R.S. Hunter

Science Fiction & Fantasy Author

Tag: videogames (page 1 of 2)

Conquering a Galaxy Far Far Away: Star Wars Rebellion

Star Wars Poster

In honor of #StarWarsDay, I want to take the time to reminisce about one of my favorite Star Wars games of all time. A game that you won’t see mentioned alongside your Rogue Squadrons, your Jedi Knight IIs, your Knights of the Old Republics. I’m talking about Star Wars Rebellion–a real-time strategy game that mysteriously came into my life and took over my imagination.

Star Wars Rebellion

I don’t know when or how Star Wars Rebellion ended up in my hands. I know it was sometime before my family’s move to Southern California. I mean, it had to have been at least 1998, as that’s when the game was released. But other than that, I have no clue who bought the game, placed it in a fuzzy, Velcro CD case, and made it part of our collection.

We had a computer that we kept in the den. While my dad used it mostly for work, my brothers and I were allowed to play games on it. We kept the boxes the games came in on a bookshelf in the den. I remember looking through the shelves; it was mostly full of odds and ends: the aforementioned PC game boxes, some books my dad read, a copy of the DOOM Hacker’s Guide (or something like that), and then this instruction manual for some game called Star Wars Rebellion. Next to the manual was a black, fuzzy CD case–the kind that has multiple “pages.” The Rebellion disc was its only contents.

Star Wars Rebellion screenshot

For a kid that loved the spaceships and battles in Star Wars more than anything else, Rebellion was perfect. Not only did you get to mess around with the galactic map–full of planets and star systems only mentioned in the Expanded Universe (EU)–but you also got to engage tactical fleet battles. Homeworld did this much, much better a year later, but for 10 year-old-me, it was like bringing my LEGO battles to life.

Part of Rebellion’s brilliance is that it let you maneuver your ships–glorious groupings of Mon Calamari Cruisers, squadrons of X-Wings, and formations of Imperial Star Destroyers–in three dimensions. Most other strategy games only operate on a 2D plane. But in Rebellion, you could order your ships to go above or below the enemy. I spent so much time, way too much time drawing battle plans and stuff in my notebooks at school while I waited to get home and put them into action in the game.

It’s Good to be Bad

Let’s be honest: the Empire was cool. Darth Vader (before the prequels) was cool. Yes, yes I know they were the bad guys. But I always wanted my own Star Destroyer. Star Wars Rebellion made that happen. This was the first Star Wars game I played that let you choose the Empire as your side. Finally! I was able to have Darth Vader hunt down Rebel spies. My admirals patrolled the galaxy with fleets of Star Destroyers, cruisers, and endless waves of TIE Fighters under their command. It was amazing.

Star Destroyer

I never actually won a game in Rebellion, but I certainly got close. I painted the galactic map that bright, almost neon Imperial green.

It’s Only Cheating if You Get Caught

According to the movies, books, comics the Empire is supposed to be powerful. It’s supposed to have hundreds of ships under its command. Unfortunately, in the interest of “balance” and “giving the Rebels a chance” (ugh), the Empire starts out with a pitiful number of ships. Enter the glorious world of game editors!

Much like my time with Red Alert and the Tiberium series, I spent many a happy hour tinkering with Rebellion’s innards. I’m not ashamed to admit I completely broke the game in my favor. Imperial Star Destroyers are supposed to have ion cannons according to the Essential Guide to Vehicles and Vessels? Okay! Mod them in! Of course they’re supposed to have more shields. You know what? I’m pretty sure all the Rebel ships should have no weapons. Sound good? Of course it does!

I wasn’t playing multiplayer–as far as I knew, nobody else had ever heard of the game–so what was the harm? Did I care about winning fairly? Absolutely not! Even though I completely unbalanced the game, it was still horrendously fun.

Talon Who? What’s a Bane Nothos?

Another one of the best parts of Star Wars Rebellion is the fact that it included a bunch of characters from the movies as well as the EU. For somebody who voraciously read any Star Wars novel he could get his hands on in elementary and middle school, playing a game where characters like Thrawn, Talon Karrde, and Borsk Fey’lya were included was a dream come true.

Sidebar: I played Rebellion before I ever saw any of the Thrawn trilogy graphic novels, so the game’s version of Talon Karrde is the one I pictured in my head. Seeing him bare-chested and long-haired in other media just weirded me out.

Darth Vader

All the characters in the game came with encyclopedia entries about them, so if you had no clue who Jan Dodonna or Pellaeon were, then the game was there to help you out. I loved the fact that I got to play around with people I recognized from the books in ways that didn’t have to follow established canon. I always paired up Thrawn and Pellaeon though. Couldn’t break up that duo.

Control a World. Command a Galaxy

Was Star Wars Rebellion a great game? Absolutely not. I wouldn’t even rank it among the top Star Wars games. Parts of it were extremely boring. And aside from the space battles everything else happened via info cards. Still, the ability to spread fleets of Star Destroyers across the galaxy goes a long way toward winning my heart.

If you’re looking for a Star Wars game that’s more grand strategy than Empire at War, Galactic Battlegrounds, or Force Commander, then give Rebellion a try. Just be willing to sit through some outdated game design.

Russia: East to the Sea (Part 6)

EUIV: Russia in 1636

Russia in 1636

Russia: East to the Sea is a new Let’s Play series (with a new, updated name) that will follow my progress as I play a Europa Universalis IV campaign as Muscovy, starting in the year 1444. Goals for this series include: forming Russia as soon as possible, securing my western borders, and then ignoring Europe and expanding east into Southeast Asia (and possibly western North America). So let’s get this party started! (Part 5 available here)

Korean War

Picking up where we last left off: I declare war on Korea in 1619. They have no allies. Their peninsula is strategic and will increase my trade power in the eastern part of my lands. My 27 regiments will easily handle their 20, so I kind of let the war fight itself. There are only 2 provinces that would let them get off the peninsula and into Russia, and I’m sitting on top of both.

EUIV: Russia in Korea 1630

Russian & Korean War in 1630

Though, this fight has made me realize (along with one of Arumba’s latest videos) that I need wayyyyy more ships if I want to successfully play the island-hopping game. Butttttt, since I’m ending this playthrough with this part, I’m not going to try and hit my naval force limit.

A fun little pop-up…pops up in 1620: my colony in Oregon is self-sustaining! And a year later my 2nd North American colony is self-sustaining. Plus, I’ve ended my war with Korea and took only 1 province. It had a nice tax level, it’s coastal, and it allows me to fabricate more claims on them. It’ll only take 96 months to core. No big deal, right?

