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Rosethorn’s Ramblings: Site Update

Welcome back again.  As you can see, we are starting to populate the site with new content.  There are few new writers and contributors waiting in the wings with new content.  If you are interested

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Rosethorn’s Ramblings: Site Update, GaMExpo, Nerdvana Con, Life Updates

What to Watch: You Tube

Top 5 YouTube video’s of the past week (with one blast from the past). Each week, on Tuesday, I am going to post 5 videos I think are worth watching on YouTube.  I’d love to hear what you

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What to Watch: You Tube

Rosethorn’s Ramblings: Welcome Bac

Welcome back to Killer Betties! It’s been over three years since I’ve made a post, but I am back. Before I get to what I’ve been doing for three years, I want to talk first about The

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Rosethorn’s Ramblings: Welcome Back, TWD, The Bar, and Other Random Thoughts

Football Manager 2017 Review

Football Manager 2017 is a football management simulation video game for the PC developed by Sports Interactive and published by Sega. Gameplay: In terms of gameplay, it is really fun. You can create

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Football Manager 2017 Review

Volunteers Wanted

Killer Betties is going through some growing pains and we need more bodies (and pens) to keep up with it. If you have any interest in writing video game reviews, previews, interviews or editorials, p

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Volunteers Wanted

‘Commander: Europe at War’ Review (PC)

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by on July 20, 2007 at 2:45 pm

At SeaThe most damaging conflict in human history was WWII. Immense armies and huge fleets fought each other throughout the Earth in an attempt at global domination. The scene of the most intense and brutal fighting has come to be known as The War in the West in the European theatre. The fate of nations and empires hung on these battles in the air, on the ground, and in the seas. Such an epic struggle certainly deserves a simulation worthy of it, and there have been no shortage of attempts to portray this conflict as a game. Commander: Europe at War is the latest such game on this topic, and quite a game it is.

Commander: Europe at War is a turn-based strategy game covering the entire War in the West during WWII. Players control units on the corps level in battle as either the Allied or Axis nations. A series of scenarios allow players to begin with the invasion of Poland, as well as other scenarios for the attack on Russia and several other key points in the war.

Play revolves around moving formations that represent Tank, Infantry and Motorized army corps and fleet and air units. Each unit type has a realistic movement factor and is rated in unit strength as well as a number of upgradeable areas, such as advanced armor and anti-tank weapons. Unit effectiveness is also taken into account and is easily determined by a simple color-coded system where units with a white number are fully operational and units with a red number are completely disrupted. There are also yellow and orange levels showing formations that are partially ineffective for combat.

Units lose effectiveness through movement and combat, as well as through enemy air attack and upgrading; they can recover this through remaining motionless for a number of turns depending on the tech level of the particular formation. The staying power of units and how well they attack and defend is reflected by unit effectiveness.

The overall objective of the two sides is to militarily defeat their enemies by occupying their capitals and several other key cities depending on the particular nation involved. For example, you cannot defeat the Soviets by taking Moscow or the British by taking London, nor will they ever surrender if these cities are not taken.

The game map represents a portion of the United States and Eastern Canada to the Ural Mountains in Asia, going from West to East, and from Norway to North Africa going from north to south. The major population centers and production cities are all on the map, but there are only a few cities per nation. The game map is subdivided by hexagons and should be quite familiar to any war gamer and easy for any newcomer to understand. Terrain in the form of mountains and hills are portrayed, and these affect both movement and combat.

CommanderThe game has an elegant unit production system and a simple research system. Each turn players are given a certain amount of production points based on the Axis on the cities they hold and the Allies on the cities, as well as sea convoys that arrive in Britain and Russia. The sea convoys can be interdicted by the Axis by battle fleets and U boats, and are defended by Allied fleets.

To construct a unit a nation must have enough manpower trained for the unit and the production to construct it. Manpower is trained at a very slow rate and will be a chronic problem for the Axis as they gain advances and losses mount. Depending on the unit type it takes between zero and several turns: a garrison takes no time to construct while a Tank Corps may take 3 turns or more.

The unit types include battle leaders, which are historically rated and can be attached to any formation for increased effectiveness and added historical flavor. Not all leaders are created equal nor do they cost the same in production points; a great leader like Patton costs more than a battleship to acquire, where as a mediocre leader could be as cheap as a garrison.

Other unit types in the game include the garrison, which is a weak Infantry Corps for city defense; the Infantry Corps; the Motorized Infantry Corps, the Tank Corps; the Fighter wing, the Tactical Bomber wing; the Strategic Bomber wing,; and fleet units that include submarines, destroyers, battleships and aircraft carriers.

Each turn research is conducted in four key research tracts, and how much depends on the number of labs each power possesses. A power may purchase a lab using production points, and the cost is exponential. Each nation also has a limit to the number of labs it may purchase. As each game turn passes, a certain amount of research is done in the field you have assigned the purchased lab to. You cannot reassign labs, but you can sell them for a fraction of their cost and buy a new one for a new area of study.

Research improves both unit capability as well as the overall production and war potential of your nations. Each power on each side must conduct its own research, and this is not shared among the powers. When a new technological innovation is discovered – such as level 1 armor – you have the opportunity to upgrade deployed units on the map board. This upgrade costs production points and lowers unit effectiveness as the formations absorb the new weapons systems.

Each turn players may move any and all units in any desired order. Any unit that ends its move adjacent to an enemy has the option of attacking that unit. Attacks can damage both the attacker and defender, and may cause the retreat of enemy units. If this happens players have the option of moving into the vacated hex with the attacking unit. Aircraft can attack any enemy within range, but are subject to fighter interception, which in turn is subject to possible counter interception if you have fighters available and within range. Strategic bombers can attack both units as well as production cities, and if successful can lower the production potential of the target city for a number of turns while that city recovers.

FranceSea combat is similar to land combat. Battleships and destroyers can bombard any formation on a costal hex, and attack enemy fleets in port. Carriers can conduct air strikes, but these are subject to possible fighter interception. Surface ships and U boats of the Axis can also attack convoys at sea. Convoys are randomly generated in the West and sail for ports in Britain and Russia. Submarines of both sides are invisible to the opposition unless they attack or you try to enter a sea hex in which a hidden sub is located. Each convoy has a random number of production points that the target nation receives if the convoy survives to reach port. If the Axis fail to interdict these activities it is extremely difficult to defeat the Allies.

The game has a simple to use interface and a nice soundtrack. Tanks and ships make the appropriate sounds as they move, and there are also battle sounds, but there is no animation in combat nor are any really needed. This is a war game, not a first person shooter, and the game is in the planning and maneuvering of forces, not in excessive bling.

As a WWII simulator this game has the potential to be the very best. It still needs some graphic improvement and tweaking of force levels and production, and these factors are all moldable by game players. But it does simulate the War in the West and the Soviet Union far more realistically than say the popular Hearts of Iron series. I score it three stars, but with some slight improvements it can easily be a 4 star or better game, but the caveat being this is a game for history lovers and those with an interest in WWII.

Rating: 3star
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‘SNK vs. Capcom Card Fighters DS’ Review (DS)

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by on May 23, 2007 at 3:43 pm

Ah, the card battler, the waster of money. Oh, they’ll start you out with a competent enough deck when you first get into the game and started, but you slowly learn that the best players have the best cards, and it’s all because they’ve plunked down the dollars to pay for them. SNK Playmore brings to the table their own card battler, this time featuring characters from their own SNK games as well as those from Capcom. So, do we have another Magic: The Gathering on our hands here?

