New and Noteworthy

While browsing Steam recently I came across some titles in my discover queue that immediately stood out to me. That’s rare given the steady lineup of greenlit nonsense and semi-porn Japanese games Steam is usually trying to recommend to me. Given the fact that both of these games happened to be on sale at reasonable prices, I thought I’d give them a go. Yes, I know I bitch about my backlog constantly, but such is my nature to go against the grain and such. In one case the game is in Early Access (which tends to come with considerable risk) and the other is an indie project that harkens back to the 8-bit days of my youth. Both appealed to me in different ways, and both would certainly not be for everyone. But as eclectic as my taste can be, you can rest assured that both come with my seal of approval. Whatever that’s worth.

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As a fairly avid 4x fan, Northgard stood out to me as one of those Early Access titles that looks like it has some real work done to it, and appears to have the broad spectrum of the game in place, only allowing players to test things out as they are developed. I don’t see anything wrong with this, as titles such as Darkest Dungeon were played by many through its tenure in Early Access. I’m one of those people who ends up buying into Early Access and then usually only dips his toes til closer to completion (or upon release of a desired feature). So I will probably not dive too deeply but what I saw was very promising. Take a look:

So there are 3 factions with 2 more listed as coming soon. Each has it’s own positive and negative aspects, depending on the sort of focus you want to have in the game. It has the basics of 4x covered, but feels more like a mixture between say, Civilization VI and Banished. Winter is definitely coming my friends. And she is not kind. The 4x similarities are present in the familiar hex grid, and some simple portions of city management; exploring is imperative and you at times need to exterminate some of the local flora and fauna. I assume you too will battle the other AI, and a multiplayer version of the game is in the works, so that’s promising. There is also a planned Campaign, which I assume will have a story line to follow with similar mechanics.

Where the game takes a turn from the norm when it comes to 4x games, is that the resources are sort of a careful balancing act. I know when I was playing Banished I couldn’t make it past a winter or two because I wasn’t “getting” the flow of the game. I came to understand it over time, but it’s not something you usually have to worry about until the citizens start rioting. Each hex has certain resources and an allotment for buildings. This means planning what buildings you need to expand needs to be well thought out, and done properly. You only get workers every so often as long as things are going well, and you can only assign them to certain roles, so choosing wisely and expanding carefully is the only way to go. I didn’t really follow that theme in the game that I played, but it still would be sound advice after learning what not to do myself. I know what to do going into the next game. Lastly, the individual units can be independently controlled, more like a traditional RTS game. So it really feels like a marriage of multiple strategy game subgenres that I enjoy. Can’t wait to see what they add to the game.

This game came out of nowhere for me. To be completely honest, I didn’t play the original game, River City Ransom on the NES. I remember seeing it in magazines and wishing I owned it, but must have forgotten to ask for it for Christmas. Something. Years later I played and loved an emulated version. I don’t think I ever completed that game, now that we’ve mentioned it. Alas. So here comes a spiritual successor that is essentially done up in the original graphical style. If you played the original 8-bit version, this will look immediately familiar. However, it appears that they made the introductory level look spot on, and then you can see some tweaks in the engine (probably a byproduct of much better technology) that make the “new” game stand apart just a bit. I like what I’ve seen, and perhaps you’ll see what I mean in the following screens:

I feel like there’s a difference there, but again, it’s subtle. Overall, the gameplay is just the same as you remembered, though I’m pretty sure there are a few extra buttons available this go round. I loved the combat, it’s stupid but makes sense, and has that same weird AI timing from back in the day. After a few minutes you’ll figure out the rhythm. Perhaps that’s just muscle memory from decades ago, coming back to life. The cool thing about the game is it’s sort of like a dumb teenage fighting anime but then plays like a regular old beat-em-up while also having a touch of RPG elements and even a new game + to keep things fresh. Seems like a promising addition to my collection. I’d recommend checking both of these games out!

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