Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Tactical Insights 2013 Awards

Hi all, welcome to this years awards aka tactics games I thought were pretty good this year.

PC Non-indie

XCOM: Enemy Within takes the original game and adds new maps, resources, weapons, missions, enemies, and allies. I played a few hours on classic normal and it's basically Xcom:EU on steroids. I couldn't spot any glaring balance issues. Overall it's a good improvement that adds variety and depth that I thought was missing from the original, including the 2nd wave options that were patched in after launch.

Winner: XCOM: Enemy Within

Runner up: Battle Academy expansions, Panzer Corps: Allied Corps, Unity of Command: Black Turn

PC Indie

Battle Worlds: Kronos was the best overall indie tactics game this year for me, with some very strong contenders. It's based on the Battle Isle series of games, playing similar to Advance Wars and other WW2 style games.

Skulls of the Shogun is fun and fast paced, Just Tactics is a complex and involving PvP game, and Card Hunter is a cool D&D themed browser game.

The best tactics games this year are pretty much all on PC (with iOS/Android ports), and that isn't likely to change anytime soon. 2014 looks like a great year as well. Of course there are tons of indie tactics games on PC, too many to play and keep track of. Let me know if I missed anything good or great.

Winner: Battle Worlds: Kronos

Runner up: Skulls of the Shogun, Just Tactics, Card Hunter, Shadowrun Returns


There's way too many iOS and Android tactics games out there to keep track of and play. The three big ones this year are Panzer Corps, XCOM, and Frozen Synapse. If I missed some amazing iOS/Android game please let me know.

I'm giving the iOS/Android award to Panzer Corps for iPad this year. Xcom:EU is a strong contender but it's not the newest Enemy Within version. Frozen Synapse is apparently a flawless port and it's a great game if you like fast paced tactics PvP.

Winner: Panzer Corps for iPad

Runner Up: Xcom:EU for iOS, Frozen Synapse iOS, Frozen Synapse Android, Hero Academy Android, Great Big War Game Android


 Tactics games on PS3/360 have always been slim pickings, but this year we got both Skulls of the Shogun and the XCOM: Enemy Within expansion. I'm giving the PS3/360 award to Skulls of the Shogun. It's a fun and fast paced arcade style tactics game with a multiplayer focus, and plays well on a controller. Xcom is okay on consoles, but I recommend playing it on PC with a mouse and keyboard instead.

Winner: Skulls of the Shogun

Runner up: SRW Dark Prison, XCOM: Enemy Within, History: Legends of War


3DS was quite disappointing this year. Fire Emblem: Awakening and Project X Zone are both bad in terms of combat, balance, and level design, and loaded with fanservice to boot. I mean Fire Emblem: Heroes of Light and Shadow had such a great campaign, what happened?

The 3DS remake of Devil Survivor 2 with new content (subtitled Break Record) was delayed into 2014, which likely would've been my pick this year.

PSP/Vita's 2013 lineup is almost entirely imports, and it's similarly disappointing with mostly mediocre or forgettable games. Hopefully 2014 is better!

Winner: None

That's it this year, thanks for reading. Let me know if I didn't mention something you enjoyed.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Dec 2013 News

Happy holidays all. I'm working on an end of year awards article, to be posted in the next day or two. Owing to the huge growth in browser, indie, and iOS/Android tactics games, I'm expanding those categories while shrinking the console categories.

Most news taken from Rui Castro's Facebook page. Makes it very easy for me since I don't need to dig around for news myself. As always if I missed something or you want to comment on the news feel free to post a comment.

What have I been playing lately? Check out this playlist for SRW Dark Prison.

Valkyria Chronicles 3 for PSP has an alpha translation patch available. You'll need a VC3 Extra Edition UMD or PSN digital download to use the patch.

Panzer Corps for iPad is now available.

Super Robot Wars Z3-1 was announced for PS3 and Vita.

Battle Worlds: Kronos demo now available.

Jagged Alliance: Flashback is still getting developer updates on kickstarter.

The Banner Saga single player campaign hands on.

Retaliation: Path of War wargame alpha.

Sting is developing a Neptunia licensed SRPG.

Epic Arena for Android.

Danger Alliance: Battles for iOS.

Latest Telepath Tactics update.

More Natural Doctrine details. It's been delayed to March 19, 2014.

Natural Doctrine 2nd trailer and screenshots.

SRW 2 for NES now has a translation patch.

Heroes Rush: Tactics trailer.

Lionheart Tactics preview.

Daisenryaku Perfect has a new release date of Feb 6, 2014.

Hunted Cow's Russian Front announced.

Tahira: Echoes of the Astral Empire

Crasleen: Drums of War

Interesting article about a SFC tactics game I've never heard of called Genjuu Ryodan.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Oct/Nov 2013 News

Hi all, sorry for the late post. I've mostly been playing Hearthstone, Resogun, and Knack. Not exactly tactics games, but it's good to have some variety sometimes. Believe it or not there's still tons of tactics game news every month, especially on smart phones. Hard to keep up sometimes.

Most links taken from Rui Castro's facebook page.

Slitherine Games holiday sale until Jan 14th.

Battle Worlds: Kronos has officially launched. Congrats guys. New interview here.
XCOM: Enemy Within has launched. Haven't got around to playing it yet.

Details on Natural Doctrine for PS3/PS4/Vita. Link 2. This looks like PS4's first SRPG.

Riftforge on Indiegogo.

Skulls of the Shogun is now on iOS.

A look at Warhammer 40k Space Wolf.

New Incognita (alpha) trailer.

Siltherine has launched a new Battle Academy expansion based on fortress Metz.

Highborn Chapter 3 now on Steam.

Space Hulk seems to have cleaned up most of its bugs and issues and added two new DLC campaigns. Space Hulk for iPad on Dec 5 2013.

Unity of Command has a new campaign coming to Steam on Dec 10 called Black Turn.
Door Kickers preview.

Disgaea 5 in development.

Frozen Front 1941 Android trailer.

Latest Telepath Tactics update.

Julian Gollop's Chaos Reborn will soon be on kickstarter.

Release date for The Banner Saga's single player campaign (not the multiplayer that's already available).

Tactical RPG coverage on indierpgs.com

Rainbow Moon coming to Vita Dec 2013.

SRW Dark Prison for PS3 trailer.

Advance Wars: Days of Ruin has launched in Japan via Nintendo's rewards store. DoR never actually launched in Japan until now. I wouldn't exactly take this as a sign the series is returning, though.

Mighty Tactical Shooter trailer, an interesting realtime w/ pause shoot em up hybrid.

Strategy games on Linux game database.

Browser tactics game on Facebook called Ninja Zet.

Combat Monsters for iOS.

Aerena Clash of Champions.

Complicated operational level game Flashpoint Campaigns: Red Storm

Sardonyx Tactics, an SRPG for iOS/Android by a Korean dev.

Tank Operations: European Campaign

Conflict of Heroes: Storms of Steel

Gary Grigsby's War in the West new expansion. "Each turn lasts one week." I'm taking that statement literally.

Favela Wars, a cover based tactics shooter.

EMPIRE: The Deck Building Strategy Game

New Warhammer Quest content.