AttackTHE STORY SO FAR
Card battling and stories don’t seem to go well at all, and with SNK vs. Capcom Card Fighters DS (Card Fighters from here) that is no exception. You play as Taiki, a card battler, who finds himself as an alternate in the big tournament, tagging along with his sister. Of course, though you are the alternate and her the actual player, you seem to do all the card battling and not her. You end up at the Card Tower, a huge tower built for card battles, where a supercomputer named MAX has got it in its head to conquer the world using card battles. How do you ask? I don’t know, beats me, but that is what they say. As Taiki, you’ll climb up the tower, hoping to stop MAX once and for all, as you do battle with his brainwashed slaves.

There is no depth to the story and the narrative doesn’t really play out at all either. You go to a new level of the tower, fight every enemy there (most of them look just like one you saw the last level or so, though will have different coloring), fight a boss, and then move on up again. You’ll run across some other people like masked card battlers, but if you can’t see who it is, well you need your eyes checked.

I’m not one to comment much on translation errors, frankly because you don’t see them all that much, but here there are a few thanks to the bad translation effort. The last time I checked, you don’t “bye” (or was it “by,” either way) cards, but rather you “buy” them.

Another problem with the story mode is that there is a game ending glitch on the ninth level, where if you play a certain character twice, your game is gone and all your work with it.

SINGLE PLAYER: GAMEPLAY
The single player mode of the game is the story mode, which I just outlined for you in the story/narrative section. You go up the tower, battling other players and bosses, until you ultimately beat the game. You’ll make money by winning games, which you can use to put towards new packs of cards, hopeful you’ll get something you don’t have yet in your deck and making it stronger because of them.

The gameplay of the card battles seems a bit daunting at first, but after just recently getting into the Magic: The Gathering online game, the combat is a lot more manageable and easier to grasp than in Magic. Now, that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a better card battle game (cause it isn’t – I suck, but I’d rather have the depth of chess than the comparably relative ease of checkers), but if you are looking for something to ease you into the card battling world, Card Fighters is a good choice.

Matches start with you rolling dice, and whoever gets the higher number picks if they want to attack first or go second. Once you start, you have Force (3 of the all-purpose white if you go first, 4 if you go second) that you’ll use to put your cards in the ring for fighting duty. Each card has different Force costs, so in your first hand if you draw a card with a cost of one white Force, you’d be able to tap it into play in the ring, only costing you one white Force in the process. The less Force a card requires, typically the least power it has, but they still can be a force in number. Depending on their Force color preference, cards ringed in for your side will also output Force each attack round for you, so besides getting one white each time your time for attack comes again, that yellow bent Force card will output one yellow Force for you. White Force is the only color that can be anything, while all the other costs require the exact amount of one color that appears on the card.

If you find yourself without the proper amount of Force needed, one step you can do is discard ones from your deck to help you put one into play that you want and need. For instance, say you have a card that costs one white and one green Force to be put into play, but you don’t have any green Force in stock. Well, if you have a green output character card, you can discard them, sacrificing them to give you one green Force in stock, and then using that now stockpiled Force to bring in the character card you couldn’t before.

The cards come in the three flavors of character cards (the cards you use as troops for fighting), and action and counter cards, which are used defensively (giving your characters health points that they have lost) or upping their BP or dealing damage to enemy cards.

Select CardOnce in play, each character card must wait until their next turn to start fighting. Each character card has its HP and BP listed, with the first number being how much damage that card can take before it is gone, and the BP detailing how much damage that card can do to others. The two numbers are vitally important, as most games are a quick battle of numbers, and knowing when to blitz your opponent with all your cards, and letting some hang back to counter and block whatever cards your opponent leaves untapped to attack you their next turn. Unlike Magic where cards maintain their strength from round to round, in Card Fighters once damage is done, it is permanently done from one round to the next until that card is healed or their HP reaches zero. For instance, if a 500HP/400BP takes on a 400HP/400BP card, the 500HP card will completely eliminate the 400HP card sine its BP equals that card’s HP, but the 500HP won’t walk away unscathed, as it will find itself with only 100HP left to its name, making it an easier target to takeout during the next round.

The idea is that you and your opponent both have 2000HP and by damaging them directly when they have no blockers or lose all their cards, you’ll gradually win by ultimately taking them down to 0HP. Winners and losers are also determined by if you should run out of all of your cards – if so, you lose.

There are more complex moves like using the power of certain character cards to have different effects on the board, or fusing together two cards of the same Force type, which has the added benefit of not only possibly taking out a character card of the opponent they are going up against, but whatever combined BP doesn’t go to eliminating that character card, will be passed on and hit the player too.

MULTIPLAYER: GAMEPLAY
The Wireless mode plays like the battles of the single player story mode, though you are going against your buddy. The matches also have the added weight of being able to bet CP (the monetary system in the game) on the outcome, or even betting cards or packs on who the winner will be. You can also trade cards with friends this way, should they have something you want that you don’t have. Sadly though, no Nintendo Wi-Fi.

GRAPHICS
The battling board is pretty ugly, making cards appear way too small, but the art on the enlarged cards does an excellent job or portraying the SNK and Capcom characters, as the SNK cards really highlight their ample bosom female fighters, while the Capcom characters tend to learn more towards the comical, cartoony side of a Bass or Mega-man, but they’ve also got some Chun-Li loving going on too.

SOUND
Eh, the music repeats a little too often and will wear on your nerves more than you want, and the repeating sound effects of cards doing battle with each other aren’t anything to really praise either. The sound work of the game isn’t bad, it’s just okay and not really worth much more explanation than that.

IN CONCLUSION
Look, the game has some big problems, such as the game ending bug you have to avoid and a horrible translation effort that expands from both the game to the manual. With that said, I still found myself having a fair time with the game, as I built my deck from past characters I’ve remembered playing as before, and making the ultimate deck so I could really storm my opponent with a blitzkrieg attack. For those wanting an introduction to the world of card battle games or fans of SNK, SNK vs. Capcom Card Fighters DS isn’t a bad little game.

Rating: 2star
Our Scoring System

‘Catan’ Review (Xbox 360)

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by on May 9, 2007 at 1:45 pm

Catan 1Board games are pretty much dead it seems, as Monopoly and others have seemingly disappeared to closets and attic boxes. However, every so often a new one will come along or be transferred to a computer and console, and suddenly it is being played again. One such game is Catan, a strategy board game that has you battling other players over pieces of land on the newly discovered island of Catan. Do you have the smarts to put your foot down and claim your slice of island heaven?

When you and the other players first come to the island of Catan, you’ll see it randomly populated with various resource cards, ranging from wood to brick to ore to wool to grain. On each card you’ll also find a number ranging from two to twelve. The numbers on the cards relate to the combined roll of two dice, which starts each player’s turn. So, for example, a player rolls a four, all of the four cards on the board will give players one card of the resource type that is represented on that card.

However, not everyone will get a card every single time the dice are rolled. Instead, you must have a settlement or city with a road right there touching the card. When you start the game out you get to place two settlements and two roads. Depending on your strategy, you’ll place these in one of several ways. The placement of your settlements are an important one, as you only get resources for those cards your settlements and cities are touching. If you have a settlement, you’ll get one resource card of that type, but if you have a city there you’ll get two of that resource type.