Peaceful Expansion

I wait out the next 5 years with not much happening. I mean if you were watching this series (and I wasn’t able to do fun commentary or something) these 5 years would be super boring. All I do is wait for provinces to core, convert those that need converting (and wow my missionaries are powerful a tiny bit more than a year to convert a province), and building more colonies. I expand into the modern-day San Francisco Bay Area and Central California. I take the mission to colonize Washington (I don’t remember the EUIV province name) and complete it quickly.

In 1628 all my cores are done, so you know what that means, right? War again!

Korean War Part Deux

My troops cross the Korean border in 1629 and it’s a repeat of the first war. Plus they’re at war with Japan too, so this is going to go quickly. I don’t think I’ll be able to fully annex them or make them a protectorate (which I still don’t quite understand), so I think I’ll just take a bunch of provinces.

Russian California colonial nation

Russian California colonial nation

A year passes and everything is much the same: colonies are progressing well. Britain and Castile are busy colonizing the eastern half of North America. It still weirds me out to see English Mexico and English Brazil as colonial nations. Portugal has a lot of South America. France, the Netherlands, and Norway are competing for modern-day New England and Canada. I hope they come to blows with Britain or Castile some time soon.

EUIV English Mexico in North America

North America in 1636

It’s also weird that it’s 1630, and I’m still typing Castile instead of Spain. Portugal’s annexed Galicia, and Aragón still controls most of the Iberian Peninsula. Algiers (instead of the Mamluks or Ottomans) controls the entire North African coast.

Observations

These are things that happened in the game that I thought were fun or noteworthy but don’t really deserve a whole section on their own.

  1. Castile getting raked over the coals by both Aragón and Portugal is hilarious. Normally Spain eats Aragón quickly–either through force or the Iberian Wedding.
  2. Great Britain admirably filled the power vacuum left by Spain’s absence.
  3. Austria grew huge (they were basically encircling Bavaria), but they never regained the Imperial Throne. Bavaria had that honor (along with Sweden under a personal union). Bavaria also grew really big. Those two were going to come to blows at some point.
  4. Norway lost all their Scandinavian holdings to Sweden but managed to hold onto Iceland and then colonized Northern Canada.
  5. Island hopping with a tiny navy is incredibly annoying.
  6. Westernizing isn’t too bad as long as you have a reserve of points built up and a good monarch. Buying back the lost stability really helped keep rebels at bay.
  7. Diplomatic Ideals is still an incredibly useful Idea Group. Having an extra diplomat right off the bat–especially when you can’t get one from being the Papal Controller and/or Holy Roman Emperor–is invaluable. Plus reduced claim fabrication time, “unjustified demands,” and bonuses to diplomatic reputation? That’s all icing on the cake.
  8. Colonial nations are interesting, but I don’t like that you lose control of what provincial upgrades they construct.
  9. Wales stayed independent all the way through 1636 when I ended the series.

Final Tally

I’m calling this one. Time of death: February 1636. It wasn’t the worst playthrough, but my self-imposed rules limited my options. And by the time I contemplated changing them, I was kind of locked into that course. Muscovy is an interesting nation to play: you have tons of land available, and you can expand in almost any direction. They can lead the world in manpower and army size if you play things right. It’s a pain in the ass to core all the provinces you conquer from the various khanates, but because their all in the Muslim religious group, you can’t try to peacefully vassalize any of them because they can’t enter into royal marriages.

EUIV: Castile, Aragon, & Portugal 1636

Good thing Castile has all those overseas holdings

Taking Religious Ideas was super useful for giving me the Holy War CB against almost everybody, and it helped me convert conquered provinces. I took Exploration right away because it gave me colonists and conquistadors, though I could’ve been much more effective with them. It didn’t help that I was stuck with a limit of 1 free leader for the entire game. I don’t know if that’s normal or not.

Like my Brandenburg to Germany game, I feel like I learned a lot with this one. I have a better grasp of just how much micromanaging expanding into the South Pacific takes. Having a much, much, much larger navy would’ve helped.

EUIV Austria, Bavaria, France in 1636

Western Europe at the end of the Let’s Play

If I was to play Muscovy/Russia again, I’d either focus on conquering Manchu, Korea, etc. and ignoring North America or focusing most of my energies on Western Europe. Trying to destroy the HRE could be fun.

So here’s my final stats (in 1636):

Army size: 3rd

Max manpower: 190K

Navy size: 10th

Most provinces held: 1st (120)

Highest income: 4th

Highest trade income: 4th

Tech levels: 15, 16, 17

Ideas (in order of adoption): Diplomatic (7), Exploration (7), Religious (7), Defensive (4)

Final score: 2204

Better EUIV players than me probably could’ve taken my original stipulations and made ’em work, but I’m no expert. I’m a bit more experienced, but with some mechanics, I feel like I’m just scratching the surface.

EUIV: Africa in 1636

Africa at the end of my playthrough (1636)

Still, I love this game and I’m going to try another complete campaign: either as Aragón, Austria (and conquer everything eastward), or as an ahistoric England that tries to conquer most of Western Europe. The Ottomans and their achievement to own Rome, Constantinople, and Moscow at the same time could be fun too.

Russia: East to the Sea (Part 5)

EUIV: Russia in 1600

Russia in 1600

Russia: East to the Sea is a new Let’s Play series (with a new, updated name) that will follow my progress as I play a Europa Universalis IV campaign as Muscovy, starting in the year 1444. Goals for this series include: forming Russia as soon as possible, securing my western borders, and then ignoring Europe and expanding east into Southeast Asia (and possibly western North America). So let’s get this party started! (Part 4 available here)

Prize Fight

Things are going fairly swimmingly. I don’t have many allies, but so far Europe is leaving me alone. That all changes in 1582 where Austria ruins my plans to integrate the Livonian Order and attack Nogai. They call me to war against the Ottomans and Algiers.

This is the fight I’ve been dreading, and I knew it was going to happen at some point. Well, Austria’s strong; they have allies. If I accept the call I might be able to hurt the Ottomans and maybe get them to stop being allied with Crimea.

I’m spread thin–oh so very thin–but I manage to get an army of 43K together. I’m equal to or more advanced in Military Tech when compared to the Ottomans, but I don’t have any military Ideas. I also have terrible commanders and a limit of 1. I march my troops down into modern-day Turkey and besiege a province along the coast of the Black Sea.

EUIV: Austria in 1598

Austria in 1598

And here’s where I make a mistake: I take my eye off my army for just a moment. Next thing I know they’re fighting an 80 stack of Ottoman troops. Within seconds my army is wiped out. Not half killed and the rest shattered retreating all the way to the middle of fricken’ nowhere, Siberia. 43K all dead.