Video of a Valkyria Chronicles-like test game engine.

Dajika Tactics.

Battle Isle: Threshold Run. Not sure if this game is cancelled or not.

Ground Breakers.

March of War trailer.

Dark Quest iOS review.

Mutant Gangland indie tactics game trailer.

Arena of Heroes is still going with new patches.

Ultimate Space Commando

Partia: The Broken Lineage is released (or re-released) on iOS. It's pretty close to a Fire Emblem clone.

Civil War II: 1862 review.

Devil Survivor 2: Break Code for 3DS delayed to 2014.

Mech Mice gameplay trailer. This is a very simple tactics game for kids.

Frozen Synapse Red expansion.

Best smartphone turn based strategy games according to appcrawlr.com

Flash based tactical games on Kongregate.com

"The most hardcore android strategy games" according to Hardcoredroid

Frozen Endzone beta launch trailer.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

New Strategy Kickstarters

Here are 3 new strategy game kickstarters to check out. What do you guys think?

"Sword of the Stars: Ground Pounders is a turn-based strategy war game set in an exciting far-future science fiction universe. We've launched this project on Indiegogo because we want to make a fun beer-and-pretzels war game, complete with old school hex maps and strategic thinking."

"Storm the Gates is a new multiplayer turn-based tactical combat game set in a medieval fantasy world playable on PC, Mac, or tablet."

"Comic Conquest is a party-based tactical RPG where players battle through the halls of a comic con gone wrong, defeating enemies and collecting swag along the way. The game is an irreverent and light-hearted take on the awesomeness of comic cons."

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Sept 2013 News

Hi all, time for some news this month. I've been playing SRW MK3, completed it, and I'm still working through SRW OE. As usual lots of tactics games and not nearly enough time to play and/or write about them all!

New tactics games not mentioned before:

Natural Doctrine

Fantasy Kommander - Eukarion Wars

Disgaea 4 port for Vita

Halfway, squad based tactics

Templar Assault, another squad based game that looks quite a bit like Space Hulk

2nd Super Robot Wars Dark Prison

Unsung Story

Ultimate Space Commando

Atomic Brawl

Hero Mages

Ancient Battle: Rome

Other news, mostly taken from Rui Castro's facebook page:

Card Hunter is now live and free to play.

Incognita early alpha access. Still meaning to try this one out, it looks good.

XCOM:EU Enemy Within trailer. Enemy Within impressions at PCgamer.

Arma Tactics is coming to PC on Oct 1 2013.

Mecho Wars HD impressions.

Disgaea D2 impressions.

Telepath Tactics updates.

Watching this footage of indie game Transistor, it looks kind of tactics-based. Not really, but it looks fun.

Battle World Kronos in closed beta.

Chaos Reborn updates.

Frozen Endzone impressions.

Warhammer Quest expansion.

Frozen Synapse: Tactics footage.

And that's it for this month. Please leave a comment if there's something new Rui or I missed.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Legions of Steel: The Video Game Kickstarter announced

Legions of Steel is a classic tactical board game, and developer Studio Nyx is creating a video game adaptation for iOS/Android and PC. The kickstarter goal is a modest 25k pounds.

LoS is a squad based shooter with accuracy/movement tradeoffs, unit facing, different modes of fire, and dice rolls. Like most board games, level design is a series of corridors and square rooms. You'll be able to set different modifiers to alter the gameplay, similar to Xcom:EU's second wave options. There will be both a single player campaign and multiplayer.

Unlike the recent Space Hulk, it won't be a 100% rigid adaptation of the board game. We can expect some tweaks that make it more suitable as a video game.

It looks like a solid and well designed squad based shooter, and I appreciate indie devs stepping forward to keep the tactics genre afloat. Head over to the kickstarter to learn more.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

August 2013 News

Hi all, time for some news this month. Gamescom is here and next gen is looking really good.

PS3, 360, and Wii had almost no tactics games worth playing, but with the new indie developer focus on next gen consoles, we might see more cross ports between PC/mobile and console.

New tactics games not mentioned before on this blog:

XCOM: Enemy Within expansion

Steam Marines

Warhammer 40k: Space Wolf

Panzer General Online

Sol Heroes

New Daisenryaku game

Combat Monsters

Ground Pounders

Girl Arms

Stellar Forces

Ground Breakers

Swords & Arrows

Strategic Command 3

Dragon's Dogma Quest

Frost Wars

Other news:

Lots of links taken from Rui Castro's facebook page

Mark of the Old Ones, an action game from the developers of Just Tactics, still in early development

Enhanced Wars kickstarter

Want to donate to Telepath Tactics and get early alpha/beta builds?

Warmachine Tactics on Steam Greenlight

Battle Academy - Rommel in Normandy Released

Rainbow Skies releasing 2014 on PS3/Vita

Star Hammer Tactics remake

Mecho Wars remake

Battle Worlds: Kronos Nov 2013 release

Friday, August 16, 2013

Space Hulk Impressions

Space Hulk was released today on Steam for $30. I know little to nothing about the Warhammer universe. I've never played the board game or collected the overpriced figurines. So I would hope Space Hulk stands up on its own merits as a video game.

In the options, you can thankfully turn off the action cam/shakycam. There's an "input options" section but none of the keys can be remapped. Would be nice to be able to check the manual mid-mission.

There are both autosaves and manual saves, but sometimes the manual save option is locked. The manual doesn't mention limits on saves at all. I'm not knocking limited saves to up the difficulty, but it would be nice to know when you can and can't save.

Hard difficulty is described as normal with 4 max CP and a realtime time limit on player phase. I remember rolling 5-6 CP on hard, though, so maybe it's not working as intended. I don't mind realtime time limits in tactics games for the most part, as long as I'm not being slowed down too much by the combat speed and UI. There's an undo button that lets you spam the RNG if you get a bad roll, although it's not quite as effective on hard mode.

I cleared the 3 prologue missions and 5 main story missions on hard without fail up until mission 6, which seems bugged. The victory conditions state to wake 3 and escape with 2 + librarian, which I did and then some. I woke all terminators, escaped with 6 (1 dead), with the librarian last, and still failed. If I'm wrong feel free to correct me, but that's what the mission conditions say.

Combat speed is about as slow as you'd expect. Your marines move and turn with all the agility of a dump truck, with no way to speed things up. It gets tiring very quickly watching them shuffle around at a snails pace. And yes, the realtime timer on hard mode keeps ticking even as the marines take their sweet time shuffling into position.

Frankly, I don't accept "it's a board game" or "they're meant to be slow" as an excuse. You should be able to fast forward or skip movement/combat animations if desired. The UI is acceptable and responsive, although some of the keyboard shortcuts are on the right hand side of the keyboard, and I had to wrestle with the camera at times to move multiple units at once. It's just the combat animations that are a drag.

Not surprisingly, combat has a very "board game" feel. Combat consists of moving slowly through corridors while saving enough AP/CP to overwatch or guard against incoming hordes of grunts. Every map I played was a series of one square wide corridors with a few 3x3 rooms. There are only two enemy types in the game, a melee grunt and a larger boss sized melee grunt.