Catan 3As you gather resource cards, you’ll use them to benefit your gameplan, utilizing them to build objects. You’ll be able to build new settlements (road must connect to it and be two away from any other settlement), the roads needed to connect to new settlements, cities which act as upgrades for your settlements, and development cards. Each thing you can build costs different resources, so to build roads you’ll need one wood and one brick, and then after spending them you can place the roads either to other roads you already have down or attach them to one of your settlements or cities. Though you’ll get resources by rolling dice, the other main way you get new resources is through trading with other players, where if you want to offer up one grain for one wood you may need, you can place that offer up and see if anyone will take you up on the offer; sometimes they will and sometimes they wont – part of the way you’ll succeed and win is by being a good trader. If you really need one resource and not another, you can go to the ports to trade in four of one kind to get one of another. However, if you own a port, you can trade two of one resource for one of another.

You can also buy development cards, which are random and will do one of several different things. One development card type is the soldier, which adds to your army, but will also randomly take a card that you put the stopper next to. You’ve also got cards that will let you build two roads and cards that will give you victory points when you play them during a game.

The object of the game is to be the first of the players to reach ten points, and these all come from different ways and play styles. You can get points for each settlement or city you place down, for building the longest road, having the largest army, and by playing development cards. Games seem to run about thirty each, perhaps slightly less or more depending on how long trades take and for your plan to come to action.

There appears to be many rules when you first play, and probably will confound you at the start, but after playing and seeing how things work, you’ll be getting good at it all in no time flat. For as complicated as it starts, things seem to get much simpler as you go on, and yet it all remains deep in its gameplay. Catan is very much a thinker of a game, as you really need to use your brain to ever have a chance at doing well in the game. You need a gameplan. You need a strategy. And you need to be able to change it up if you see your plan won’t work because of the competition.

Catan 2The game exists as both a single player game against computer AI or either online against real players. For the computer AI, you’ll play against different historic people, such as Sun Tzu, Lincoln and others. Each historic person has their own styles and ways they play. You can also change up the difficult from easy to medium to hard. Easy is a bit too easy, and mostly there only for you to learn the ropes, but medium and hard provide really excellent challenges. However, nothing beats playing against real players, so get onto Xbox Live and get proving to yourself and others you are a Catan master.

The sound work is pretty sparse, featuring muted music that plays lowly, and the audible but yet nothingness of rolling dice and the occasional card play or soldier steal. The game board looks nice, but nothing spectacular. As a board game though, it looks really well done, and easily conveys all the information you need to properly do well at the game.

Having never played Catan before, I had heard a lot about it and how fun it was and mentally rewarding it was, and in that regards I wasn’t let down. I found myself surprisingly compelled during each of my matches, as they played out more like the thinking in chess than the subtle placement of the hotels in a Monopoly. It would be nice if you could save games in solo play, but with that little nothing of an issue, it’s still a really fun game if you are looking for a new board game. If non-stop action is your cup of tea though, you won’t find what you are looking for here.

Rating: 4star
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‘Command and Conquer 3: Tiberium Wars’ Preview (Xbox 360)

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by on May 8, 2007 at 2:58 pm

BaseballWhen it comes to strategy games, you don’t see many outside of the realm of the PC…and for good reason too! You see, the limited buttons of a controller can never truly match the possibilities of a mouse and keyboard. However, that doesn’t stop people from the ports, and the newest one is Command and Conquer 3: Tiberium Wars, which certainly looks like it has the tools for when it is released. Do you have what it takes to amass a huge fleet of soldier and way waste to the NOD?

The story of Command and Conquer 3: Tiberium Wars (CC from here on) looks to be a driving force for the game, as you’ll experience it in both pre-mission briefings and through the events of your actions on the battlefield. In the future Tiberium has taken over huge portions of the world’s land, warping it to utter destruction: there are mutilated lands, corrupted lands where most of the populace lives, and then there are a few scattering of fertile lands. The Brotherhood of NOD are out to take control of the Tiberium and warp the future in their visage, while the GDI is out to stop them from accomplishing that plan. A change of pace for modern day games, CC is in favor of using live actors, which have the notoriety of being quite bad in games of the past. Here, though, the game is packed with talented actors, featuring such actors as Sam Fisher himself (Mr. Michael Ironside), Battlestar Galactica’s sexy Cylons (Tricia Helfer and Grace Park), Sawyer from Lost (Josh Holloway), Lando (Billy Dee Williams), and Dr. Allison Cameron from House (the lovely Jennifer Morrison). Most of the story plays out with these FMV (full motion video) cutscenes, but during actual missions you’ll get chatter detailing more events, and Jennifer Morrison will pop up in a little picture-in-picture screen to say something from time to time.

LasersThere is a nice and lengthy tutorial training area that gradually will introduce you to the play mechanics and the workings of the controls. You’ll learn how you will move your cursor and scroll over the battlefield, issue commands, build new units, construct more buildings, and other such typical controls when it comes to RTS games. The tutorial will also help you learn the controls of the game and what buttons to press to do things like select a single unit, select them all, ordering powers, and other goodies. If anyone has played The Lord of the Rings: Battle For Middle-earth II on the Xbox 360, controls should provide a bit of deja-vu feeling, as they are almost identical to CC (should come as no surprise since both EA games) though here they appear to have been tweaked a tad bit to fix some problems that were around for the LOTR game. The big controls were the thumbsticks to move your cursor and zoom you in and out of the action, the A-button to act as the left click of a mouse button, and the left and right triggers being used in conjunction with other buttons to select all the units at once, ordering buildings, and placing them into the field; those aren’t all the buttons used, but they seem to make up the bulk of the action.

One of my greatest problems with RTS games are the needless micromanagement of resources, where you’ll have to build units, manually send them out somewhere to mine that resource, come back, and repeat it all again. Thankfully, CC is much more streamlined, as it contains itself to one resource the titular Tiberium. Tiberium is your one stop source for everything, so build some harvesters and they’ll automatically go hunting out the Tiberium and bringing it back to you, and you don’t have to lift a finger. Tiberium acts as the power source in the game, as you’ll need an ample supply to purchase new units, buildings, and use powers as well (such as a wicked laser orbiting in space that fires the area). One neat idea is that you can power off buildings you aren’t using, saving up some of the resources you just might need should you find yourself in a pinch later on.

The natural progression of unit types and their power should be familiar to RTS fans, as you’ll start out with some simple grunt soldiers, and as you build new building types you’ll be able to outfit them and make new, more advanced soldiers, or create new vehicle units, going from the jeeps to the power punching heavy tanks. Units control by selecting them and pointing to a place on the map and clicking the A-button; if you only clicked the A-button once they’ll head to that location, blissfully compliant and unaware of any dangers that may be around them, but if you double click the A-button instead, your units will head towards that destination, but will engage any enemies that should come across their path while on that journey.

White ArcsThe graphical style of the game is a big selling point, because the art style is quite pretty, considering the fact that this is a post apocalypse setting where most of the ground is scratched and dirty, but it’s pretty in its decay. The architecture of the GDI and NOD buildings and unit types also have their own unique traits, giving the game a flashy style about it. There also wasn’t really any slowdown noticeable at any time, despite the fact that there were quite a few units on the screen at once, trying to blow each other to kingdom come. The sound work is there too, featuring of course that of the actors on the screen, but the ordinary sound of radio chatter was presented nicely, as well as that of all the construction sounds and constant firing happening back and forth.

