Skip to main content


Showing posts from July, 2012

A Possible Next Step for Total War Games

I am no longer convinced that the chaotic nature of battlefields in Total War games is a deliberate reflection of real battles. Perhaps I believed back that in 2000 when the original Shogun Total War was released to rapturous praise. One of Creative Assembly's major innovations was the fact that troops no longer followed orders like blind automatons and their effectiveness was strongly affected by morale, by environmental conditions and by the leadership of their general.  When the BBC used the Rome Total War engine for their battle re-enactments in the show "Time Commanders" they emphasised this confusion further by implementing a chain of command with a generals and lieutenants. But .... 12 years and many incarnations of Total War later I think we have to accept that a major element of the confusion comes from the simplistic artificial intelligence (AI)  of Total War troops.While graphics and presentation have improved immensely over the years this vital aspect o

The curse of the Total War Tutorial Strikes again

There is a broken unit of canon in the Shogun 2 Total War advanced battle tutorial. That doesn't sound like much but they are your only artillery and you are tasked with capturing a rather imposing fortress. There are ways to take a castle without canon by scaling the walls but it is impossible to ignore this artillery detachment that shows up in your list of units. They are positioned directly in front of the gate perfectly positioned to break down the entrance. They are clearly supposed to be important because they are being guarded by some of your other troops. Yet they refuse point blank to fire a shot. In fact they won't accept any orders at all. they just sit there for the whole battle watching complacently as infantrymen are cut down trying to breach the gates those canon should be assaulting. This is not my imagination. Others have had this problem. Once again Creative Assembly demonstrates their inability to make a functioning tutorial.

Finally Steam has a competitor: Amazon

The growth of Amazon's digital download games department has produced the first serious competitor to Steam. Amazon's retail clout cannot be ignored and they generally offer some great bargains. Amazon's Summer sale for example undercuts Steam on many games. I love Steam and it is my gaming platform of choice but competition between suppliers can only be good for us customers so lets have more of it. Amazon don't have their own PC client so many of their games even register on Steam - giving the best of both worlds. I wish they would just hurry up and extend this service to those of us who live outside the US. I know it is possible to fake a US address but it feels a bit dodgy.

Dragon Age II Thoughts

Dragon Age II got a fairly luke warm reception from critics so I was content to wait over a year after release before playing it. Now after completing the main campaign I can understand where some of those criticisms come from. The original Dragon Age Origins also had flaws but those flaws could generally be put down to an exuberance of ambition while the flaws in Dragon Age II feel seem to come from a deliberately constrained budget. This is perhaps most obvious in the tiresome re-use of a few limited pieces of scenery over and over again. Despite these misgivings, I still thing Dragon Age II is a very enjoyable game and it kept me enthralled for many hours. I think it would have garnered higher review scores over all if it had not been subject to the inevitable comparisons with its superb predecessor. Anyway here are some random thoughts: Combat: Over all I liked the combat sequences in the game a lot but it took me a while to get the hang of it. Enemies come in greater numbers th

The Joy of Jumble Sales

There is something wonderfully unpredictable about second hand stuff. This morning we went to a second hand book sale that is held monthly by a local charity. The sale is well supported by donors and readers so there is always a good selection of books on offer along with a smattering of dvds and even the occasional board game. I came away from this morning's event with a book about the British Empire, a sci fi novel, a PC game (Star Wars, Empire at War) and a box set of a 1970s TV series called Flambards that I loved as a teenager and that my period drama obsessed teenage daughter wants to watch now. There is no way that a 'real' shop with its utterly predictable range of carefully displayed products could ever offer such a wonderfully serendipitous shopping experience. Online shopping should be better but it is actually worse. Despite the enormous variety of goods both new and used available online the ruthless precision of information technology greatly

An alsmot aswesome moment of game design from Dragon Age II

After many attempts my party finally overcame a tough tough boss in Dragon Age II (the Ancient Rock Wraith). Before I could take a breather and save the game however I was plunged straight into a cut scene. A demon stranding in front of the dead Boss's treasure hoard spoke to me and presented the choice of running away or fighting him for the treasure. Now lets us be clear here. One of the golden rules of game design is that there must always always be a save point immediately after every boss fight. Having to redo a tricky boss fight because you got killed by a trash mob on the way out of the lair is the suckiest piece of game design ever and any designer who does that should be fired on the spot. However this choice was cleverer than that and made for a tantalising dilemma.  Slink away safely and save my progress or risk being killed and having to replay the boss in the hope of getting the treasure. After some thought I decided to risk it and happily survived the ensuing fight