Sorry, Austria! You’re on your own with this one! And to rub salt in the wound, France–sensing Austria’s weakness–declares war on them over some French provinces Austria took when they expanded their Burgundian holdings. I decline that call to arms and end up pissing Austria off. For as big as a I am, I can’t contribute troops to two major, continent-spanning wars.

russia-taiwan-1600

Russian Taiwan in 1600

Their war’s still going on in 1587, but I don’t care. In 1591, I attack Uzbek and by extension Crimea. Crimea is allied with Uzbek, but they don’t become the war leader, so they can’t call on the Ottomans. I can handle Crimea by myself (and with a little help from Lithuania). The war lasts about a year, and I take a province for myself from Crimea, give one of theirs to Lithuania, and annul their treaty with the Ottomans. For some reason the game isn’t letting me demand territory from Uzbek aside from 2 places I have claims on. I’m occupying their whole country, but only those 2 provinces show up in the Cede Territory list. I don’t know if it was some mechanic I don’t understand or if it was a bug.

So Much for Gratitude

Despite our years of friendship and the fact that I gave them a core province, Lithuania breaks our alliance and rivals me in 1596. So much for gratitude, amirite? The 17th Century rolls around and I find myself fighting Manchu–well, more like they find themselves fighting me. I take two more provinces from them, but my expansion is slow. Each of these Asian provinces I take has a relatively low cost to core but ridiculously long times. 96 months for a 3 base tax province? It’s just silly. That’s 96 months I need to leave a few regiments there to keep revolts down. Or that’s another chunk of Military Points to spend on harsh treatment.

Island Vacation

The years march on. Russia’s star is still ascendant, but maybe its velocity is slowing. The pace of the game sure is, that’s for damn sure.

By 1610 I’ve accomplished: colonizing Taiwan, northern Japan, Manila, Midway, and now Hawaii. I found the west coast of North America, and as soon as I can, I’ll send colonists there.

EUIV: Russia in 1610

Click for full-size Russia in 1610

However, with an empire that stretches across a continent and a variety of island chains in the South Pacific, I’m finding that I need to pause the game every few minutes to micromanage everything. Oh look, a pirate’s popped up on one of my trade routes. Gotta make sure it doesn’t sink my light ships. Oh look, my colonies are under attack. Oh look, rebels are popping up in provinces that are taking forever (seriously, for. ev. er.) to core. It’s a lot of start and stop, and the 16th century is taking twice as long as the 15th.

Still, I haven’t faced any heavy resistance. No coalitions. Manchu has lots of territory, but they’re a pushover. With my Westernized Military Tech (that’s like 10 years ahead of time because I haven’t taken a military Idea Group yet), I steamroll them.

All by Myself

The funny thing is, even though the game says I’m in 4th place and have one of the largest militaries, I don’t feel powerful. I don’t want to fight any of my western neighbors. And especially not the Ottomans. It’s barely 1600 and they already have almost 200K troops at their disposal. They’re over their force limits by about 50 regiments. I don’t understand how they do it. Maybe it’s something to do with their national Ideas? I dunno.

The reason I don’t feel powerful is because I have so many goddamn provinces. It takes forever to move troops from my eastern regions back to my European borders. I don’t have enough money to build up units (because I’m at 50% Patriarch Authority. It makes converting Sunni provinces easier but eats my income). The ledger says I have over 100K troops at my disposal, but they’re spread out from Livland to Sibir to Saghalian Oula to Taiwan and to Hawaii. Maybe it’s overkill, but I put at least 3 or 4 regiments on each colony until it becomes self-sustaining. I haven’t lost a single one, but I’m stretched paper-thin. It doesn’t help that I’m keeping regiments in place to quell rebellions after I fully annexed Nogai in 1618.

EUIV: English Brazil in 1600

English Brazil in 1600

And that’s why I find myself bereft of allies. Austria hates me from when I didn’t help them against France. Lithuania upped and decided that I’m scum. Now my only friend is the Ming, and they haven’t joined a single war yet–not even those against Manchu.

Oh well, Russia doesn’t need friends. Russia is fine on its own. Russia doesn’t need to worry that both Great Britain and Castile are forming colonies in the South Pacific. It’s almost 1620 and in less than a year my colonists will reach the West Coast of North America. British Mexico and British Brazil don’t scare me! (Okay yeah. Britain scares me.) I’ve never seen them colonize so extensively before. Usually Spain and Portugal lock that down first. Maybe with Aragón controlling most of modern-day Spain, it’s created a vacuum for Great Britain to fill.

Looking Ahead

We’ll see how much more I’ll go with this series once my colonies in California are done forming. I think my initial strategy was flawed: I don’t like have to micromanage a global empire. It’s too slow for my tastes with far too many moving parts. Does that make me a bad EUIV player? Yeah, it probably does.

EUIV: Russia in 1620

Russia in 1620

I think playing the colonization game in the Pacific is also much more micro-y than say South America or North America. With all the island chains, you have to constantly keep moving troops on and off ships, sometimes just to get to “neighboring” provinces in the same archipelago.

If I was to do this playthrough over–sticking with the plan of ignoring Europe–I would conquer more of mainland Asia rather than racing across the ocean for Hawaii and California. I think I would enjoy myself more doing that. Alternatively, if I was to play Russia again, I’d turn my attentions westward from the start and try to conquer most of Europe.

Come back in another few days for the final part of “Russia: East to the Sea.” Let’s see if I can conquer some of the Korean peninsula before getting fed up with the micro-aspects of the game and calling it quits!

Russia: East to the Sea (Part 4)

EUIV: Russia in 1534

Russia in 1534

Russia: East to the Sea is a new Let’s Play series (with a new, updated name) that will follow my progress as I play a Europa Universalis IV campaign as Muscovy, starting in the year 1444. Goals for this series include: forming Russia as soon as possible, securing my western borders, and then ignoring Europe and expanding east into Southeast Asia (and possibly western North America). So let’s get this party started! (Part 3 available here)

Attacking Sweden

It wasn’t my idea, but Denmark calls me into war against Sweden in 1530. Normally, I’d want to stay out of European entanglements, but Sweden rivaled me a long time ago, so I want to hurt them. Maybe I can pick up some more territory near Finland.

But as is par for this series, Denmark ends the war in 1533 before I can make my own separate peace and swipe some territory. And that war was tough. I may be ahead of time when it comes to Military Tech, but I’m still in the Eastern technology group. Surprisingly, the Swedes didn’t just let me take their territory. It was very rude of them.

Breakin’ the Law

In 1534 I break my own rules for the series: I attack the Livonian Order myself. Poland helps me out though I didn’t really need it. And then as a Christmas present to myself, I score 3 new provinces and the Livonian Order as my vassal. (Or maybe that happened later. I don’t remember!)

A few years later all that stuff about trying to steal provinces from Sweden is just water under the bridge. I ally with them and then go to war with the Golden Horde. I only end up with 1 province, but you know what they say: a province in the bush is worth two in the hand. Or something like that.