CC is also a quick playing game, as turtling up your forces, which often seems like a good idea in most RTS games, was met with little success this time around, as your enemies like to attack fast and ferociously, and you really need to keep up the pace to be on their level. The action and get pretty intense when everything is in play and in motion, as you can be building tanks one place, have a huge army fighting it out over a base at another, and then find your base getting bombed when the enemy sends over a line of bombers flying overhead, laying waste to all your plans. If you need a RTS fix on the consoles, Command and Conquer 3: Tiberium Wars might be what you are looking for, as it seems to have the goods needed to make a quality game.

‘War Front: Turning Point’ Review (PC)

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by on May 3, 2007 at 2:08 pm

Unit AttackIn the dark days of WWII the British Royal Air force defeated the Luftwaffe over England and saved Great Britain from a Nazi invasion. This stand caused Germany’s leader Adolph Hitler to look eastward and set the course the war would take to Germany’s ultimate defeat. But what if the Nazis had gotten ashore and taken Britain? That is the premise of Warfront Turning Point.

Warfront Turning Point is a real time strategy game of WWII combat with fantasy elements added. Unlike other such games this one is set up to be ahistorical in that the Allies and Axis are given super weapons in addition to the normal WWII types seen in these kinds of games. This makes the game seem more like a Captain America comic book or an Indiana Jones movie then a WWII combat game, but it is unique and it is fun.

The game includes a unique hero for each side and this is the protagonist of the scenarios in the campaigns. The hero has more firepower, can help heal his men and drive tanks and other vehicles, making them more dangerous. The Allied hero is an American who carries a funky grenade launcher, the German has his own anti-tank weapon and there is a mysterious Russian spy woman as well.

The game allows you to play either the Axis or Allied campaign at start. There is no tutorial, but anyone that is familiar with real time strategy games will have no problem. The campaign opens with the hero and a few men on a map, and orders are given to move to a certain location shown on a mini map. Along the way new orders are sometimes received for mini missions or added weapons and equipment pick ups.

Cycle ChaseAs is common in this genre there are a few buildings and some research and production. Resources are scattered around the map and trucks collect them, but you really need not worry over much about this aspect of the game. The tried and true tactics of building a horde of tanks and looking for trouble works well here. There is a cap on the size of armies so you can only produce so many units for play.

Scattered about the map board are additional forces that are activated on contact and elimination of any nearby enemies. You will gain some infantry or a few tanks this way and sometimes powerful units like Nazi jetpack infantry. It’s better to build your tank force before looking around as the extra forces will still be added even if you exceed the army size limitation.

A typical mission revolves around gathering some forces and proceeding to locations to destroy the enemy base. The game boards are not excessive in size so the story moves along. At certain points headquarters will radio that some new objective needs to be taken or that the enemy is attacking your base. Base defense is important and you should build fixed defenses around it as the computer rarely gathers enough force to punch through several pillboxes.

The types of buildings at the base are typical of this style of game. A headquarters to command your units and you can build several other types of structures to produce units and even a power plant to make them more effective and provide power for radar and searchlights. Unit production uses resources so if you run out of them you cannot produce new forces.

As units fight in battle and survive they gain ranks through combat experience. This makes them stronger and more effective in battle. Veterans of WWII games will recognize these familiar game concepts as there is nothing new here outside of the fantasy units. The game attempts to have a little unit spacing so you don’t get the tank bunch up you often see in other games, but makes moving a little different. You can group units into battle groups that greatly simplifies moving and combat.

CraterThe graphics are what I have come to expect form a CDV produced WWII game, which is very nice and fairly accurate. The tanks move about with realistic noise but their drivers seem to love carnage as they quite often bowl over trees and crash into things about the battlefield. The game simulates day and night and has very pretty weather effects, so it’s no slouch in the looks department but it’s also nothing really new.

The game controls are simple to use and the game can be played without reading anything as it’s all point and click. I can’t say much for the voice acting as it sounded corny and contrived, something that seems chronic in WWII games. A little less corn and a little more realism in the acting would be nice.

Overall it’s a nice effort at doing something different with the tired WWII RTS genre of games. The fantasy units make the game different and somewhat interesting, but the best part is the scenarios move right along and it doesn’t take forever to play a single scenario. A nice effort all around.

Rating: 3star
Our Scoring System

‘Europa Universalis 3’ Review (PC)

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by on March 12, 2007 at 1:34 pm

Europa Universalis 3 - 1The year 1492 was quite significant in the history of the world. Spain finally united and expelled the last Moor stronghold from Spain while the intrepid explorer Christopher Columbus reached the new world in the Americas. The history of the entire world was now in a state of flux and would be Euro-centric for centuries to come. This is the setting for the latest real time strategy game from Paradox, EU 3.

EU 3 is a real time strategy game simulating the history of the entire planet from 1492 until 1793. Players can control any nation on Earth in an attempt to either recreate history or create their own history as the guiding light of the selected nation. In a series of scenarios players will take part in making decisions about production, government and war and peace for their selected nation. How these decisions will have an effect on history is played out as the years go by in the game.

Starting the game the first decision to be made is what era to select. The makeup of the various nations is different in each scenario, reflecting the changes in history. Some powers have advantages both in technology and in positioning over others, but any nation including native tribes can be selected. The game has the starting ruler’s statistics listed and an estimation of the difficulties of the selected nation.

Once the nation is selected the next order of business is to decide on what techs to focus study on. These are on a series of sliders and can be balanced or one can be favored over others. If you want more government techs and new forms of ruling a nation you can focus on it or perhaps you want better troops or ships, these areas could be selected. New technologies take years to research but can add significant benefits for your nation.

Without research you cannot improve the provinces of your nation. The improvements will increase tax revenue, defenses, lower inflation as well as reducing revolt risk. Most nations in the early scenarios start with few or no improvements and a lot of research is needed to discover how to add these buildings. Most improvements can be built in all provinces but there are some bonus items. Certain industries can be constructed on regions that have the correct trade item to give research bonuses that really help research.

The game allows three great person advisors to assist your nation’s development. These people appear at random within your nation’s provinces and you have their exclusive rights for one year after which anyone can hire them. Each has a cost to hire and maintain and are rated in stars as to their effectiveness in the fields they represent. These include land tech which improves soldering, naval which allows for better ships as well as stability, increased colonists, merchants, missionaries and spies. Which people to hire depends on your style of play and who’s available.

Europa Universalis 3 - 2Colonization is handled by sending a colonist to an unoccupied province. Sending one costs a certain amount of money and a percentage is displayed of the chances of successful colonization. Nations generate a few colonists a year and this can be augmented with a colonization advisor but you can never have more than five colonists available to deploy at any one time. If colonization succeeds the province will change to your color and you will begin to receive money from it. How much cash you get depends on the colony size. To increase the size of a colony you have to send additional colonists and each time there is a risk they won’t arrive but the risk lessons as the colony grows.

When the colony has 1,000 colonists it becomes a city and can now build city improvements and generate more cash. While still in the colonization phase there is a danger that natives will rise up and attack the colony. Each area has a rating of the amount of natives and a ferocity level of them. This can be offset two ways: the first being to keep an adequate military garrison in the colony and the other being to attack the natives and wipe them out. The advantage of wiping them out is no uprisings but the disadvantage is the initial city will not get the benefit of the savages becoming citizens.

Merchants are also generated over time and the same rule of only having five to deploy holds for them. Merchants are deployed at a cost to centers of trade and if they manage to get a foothold will generate cash each turn they are active. Merchants can be blocked if a trade embargo is placed on you by the owner of the center of trade and other nations will bump your merchants with their own to steal your trade. You have to keep sending out merchants to keep the money from them flowing.