There are a few mission objectives to add some variety to the corridor shooting, but it's very repetitive overall. Most of the variety comes in the different weapons you can play with to mow down endless waves of grunts. You get 15 missions total - not a whole lot to chew on unless you plan on replaying for achievements.

Most of the enjoyment of the game will probably come during enemy phase as you watch your well placed marines mow or beat down an endless stream of hapless grunts. If you're a serious Warhammer fan and loved the board game, you'll probably get a kick out of it.

There's a multiplayer mode but it doesn't seem like it translates very well from the board game, which is a local multiplayer match involving dice, board pieces, pizza, and probably beer. You just can't translate some of the board game experience into an online video game, same with online D&D.

They really should add an option to speed up or skip animations and patch the bugs asap, though.

Update: A 1.01 patch was released that fixes the mission 6 bug and speeds up the marines a little bit.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

July 2013 News

Hi all, time for some tactics game news and stuff.

The indie scene is producing tactics games with exciting gameplay possibilities, while Japanese devs seem to be retreating into easy fanservice grinding games. Thanks for keeping the genre alive, indie devs!

New tactics games never before mentioned on this blog (I'm pretty sure, anyway):

Incognita - A “turn-based tactical espionage” game.

Immortal Empire - Immortal Empire's unique gameplay is like a cross-breed between X-Com and Dota.

1941 Frozen Front for iOS.

Dark Quest for iOS.

Hex Wars for browsers.

Batallion: Nemesis for browsers.

Legends of Eisenwald

Battleship for DS/3DS.

Comic ConQuest for browsers, iOS, and android.

Some other misc news/links: Many links taken from Rui Castro's Facebook group.

Skulls of the Shogun on Steam has now officially launched. Yes you can now play it on Windows XP and 7!

Space Hulk up for preorder on Steam.

Chroma Squad kickstarter, 22 days to go. I mentioned Chroma Squad before but the kickstarter is now up.

Tears to Tiara II screenshots.

Super Robot Wars OE screenshots and mechanics. SRW OE impressions from YJ of saint-ism.

The Little Battlers Wars screenshots.

HISTORY Legends of War released on Xbox LIVE and PlayStation Network.

Breach & Clear review at toucharcade. I guess they didn't get the "AAA" feel quite down yet.

Liege met its kickstarter goals and then some.

Disgaea 4 Returns announced for Vita.

Battle Worlds: Kronos development update #2.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Quick Super Robot Wars OE impressions

It's decent, promising, but needs a lot of work. Missions are mostly filler with few interesting scripted events. It's passable, but I'm sure they can do better, and I'd rather have quality not quantity. I hope the missions going forward are better than Ch 1.

Map size and unit counts are too small imo. I suspect the unit count and map size is hindered by the PSP's hardware. It's easy to get slowdown even with a few units on screen. I would really love to see this on Vita instead of PSP with larger maps, more units, less slowdown, etc.

The UI is missing features found in 2nd OG and Z2-2, which slows down combat speed. Menus have transition effects and load times that further slow things down. Some of this can be disabled in the options screen, but it doesn't help much. This is  disappointing after the better UI/combat speed of 2nd OG and Z2-2.

The microtransactions and repetable missions do encourage grinding, but the game still keeps track of your turn counts. It also keeps track of both your # of unique missions cleared and your total # cleared, allowing you to tell if the player has repeated a mission. With those three stats you can tell how many missions were repeated and the average turncount, which is a bit better than no stat tracking at all.

You only get one save between intermission and mission quicksave, so if you save yourself into a corner during a mission, there's no way to back out and restart a mission while keeping your previous turn count. I thought that was pretty interesting and forces you to pay a bit more attention.

+interesting NEO mechanics
+better stats tracking
+best animations of any 3D SRW
+lots of series represented

-far too many easy/boring filler missions
-slow combat speed, too many menu transition effects and load times
-missing UI features that were in 2nd OG and Z2-2
-small levels and unit counts, low difficulty, combat can feel repetitive
-microtransactions and grinding encouraged

Finished all 35 missions of Chapter 1 (including 3 skirmishes).

Conditions: No upgrades/parts equipped, low turn counts, no allies defeated
Results: 114 turns/35 out of 35 missions

Thursday, July 11, 2013

10 Things MS can improve on with Windows 8.1

Adding "boot to desktop" and "no edge shortcuts" options in Windows 8.1 was a first step, but they need to do more for desktop users. Here are 10 things MS should change or add to make it more functionally equivalent to previous versions of Windows:

1. Ability to resize the start screen so it only takes up a fraction of its current space and doesn't obscure the desktop. We should be able to make it more like a sidebar.

2. All Apps sorting is still a mess. Folders and shortcuts are stacked on top of eachother in uneven columns instead of nested, making a giant mess of shortcuts. This is far worse than the start menu for quickly eyeing and spotting a needed folder/shortcut that you don't remember the name to.

3. True context menu functionality. If I right click a shortcut I want the real deal, renaming, deleting, copying, command line properties, etc. from inside the start screen itself, not having to open a separate window in explorer.

4. Nested folders, including the nested control panel, network, favorites, recent documents/programs, etc.

5. If Metro apps are to be of any use to multitasking desktop users, they have to be able to be run in a desktop window. Aka ModernMix from Stardock. Docking is not a windows replacement and is antithetical to the idea of windows.

6. The start screen search function is still inferior to desktop/explorer windows search, yet there's no way to use explorer search by default from the start screen.

7. The new explorer ribbon and networks sidebar have functionality issues, along with other newly metro-ized dialogue boxes.

8. Bringing back Aero and other desktop/UI customization functionality that was removed would be nice. Yes Aero is superficial but I liked it.

9. Let us make the start screen background transparent, not just show a mockup of the desktop wallpaper. Give us more options for adjusting the color scheme of start screen shortcuts. Not all of us like the ugly neon red/green/purple/orange palette.

10. Let us access Metro settings from the desktop. Do I really need to dig through a fullscreen purple colored Settings app to find an option that MS failed to add a desktop/control panel equivalent to?

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

XCOM: Enemy Unknown (360/PS3/PC) Review

This is a repost of my review which was originally on extremegamer.ca.

A remake of the classic XCom PC strategy game makes its way to consoles. How does it hold up?

In XCOM: Enemy Unknown, you're tasked with fending off a global alien invasion. From your underground base you'll manage research and development, build new facilities, and shoot down enemy UFOs. You'll also send your soldiers into turn based tactical combat with aliens on the ground. The campaign progresses over several in-game months as you develop your base and combat the aliens, eventually securing victory for earth. A typical campaign on Classic difficulty lasts about 20-25 hours and 25-30 missions.

Base management is XCOM's most unique feature and helps it stand out from other turn based tactics games. You're expected to do a lot more to keep your organization running than rearrange the gear on your soldiers. With limited resources you must decide what to research and build, where to deploy fighter jets and satellites, and which countries to focus on lest they panic and leave the XCOM project. It's a delicate balancing act as allied nations tend to panic and bail out on even if you're successful during combat missions on Classic difficulty.