Bye Bye Miss Sweden Pie

1539 Sweden asks for my help against–I actually don’t remember. Probably the Hansa, Pomerania, and that monstrous Austria. I want no part of it. Later, Sweden! You’re on your own now. The war ends up being something of a stalemate. Sweden has basically eaten all of Norway (except for Iceland) and Denmark, so they’re gonna be fine without my help.

Now I’m presented with a choice: do I westernize? It would be nice to be caught up to my neighbors, but is it worth the hassle? I put it off and go to war with Nogai again. I can’t 100% annex them, but I end up with a nice chunk of land. (This is becoming a routine.)

EUIV: Russia in 1543

Russia in 1543

By the 1550s I’ve settled into a pattern: years of peace and growth followed by quick wars against my eastern neighbors. I’m worried about Crimea who has eaten the southern part of the Golden Horde, parts of Lithuania, as well as Georgia and Genoa’s Black Sea holdings.

Money’s still an issue for me as my economy can barely support 3 colonies at a time, but I keep doing it anyway.

West and East

1563: I bite the bullet and hit the button to westernize. I have a good king, vast reserves of gold and Admin Points to buy back the -3 Stability hit, and I have good advisors too. It’ll be a while before I have to fire them to get rid of their upkeep. There’s a few revolts in the beginning, but everything is going well. The process says it’ll be done in 1570. 7 years? I can wait. Just have to not go to war and just keep everything stable.

EUIV: Westernization

Westernizing Russia in EUIV

Every event I get I take the hits to my tax revenues, army and naval traditions, you name it. I don’t want to lose any progress in the westernization process. It can all be recovered once its done.

And then in 1566: mission accomplished! While my kingdom is looking to the west for technological guidance, my settlers have planted my flag on the shores of the Pacific Ocean! Technically, the colony will be self-sustaining by 1571, but it doesn’t matter! I did it!

Russia self-sustaining colony

Mission Accomplished!

The clock rolls over to 1570 and boom! I’m westernized. What to do with my new-found technology? Attack Manchu of course! 1579 sees 3 provinces added to my realm. I think I’ll build up a presence in the Beijing trade node. That will give me control of the Novgorod and eventually the Beijing nodes.

Stabbing Lithuania in the Back

In 1580 Lithuania calls me to war against Lunberg, the Hansa, and some of their other allies. I figure it should be an easy war to say yes to and then basically do nothing. Maybe I’ll send a few regiments west. As soon as I hit that accept button I regret it: “Because of our superior strength, we’ve assumed control…” Well damn it. This is not what I wanted.

EUIV: War with Luneburg

War with Luneburg, Hansa & Sweden

The war goes badly (mostly because I refuse to help), so as soon as I get the chance, I surrender and give Mecklenburg to Lüneburg. No skin off my nose. Hell, Lithuania didn’t own it either. I keep my ally. Whatever; it’s fine. It’s not really a stab in Lithuania’s back. More like a scrape on their side or something. A medium-strength poke to the ribs.

As we get closer to the 1600s the world looks different than I expected: Great Britain controls most of Brazil, Mexico, and according to flags on the trade nodes California. Castile’s holdings in the Iberian Peninsula are getting wrecked by Aragon, and Galicia is an independent kingdom. Crimea is rather large, and I don’t like that they’re so buddy buddy with the Ottomans. Wales is still independent, and Brittany might be too (I don’t remember exactly). I have a feeling Jolly Ol’ England (GB) and I will come to blows over some overseas provinces in the coming centuries.

And that’s going to be it for Part 4. Check back here in a couple of days for Part 5! I have 2 or 3 more parts planned, but then I think I’m going to end the series for reasons that will be made clear in the future. I love EUIV, but this series isn’t something I want to stick with all the way to 1821.

Muscovy: East to the Sea (Part 3)

EUIV: Muscovy in 1503

Muscovy in 1503

Muscovy: East to the Sea is a new Let’s Play series that will follow my progress as I play a Europa Universalis IV campaign as Muscovy, starting in the year 1444. Goals for this series include: forming Russia as soon as possible, securing my western borders, and then ignoring Europe and expanding east into Southeast Asia (and possibly western North America). So let’s get this party started! (Part 2 available here)

Our First Colony

So where did we leave off? Oh yes, things were a-happenin’. 1500 is drawing closer and I’m still worried about the growing Swedish threat. They’ve rivaled me even though I’ve done nothing but be the most cordial neighbor. Maybe if I keep our relations high enough (and ally myself with the growing Poland) they’ll leave me alone. (And now “Who Can it Be Now?” by Men at Work is in my head).

Muscovy First Colony

Muscovy’s First Colony

1494 and we have our first colony! It’s got the Arctic modifier, so it grows slower than normal, but still–look at it! It’s so cute. Muscovy is a proud papa. (Or mama, I dunno.) I also fought a war against the Golden Horde and the Uzbeks, claiming some more territory. I don’t have the missionary strength to convert anything once the provinces are cored, but I’ll worry about that later.

Sitting on My Hands

Tragedy strikes in 1501. My king dies with an infant for an heir. I’m stuck with a Regency Council for another 5+ years, but that’s Europa Universalis IV for ya. I can’t declare war, so I spend my time building provincial improvements, coring my newest additions, and starting another colony. I figure I can colonize eastward all through Siberia and then move south into the Manchu, Ming, Uzbek, etc. lands.

Seriously, the Regency Council is the worst. My Monach Points are gathering at an appallingly slow rate, so technology advances are few and far between. I hire some level 2 advisors to help things along. I need to get to Admin Tech level 10 so I can form Russia.

A New King! To war!

1506 and Muscovy’s king has finally come of age. First thing I do? I declare war on the Uzbeks again. By 1510 I’m the owner of some brand new provinces and another new colony. I’m slowly making my way east across Siberia toward the Pacific Ocean.

EUIV: Sweden in 1499

Sweden in 1499

Rather than sitting around for a few years, I decide to take advantage of the fact that I have a treaty with the Uzbeks and attack the Golden Horde. Everything goes well (this seems to be a running theme). However by 1513, I need to take a break from the warfare, let my manpower recover, and build more province improvements.

I spent most of the teens and early 20s (1520s that is) peacefully expanding and building my economy. I’m debating going to war with the Uzbeks for some more territory when Poland calls me into a war against the Teutonic Order (who are allied with the Livonian Order). Reval, Ösel, and Livland are looking pretty, pretty juicy to me. With them flying the Russian flag, I’ll have more trade power in my home node and, of course, more territory.

Europa Universalis IV: Muscovy in 1517

Muscovy in 1517

In 1525 Poland peaces out of the war before I can take more territory! Damn you, Poland! *shakes fist*

Well, with my westward ambitions stymied for the moment, the Uzbeks are back in my sights.