Diplomats are also limited to five on hand at a time and have a cost to use. No diplomatic action can be taken without one and they too can have an advisor generate them more often. The diplomatic game has many options for players such as selling provinces, arranging royal weddings and proposing alliances. Diplomats are the only way to end wars you may be in on terms of your choosing.

Missionaries are the same as the others as there can only be a maximum of five and they also can be augmented by an advisor. As is suggested by their name their function is to convert provinces to your religion. Depending on the tolerance level of your nation you get better tax revenue and less chance of revolt from provinces with the same religion as the mother country. All colonies have the religion of the mother country when formed but random events can change the religion of areas. To convert the province you must send a missionary for a rather tidy sum and he will try to convert the area. If he fails a revolt will probably break out.

The final group is the spies. Like the others you can have five at a time and an advisor can generate them faster. Spies can pull off a number of dirty tricks in other nations at a cost in money and a chance of discovery. If you are caught it may lead to war or trade embargoes and other unpleasant things for your nation. But they can do damage to opponents and many missions have a good chance of working without being caught.

Combat in the game is handled by recruiting unit types into armies and navies and moving them to enemy provinces. Leaders can greatly increase the chance for victory and unit types will improve greatly as research progresses. Smaller more modern armies can often defeat larger and less well equipped forces. To capture a province you must defeat any defenders and then lay siege to it. This takes a few months depending on the fortifications. You can storm the walls for a quicker resolution but losses will be higher. Losses regenerate if you have available manpower. Colonies are much easier to capture – once the defending army is removed you can simply click on the capture button and the colony is yours.

Europa Universalis 3 - 3The graphics on the game are probably the nicest Paradox has put into a game up to this point but there are problems. The largest problem is a growing one in the Paradox line of games – the habit of using extremely small print in the game, so small it’s barely readable. There is no option to increase the size of the print so quite often you can’t see what is going on unless you like to squint or sit one inch from your monitor. It was so bad I had to resort to a magnifying glass to read messages and descriptions. Making games so unfriendly to older eyes and people who don’t see well is not a very good idea, especially as this is something that is an easy fix for the game designers.

Overall this is a decent game but not a very historical one. The design did away with set events in favor of random events so players could create alternate histories. Large areas of the map are hidden at first and players must have the right doctrine as well as explorers and conquistadors to uncover the hidden spots, but over time players will gain knowledge of them without effort. There is replay value here but the game is a bit too long as it runs from 1492 to 1793 and can be tedious at times. A good effort but not a great one.

Rating: 3star
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‘Romance of the Three Kingdoms XI’ Review (PS2)

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by on March 5, 2007 at 12:52 pm

Flame OnI love the ancient Asian world. I relish in the art, the tradition, and the glory of it all. Perhaps it comes from a love of Asian cinema, such as the movies Hero, Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, Fearless, and House of Flying Daggers, but for whatever reason I completely enjoy it. I’ve been familiar with KOEI’s titles before, most notably the Dynasty Warriors series, but I’d never dipped my toe in the ocean that is the Romance of the Three Kingdom series, a vastly deep strategy game that covers much of the same information as the Dynasty Warriors series, only replacing hack and slash with strategy. Though it plays like the greatest strategy game or board game, you’ll certainly have to work to fully appreciate it.

THE STORY SO FAR
As the box puts it, “Rediscover an ancient civilization with an explosive history in the most stunning edition of the Romance of the Three Kingdoms. Summon your gifts for the military arts and political cunning. Massive armies and the clever schemes of allies and enemies are yours to manipulate. Conquer the worldly ambitions of men and you will conquer China.”

Though it gives you a grand scheme of things, there isn’t much story to write about. Typically, the game plays out by giving you the game world/board, and then you are either given a pre-determined list of warring factions, or either you can pick your own leaders. Once you have defined that and a few other required bits of gameplay info, you’ll embark on conquering ancient China. As you go about, you’ll experience things such as weddings, betrayals, wars, alliances, and other such things. Beyond the randomness of the included story-esque bits, the only other story elements come into play during the Challenge Mode of the game, where you’ll be given a list of scenarios based on battles from the historical novel, “Romance of the Three Kingdoms.” But even then, there isn’t all that much. ROTK (from here on) is much more about the strategy and planning than it is the story.

CutsceneGAMEPLAY
Be kind to me if I forget to include something, but trying to encompass 48 pages of a manual into an easy digestible read isn’t an easy task; the sad thing is though that almost everyone of those pages is dire information that you’ll need to learn to even stand a chance. The game, from the first moment you start to play to even your next game several down the way, will probably still be daunting from beginning to end.

When the game is first presented to you, you’ll be given a large game board, made up of rivers, oceans, mountains, giant walled gates, and cities/bases. The object, ultimately, is to do everything in your power to fully conquer China and eliminate your opponents. You’ll get rid of your opponents by ultimately battling them and destroying them, though everything isn’t that simple because you can’t simply say I want X-amount of troops and then “boom” there they are (besides, if you did that, you’d probably still lose cause other enemies would have better troops). Besides battling, you’ll need to be a good strategist, as you’ll need to try and make nice with some neighboring enemies, so you aren’t getting gangbanged on all sides by imposing forces.

When you start off you’ll only have your base and a few little odds and ins buildings/territories, such as markets, farms, etc. As you’re trying to build up your army, you’ll need to concern yourself with practically everything. For instance, to hire troops and provide them with equipment, you’ll need to raise markets to make money. However, you need food to fight, so you’ll need to create farms so you’ll be able to get harvests and feed your peasants and troops. Beyond that, you’ll need to build a few buildings to house your troops, or you won’t be getting any in the first place. You’ll also need to build workshops, so your troops will have more than just swords to work with, because horses, rams, and catapults make for a lot better fighting. Of course, troops aren’t nothing by themselves, so you’ll have to take your generals and train those worthless maggots, because they’ve got to be whipped in fighting shape quick. And then of course troops by themselves aren’t nothing, so you’ll need to utilize their services to put up things like guard towers, traps, rolling balls of death. And…I’m…spent! Or not.

Troops aren’t simply troops that do nothing but fight head-to-head. Yes, they’ll do that too, but they also have special moves that you can utilize to do things like knock enemies back a square, bring an enemy towards you, swipe all enemies in a circle around you, drive through targets, and many other such moves. You can also choose to do tactics like straight unit to unit skirmishes or you can surround an enemy troop with several of your own, and then attack as a single group from all sides.

The WorldHowever, not all battles are won in troop-to-troop skirmishes, because sometimes things get personal, and you’ll have one on one battles both atop horses and battles with your words. On top of your horse you’ll do battle by attacking, using spirit, defending, or unleashing your fury; basically an advanced game of Paper, Rock, Scissors though you do have some other special commands thrown in the mix, which will have you throwing knives, raising attack power, and more. The Debates are much the same (an advanced game of Paper, Rock, Scissors) where you’ll use cards to try and trump your opponent, but much like the duels there are special cards that have advanced properties, like exchanging all the cards in your hand for example.

And in the end, you’ll take all of those things (and several more) and use the same and same moves over and over to wage war and hopefully win. You’ll start out with much of nothing, gain some leaders, implore some warriors, supply your people with food and money, make deals when you can, wage war when need be, defend yourself adequately and hope the cards land in your favor and you walk away with the win.