XCOM's combat is similar to other tactical turn based cover shooters like the Front Mission series, Jagged Alliance series, Operation Darkness, Ghost Recon: Shadow Wars, or Battle Academy. It's a simple, balanced cover shooter with a relatively limited amount of depth and variety. Depth is limited to a small number of classes, weapon types, skills, and enemy varieties. Mission objectives are almost always to kill all aliens, with the rare bomb diffusion or civilian rescue mission. You'll usually employ the same basic cover shooter strategies throughout the entire game.

Environmental destruction is rarely seen in tactics games, and XCOM does it pretty well. It's fun destroying cover and then picking off exposed aliens, or blowing up vehicles that aliens are hiding behind. The cover system meshes fairly well with the level layouts, although there are occasional line of sight glitches, door glitches, and firing through solid walls.

XCOM's combat encourages camping and defensive play. The most reliable strategy is almost always to move to the edge of the map, hide behind cover and wait for the aliens to approach you. Ranged fire fights behind cover are very risky due to RNG and the potential for injury. If your soldiers take any damage at all, they'll be undeployable for several in-game days after the mission ends, and if they die they are gone for good. Ideally you don't want to give the aliens a chance to shoot at your soldiers at all. You're given several very powerful defensive tools like Overwatch and very few offensive tools. Even on bomb diffuse or civilian rescue missions, you're still given ample time to camp out and take enemies as they approach.

On all difficulty modes, groups of enemies will typically wander aimlessly around the map until they spot one of your units. Once you're spotted, the enemy group is forced to run and hide regardless of whether it's player or enemy phase. This is good if the enemy stumbles on your units during enemy turn because they won't be able to attack on that phase.If you run into the enemy during your turn, your units may be exposed and unprepared. Trying to flank an enemy risks alerting further enemy groups.

In most of the large outdoor maps, I had to spend 1-2 turns dashing ahead before I ran into any enemy resistance at all. Since dashing ahead is quite risky, you may end up spending several turns doing nothing but moving slowly and carefully under cover with no aliens in sight, which can be very boring. If you like camping and taking out aliens as they approach, you'll probably like XCOM's combat, otherwise you'll probably get bored. It is unreasonable to call XCOM fast paced when the best and most reliable strategy involves hiding from aliens until they move close enough to be ambushed by Overwatch.

XCOM can be played on 4 difficulty modes with an optional Ironman selection. Normal difficulty is suitable for new players with little tactics or XCOM experience. I had little trouble clearing Classic difficulty with a few reloads. On Impossible difficulty, the slightest mistake or poor dice roll will consign most or all of your soldiers to an early grave.

On an Ironman game you can't reload from a previous save, so any choices you make are permanent. Ironman is an interesting idea as it cements all of the randomness and mistakes you make in stone. In addition to bad luck, bugs can creep up and ruin an ironman run, such as game hangs during enemy turn, or enemy groups spawning or teleporting on top of the player. Ironman tends to exacerbate camping strategies as you can't reload if things go badly.

Combat speed is relatively slow for a tactics game. Animations can't be sped up or skipped, and common animations like firing a weapon takes 4-5 seconds. Overwatch shots are particularly slow, because the game game animates in slow motion while they occur. I get that the developers wanted slower players to understand what was happening, but it's irritating that there's no way to skip or speed anything up.

I had several issues with the console controls and camera of XCOM, especially compared to the PC version. Console XCOM treats the fact that it's a grid based game like a dirty secret. First, there is no typical grid sized cursor used to highlight and move units, nor are there any visible grid lines. Instead, movement is accomplished with a slow, inertia laden dot that slides along the ground from the position of the unit. Second, instead of clearly displaying movement range limits along grid lines, range limits are deformed to seem like the player can move their units in a freeform manner when they cannot. All this manages to do is confuse the player as to which grid tile their unit will actually move to.

The combat camera often has issues in areas where your units are underneath a visible roof or overhead, constantly resetting your view. I also ran into distracting flickering and transparency issues when ceilings or tall buildings were involved. The 3rd person camera angle during attacks reduces visibility and slows down the combat speed. The camera always resets to a default view when targeting, making it difficult to aim at targets when height levels are involved. There is a noticable delay between switching to a unit and being able to direct their movement, which slows down combat speed and feels unresponsive.

The PC version of XCOM provides better controls in comparison. The grid is clearly visible and selectable. The mouse can be moved around the screen to issue movement commands more quickly than the sluggish analog dot. The camera scroll speed can be adjusted for faster target switching and movement commands. 3rd person camera angles during attacks can be turned off. A wide range of keyboard hotkeys make selecting abilities and targets quicker. It's a fact that the PC controls allow a player to perform their combat actions more quickly and precisely. If you just want to mess around with XCOM you should be ok with the console version, but serious tactics gamers will want the PC version.

If there's anything XCOM does really well, it's in the graphics and atmosphere. Levels are detailed and realistic, aliens look menacing and animate very well, and the environmental destruction looks great. The CG looks somewhat dated, but it does the job. Often 3D tactics games suffer in the graphics department, but it seems there was enough budget to go around for XCOM. While XCOM is obviously no Crysis, I can't think of any better looking 3D turn based tactics games out there.

XCOM's sound effects and music are fairly average. Voice acting is strictly B grade. The two accented scientists that make up the bulk of the voiced dialogue through the game can be irritating. They're either waxing philosophical about the alien invasion or delivering flat lines during combat when you run into a new alien or alien artefact. The plot is bare bones and kitschy with a predictable ending. I found the long, droning descriptions of the sci-fi aliens and technology to be uninspired. Thankfully you can skip over most of it and get back into the game.

XCom: Enemy Unknown is a decent strategy title with some unfortunate control issues on consoles. XCom's tactical combat is well balanced but encourages camping and lacks depth and variety.

+Strategic base management
+Solid turn based cover shooting
+Wide range of difficulty levels
+Destructible environments

-Poor console controls
-Most tactical missions encourage camping
-Tactical combat lacks variety and depth
-Relatively slow combat speed
-Numerous bugs and graphical glitches

Saturday, June 29, 2013

June 2013 News

E3 has come and gone with no big tactics news, but thankfully the indie scene is keeping the genre alive and well. Once again PCs, browsers, and iOS/Android are the best platforms for tactics gaming.

I've played Card Hunter for a few hours, and it's pretty entertaining. It's basically Dungeons & Dragons with all of your actions based on randomly drawn cards. Your card deck is based on your adventurer's current equipment, so you're always hunting for more powerful gear/cards. There are a few nuances to combat such as unit facing, line of sight, zone of control, terrain alteration, and a wide variety of card effects, buffs, debuffs, etc. The UI is fairly well done, although lacking keyboard shortcuts.

There's an extensive amount of content as you play through D&D inspired campaigns, leveling up your adventurers and gaining more loot. Combat feels fair and just difficult enough to nudge the average player into buffing up their adventurers with purchased gear. If you love Dungeons & Dragons this game will satisfy a serious itch. There's also a PvP scene, although I don't know how balanced or competitive it is. I saw a number of players in the closed beta lobby battling it out. I believe Card Hunter is still in closed beta at the moment but it will be going live sometime in the near future.

Holy crap, that's a lot of new tactics games:

As usual some news is sourced from Rui Castro's facebook page. You think I really find all this stuff myself?