For Mother Russia

1529: a historic year for the world. England is almost Great Britain (Scotland is only the Western Isles). Ireland is gone. Aragón is doing work on Castile! Iberian Wedding? More like Iberian Red Wedding, amirite? I don’t know how often something like this happens, but I haven’t seen it before. Austria is huuuuuuge. Not only did they get the Burgundian Inheritance, but they’ve conquered swathes of the HRE. Though it looks like Bavaria is going to be stiff competition for the imperial throne. (At some point they were able to get Sweden under a personal union. I’m not looking forward to the day when [if] they integrate them)

EUIV England & Scotland in 1527

England & Scotland in 1527

But none of that matters. The only thing that matters to the world is this: I’ve transformed Muscovy into Russia.

Gone is that kinda ugly yellow color and instead my country is the evergreen… green, I guess of Russia. It’s beautiful to behold.

EUIV: Forming Russia in 1529

Gaze upon Russia and weep for its glory

But what to do now that I’m Russia? Obviously I’ll keep expanding eastward; Manchu might feel the might of the Russian armies soon. I’ll also need to choose a new Idea Group now that I hit Admin Tech level 10. Do I go military and take Defensive or Offensive Ideas? Or maybe Religious Ideas; that’ll be useful for fighting in Southeast Asia.

Either way, the sun is just rising over the glorious Russian Empire. Check back for Part 4, which will be sporting its new name: “Russia: East to the Sea!”

Muscovy: East to the Sea (Part 2)

Muscovy Victory over Novgorod 1

Freeing Finland in Europa Universalis IV

Muscovy: East to the Sea is a new Let’s Play series that will follow my progress as I play a Europa Universalis IV campaign as Muscovy, starting in the year 1444. Goals for this series include: forming Russia as soon as possible, securing my western borders, and then ignoring Europe and expanding east into Southeast Asia (and possibly western North America). So let’s get this party started! (Part 1 available here)

1st War with Novgorod

Picking up where Part 1 left off in the year 1460, things are looking good for me. I’m getting ready for my first big war with Novgorod, which I fully expect to win. They’re allied with Pomerania and Scotland, but I’m not too worried. Scotland is especially far away, so I doubt they’ll send troops to help Novgorod.

The war rages on through 1463, easily in my favor. I was wrong about Scotland sending troops. They sent a couple of small armies. One of them even managed to siege one of my provinces. Still, by July 1464 the war is over; I’m three provinces stronger and Finland is free. As soon as the ink on the peace deal is dry, I go to work vassalizing Finland. Done and done.

However, fighting the Western Tech armies of Pomerania and Scotland has depleted my manpower. I need a few years to let my truce run out and my manpower reserves to recover.

Westernize?

Not much happens for the next few years. I mull over whether or not I should Westernize. Based on some forum posts, I think I won’t need to do it, especially since I’ll be focusing my attention eastward and not fighting Europe.

Muscovy victory over Novgorod 2

2nd victory over Novgorod

Denmark calls me to war in 1472; I accept and sit the entire thing out. They take another chunk of Pomerania and the HRE, but both Sweden and Norway are now independent. It seems my bet on Denmark integrating one or both them and becoming the Big Pink Monster isn’t going to pay off. Plus Sweden considers me a rival and is busy eating up Norway (who happens to like me). I have a feeling I’ll need some new allies soon.

2nd War with Novgorod

I spend some time fabricating claims on the rest of Novgorod’s provinces. I won’t be able to take them over fully in this coming war, but just one more after that will do it. I wait until after I start the annexation of Pskov before declaring war again in 1474.

By 1475 I’m at 100% War Score. I take some more territory (woo hoo!), but sadly, my double-barreled annexation of Finland and Pskov has stalled because of the “Bad Diplomats” event.

Muscovy Austria Burgundian Inheritance

Austria with the Burgundian Inheritance

And now comes another 5 years of peace while my truce runs out again. The annexation process starts up again. In 1478 Austria gets the Burgundian Inheritance event. I was kind of hoping it would go differently this game, because that happened in my Brandenburg game. So far I’ve seen Austria get it twice, Castile get it once (I always want to call them Castilla because I speak Spanish moderately well), and France get it once.

3rd War with Novgorod

The 1480s are coming to town, and it’s time to erase Novgorod from the map. I have the mission to subjugate them, so that’ll give me a little bonus once I win this coming war. My troops cross into their territory in 1481 and by 1482, Novgorod exists no more. The coring process is done in 1484. All I need is Admin Tech level 10 to form Russia!

In 1487, Pskov becomes a rightful part of my realm, and Finland will be done in 1493. Tver will be next on my list, but with Novgorod gone, I need to figure out what to do next. And what Idea Group should I unlock when I hit Admin Tech level 7? I want Exploration Ideas, but it seems silly to take two groups that require Diplomatic points.

Muscovy in 1481 in EUIV

Muscovy in 1481 in EUIV

Another choice is Religious Ideas. It gives me a permanent CB against “heathens,” and that could be useful if I’m expanding east. Still, I’m a little bit away from having to make the choice. I’ll burn that bridge when I come to it. That’s the phrase, right? Also, I just fabricated a claim on the Golden Horde (who is busy fighting Crimea). I’m only 9 years from 1500, and I think I’m going to war again.

Stay tuned for Part 3 of my Europa Universalis IV Let’s Play where I’ll welcome the Finnish people into my kingdom and attack the Golden Horde over territory that should rightfully be mine! Oh yeah, I’ll also be holding auditions for new allies.

Muscovy: East to the Sea (Part 1)

EUIV: Muscovy in 1444

EUIV: Muscovy in 1444

Muscovy: East to the Sea is a new Let’s Play series that will follow my progress as I play a Europa Universalis IV campaign as Muscovy, starting in the year 1444. Goals for this series include: forming Russia as soon as possible, securing my western borders, and then ignoring Europe and expanding east into Southeast Asia (and possibly western North America). I just finished a complete campaign as Brandenburg (more on that here), so I’m ready to try a new country and play it a little unconventionally. So let’s get this party started!

Party like it’s 1444

Muscovy has an interesting start in 1444. They have a fair amount of territory and 3 vassals. It’d be easy to expand southward, but I know that trying to core and convert provinces taken from the Golden Horde, Kazan, etc. would be difficult. So my first priority is getting my tech levels up to the point when I can start on ideas. My other goal is to build up alliances and land forces so I can take on Novgorod. They’re my biggest obstacle toward forming a united Russia.

War with Kazan & Ryazan

I’ve just barely gotten into the game (1445 to be precise) when Kazan declares war on me. Mistaaaaake! I’m stronger than they are and that’s not even counting my vassals’ armies. I crush them, siege some provinces, and then take one of them in a peace deal by the beginning of 1447.

