Civilization VI

Civilization VI Fall 2017 Update Will Expand Religion

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Civilization VI is getting a large Fall 2017 Update soon. In a blog-style news post Firaxis developer Sarah Darney explains what’s being worked on, including a large focus on religion.

“We heard your requests for a deeper overall experience – and took that to heart with revamped religious combat,” writes Darney. “Religious units can now exert Zone of Control and receive Flank and Support bonuses in religious combat. Meanwhile, the Guru religious support unit can heal nearby religious units. Finally, the Religion Lens has been overhauled to improve overall usability and readability. You’ll also find UI touches, such as religion indicators on unit flags, to remove all guesswork on where a unit’s allegiance lies.”

New content is also being added to the religion side of Civ 6, including two new Pantheons, and new Founder, Follower, Enhancer, and Worship Beliefs. These new beliefs will unlock two new religious buildings as well as a new religious unit, the warrior monk.

In addition to religion, the Fall 2017 Update will also improve the much-maligned AI as well as the interface. In particular the AI’s use of oceans and navies is being improved, which will hopefully make water-covered maps as challenging as land maps – a frequent balance issue in Civ games.

For UI changes, menus have been made more moddable and the Diplomacy screen more intuitive.

There’s more coming to the Fall 2017 Update, but for now Firaxis isn’t even providing a release date yet. The previous big update, the Summer 2017 Update, also worked on AI improvements.

Civilization VI released almost exactly one year ago for PC (read our review). It was well-received by critics and fans, though notably feels like a step down compared to Civilization V’s several years worth of updates, patches, and expansions. Civ 5 still maintains more active players, though both games are within the top 30 games played on Steam.

 

Battletech

Tactical Mech Strategy Game BattleTech Delayed to 2018

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Publisher Paradox Interactive and developer Harebrained Schemes announced that Battletech has been delayed to early 2018. The tactical strategy game was initially planned for release near the end of this year. It’s coming to Windows, Mac, and Linux.

“Throughout development our Backers have been clear: ‘Don’t rush it, just make it great.’ and we have taken that advice to heart,” said Jordan Weisman, CEO of Harebrained Schemes and creator of BattleTech. “HBS, Paradox, and our Backers all share a deeply personal attachment to this project and we are committed to delivering a game that not only meets the high expectations of our Backers and fans but introduces BattleTech to a new generation of players.”

“The feedback and enthusiasm from Beta participants has shown us just how great BattleTech can be, and rushing development to fit a timeline would be a disservice,” said Fredrik Wester, CEO of Paradox Interactive. “We believe in the Harebrained Schemes team, and want them to give the game the time and attention they need to create a turn-based game worthy of the name.”

BattleTech is currently hosting a Kickstarter Backers-only closed beta. A new update is hitting this week with various improvements based on feedback, with PVP coming soon. The Backer Beta will last for another month. Interested mech fans can become a Late Backer by pre-ordering the game and gaining access. You’ll have to pre-order the $60 version to gain beta access, however.

Harebrained Schemes launched the Kickstarter campaign for BattleTech in 2015. They raised over $2.7 million from over 41,000 backers. Harebrained Schemes’ Weisman is the original creator of the tabletop games and MechWarrior series. BattleTech was originally planned for an early 2017 release. Harebrained Schemes has since partnered with Paradox to help publish BattleTech.

Harebrained Schemes previously found indie success on Kickstarter by reviving the Shadowrun brand. Three Shadowrun titles were released over the last several years, all of which I can personally recommend.

BattleTech should arrive early 2018 for PC (Windows, Mac, Linux). A specific release date has not yet been given.

 

Fire Emblem

Fire Emblem Echoes: Shadows of Valentia Review

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Available On: Nintendo 3DS

The Fire Emblem series has exploded in the last few years. The tactical role-playing series has been around since the 90s, but only in the U.S. since 2003. With Fire Emblem Echoes: Shadows of Valentia we’re already getting our third Fire Emblem game for the Nintendo 3DS – but it’s actually a remake of 1992’s Fire Emblem Gaiden.

Playing the remake of the second game in the storied franchise with updated sprites, 3D dungeon crawls, polished voice acting, and anime cutscenes is an incredible treat for any Fire Emblem fan.
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We Have Reached a Golden Age of Space Strategy Games

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Not long ago the strategy genre was struggling when it came to the final frontier. Fans of endlessly replayable strategy games and galactic empires frequently cite 1996’s Master of Orion II as the pinnacle of the sub-genre. Nearly two decades have gone by without much competition.