Liege for PC/Mac and iOS/Android kickstarter. "Liege is a game that's inspired by Japanese RPG classics, chess, and others."

Warmachine: Tactics for PC and Mac announced, kickstarter forthcoming. "a turn-based, squad-level strategy game"

Infinite Tactics for browsers. "It's a blend between FF Tactics and Hero Academy with more emphasis on skill development for classes".

Cosmo Battles for iOS/Android. "Cosmo Battles is a new turn-based space strategy game"

Expeditions: Conquistador for PC. More of a HoMM/King's Quest style game than a traditional tactics game.

Ten Aces for browsers/PC. "The game emphasizes on players pure skill, since there are no random effects or chances at all"

Tactical Heroes for iOS. "Tactical Heroes is a tactical turn based strategy game with RPG and social elements."

Enhanced Wars for browsers. "Our goal is to create a multiplayer first, turn-based strategy game for modern sensibilities."

Einharjar II for browsers. It's in Japanese, no clue what it's like.

Squids: Wild West for iOS review.

Chroma Squad for iOS/Android.

Monday, May 27, 2013

May 2013 News

PC and iOS/Android are the systems to own if you love tactics games these days. Consoles continue to stall out with only a few Japanese games slated for release.

Slitherine has announced its first Warhammer licensed game, Warhammer 40,000: Armageddon. They promise a large branching campaign, complex plot, and extensive modding tools.

Super Robot Wars Masoukishin III Announced for PS3/Vita on August 22, 2013.

Super Robot Wars OE for PSP first trailer.

Super Heroine Chronicles for PS3/Vita announced.

Battle Academy: Rommel in Normandy expansion announced.

New Allied Corps screenshots.

ARMA Tactics for Tegra 3+ Android launch trailer.

Card Hunter for browsers is now in closed beta. It's "Classic fantasy adventuring meets collectible card gaming." Basically Dungeons and Dragons crossed with collectible cards, with a very D&D-esque boardgame and Dungeon Master theme. Looks pretty interesting. Check out the official site here and some impressions at Penny Arcade.

New kickstarter for Massive Chalice, apparently a tactics game.

Xenonauts going up on Steam Early Access soon.

Possible development of new Advance Wars is "a secret".

Indie/iOS Games. As always check out Rui Castro's facebook page. Too many tactics games and not enough time as usual!

Telepath Tactics continues development, check out the developer log for details.

Just Tactics is now on Steam Greenlight. Also check out this gameplay vid with the developers.

Jagged Alliance Flashback barely met their kickstarter goal, phew!

Cosmo Battles iOS

Warhammer Quest iOS

Moon Rising PC

Rebirth of Fortune 2 iOS

Hartacon Tactics PC

Glory of Generals iOS

Battle Isle remake for iOS

Tactical Clash iOS

Friday, May 10, 2013

Valkyria Chronicles Challenge Run

Valkyria Chronicles for PS3 is a rather unique mix of tactics game and TPS, where you and your opponent move your units one at a time through the map in a semi-realtime format, dodging enemy interception fire and firing back. It's semi-realtime because only one unit can actively move at a time, and enemies stop firing when you go into aiming mode. I thought it was a pretty good game with innovative combat, although not without some serious balance issues.

I haven't touched VC since 2009 when I finished my guide, but now I'm doing a second playthrough under more difficult challenge conditions, complete with video. Mainly it's a no damage taken, no upgrades, no orders, and all enemy kills run. I get an A rank in most missions, although not all of them. All videos are sped up to keep things moving along. Of course this run isn't perfect, but it's good enough all things considered.

Take a look at one of the missions below, and check out the Youtube playlist for more. You can find full commentary in each video's description.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Battle Academy PC (ver 2.1.0) Review

Battle Academy (PC, iPad) is a WW2 themed tactics game, featuring historically accurate units and real world military strategies. It's not as complex or difficult as other military tactics games like Panzer Corps or Unity of Command, but serves as a good introduction due to its relative simplicity, accessibility and its stylized comic book presentation.

Battle Academy features 3 main campaigns totaling about 30 missions, with 4 separate DLC campaigns totaling about 40. User made campaigns and missions bump the total count well over 150. There are 3 difficulty settings for players of most skill levels. Skilled players can attempt to earn secondary objectives (called achievements). Achievements are usually given for feats such as capturing all victory points, minimizing casualties, or killing a certain number of enemies.

Each mission is prefaced by a comic book panel style briefing, giving you a bit of WW2 history. Maps are colorful and well defined, making it a bit easier on the eyes than the usual dull green and brown WW2 fare.

Battles are mostly a matter of tanks, infantry, turrets, and air strikes. Mission variety is generally limited to offensive sweeps or defensive survival. In combat, Fog of War plays a very important role. Infantry can see farther than vehicles and can hide in forests, houses, and other defensive spots to scout or ambush. Line of sight also extends vertically, so elevation can be used to flank the enemy by surprise. Reaction fire is extremely powerful, and moving a unit into an unsuppressed, unscouted position is very dangerous. Instead you use suppressive fire and air bombardment to suppress enemies and move in for the kill.

You usually have a very low percent chance of destroying an enemy tank from the front, but a higher chance if you fire at their weaker sides or rear. Even if you can't destroy an enemy you can force it to surrender by lowering its morale below -100. Since you're usually outnumbered 2-4 to 1 and facing superior enemy tanks, scouting, suppressing, and flanking are paramount. The mission turn counts are relaxed enough that you can play a slow and safe strategy most of the time and still earn all of the achievements with little RNG issue.

The presence of quicksaves is disruptive to game balance. In place of scouting and flanking you can substitute reloading until you get what you want. Reloading reduces a lot of the tension and punishment of mistakes or reckless play that would otherwise be there. There are a few achievements I felt were overly reliant on the RNG, but they're thankfully very rare. In a game where RNG and FoW are so critical, the absence of a "no quicksaves" option is disappointing.

As I played through the campaigns I got a bit weary of the combat depth and repetition. Unlike most WW2 tactics games BA is grid rather than hex based, and doesn't have any sea or air units. No unit fuel or limited ammo, either. Once you have the best strategy for sweeping or defending, there isn't much else to do but go through the motions. Even with the addition of suppressive fire, reaction fire, height and LoS, etc. I felt like BA came up a bit empty in depth and challenge compared to WW2 'lite' games like Advance Wars. You can find some user made maps that feature sea units and other custom units if desired.

The UI is pretty solid. Animations can't be skipped but they are very short. There are a few UI quirks here and there but nothing too bad. Even after years of patches (playing on version 2.1.0) I ran into a few minor bugs and typos.

Overall it's a pretty solid package, although the depth and level variety might wear thin on tactics vets. Battle Academy looks good, plays well, and is a great introduction to the WW2 tactics genre.

+Good introduction to WW2 themed tactics games.
+Well balanced combat that emphasizes real life military tactics.
+Multiple difficulty levels and secondary objectives cater to a wide range of skill levels.

-Lacks an ironman option despite the importance of RNG and FoW mechanics.
-No usable air or sea units. Some missions can feel routine and repetitive.
-Some bugs, typos, and UI quirks.