Muscovy at war with Kazan

At war with Kazan

Now that it’s the start of the 1450s, I have some choices to make. I can start annexing my vassals in 1454, but which one? And I also need to get to Admin Tech level 4 ASAP so I can unlock my first Idea group. Again, this presents a choice: which one? Diplomatic? Offensive? Get a jump on the colonization early and choose Expansion or Exploration?

I’ll worry about that when I come to it. So I decide I’m going to start annexing Yaroslavl first because owning it with a core is one of the requirements for forming Russia. Perm, though it’s larger, can wait.

Muscovy after war with Kazan

Spoils of war

But that’s still 4 years away, so I decide to go to war. Tver would be a choice target, but they’re allied with Lithuania. Lithuania is allied with Poland and Denmark. Because Lithuania is so much bigger than Tver, they could become the war leader and then call on their alliance chain. I’m not strong enough for that, so I set my sights on Ryazan–a two-province country along my southwestern border.

I declare war in August, 1452 and by June, 1453 I’ve fully annexed their country. With the coring process underway and my Monarch Point stores replenishing, it’s time to get ready for the diplo-annexation party!

The Best Laid Plans…

But before I can get Yaroslavl’s opinion of me up to 190, my ally Denmark calls me to war against The Hansa.

Not wanting to lose my ally, I accept. Austria joins the war as the Holy Roman Emperor defending the Empire’s integrity. I basically sit out the conflict, making my neighbors like me, storing up manpower and Monarch Points.

The war drags on and on with the score swinging into The Hansa’s favor. I want Denmark to end the war, to give in, but they won’t. They’re ruining my plans to annex my vassals! And even worse, Austria sends an army up through the Livonian Order and invades my western provinces. They catch me with my army at half maintenance (a stupid thing to do during war, I know).

Muscovy fighting Austria 1457

Austria’s invasion 1457

Luckily, I retreat and let the winter do some work for me. They start besieging my territory. Sensing defeat, I peace out of the war separately. All I have to is concede defeat–a 10 prestige hit? That’s nothing!

Denmark isn’t too happy with me for getting out of their war, especially because they somehow manage to win? Weird and unexpected. They annex Mecklenburg, and I have a feeling they’re setting their sights on Holstein, Pomerania, and the Hansa. I’m not looking forward to getting drawn into more wars against the HRE, especially while I’m just starting out and have Eastern Tech.

The year is now 1460 as I wrap up Part 1 of “East to the Sea.” I took Diplomatic Ideas as I know the extra diplomat the first idea gives me will be invaluable for maintaining relations and annexing vassals at the same time. In fact, I’ve just begun the double annexation of both Yaroslavl and Perm at the time time. Yaro’ll be done in 1473 and Perm three years later.

Also during this time, I’ve added Tver as a vassal too. Rather than have to fight Lithuania for them, I sent Tver a gift, allied them, married them, guaranteed them, offered them military access (every trick in the book to get them up to +190 opinion). I’m willing to take the hit to my Diplomatic Points by being over my relations limit than fight a war.

Preparing to attack Novgorod 1460

Preparing to attack Novgorod 1460

Next up on my docket: preparing for the first big invasion of Novgorod. They have 17,000 troops against my 35,000 (including my vassals’ armies). Will I be able to form Russia before the new century rolls around? Find out in Part 2!

Brandenburg 1444 to 1821: My First Complete Game of EUIV

EUIV: Brandenburg 1444

EUIV: Brandenburg 1444

This morning the date rolled over to January 1st. Well technically today is March 11th. Oh yeah. It’s also not 1821. But in my current game of Europa Universalis IV (referred to as EUIV and previously written about here), it’s the start of a brand-new day in a still-brand-new century, but it’s also the end of the game.

The date rolls over to January 2nd. The end of the game screen pops up, and I feel elated that I saw the game through to completion, but I’m also sad that it’s over. For somebody who still considers themselves an amateur (or maybe a little better than an amateur) I think I did well in the campaign, but there were other things I could’ve done much better.

15th Century Expansion and Coalitions

I played this grand campaign as Brandenburg, which in the 1444 start is one of the Prince Electors of the Holy Roman Empire. It’s a landlocked kingdom with three provinces in the northern part of modern-day Germany. I don’t know if it’s one of the harder starts (the little difficulty meter is at about 75% when you choose Brandenburg), but it’s definitely not the same as playing as England, Castille, France, or even Austria.

In a previous attempt at Brandenburg, I tried to create the Kingdom of Prussia. It went terribly. Oh, I created the kingdom, but it fell apart due to religious turmoil and two concurrent wars with most of Northern and Western Europe. This time, I said to myself, we’re going to create Germany instead. We’re going to be smarter.

EUIV: North America 1821

EUIV: North America 1821

The game started, and I made many of the same moves. I allied myself with Austria, which in 1444 is the older brother in the HRE family. Getting them and their 30,000+ troops on my side helped me in my early conquests of Mecklenburg and the like. What I didn’t account for–couldn’t have even known–was that Paradox changed how the AI reacts to the player’s aggressive expansion. I conquered two places before the 1470s and instantly all my neighbors were in a coalition against me. And then the next thing I knew I was fighting for my life as they declared a “punitive war” against me. Thankfully, some help from my allies (which I don’t know if it included France at this point) and a huge infusion of cash via loans saw me through the troubled coalition times. Even though I won the wars, from then on I was constantly behind the 8-ball with coalitions and most my neighbors having “outraged” opinions of me.

Winning & Losing a Throne

Playing as part of the Holy Roman Empire adds a whole other batch of concerns that other countries don’t have to deal with. You’re part of a loose confederation of states (kingdoms, duchies, bishoprics, etc.) that elect an emperor. Brandenburg is one of the electors, and I spent a chunk of time trying to get the other electors to vote for me. While it was useful being the Emperor in the mid 1500s, most of the states were too outraged at me for me to enact any of the possible reforms.

EUIV: South America 1821

EUIV: South America 1821

I became the Emperor as Brandenburg, and then kept that title as I transitioned to Germany. I annexed a few of the electors, which I’m not sure was a mistake or not. If I was trying to get through the list of Imperial Reforms, then it definitely was. However since my goal was to create Germany and then dominate central Europe (colonization was not part of my agenda), I decided that annexing territory was more important than keeping all the electors happy with me. Besides, as the Emperor I was able to create new ones. My choices–Savoy, Mantua, and Milan–were huge mistakes. From what I saw during this playthrough, even though Savoy had +200 opinion of me, I was the current Emperor, and I was the largest country the HRE, they still voted for themselves. Same for Manuta, and then Milan supported them. I lost my throne to Mantua–a two or three province kingdom in modern day Northern Italy. They ended up holding onto the throne for a few hundred years until Milan conquered them and somehow I was elected again (though I swear I only had 2 votes at the time).