GRAPHICS
Overall, pretty crappy and bland. Though the total sense of the world, changed by the passing seasons, is nice looking, everything else is rather PS1-ish and things like troops are simply too small to be detailed, and you’ll really only understand what they are (or your buildings for that matter) if you click on them to find what they are. Also, though the opening cutscene is really stylish and pretty, the others are all static, and very below average for a PS2 game (or any game for that matter). You wish a game so deep strategic wise would mimic that with its beauty as well.

SOUND
Much like the graphics, the sound is pretty poor. Bad voiceovers (something KOEI has never done particularly well) and “simply there” sound effects are the bottom of the barrel when it comes to ROTK, but hey, at least they are better than the graphics for the most part. However, the game does have a really nice score, which fills almost every aspect of the game, and it fits the time and the setting of the game perfectly. As I said earlier, as someone who loves to fill their life with the sounds and visuals of ancient Asia, I was in heaven with the music.

DebateIN CONCLUSION
Look, obviously there is a very loyal fanbase, because you don’t get to number eleven in a series without being successful on some level. However, with poor graphics and sound (for the most part) it certainly isn’t winning fans over by finishing number one in the beauty pageant. So the game must win over with its gameplay? Yes, but for every player who discovers the game and falls in love, there is probably a higher ratio of those who simply finds themselves being overwhelmed by all the information at their fingertips and moves they must process to wage war and actually succeed. The game certainly isn’t for everyone, but for those into this sort of game, then perhaps Romance of the Three Kingdoms XI will be for you. Otherwise, be prepared to feel stupid, as you quickly die off and everything said flies over your head.

Rating: 3star
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‘Galactic Civilization II: Dark Avatar’ Review (PC)

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by on February 27, 2007 at 1:01 pm

Concord CLThe war with the Dread Lords is over and the crisis has been averted. The Terran alliance has managed to put an end to the Dread Lord’s attempts to retake the galaxy and a new era dawns. But this new era is fraught with danger, for the Alliance is not the real victor, the evil Drengin empire is. Now only the Humans stand unbeaten against the Empire, a minor thorn in the empire’s side. But all is not well in the Dregin Empire as one of the tribes has broken off and appears to be committing pointless genocide and only the Empire can stop them. This is the setting for Galactic Civilization II: Dark Avatar.

Galactic Civilization 2 (GC2 for short form now on) is a turn based strategy game about colonizing planets and diplomatic interaction with other space faring races. Players must explore the always different galaxy, study important technologies, design and build starships, colonize new worlds, as well as capture enemy worlds and defend their own planets. They will also develop their own planets to produce the tools of empire, food, money, technology and starships. This new add-on brings a streamlined tech tree as well as new planet types to colonize and special techs from them as well as a new campaign with an added race and plenty of new ship parts for you to design your own buffs.

Play begins with a few basic selections, such as picking a race. Each race has different attributes and bonus factors and there are a few bonus points you can assign to gain more advantages. These are displayed easily with drop down windows that clearly explain the cost and what the advantage gives you. These advantages stay with you the entire game so choose wisely and you can tailor your game playing style to gain the maximum effect from these choices.

EarthYou will also be asked if you would like to change the name of your civilization, your leader’s name, as well as your race portrait. You can also change the look and style of your starships, as well as their colors and also change the default color of your civilization. The first time playing they recommend the Terran Alliance since we know something about being humans. You can also adjust the size of your galaxy, how many habitable planets it may have, as well as possible trade resources. The size of the galaxy determines the number of alien races, and you can pick these as well, or let the AI do that.

The game opens with a short intro movie and you can begin to make decisions. The map is grayed over and you can see your home world and the star it orbits, and a few planets. You have one colony ship and your fleet flagship at start so you can begin exploring and colonization right away. You will have to set out blindly to find new worlds at first and there are bonus anomalies to uncover that also give advantages.

A new type of ship and tech have been added for DA, asteroid mining. Mining sends extra resources to any planet you chose for production boosts. Mines have a very independent nature however and will quickly join other empires if they have closer planets exerting influence on them. Mining can be researched and all mines can be upgraded by mining ships once the correct tech is studied.

The game map has several viewing modes as well as nice zoom features. If you change the view options it will show where other races are as well as resources and star systems, but this is something like a cheat to me as it removes the random factor. Each race has a sphere of influence that shows on the map as colored borders, but you can move through space without hindrance from them. As your starships travel over the map the gray is removed and exact details are revealed such as habitable planets, star system names and what race if any lives on a particular planet.

EnterpriseYou have some decisions to make at home too as not all planets are created equally. They are rated from 0 to 19 (this can go higher with technology) with the number being the available squares for development. You must decide what you want to build first, because you have a capital and a starport but little else. Should you build a factory for better production? A market for more money? A research center? Since the number of squares are limited you must decide what you want.

Technological discovery will open up additional buildings and special wonders for you to construct. When you first colonize a new world there is nothing there so you must build everything including a starport. Starports can in turn construct starships which are something you will have to pay attention too. Each ship in your fleet costs a certain amount of money in upkeep costs so make sure to pay attention to your budget.

The final decision is what technology to research first. There are many techs and the game manual makes it clear you won’t get to finish them all. As in many such games progression of techs is linear in style, as you follow a track along a number of paths and this leads to better weapons, defenses, starships, planetary improvements and so on. You can even win a tech victory but this is very time consuming and there are easier ways to finish a game. In DA the tech tree has been altered to make it a little smoother although it is essentially the same.

The nicest feature in this game is the starship design interface. As you learn new techs, default ship types appear for construction. You can also augment this with custom designs. Every time you learn a new tech you can translate this into a new ship design. You pick the hull size, shape, and then simply choose from a list of engines, weapons and defenses you have discovered to make the ship. Each ship can only hold so much, so you won’t be able to fit everything you want onboard. But you can study miniaturization and with it fit more on small hulls. You can even add cosmetic shapes to make your ships truly unique.

One of the best new features is the planet types. In the original game any planet could be colonized by any race that sent a colony ship. In Dark Avatar there are now special worlds that include water worlds, high radiation and gravity planets, even worlds that seem barren of life and resources. With the correct special technology you can settle these worlds and with terraforming you can improve a lot of worlds. Even planets that are rated as 1 or 2 can often be Terra formed into much bigger colonies now.

Intelligence ReportThe diplomacy interface in the game is quite nice. As you meet other races, you can talk to them, trade techs, present gifts to them and make peace and war. You can also see their opinion of you, the number of planets they control as well as the starships they have in service. The race you are looking at displays an animated leader that says appropriate comments for the situation, although many are light hearted and frivolous. One of the easiest victory conditions is alliance with all the major races so diplomacy is important.

The intelligence game has been completely reworked and is almost a minigame. Now if you allocate funds for spies you can place them on other race’s planets to degrade their improvements and spy on that race. This will also happen to you and you can use your spies to nullify their spies. You can also recall spies if you plan on invading a particular world, or if you simply want to reserve them or use them elsewhere. Spies require no upkeep so once you make some you will have them until they are nullified or used for counter intelligence.

Combat is handled through a mathematical formula, you simple engage and the game decides who wins. But you can watch the ship battles in several modes such as overhead, 3D, chase and several others so it’s like a little cutscene movie. Invasions are handled with two animated armies meeting and shooting at each other with the troop numbers dropping for one side or the other. Techs affect combat defense and offense and large planets are harder to take then small ones.