Reviewers experienced: Played the first 3 non-DLC campaigns. I might review the DLC campaigns at a later date.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

April 2013 News

The developers of the new Space Hulk tactics game have launched a kickstarter for Jagged Alliance: Flashback. It's a turn based tactics game unlike the recent Jagged Alliance: Back In Action. The kickstarter goal is $350k with 29 days left, which it looks like they'll easily meet and then some.

Slitherine Games has announced Panzer Corps: Allied Corps. It's a new Allied campaign using the Panzer Corps engine. Check out a trailer for the combined Panzer Corps DLC pack. Panzer Corps is still up on Steam Greenlight, go vote for it.
Battle World: Kronos has been greenlighted on Steam and looks to be progressing well. It's up to $219k on kickstarter with 4 days to go. In game footage here.

ARMA Tactics, a squad based cover shooter set in the military simulation world of ARMA. It looks like it's exclusive to Android platforms using Nvidia's Tegra 4 processor.

Blackguards, a single player PC tactics game with a strong focus on story. In game footage here.

Tears to Tiara II for PS3 has a release date of Oct 24, 2013 in Japan.

Devil Survivor 2: Break Record for 3DS has a release date of July 11, 2013 in Japan.

Project X Zone for 3DS has a release date June 25, 2013 in NA. It looks like a mediocre tactics game only worth playing if you like the fanservice.

Jeanne D'Arc developer Level 5 is working on a new SRPG called The Little Battlers Wars. Looks to be aimed at kids.

Super Robot Wars OE for PSP update at Famitsu.

Final Fantasy Tactics S for iOS and Android.

Tons of Indie Games, mostly sourced from Rui Castro's facebook group:

If you want your indie tactics game featured in more detail feel free to contact me.

Telepath Tactics' kickstarter has concluded at 41k. Check out a recent update and the developer's log. It's up on Steam Greenlight as well.

Just Tactics has a twitch livestream where they'll be broadcasting matches. Check their blog for updates.

March of War, a military themed cover shooter.

Arena of Heroes, a free to play online PvP tactics game.

Bootsnake Tactics, a "hybrid of a sandbox RPG with tactical turn based combat"

Wizard Ops Tactics, an iOS/Android async multiplayer game.

Combat Monsters, an iOS async multiplayer tactics game.

Dungeon Dashers, a dungeon crawler w/ multiple heroes.

Dark Quest, a dungeon crawler w/ multiple heroes.

Gravia Tactics, a new indie tactics game in development.

Leviathan: Warships, a WEGO (think Frozen Synapse) naval combat tactics game.

Kingturn RPG, an SRPG for Android and iOS.

Open Panzer, a free browser based remake of Panzer General 2.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Telepath Tactics Kickstarter at $35,000, 3 days left

Telepath Tactics, the PC SRPG with a promising campaign and map editor, has reached a monumental $35,000. That's a big deal for an indie tactics game. There's 3 days left to kickstart if you're interested, and $10 gets you the finished game. At $38,000 developer Craig Stern will slave away for us to design an "Extra Branch in the Main Campaign".

I've had the opportunity to try out the level editor and it's impressive so far. The GUI is packed with features and keyboard shortcuts. There are already extensive script editing features with more to come. I had a hard time thinking of things I wouldn't be able to script into a level if I wanted to.

I've also tried a few alpha test campaign maps and they look pretty well designed with an interesting story to follow. The campaign is planned to have multiple difficulty levels and a scoring system, always a plus imo. You can download a demo from the official website. Tactics games aren't dead, they're just getting indie-er.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Determining skill in single player games

When determining skill in a single player turn based tactics game, the problem and playthrough conditions/goal(s), amount of time, and number of people working on the solution should be equal or roughly equal to get an accurate result. It's no different than a standardized test or math competition.

The playing field is also imbalanced when one person has access to another person's strategies - the equivalent of peeking at someones notes or answers during a test. You can't accurately determine skill at solving a problem based on uneven playthroughs with varying goals, times, and number of people involved.

Yes you can take your general knowledge of how to solve problems into a test. But you won't know the questions or solutions beforehand - you have to figure those out in a specific amount of time, with a certain number of people, etc. In a tactics game most of the skill involved is figuring out the solution to a problem. Once you know the optimal solution to an Advance Wars mission, there isn't much left to do but move on to another. The question is how long it took you to figure it out

There is no inherent assumption that all players are given infinite time or infinite knowledge. In any competitive activity there are players who have invested a huge amount of time and have learned much of their knowledge from other people. But if someone can get similar results in that activity while investing relatively less time and with relatively less outside knowledge, you'd be able to make a tentative argument that they're more skilled. This is more in the realm of multiplayer games where more time is invested and more strategies are shared between players.

Those are some of the biggest problems with trying to determine skill with any highly imbalanced, ambigious RPG. It's easy to trivialize the difficulty of such games by using highly imbalanced features, so some players take it on themselves to do restricted runs as a band-aid balance fix or to make the playthrough more difficult. This unevens the playing field and makes it harder for players to compare because everyone is doing a different sort of run.

This leads to elitism where someone does a restricted run (no this, no that, no leveling, no upgrades, final destination, etc.), then claims it's proof they're better than other people who haven't bothered attempting such a run. A balanced game with a useful scoring system that accurately measures skill is preferable.

A good personal example of this is my Fire Emblem 10 guide. I played the import Japanese version for a couple weeks, completely blind without any data, charts, or advice from others, then finished up my guide and moved on. Little did I know that years later there were Fire Emblem players calling me bad, terrible, etc. because my strategies were somewhat outdated by that point.

So you've got one person who did a blind run over 2-3 weeks, and an entire fanbase of people who collaborated over the game over several years with the knowledge of every last byte on the game disc. Does that sound like a good way to determine who was more skilled? Of course not. The same situation has happened in other fanbases as well. No amount of name calling and pointing to incomplete metrics will change these facts.

Unfortunately my game guides, which I write to help other people, make me a big target for gamers who think my runs were played under conditions they disliked, or the conditions weren't difficult enough, or that I'm terrible at video games, etc. No good deed goes unpunished, especially when video game forumgoers are involved.

In other news, I've been playing through Battle Academy lately. It's a pretty good WW2 tactics game, although a few of the secondary objectives (called achievements) are somewhat RNG-ish. I don't often play tactics games that feature realistic military tactics like suppressive fire, soldier morale, height based line of sight, and air support. It doesn't have supply lines and fuel/ammo, so it's a bit less hardcore than a game like Panzer Corps or Unity of Command, but it's a good introduction to the sub-genre of WW2 tactics games. Take a look at a semi-playthrough log and screenshots.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Windows 8 is a portent of what to expect with Xbox Durango

Microsoft is facing some troubled times lately, both with Windows 8 and their upcoming console Durango. Windows 8 was a response to the market shift from PCs to touchscreen mobile devices. MS sees the PC market continuing to shrink and doesn't mind stepping on a few PC desktop users toes to try to make people familiar with its mobile touch interface. It could be a panicked market reaction, or hubris, or a mix of both.