Conquering Denmark & Poland

Since I didn’t care about colonization, I decided I needed to win the trade war in Central Europe to fund my expansions. To do that, I needed to control the Lubeck trade node. So Denmark became enemy number 1. It took more wars than I thought–my original plan was to conquer a few provinces and then in a later war vassalize them. For whatever reason, even with only 2 provinces remaining, the cost to vassalize Denmark was too high. So I conquered them. Bye bye, Denmark.

EUIV: Germany Idea Groups 1821

At the same time, I turned on my old ally Poland. Thanks to the tweaked mechanics, because I was allied with France, Poland decided they had too many “Great Power Alliances.” They broke ties with me, and over the next several hundred years, their territory shrank dramatically. They used to control the corridor from the Baltic to Marmara; by 1821 I had eaten up all their northern territory (which included Lithuania, the Teutonic Order, and the Livonian Order), while Crimea, Ukraine, and then the Ottomans devoured their southern portion.

Onward to the 19th Century

By the 1700s and onward, I was basically unstoppable. I didn’t lose a single war I fought. France, Ireland (independent and with colonies!), and then even Great Britain became my allies. Because I was dominating trade in several nodes, and I wasn’t wasting money and resources colonizing overseas, I was able to hire all level 3 advisors, fight wars, and continue to build almost every single province improvement while continuing to make 100+ ducats a month.

germany-africa-1821

EUIV: Africa 1821

Thanks to my idea groups and buildings, I ended up with over 450K in manpower and land force limits above 350. By 1821 I had the second largest army in the entire world, and not even mighty Russia could stand up to me. In the last 2 years of the game, I took four provinces from Russia without using even half my army.

Observations

These are things that happened in the game that I thought were fun or noteworthy but don’t really deserve a whole section on their own.

  1. Enacting an Imperial Reform that outlaws all internal HRE wars just because you can is stupid. Especially when you want to finish off Austria, Lorraine, and the Netherlands.
  2. Austria got the Burgundian Inheritance but lost most of their territory to France, the Netherlands, and Lorraine.
  3. I freed Styria from Austria in the 1500s, and it grew to be one of the more powerful HRE member states. It even ate up all of Switzerland.
  4. Never, ever make Savoy part of the electorate.
  5. Ireland stayed independent the whole time! They even colonized parts of North America.
  6. Both Norway and Sweden broke free from their personal unions with Denmark. Norway took most of Sweden until I gave them their cores back as part of the spoils of war.
  7. Peasant Wars are not fun.
  8. By the end of the game everybody just gets ahead of time when it comes to military tech.
  9. Diplomatic Ideas are amazing.
  10. The USA declared independence in 1791 as a kingdom. They later switched to the Federal Republic government type. However, they only had 1 province the entire time.
  11. I never once fought the Ottomans.
  12. I really wish I had dismantled the HRE.
  13. Milan and Tuscany both grew substantially, while Austria ended up a sliver of its former self. (And I’ve seen Austria get huge in other games!)

And here are some final stats:

Army size: 2nd

Max manpower: 450K

Navy size: 7th

Most provinces held: 3rd

Highest income: 2nd

Most trade income: 1st

Curia controller: over 300 consecutive years

Tech levels: 27, 29, 31

Ideas (in order of adoption): Diplomatic, Innovative, Offensive, Naval, Quality, Trade, Aristocratic

Final score: 11939

germany-1821

End of the game

Maybe these numbers are not impressive at all when compared to the entire pool of EUIV players, but overall, this was a great experience. Now, what country should I play next?

Quick Impressions: A Trio of New Games

Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII

I bought three new games in February/early March. Well new in the sense that they were new to me. I haven’t put in a lot of time with them yet (damn you, Europa Universalis IV!), but I wanna share a few quick impressions for each. Were they worth my time and money? Let’s find out!

Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII

The Final Fantasy XIII series and me have a troubled history. XIII broke my original PS3 and was basically shit. The battle system was pretty fun, but the plot was a jumbled mess of fal’Cie and l’Cie, Cocoons and Grand Pulses. Any game that comes with the caveat: “It really opens up and stops being linear after 20 hours” has some deep, deep structural problems.

I took a gamble on XIII-2 and found it rather delightful. It was like Doctor Who meets a JRPG. Weird time travel, end of the world prophecies, an annoyingly charming moogle, and an off-the-wall soundtrack. Even my then-girlfriend-now-wife enjoyed watching me play it, and normally she finds RPGs boring.

Lightning Returns screenshot

Lightning Returns got middling reviews, but I took a chance on it anyway. I liked the idea of playing as Lightning again (I didn’t mind her as a protagonist), and the battle system based on changing outfits (a la Final Fantasy X-2) caught my eye.

Buying it was a mistake. I lasted about two hours before I realized I never wanted to play the game again. See the main conceit is that the world is ending and Lightning has a set amount of time to save souls before the metaphorical lights go out. Problem is, the game’s structure is at odds with that conceit. You can’t level up except for completing side quests, and ones are only available at certain times of day, so you have to wait. And then your precious time is ticking away. And you basically need a goddamn day planner to schedule everything.

It put so much pressure on me–my “do all the side quests mania” against the “explore everything at my leisure.” I hated that I was on the clock. At least with Majora’s Mask you have the ability to redo the three day period if you need more time or mess something up. Lightning Returns doesn’t have that safety net. I think GamesRadar’s review captures my problems with the game (the two hours I played) perfectly.

My time’s too short to waste on a game that feels more like work than play. Later, Lightning Returns.

Verdict: stay away and burn it with fire. Not worth it at all.

Need for Speed: Rivals

Now this is more like it! A game that’s more my (need for) speed. NFS: Rivals looks pretty. It drives well–closer to the arcade side of things rather than the realistic simulation side. And I like that you can play either as a rebel racer or a law-abiding cop. I’m worried that some of the missions might get repetitive, but I’m enjoying playing the game in my spare time.

Need for Speed Rivals

It’s not a game I’d sit down and play for hours on end, eager to power through it, but I can’t deny it’s ol’ fashioned high-speed fun.

Verdict: worth my used purchase.

Strider HD

I never played the original Strider games from the 80s and 90s. I picked the HD reboot/reimagining after watching a Let’s Look At by Northernlion. The game stars Strider Hiryu who I gather is some sort of future ninja with a laser sword thing. Sold!

Strider HD

The game’s fast paced, has a bit of that Metroid/Castlevania exploration thing going on. And I even got to fight a giant robotic dragon-snake thing. Yeah. The game’s cool, stylish, ridiculous, and apparently set in a world where Soviets are still bad guys.

