Civilization VI is more game than drama

Before Civilization VI’s official release date, those with access to the unreleased version of the game were treated not to the ‘official’ theme on the game’s title screen, but with what would prove to be the theme music for the American civilization. The piece is a combination of two very different, very American pieces of music: the opening is lifted straight from Aaron Copland’s “Fanfare for the Common Man.” The rest is an orchestral arrangement of “Hard Times Come Again No More,” a 19th-century parlour song by Stephen Foster—the man who wrote mainstays like “Camptown Races,” and “Oh, Susanna.” The first…

Really Bad Chess

Really Bad Chess is bad in all the right ways

You’re taking a walk in Central Park. The sun is shining down on you, a stark contrast to the cool autumn wind that tickles the back of your neck. It’s a reminder that change is coming. As you stroll past the row of chess tables, you see two elderly men hunched over and glaring at each other with an intensity that startles you. As you approach, you notice that there are chess pieces sprawled everywhere. The two men look exhausted. You walk closer to see that the board is full of Queens. Nothing but Queens. One of the old men shakes…


Japan can’t stop depicting war as the cutest thing on the planet

What do the creators of games like I Am Setsuna, Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney (2001), Demon’s Souls (2009), and SoulCalibur V (2012) have in common? They’re very familiar with Japanese videogame culture and what kinds of games thrive over there. They’ve got their names on some of the most esteemed games of the generation. They’re “grizzled.” And they’re all raring to make a strategy game! Tiny Metal, the culmination of their efforts under the studio name Area 34, is a turn-based game that’ll focus on intense tactical combat, backed up by a strong story. It wants to merge the grand tradition of military…


Author in the machine: An XCOM 2 Review

Vigilo Confido goes the motto of the titular fighting force in Firaxis Studio’s excellent XCOM 2. To any English speaker, even one without any specialized knowledge of Latin, the meaning of the motto appears self-evident. Vigilo—vigil, vigilance, or something to that effect—and confido—obviously, confidence. Or . . . wait, is it confidential? In fact, the Latin is intensely and conspicuously ambiguous. Depending on whether or not those final “o”’s are read as nonal case endings or verb conjugations (to say nothing of the tense), defensible translations of Vigilo Confido include everything from “I Am Watchful; I Am Relied Upon” to…


If you didn’t get your hands on Overland before, now is your chance

If you’ve been waiting to play Finji’s new game Overland, but didn’t make it into the limited First Access Program, then good news: Overland is now open to the public. Overland is a tactical survival game in the vein of XCOM but with far more adorable dogs and heartache. The game has you balancing a carload of survivors as you cross the United States, balancing gas shortages and injuries in a board game-like atmosphere. The game has procedurally generated characters with their own quirks and traits, allowing you just enough time to get attached to them before they are viciously…

Tooth & Tail

Tooth & Tail brings out the animals of historical warfare

Pocketwatch Games, the studio that brought us bungling co-op heist game Monaco (2013), is back with Tooth & Tail, an arcade-style strategy game based on the Russian Revolution. While still deep in the development stages with Tooth & Tail, the studio does have a video that shows how matches are able to play out in under 20 minutes (pretty quick for a strategy game). The trailer is truly a teaser of what is to come, with a few shots of a battle between mice carrying contrasting colored flags and tearing down the castles of their enemies. As the title alludes to, Tooth & Tail has you controlling a…


It’s you and your friends against mind-control tech in Signal Decay

The stealth strategy game Signal Decay, previously known as Squad of Saviors, has just made its way to Steam Greenlight. The premise is simple: you wake up one day and the rest of the world has come under the sway of some indomitable evil, so it’s up to you (and up to three of your friends!) to save humanity. Simple. But Signal Decay’s not content to just send you into the shadows and have that be that. Instead, Signal Decay takes relatively overdone tropes—cyberpunk world, mind control radio, lots of lurking around—and turns it into a strategic experience not unlike…


Star Wars Rebellion breaks the canon … and itself

Fantasy Flight’s space opera tactics game Star Wars: Rebellion is a seemingly brilliant mashup of Star Wars canon. Classic elements from the original Star Wars trilogy are here—Hidden Rebel Base! A Death Star! Han Solo frozen in carbonite! A reconstructed Death Star!—but inventively recombined. Rather than send Princess Leia to steal the Death Star plans, send Han Solo or Lando Calrissian. Push Grand Moff Tarkin out to Nal Hutta to stop a Rebel Sabotage mission. Freeze Mon Mothma in carbonite. Star Wars is in the box, but it’s served via blender. Rebellion is nothing if not epic. The box comes…


Michael Brough has another tricky labyrinth for you to survive

Michael Brough excels at designing systems that are simpler than they sound—better understood through exploration than explanation—and his grid-based games keep getting smaller and more complicated. In Imbroglio, his latest, your little dungeon-crawler has two health counters in the form of hearts and diamonds. Hearts are damaged by red monsters, diamonds by the blue ones, and you can do damage to their hearts or diamonds if you’re standing on a red or blue weapon tile respectively. In some of Brough’s previous work—like 868-HACK (2013) or Zaga-33 (2012)—you gain abilities by collecting them during play, but in Imbroglio, they all start…