Either way, Windows 8 has failed by most metrics. Even pushing as hard as they can with $15 upgrades and forcing OEMs into Win 8 licenses, Win 8 marketshare is awful. "At similar points in their roll-outs, Vista had a desktop market share of 4.52% compared to Windows 8's share of 2.67%." Win 8 tablets and laptops are being heavily discounted while the rare remaining Win 7 laptops are becoming more expensive.  The latest news is grim for Windows 8 sales.

This is a real e-book.

Despite this, MS seems to be forging ahead with its poorly designed, hideously colored touchscreen/desktop mash up with the next Windows 8.1 update. It would not be a stretch to envision a future edition of Windows without a proper desktop altogether. Eventually Windows OS will likely become an online service like Office 365 with a yearly subscription and mandatory updates. It will also follow the walled garden approach of only allowing approved apps, basically destroying the open hardware/software model outside of Linux. Steam is already trying to get onto Linux ahead of the locked down, online service Windows endgame.

So that brings us to MS's next big console codenamed Durango, likely called Xbox Loop. Just like Windows 8 was a reaction to shrinking PC marketshare, Xbox Loop seems to be a reaction to the market shift from dedicated gaming consoles that play single purchase games to convergence devices that offer games and other content as a service. In other words, the smartphone gaming and service model brought to consoles.

I think they'll go for a subsidized smartphone model where the console is very cheap (about $100) and tied to a 3 yr service contract. Xbox Live will add live streaming of some popular TV content to make it more "cable box" like. The bet is that they can squeeze more money out of fewer customers with a subscription model than they can out of offline gamers that buy at most a few $59.99 games a year and some DLC. It could end up being very profitable compared to the traditional console model.

It remains to be seen how far MS will take their mandatory online feature. Will they go for a Steam model where you only need to be online to activate a game once? Or will it be like Diablo 3 or SimCity where any disconnect or server issue will lead to an interruption? The former might be tolerable to those with spotty or infrequent internet, while the latter would be a PR disaster.

Steam has been a very reliable service, but it wouldn't be as respected if the servers were constantly going down and keeping people from their games. And of course, the Xbox Loop will be a brick if MS ever takes its servers down or refuses your console's connection. The rumored mandatory Kinect is another anti-consumer move that will be dressed up in embarrassing marketspeak.

As we've seen with Windows 8, MS doesn't mind cutting off its nose to spite its face. If they're going to fail due to traditional PCs and consoles dying off, they're going to fail spectacularly and upset a lot of their established customers in the process. Grab your popcorn because MS's reveal will likely be more delusional and entertaining than anything you'll be able to play on launch day.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Telepath Tactics 28k Kickstarter goal reached

Telepath Tactics is an indie SRPG for PC, Windows, and Linux with lots of combat features and a campaign/level/script editor. It's up to 28k on Kickstarter with 10 days to go. You can download a demo from the official site. I've given the demo a try and while I have a few issues with it, it's a promising first start. Telepath Tactics could be one of the better PC SRPGs to come along in quite some time. It will have both a single player campaign and multiplayer.

Telepath Tactics' editor should be one of the better SRPG editors out there. There are a few good PC tactics game editors like Panzer Corps or Battle Academy, but those are straight up tactics games and not SRPGs. The developer Craig Stern is friendly and receptive to feedback, just what we like in indie devs.

 Check out a video of the map editor below:

Friday, March 29, 2013

Just Tactics 1.0 Release and Promotion

Just Tactics, a 1v1 multiplayer tactics game featuring deck building and lots of teleporters, has officially launched with version 1.0 for Windows and Linux. You can try Just Tactics for free which includes ranked or unranked quickmatches against other players. If you like it you can pay $19.99 for the full featured version with expanded matchmaking features and more customization.

Much of Just Tactics strategy revolves around teleporters to shuttle your units quickly from one end of the map to the other. The underlying mechanics are simple enough, but the many different unit types, card decks, and teleporters add plenty of strategic depth. Take a look at the trailer below.

To celebrate Just Tactics official release, the developers are holding a promotion. Once 200,000 people have bought the full version of Just Tactics, the first 10,000 buyers will each receive $100 USD.

Here's a pretty detailed description of Just Tactics from developer Hit the Sticks' press release.

"Just Tactics is a turn-based, 1v1, online multiplayer, tactical war game involving squad based combat, deck building, and a pretty awesome teleporter-based movement mechanic.  A Deployment (army) is comprised of three squads and a customizable deck of cards.  The free version of the game allows you to play with a Default Deployment.  Paying for the game unlocks the Deployment Editor which unlocks every unit and every card and gives you the ability to customize your Deployments.

Unlike many strategy games, there is no dice rolling or similar random mechanic in Just Tactics.  Movement and Unit versus Unit Combat is deterministic, governed by stats such as Action Points (AP) and Hit Points (HP).  Uncertainty is achieved via the Deck/Card system.  Controlling Satellite Uplinks on the map allows players to draw Cards from their Decks.  Other than choosing which player will take the first turn, the only randomness/luck in the game is the shuffle of the Deck.  However, a player could build their entire Deck out of the same Card, which would leave literally nothing to chance.  Just Tactics has a great balance between determinism, which allows the most skilled player to win, and uncertainty, "does my opponent really have another hard counter in their hand?"

Beyond your deck, are your customizable Squads.  Right now, Just Tactics has 26 Units to choose from: artillery, tanks, heavy infantry, spotters, cloaked snipers, support units, and swarms of infantry teleporting into close combat.  How you compose your Squads is up to you.

Teleporters don't have an attack, but they are probably the most important units in the game.  One teleporter on its own is basically useless.  Put two teleporters within range of each other and they form a wormhole that other units can travel through.  You can network many teleporters together, allowing you to assault, reinforce and retreat with ease.  When you have a vast teleporter network spread across the map, the match is typically going well for you.  When the enemy has cut your teleporter network apart and your Squads are isolated and relatively immobile, the match is usually going badly.

Just Tactics is now at Version 1.0.0, however the game's developers plan to continue adding content (more units, more cards, etc.) to the game.  As Just Tactics gains more content, the price of the game will rise, which creates an incentive to purchase it now.  When the price of the game rises, anyone that has already purchased the game is still good to go, you do not have to pay for downloadable content."

Thursday, March 28, 2013

March 2013 News #2

Battle Academy: Operation Husky DLC is now available.

New XCOM content teased. Will it be less buggy and slow than XCOM: EU? We'll see.

XCOM:EU announced for Android and iOS.

Panzer Corps will be getting a DLC Pack consisting of all 10 separate expansions.

Gameplay demo of Space Hulk, an upcoming tactics game for PC. Check out some impressions here.

SD Gundam G Generation Frontier announced for iOS and Android. The first G Gen iOS game was called SD G Gen Touch.

Details on Devil Survivor 2: Break Code. New content, new story elements, etc.

Super Robot Wars OE announced for PSP. It's a download-only SRW that will be released as episodic content. Check the official site here.

Indie Corner sourced from Rui Castro's Facebook page.

Battle World: Kronos interview.

Frozen Endzone interview.

Just Tactics 1.0 released. New Just Tactics trailer.

Breach & Clear hands on demo. Looks like a sluggish version of Frozen Synapse.