Each race was its own set of ship ‘skins’ and colors so each star fleet looks differently. The planets are well represented with high quality designs that actually look like real planets in space. The entire look of the game is quite slick and modern and gives excellent atmosphere for the game players. The music is appropriate to the setting and there are several different victory conditions making no two games of GC2 exactly alike.

VizzardDark Avatar includes improved graphics for planets and ships and looks a lot better then Dread Lords. Now if you zoom into planets you can actually see ships, including ones you designed in orbit around the planet. There is a planet info screen that tells you all advantages and includes information on when a colony was settled, taken or traded for and what people think of it. The planets themselves have been given a little variety and the ships themselves have a new intelligence feature. With this you can get a close up of ships and space stations, including cool info on how many sentients it has aboard, the companies that made the parts and other little touches.

An entire new campaign game is included letting players re-fight the Drengin’s attempt to stop the coming of the Dark Avatar. In it players learn of a horrific plan for galactic genocide which the Drengin oppose as that would mean no slaves for Drengin factories. At first you must contest the pesky Humans but you will soon realize your allies are the real danger. These scenarios are quite difficult and fun to play but tough to win.

The game has a complete tutorial and learning campaign but is not difficult to learn once you understand the basic concepts. With numerous races to play and many different ships to design and play with, this really is a Sci Fi fan’s dream of a space empire builder. There is sure to be many mods based on popular shows and movies for it, as it would lend itself well to this. The game is fun and relatively fast moving, so it’s worth going out and getting.

I would like to thank Brad Wardell, GC’s overlord and his fine staff, including Cari Begli, who answered this harried reviewer’s questions and helped with some technical issues I had with the game. This kind of attention by a game company is both unusual and to be highly appreciated. Stardock is a fine outfit and I hope they produce great games for years to come.

Rating: 4star
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‘Star Trek: Legacy’ Review (Xbox 360)

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by on January 16, 2007 at 1:39 pm

Legacy3.jpgSpace, the final frontier. These are the voyages of the Star Trek Enterprise. And jeez, is it a hard voyage at that. After checking out the various series throughout the years, though things often looked bleak, things usually worked out in the end. In Star Trek: Legacy, if something looks bleak, chances are it is and you’ll die. Yep, kiss that thirty minutes of your life goodbye, because you’re about to do it all over again. So will you be cherishing this game like The Next Generation or crying blasphemy like Voyager or Enterprise?

THE STORY SO FAR
Those Romulans sure are a tricky race. While cruising through the galaxy (the game starts in the Enterprise area in what sounds like events after the series ended) you run across a ship being attacked by its own race of people. After escorting the ship to its research lab, an archaeologist of sorts, the leader of the ship leaves you high and dry, and you left wondering what she was all about. As the story progresses, you’ll find yourself going through the series, with Enterprise begetting The Original Series, The Original Series begetting The Next Generation, etc.

The story isn’t all that great, but it is pretty good as you advance through the game. Though the story of this archeologist is the main story, you’ll also be handling missions that the Federation gives to you that have nothing to do with it, such as helping scientists cure a system of planets.

The story is told through a series of in-game cutscenes that show ships floating in space, and when Archer is talking, for example, it will show his ship; it isn’t flashy in the slightest, but it sets up the missions and ongoing objectives well enough. Plus, you can’t argue with the actual captains from the series doing their own voices.

SINGLE PLAYER: GAMEPLAY
At first you start out with just one ship, which would be the Enterprise incase you were unaware (shame on you non-fan). As the Enterprise (or as the Federation fleet as will soon enough happen) you’ll navigate through space, searching planets and space anomalies, doing battle with enemy ships, manning various stations, and much more. Though the bulk of the game seems to be combat related, there are some moments where the goal isn’t destroy all the enemy ships.

As the commander of your ship/fleet, you’ll be able to designate places to fly to (either point in normal mode and click or use the Back button to go to an overhead view to plan destinations better), enemies to target, change the speed at which you are heading, warp, repair systems, adjust power to systems, etc.

Legacy4.jpgThe main problem about the controls in the game isn’t so much that they are too complex (you’ll be confused in the beginning but soon get how they go), but once you get more than just your ship, it is near impossible to manually maneuver them and give them one command at a time; often times my fleet would stay positionary somewhere or do exactly what I didn’t want them to do. The best thing I found is to simply have them all follow you, so that they go wherever you go, shoot whatever you have targeted, and that way you at least know that they are partially doing what you want. The computer partner AI is also bad at not knowing when their ships are getting blown to pieces, because when that hull starts to deplete, you’ll have to manually jump to that ship (thankfully at least done easily by pressing on the designated area of the directional pad), click what you want them to fix, and then press the directional pad again in the direction of your ship to control it again.

Setting things like speed or changing your system focus is easy and done by holding the B-button down and scrolling up and down with the D-pad (speed) and holding the X-button and scrolling the thumbstick where you want to focus your attention. The default systems is set right in the middle, but you can move the cursor so that your crew focuses more on engines (speed), weapons (fire damage), or shields (better defense/heal quicker). You’ll adjust these on the fly depending on your situation, so if you need to catch something you’ll change your attention to engines, but if you find yourself in a battle you’ll move to weapons. You can also put your cursor in various positions to focus not exclusively on one detail.

Combat (and the whole game for that matter) is very, very slow. I guess this is more true to the realm of the Star Trek series, but it is so tiring to slowly crawl towards a planet a good distance away or bank and turn slowly. You can warp in many cases if you have the power, but you’ll often overshoot your target cause you don’t know how to stop, stop to short, or any other number of factors. As for combat, there isn’t too much strategy. When you get into range, you use the right trigger to fire your phasers, and you want to do medium length bursts to get the most bang for your buck, because once they are depleted they have to charge. Besides phasers, you’ve got photons as well, which you use with the left trigger by lining up the enemy ships (the closer the reticule is to the enemy the better shot you have at actually hitting them). The phasers are infinite, but you only have so many photons at your disposal for each mission.

The game was billed as a real time strategy game for some time, but it is actually pretty far from that level of gameplay. There isn’t any resource gathering, and the only micromanagement comes from trying to make your AI squads do what you want them to do. Star Trek: Legacy feels more like an arcadey flight sim set in the Star Trek universe.

Legacy2.jpgYou’ll have a lot of battles to complete and a lot of different situations to fix, but most of them involve ship-to-ship battles and escort/protection scenarios. Nobody likes escort/protection missions! This leads to the other big problem of the game – it is hard! Now, I’m one not to mind a challenge as long as it is there for a reason, but it is needlessly difficult because of stupid and unfair reasons. For starters, does four Federation fleet ships against like thirty Romulans sound fair? Nope, it doesn’t. And then we come to the checkpoints of the game…and when I say checkpoints I actually mean none, because there aren’t none. Surprise! So, say you’ve spent forty minutes trying a mission, and you end up losing when a rogue ship slipped in and took away the last ship you were escorting. Well, you can’t go back five minutes to try and right the problem. Nope, instead you have to start the WHOLE mission over. Maybe some people have forty minutes they can waste over and over, but I’m not one of them.

MULTIPLAYER: GAMEPLAY
In the game there is one mode that is essentially two. When played as a single player game, it is called Skirmish, where you can set various parameters like maps, amount of players, etc. This same mode can also be played over Live with other players, where it is then just called Multiplayer.