Fast-forward to 2017 and suddenly we have a myriad of excellent space games all vying for your star-faring gaze. If you want to smash spaceships together, you’ve got Homeworld Remastered. Fancy jumping into the cockpit and playing Choose Your Own Adventure in Space? Try Elite: Dangerous or Rebel Galaxy. Want to learn the actual real-world science behind the space program? Hello Kerbal Space Program! And I haven’t even mentioned Eve Online, which remains one of the most popular and successful Massively Multiplayer Online games without the word Warcraft in its title.

But what if you want to take a few steps back and guide an entire galactic empire to victory? The time has finally come for my beloved strategy genre, or “4X” (Explore, Expand, Exploit, Exterminate) to take its place among the stars.

Between 2015’s Galactic Civilizations III, last year’s Stellaris, and the recently released Endless Space 2, I’m officially declaring it the Golden Age of Space Strategy Games. But which one is right for you, O Conquistador of the Cosmos?

Galactic Civilizations III

The Galactic Civilizations series, published and developed by Stardock Entertainment, was one of the few games proudly carrying the torch of 4X space games through the dark ages of the 2000s. Galactic Civilizations III had a rocky launch two years ago but has since received some quality updates and well-received DLC.

Galactic Civilizations III is the most board game-like of the space strategy games in its visual style. Planetary maps and even space itself are represented by hex grids. You can dive into micromanaging adjacency bonuses on each planet, or let a governor run things and turn your attention to those pesky space orcs next door.

A short story-based campaign is included, which features humanity facing off against the Drengin Empire. The visuals boast some fairly high production values, with fully animated leaders and voice acting. It adds a rich amount of personality to each playthrough, whether in the campaign or through scenarios with dozens of potential players.

GalCiv 3’s best component is the ship builder. It features one of the most comprehensive spaceship creators since Spore, letting you resize pieces and slide them around to create unique designs. It’s easy to lose hours designing your dream vessels with the LEGO-like builder. Unfortunately the actual space combat is little more than watching ships pew-pew each other (a problem every space 4X game seems to suffer from).

Play Galactic Civilizations III If: You’re a galactic warlord who loves customizing and tinkering with spaceships.

Stellaris

If you’re coming from a Civilization background, Stellaris will feel completely alien, and not just because you can play as a fungus hive-mind if you want to. Stellaris is developed by Paradox, who carved out a successful niche with their Grand Strategy titles. Their games eschew standard turn-based gameplay for a real-time experience that demands constant attention as you fly through epochs of technological advancement, explore anomalies, and colonize distant star systems.

Stellaris has the weakest visual presentation but comes with a large amount of customization for building your own galactic race, from totalitarian lizards to honorable space-birds. Diplomacy comes down to your chosen ethics and technology choices, and combat largely relies on who can muster a bigger fleet to throw more spaceships at their opponent.

What makes Stellaris compelling is the emergent narratives that crop up, such as uplifting a young race on a promising planet only to have them rebel against you. Or catching a scientist being worshiped as a god in another planet, complete with pyramids.

If you haven’t played any of Paradox’s Grand Strategy games, Stellaris can be an intimidating game to get into, with a steep learning curve. But it’s a rewarding experience that is absolutely worth discovering for fans of space strategy games.

Play Stellaris If: Taking turns is for suckers and you want to shape the entire history of your galactic empire.

Endless Space 2

endless space 2

Hopefully you’ve already read my review and know that Endless Space 2 is a great game. It brings everything that made Amplitude Studios’ Endless Legend a breath of fresh air back where it belongs – in space!

Endless Space 2 may be the easiest game of the bunch to get into, even if you haven’t played Amplitude’s previous Endless games. It’s the most Civ-like of the bunch as each unit in your diverse population produces food, industry, science, and dust to empower your military, build structures, research new technology, and grease the right palms.

Unlike Civ choosing your empire doesn’t just provide a few bonuses, it completely changes the way you play, from space vampires who drain planets to a race of genetic clones and tree-people. Each faction has dramatically different play-styles, political affiliations, and narrative arcs. RPG-like quests demand you make choices that affect your entire empire, letting you customize your game both mechanically and narratively.

I’ve never played a game that let me enjoy politics as much as Endless Space 2. The political system is built into every area of the game, making politics an integral and compelling feature.

Play Endless Space 2 If: You want to run your galaxy with a hefty dose of resource management and RPG elements.