The platforming and controls can be a bit slippery at times where I find myself power sliding the opposite way than I intended or slipping off platforms as I’m trying to climb up some dystopian skyscraper thing. It’s a minor irritation, but one I could see getting worse as the game’s difficulty increases in the later levels.

Verdict: worth buying (so far, could change as game goes on)

My Favorite Games of 2013

Even though I’m not part of the video game press/reviewing scene in an official capacity anymore, I thought it’d be fun to write a little post about some of my favorite video games from 2013. (Yes, I know 2013 isn’t over for 12 more days, but I’ll update this post if anything changes).

And because this is my site, I’m going to broaden the topic to include any game I played for the first time this year, not just ones that came out in 2013. I was fortunate enough to play some truly great games this year, so let’s dive right in.

Best of the Best

Fire Emblem: Awakening

Fire Emblem: Awakening

Fire Emblem: Awakening was my first time with the Fire Emblem franchise. Think fantasy chess/tactical RPG meets dating sim. That’s Fire Emblem: Awakening in a nutshell. I reviewed it for Gamer Limit and it was easily one of the few games I replayed this year. If you want a more in-depth breakdown of how Awakening makes the series even more enticing to newcomers and more casual players, check out my review. Recommended if you like Final Fantasy Tactics, Ogre Battle, or other turn-based tactical RPGs.

Available on 3DS.

XCOM: Enemy Within

XCOM: Enemy Within

I received XCOM: Enemy Unknown last year for Christmas and never played it. (I know! Shame on me!) Then the Enemy Within expansion came out last month and grabbed my attention. I’m not done with the campaign yet, but it’s checking so many boxes for me (many of the same ones as Fire Emblem), that I feel confident including it on this list. Sci-fi alien invasion setting–check. Tactical turn-based combat–check. Strategic decisions that can lead to you screwing up your chances to win the game for good–check.

Even if you’ve already played Enemy Unknown, check out Enemy Within because the new elements in this expansion (including power armor!) completely change the way you play. Tactics you’ve learned before will have to be adapted or scrapped entirely.

Available on PS3, Xbox 360, and PC.

Europa Universalis IV & Crusader Kings II

I’m lumping these together because they kind of go hand in hand. Both Crusader Kings II and Europa Universalis IV are grand strategy games by Paradox Interactive. CKII’s set in Medieval Europe (867 AD with The Old Gods expansion to 1453) and EU IV picks up right after (technically in 1444).

I got into these games after watching people like Northernlion, Arumba, and Quill18 play them on YouTube. Also Rowan Kaiser’s CKII Beginner’s Guide helped a lot. The games are intimidating if you’ve never played a Paradox game before, but overcoming that intimidation can be done! I’m living proof. I’ve put over 40 hours into Crusader Kings II and 25 into Europa Universalis IV, but that’s just scratching the surface for how long these games can keep you blissfully occupied.

Available on PC.

Torchlight II

Inspired by the Diablo series. That’s really all I need to say about Torchlight II. It’s the sequel to 2009’s Torchlight. Whereas Diablo III veered away from some of the core tenants of its franchise, Torchlight II stayed true to its roots. The game is a loot-filled clickfest. The story doesn’t make a lot of sense, but compared to the first game: there are more character classes, more quests, more locations, more loot, more everything. I’d recommend Torchlight II to fans of the Diablo series and any of its subsequent “clones.”

Available on PC.

Rayman Origins

Rayman Origins

Rayman Origins is the first Rayman game I ever played and the only platformer I’ve ever completed while playing multiplayer. This game is gorgeous with a hand-drawn art style that works so well with the gameplay’s fluidity. Some of the levels are hard, especially if you’re trying to collect all the optional thingies and knickknacks, but when you get in a groove, it just works. If you’re a fan of platformer games like Mario, Sonic, or maybe even Bit.Trip Runner, give Rayman Origins or its sequel Rayman Legends a try.

Available on pretty much every platform.

Honorable Mentions

These are games that didn’t quite make the cut. They’re memorable, but I wouldn’t consider them among my favorites.

Dishonored + DLC

Dishonored: The Brigmore Witches

Dishonored is the best game I didn’t play this year. You read that right. For whatever reason, I find the stealth action gameplay of Dishonored too tense/nerve-wracking to play. But I love the art direction, story, and world building. I think the reason I didn’t like playing Dishonored was due to the fact that the level design and special powers allow you to be a murderous whirlwind, but the story and available endings discourage that style of play. The artificially imposed edict to be a stealthy non-lethal character if you wanted the “good” ending made the game too tense for me to play.

So I watched a Let’s Play of Dishonored and its two-part DLC: The Knife of Dunwall and The Brigmore Witches. Maybe I truly am missing out by not playing the game for myself, but I finished the series on YouTube with a sense of satisfaction. I’ll be keeping my eye out for a Dishonored 2.

Available on PS3, Xbox 360, and PC.

Donkey Kong Country Returns 3D

I’ve written about how the inclusion of motion controls in the Wii version of Donkey Kong Country Returns made the game unplayable for me. The 3DS port is an infinitely better game because they’ve been removed. Nintendo and Retro Studios still made a couple of missteps when it comes to Donkey Kong Country Returns 3D, but it’s still a very good platformer (though nowhere near my favorite Donkey Kong game). DCKR 3D also doesn’t come close to replacing Rayman Origins on my favorites list.

Available on 3DS.

Worst of the Worst

And here are a few of my least favorite video games from 2013.

Pokemon Mystery Dungeon: Gates to Infinity

The combination of Pokemon plus rouguelike, dungeon-crawling elements should be an amazing combination. Unfortunately this game was a boring, boring, oh so boring mess. Full of repetitious dialogue and bland dungeons, Gates to Infinity completely misses the mark on what makes a Pokemon games and dungeon crawlers fun.

Bioshock Infinite

Bioshock Infinite wallpaper

I’ve written extensively about my displeasure with Bioshock Infinite as have other better writers than me. I won’t repeat them all here. I will say this though: Bioshock Infinite is the worst game with the highest production values I’ve ever played.

Giana Sisters: Twisted Dreams

Giana Sisters: Twisted Dreams starts out as an entertaining platformer, but it soon transforms into an incredibly difficult slog that is nowhere near as cute or “punk” as it thinks it is. I reviewed this one for Gamer Limit too, and I wasn’t impressed. There’s a fine line between difficulty that encourages the player to do better and difficulty that feels like the game is just being a dick. This game’s in the latter camp.

It’s not a definitive list by any means. In fact, I find it kind of funny how RPG and strategy game heavy it ended up. I know there are games I missed out on playing, plus others that just weren’t good–or bad–enough to make this list. Plus with Christmas around the corner, this post might get updated if I’m able to get my hands on The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds (and I happen to enjoy it).

Now I turn it over to you: What were your most loved or most hated video games this year?

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