In Multiplayer, you can either do Death Match, which is your typical all around game scenario you see in all the other games out there, while Co-op Wave is you and people you meet up with fighting wave after wave of non-relenting enemies. During both types you can select the number of players, number of teams, what era you are playing in, fleet size, time limit, command points, number of spawns, and spawn delay. In Multiplayer you can also choose what race you want to play as with the four being The United Federation of Planets, The Klingon Empire, The Romulan Empire, and The Borg Collective.

It plays just like the normal single player campaign, so if you liked it you’ll like this, and if not you wont.

Legacy.jpgGRAPHICS
It is completely fair to say the graphics are just okay, because though the ships look pretty good (far from amazing looking though) the rest of the galaxy is pretty barren. You’ll see a lot of stars, some good looking planets and nebula, but things like explosions and debris looks pretty poor.

SOUND
Much like graphics, it technically gets the job done, but barely. The sound effects are pretty minimal, as is music, with the only standout being the voicework, since you get all five captains voicing their characters from the various series. Hearing Archer sound like Archer isn’t a big deal, but hearing William Shatner as Kirk is a blessing to Star Trek fans everywhere.

IN CONCLUSION
Star Trek: Legacy does some things well enough, but it fails to succeed at anything really. Things like insane difficulties, stupid AI, and generally slow gameplay makes this a game you definitely have to adjust to. It is okay, but that is about it. It isn’t that great, it isn’t that bad, but rather just an average game that will find more of an audience with the fans who’ll be able to overlook the shortcomings because it is a Star Trek game.

Rating: 3star
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‘Medieval II: Total War’ Review (PC)

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by on January 2, 2007 at 11:20 am

Spears To The ReadyFrom the time of the fall of the Western Roman Empire until the Age of Exploration, this time has become known over the years as the Middle Ages. During this period there was tremendous religious and social upheaval as the Roman world faded into the past and the rise of two of the world’s most influential religions occurred – those being Islam and Christianity. The dynamics of the clash of cultures between old world and new, as well as religious and cultural differences, brought about an era of constant warfare over much of Europe as well as North Africa and the Middle East. Players can now step into the role of leaders of these nations in Medieval II: Total War.

MTW2 is a turn based strategy game of the Middle Ages through the early years of the Age of Exploration. It also has a real time strategy element as players have the option to resolve combat in real time on separate battle screens that are different from the campaign map. The dual nature of the game has become a trademark of sorts to the Total War series and players can disregard the real time element if they so choose. They can also use the game simply to fight famous historical battles, so there is considerable versatility in this game system.

MTW2 is very similar in feel and layout to Rome Total War of several years ago. Players of that game will have no trouble at all moving into the medieval era of this game as it is modified to suite the new time period quite well. There are a number of changes in the game, but these are cosmetic in nature as the gameplay is virtually identical. Players should note there are some nice options and changes as well so it’s not a complete clone with a few new units and changes.

Play of the campaign game revolves around capturing 45 cities within the game time limit and thus becoming the undisputed leader of the world. You can only select from a handful of countries at first as many nations are locked from being played until you destroy them in battle. The catch is you have to take their last city to unlock those nations, so it’s not enough that you play and some nation you never fought is wiped out. You have to do the killing to play that nation.

PlagueThe nations you can select at first include the English, who have excellent ground troops and archers but weak Cavalry. Each nation has its own units that are usually similar to other nation’s forces with variations. The proper use of force combinations is very important in this game. Unlike RTW you cannot simply assemble twenty heavy cavalry into a huge wedge and destroy all on the battlefield. Against pikes and archers such tactics will destroy your army before very long and the battle will be lost.

The other at start nations include the French and Spanish as well as the Venetians. The number of cities each nation has at the start is not identical but there are many rebel controlled cities that can be captured early to quickly build your kingdom into a world power. This is not as easy as it might seem as you can be attacked at any time and from any direction and there are few safe areas of the map to play on.

A new concept of this game is each province can either be a castle or a town. You can change them back and forth for money but you lose buildings as each track can only build castle buildings in castles and town buildings in towns. This is important as towns earn more money and produce cheap infantry but castles produce cavalry and all the best military unit types. You will need to have both towns and castles in your kingdom and you can only repair damaged armies in the correct type of building, so castle units can only be repaired in castles and town units in towns.

As can be expected religion plays a huge part in the game. The Pope takes the place of the Senate from RTW and can send you on missions as well as punish and reward your faction for its actions. The Pope will also call for peace among Christian kingdoms and if you defy him he may excommunicate your king that will cause unrest in all of your provinces. You can recruit priests to convert populations and they take on another new foe – heretics. Heretics can convert your holy men as well as be destroyed by them, but defeating them and their female counterparts – the witches – will make your holy men more pious and effective.

As your holy men age and gain piety they may be elected to the College of Cardinals. This body elects Popes from one of the Cardinals and you can end up controlling a friendly Pope if you have plenty of Cardinals and people respect their abilities. A friendly Pope is a true asset, making it much safer for you, and making it easier for you to get him to declare crusades against enemies of your choosing.

Attack BoardThe Pope will call a crusade from time to time. A specific city will be the target of it and you must join the crusade or suffer disfavor in the Pope’s eyes. To join you will have to commit a leader and at least eight combat units. One they are on crusade their movement value is doubled and if they actually take the target they will get a huge combat experience bonus. But if you move this army further from the target city any turn soldiers will desert from your units as they think you lack piety.

Each unit in the game has combat and moral values and these are augmented by leaders. Leaders include the king and his relatives as well as men who can be adopted and who marry into the family. You can even send princesses out to act as ambassadors as well as marry rival leaders in other factions. If they accept you gain those leaders into your faction. Leaders are always valuable as they often increase revenue in provenances and make it very difficult to bribe units into desertion.

Each turn you can give orders to each city and castle to build units and buildings as well as recruiting new units and repairing damaged units. Most buildings take several turns to complete and you can stop construction and get your money back if you so choose. You can also sell buildings for cash if you are in economic trouble. Economics is important in this game because if you are broke you cannot recruit units or repair units nor can you construct any buildings.

Units have a fixed movement value and can only move so far each turn. During a turn you can attack any enemy army in range. Sometimes enemies will retreat before combat. Combat almost always increases the abilities of leaders. You can resolve combat quickly with an odds of winning comparison being shown to you before you try. Sometimes you can win a field battle by direct command that you would lose in the quick battle. Provinces are a little more difficult. It is always a minimum two turn process to take even undefended areas. First you must place the place under siege and build siege equipment. Each turn you have the option of assaulting or maintain the siege. Cities and Castles can only survive a fixed number of turns under siege until they surrender.

Garrisons in besieged cities will often try to break the siege if the odds are near even. Sieges can be quick resolved or can be fought on the battle map. Once the battle is resolved you have the choice of killing some, none or a lot of the population that brings different amounts of cash. This was a violent age and mass executions are usually the best options as cities and towns can experience unhappiness.

HorsebackCombat on the battle map is quite different and done in real time. You set your troops into formation and you can make tactical orders about how they move and attack. You can hide in forests and flank enemies as well as unleash flaming arrows or devastating cavalry charges. The battles are on a timer but there is plenty of time to get the job done.

Overall this is a solid game but it is resource intensive. As the game progresses it starts to lag and slow down significantly. Unless you have a top processor and lots of RAM this game will seize up on you and not play smoothly. As a sequel in the Total War series to RTW it’s a worthy addition; I could have covered quite a bit more of the details of the game like diplomacy, the Mongols and so on but I will let players themselves discover these things. A good effort overall if somewhat unrealistic at times.

Rating: 3star
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