Telepath Tactics Kickstarter has made 25k with 19 days to go.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Battle World: Kronos Kickstarter Success

Battle World: Kronos has met its $120k funding goal on kickstarter, with about 30 days to go to reach stretch goals. It's a promising looking tactics game inspired by the Battle Isle or Advance Wars series. That means military units and deterministic mechanics. Visit the official site and check out some screenshots below.

Friday, March 15, 2013

March 2013 News

Hi all, news incoming.

Panzer Corps is up on Steam Greenlight. Go vote for it to get it on Steam.

Slitherine links with Games Workshop on new licensing agreement. They'll be working on a new Warhammer themed tactics game I'd guess. Sounds good!

History: Legends of War has been released for PC, PS3, and 360. This is a port of the PSP game Legends of War: Patton's Campaign. It's a squad based tactics game with gridless movement.

Frozen Synapse developers have announced a new game, Frozen Endzone. It's a WEGO tactics game similar to Frozen Synapse, except with a sports theme. It's also up on Steam Greenlight for voting.

Civilization V: Brave New World expansion pack announced.

XCOM: Enemy Unknown coming to the Mac

Details on Rainbow Skies, sequel to Rainbow Moon on PS3/Vita

As expected, Devil Survivor 2: Break Code for 3DS has been announced.

Info on Panzer Corps final DLC update, Panzer Corps ’45 West. Of course, there are still tons of user made maps, campaigns, and mods to try out.

Unity of Command: Red Turn DLC

More Super Robot Wars UX Scans.

Dogs of War Online, a F2P tactics game for PC. Interview here.

Indie Corner, mostly sourced from Rui Castro's Facebook page.

Battle Worlds Kronos kickstarter. Looks to be heavily influenced by Battle Isle and Advance Wars. Currently at 40k out of 120k with 38 days remaining.

Breach & Clear, a new squad based tactics game for Android and iOS

Telepath Tactics now has a Kickstarter up to fund further development.

More updates to Diesel Tactics' Blog

More updates to Chaos Chronicles

Xenonauts news updates.

Enemy, a voxel based tactics game with lots of game physics.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Is it time to give up on JP tactics games?

I was disappointed with the recent Fire Emblem: Awakening. Terribly balanced, bland map design, grinding encouraged, and absurd amounts of fanservice. That got me thinking about what formerly good tactics series have either died, gone MIA, or fallen by the wayside. I won't bother discussing tactics series that have always been that way (FFT, TO, Disgaea, other NIS or Idea Factory games, etc.)

Front Mission: DEAD

Front Mission was a good turn based cover shooter series that succumbed to poor sales and Square's financial troubles. Read this article on the definitive demise of the series, namely that "with pretty much the whole Front Mission team gone from Square Enix, this will also likely be the end of Front Mission, for good".

Military Madness: DEAD

Hudsonsoft went out of business in 2012. Their Military Madness (or Nectaris) releases on consoles and iOS a few years ago got almost no attention. Konami now owns the rights to the series and it will likely stay buried for good.

Shining Force and Valkyria Chronicles: MIA

We haven't seen a new Shining Force tactics game in over a decade. Shining Force III was the series' last big hurrah and given Sega's recent financial issues, it's not likely they're going to take a big risk on a tactics game revival. In fact, Sega seems determined to wipe Shining Force from the public consciousness because they don't want people to confuse it with the newer non-tactics games in the Shining series. Talk about burning your bridges.

Valkyria Chronicles is another Sega franchise with slim chances of reappearing. Recall the 2012 Sega reshuffle when they shut down several offices and made a press release stating their new focus on "strong and balanced IP such as Sonic, Total War, Football Manager and the Aliens franchise" as a result of "extraordinary losses". Also note that Sega refused to fund Bayonetta 2's development or publishing costs.

Even if we happen to see VC4 announced for Vita, what are the chances it will be localized? Not likely given how badly Vita is doing outside Japan.

Advance Wars: MIA

The original Advance Wars had a great start and inspired many western tactics developers and gamers, but later series entries stumbled in sales, especially in Japan. Days of Ruin was a last ditch attempt to appeal to the western market and it didn't do as well as Nintendo wanted, apparently. I say apparently because the Japanese localization (subtitle The Lost Light) was cancelled despite being fully translated in Japanese at the time of NA release.

Nintendo is struggling financially with the Wii U bleeding money and 3DS barely hanging on against smartphones and tablets. I'd love to see a new Advance Wars (assuming it's not turned into a mess like Awakening), but it's looking increasingly unlikely.

Fire Emblem: Forsaken?

Fire Emblem: Awakening feels more like an Idea Factory game such as the deplorably bad Record of Agarest War series than a traditional Fire Emblem. It has abandoned efforts towards balanced and well designed tactical combat with varied and interesting level design. Forget about depth utilization or scoring systems, it's apparently just another fanservice laden, broken sandbox grind SRPG series now.

It's too bad Fire Emblem's combat and level design went from great (FE12) to mediocre at best (FE13) in the span of a single game. To say nothing of the Idea Factory level fanservice permeating the whole experience. Unfortunately its sales success means we're likely to see more of the same in the future. If we see another Fire Emblem with combat as good as Blazing Sword or Heroes of Light and Shadow, I'd be surprised.

Daisenryaku: Forsaken?

Daisenryaku is a long running realistic military tactics series for consoles, typically Japanese only. Unfortunately we've been seeing a lot less Daisenryaku and a lot more of their "Moe Moe" series, which simplifies the game mechanics and challenge while being about as perverse as a console game can get. There is a new Daisenryaku Perfect for 360 and PS3 scheduled for release, but it has faced multiple delays even while Moe Moes continue to be cranked out for every console imaginable. It would not be a surprise if Daisenryaku Perfect was the last we ever see of the series, assuming they release it at all.

So what tactics games are left from Japanese developers that still has some semblance of strategy to it? It's not all doom and gloom if you're willing to import and learn Japanese. Regardless, I see myself increasingly playing western developed tactics games from now on, such as the great games published by Slitherine.

Namco-Bandai: Still going

Namco-Bandai is one of the few Japanese developers with good long running tactics series. Their two main series are Super Robot Wars and SD Gundam G Generation. Both of these series ride on the strength of their IPs. Although they both have some fanservice during the battle animation cut-ins, it's nowhere near Idea Factory or FE: Awakening's perversity. They still tend to be on the easier or casual side of tactics games outside of challenge runs.

Sting: Still going

Sting has carved out a niche for themselves as developers of tactics games with unique and somewhat complex combat mechanics. This includes the Union series, Knights in the Nightmare, and Gungnir. While quite a lot of their recent games have not been localized, they still seem to be active for now, although they have partnered with Idea Factory - who knows where that will lead. But who knows, they might disappear at any moment, much like the developer Success (Operation Darkness, Rondo of Swords, Drone Tactics, etc.)

Devil Survivor: Still going

Devil Survivor is a relatively new tactics game series, but it's a welcome one as it's both a pretty good tactics game and commercially successful with surprisingly little fanservice.

So what do you think? Did I miss any good Japanese series or tactics game developers dead or alive?