point” to my endless battles – or more sound effects, mission reward, campaign – and thus end its simplicity.
    3)AGEOD’s Birth of America is $9.99 if you can find it at an EBGames (not online). I think if you like it, then AmericanCivilWar would be a worthwhile purchase too. I’m a big CivilWar buff but a cheapskate, no so Civ War for me.
    4)Fall From Heaven – pretty, and definitely interesting. Too bad that the A.I. doesn’t seem to use the magic – which evisicerates most of the setting.
    5)M2TW Kingdoms: I almost bought this game twice! I hadn’t installed it because I’ve been too busy with real life and I didn’t have time to do this game justice.

  • Natus

    Not to be the Flash of Steel crank here, but I’m having a hard time buying what Asian Dynasties is selling. And I think this stems from the same feeling I had about The WarChiefs: that to make the game “fun”, Ensemble had to make the game so bizarre (not to mention pretty out of line with their original concept) that Rise of Legends started to seem historical by comparison. AoE3 may not have been thrilling, but it was at least faux-historical and didn’t overwhelm you with unit choices. As opposed to AD with its motley assortment of lions and (white) tigers and (panda) bears, oh my! and plethora of counters that counter the counter-counters to your counter.

    I know I’m in the distinct minority here, but for me, BHG’s stock has been falling, not rising, since the sublime RoN. The great thing for me about the Age games were that you were not only commanding civilizations but that they felt vaguely thematic. Now we have Japanese as strict vegetarians and the proximity of animals to shrines equals resources and Indian villies cost wood and why? I can’t say the blatant bugs have helped charm me either, and with its economic paradigm that is years out of date, it just feels that the Age games are slouching towards wherever generals go when they fade away.

    But thanks for the AE and BoA recommendations! I’ll snap those up right away.

  • Troy

    “Now we have Japanese as strict vegetarians and the proximity of animals to shrines equals resources and Indian villies cost wood and why?”

    Isn’t this like asking why the Ottomans magically make villagers? Does that reflect the population of the Ottomans? Their diversity? The genies they found in Baghdad lamps?

    The Japanese aren’t strict vegetarians because they can fish, and fish=sushi. The wood thing for the Indians is there as a curveball, I expect, because they wanted to make things different – it can certainly be frustrating on a desert map.

    Asian Dynasties is certainly not BHG’s best work. Rise of Legends is much better. Rise of Nations is, too. But even in the context of the AoE3 series, it pales beside the previous expansion.

    Where the out-there factional differences in Warchiefs helped accentuate the strengths and weaknesses of the Europeans (you really had to adjust your strategies), the Asian factions are more interesting unit types than revolutionary faction design. They make me want to build elephants, not work out a strategy against them. Compared to facing an all cavalry Sioux or massed Aztec army, there’s really no thrill of the ass kicking.

    Your comment on the dated economic paradigm is interesting, and I think that resource based RTSes are heading towards a schism. You will have traditional economic stuff like this, territorial control stuff like BfME2 and Company of Heroes, and a growing number that simplify one or two of those models. The resource harvesting model needs to be shaken up a little, and I think RoN did that very well, with territory+ placement + villagers who aren’t idiots.

  • Natus

    Ha! Yes, Troy, I had forgotten about the Ottomans, though I always thought of them not as free, but free because they were slow to produce. Which raises another bundle of questions: why are they slow to produce? Low birth rates in Anatolia? For some reason, though, the villie production of the Dutch and Ottomans felt less contrived than the Indians and Japanese, but I’m splitting hairs here.

    And speaking of the ass-kicking you mention, some of these games feel a whole lot more like work than play. I’ve never been a micro-er, but now the emphasis on “this cav here and that one” there seems gratuitous. Good lord, when I think of some of the splendid battles I used to have in the delicious AoM, I get a bit teary. Well, Ensemble created AoE3 for the Age veterans who didn’t much like AoM, so we got MotS. But it’s MotS in late 2007, and that just doesn’t work with this particular Age devotee.

    But do you really think there *will* be “traditional economic stuff” like AoE3 any more? Why should there be? My nine-month-old son can figure out a better economic model! RoN and CoH and Kohan are the way to go from now on. They want people to play these games, right?

  • Troy

    “But do you really think there *will* be “traditional economic stuff” like AoE3 any more?”

    I think that there will always be a market for this design, though it will shrink considerably. Parts of Europe, especially, seems to like games that force you to juggle supply chains or resource trees. How else can you explain the persistence of the Anno and Cossacks series?

    There was a point where it looked like the harvesting RTS model would just get increasingly complex, with five or more resources. Rise of Nations simplifies the gathering, after all, but it is a pretty complex economic system requiring trade routes and knowledge along with the usual mines and lumberyards.

    I don’t think we’ll go back there. I think three resources has proven to be the magic number, and Jason Bender’s games for EALA have shown that you can have great fun with just one.

    This is turning into a post…anyway, resource harvesting games are thematically quite different than Company of Heroes or World in Conflict. Harvesting RTSes give the vague illusion of building a city or a civilization, something that you don’t get from single resource or military only RTS. Even Warcraft’s two resource model let you build a base before heading out to kill stuff. The fewer resources you need to manage, the less time you need to decide on a military strategy. The less need you have to balance where your resource nodes will be placed.

    But some people like building cities – I do. One reason I suck online in because I like the building as much as much as the crushing.

    The harvesting RTS won’t vanish, but it will never be the dominant model it once was.

    Oh, and I’m totally with you on Age of Mythology. I like Age of Empires III, but Age of Mythology is easily Ensemble’s best work.