Category: Featured

Civilization 5 Game Diary: Ode to Oda Nobunaga: The Wrap-up


No High Scores

Alright, so the diary is complete. Any sense of ego about my skills as a Civ player is utterly eradicated after losing to Gandhi in just about every way possible. Gandhi? More like Bad Horse. I name him The Thoroughbred of Sin! Anyway, I promised a wrap-up post on the game with some global Civ thoughts and here it is. After the break, I’ve got this broken down by Patch Changes, Diplomacy AI, the Military AI, and an Other section. The short version is that despite some really wonderful stuff (including some rather daring changes for Civ that I respect the team immensely for having the guts to do), even patched, there’s something very forced and rigid about how the game plays. Let’s discuss…

Past Entries:
Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5

Civilization 5 Game Diary: Ode to Oda Nobunaga Part 4: Turns 301-400


No High Scores

Hey, look! It’s part 4 of the Civ 5 diary! When we left off, mighty Japan had eliminated the Babylonians and had turned its attention back to the homeland where the Americans were staking out increasing amounts of turf. The goal was to refresh military strength, drive them out and very likely pursue Washington back to his American homeland. Ahh, the best laid plans.

Before I begin, though, a couple quick housekeeping notes. Last week I said I found the Happiness numbers for AI empires to be suspect (some were highly inflated and none were flirting with below zero penalties). A couple of good folks in the comments pointed out I had no idea what I was talking about (but, you know, nicer than that), noting that building up extremely high empire happiness (30+) is eminently doable for human and AI alike. The moral? I’m bad at this. This is why I’m a Prince level player. Take any “insight” I offer with a suitably sized grain of salt. Next, after popular demand, I’ve made the screenshots after the break clickable to bring up higher rez versions. I’ve also moved the past entries index up before the break just so it’s more visible. The other bit is to note that with Deus Ex sitting on my hard drive, the chances for disruption in finishing up this series increase. I absolutely will keep it going, but if I miss next week or turn the next entry into a 50 turn summary, don’t be surprised. A lot will depend on how much time I end up waging war, which slows down progress in the game just a tad. And now, on with the show…

Past Entries:
Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

Civilization 5 Game Diary: Ode to Oda Nobunaga Part 3: Turns 201-300


No High Scores

As we begin the next 100 turns I have four cities isolated on their own continent. I have sent a pair of caravels east and west to figure out what the rest of the map looks like and who’s out there. My economy is producing a passable amount of gold (+14 per turn), I have a +5 for happiness, which gives me some cushion to found a new city (it is, however, bouyed by a pair of trade agreements). My society demographics are fairly poor, ranking no higher than fifth in any category (manufacturing, soldiers, literacy) and dead last in some (population, food, and approval). Over the next 100 turns I hope to improve on those numbers (which I’ve included after the break). I’ll have to if I hope to have any chance of actually winning. This has not been a master’s course in Civ stratEEgery…

Civilization 5 Game Diary: Ode to Oda Nobunaga Part 2: Turns 101-200


No High Scores

To recap from the first diary, as we begin the second 100 turns I have founded the empire of Japan under the rule of Oda Nobunaga. The initial intent was to spread through conquest, a goal that was derailed a bit by the lack of any other civilizations on the continent, aside from a single city-state: Tyre. Their heads being just as clunkable I left off at turn 100 having begun to mobilize my forces to attack. Let’s continue the journey…

Civilization 5 Game Diary: Ode to Oda Nobunaga Part 1: The First 100 Turns


No High Scores

With nothing new out there that I’m particularly interested in playing (Bastion excepted; moving slowly through that one), I decided it was time to take a spin through the heavily patched version of Civilization 5. After about eight months with it on the shelf, I’m not so much expecting to find a game I like better than Civ 4 (not really possible), but I’m curious to see if all these changes have been a net benefit for the game. So, what better time for a game diary! (Incidentally, I’m sorry about the lack of posting, from me, of late. My dad, my kids, and I are heading to Disney next week and setting the table at the ole day job this week has been a monster of a burden. This diary represents the first 100 turns of my game. I’ve almost got the next hundred done too, but putting a bow around that will have to wait until I’m back.)

I haven’t tried one of these types of diaries yet, so this should be an interesting experience. Expect typos and inconsistent initial-capping. I’ve broken it down into summaries of batches of turns with a heading indicating the game year and turn number of the end point for that summary. (So a “Turn 68” entry summarizes everything between the previous summary and the end of that turn.) For the game setup, I took standard world size and flow of time, used continent land masses, and set the difficulty at Prince, which is the baseline where neither the user nor the AI gets a distinct advantage. I chose to let the game assign a leader to me and will adjust my strategy based on that. And the verdict is…

When Being Bad Doesn’t Feel Good; Also, Why I’m a Lousy Role Player


No High Scores

A couple of months ago I started replaying Mass Effect 2. It had been my intention to play through it twice all along as I’ve got two completed ME1 save games in my pocket -a Paragon DudeBroShep (pictured) and Renegade FemShep (stolen, but close approximation)- that I wanted to carry forward through Mass Effect 3. Traditionally when I play an RPG, I play to be the hero. I’ve tried with games like Baldur’s Gate 2 to try an alternate path being an “evil” character, but beyond any concerns about whether or not a game makes it plausible to do so, I’ve never enjoyed being a cruel douchebag in a game. Maybe it’s conditioning from my Ultima IV – VII days, but wrecking virtual lives and kicking virtual homeless people just doesn’t offer me anything remotely satisfying as a gamer. I’ve tried it and it always sounds fun in theory -A world without rules! Let’s wreck some shit!- but the reality never meshes with it.

Then came Mass Effect’s Renegade path. Say what you will about Mass Effect and Bioware (and I’ve said plenty), but I’m not sure I’ve seen a game so excellently give the player the opportunity to be a ruthless hero and still actually be a hero rather than someone who curses at everyone for no reason but still saves the world because if they didn’t there wouldn’t be anything else to do. I liked that. I even liked playing it as a strong female character, something I traditionally don’t do when given the choice since I like to really put myself in the shoes of my little avatar and I am, at heart, entirely male. (No really. I fart at appropriate intervals, talk about sports as if I actually know something, and occasionally I sculpt my guns at the office. It’s a deep burn!) I felt like I was growing as a role playing gamer. Then I hit this one particular scene in Mass Effect 2 the other night and realized – yeah, not so much…

It’s Time to Retire the Giant Spider

No High Scores

I want you to know from the outset, this is a Very Serious Post (sort of). I’m sure the picture of a kitten with a stuffed animal does not imply seriousness, but I assure you, that kitten is quite sincere. Wake him at your peril. More to the point, there’s no way I’m putting a picture of a spider on this blog. Ever. If I ever see one here I’ll go in and delete it. Period. So when I say the following, I’m not screwing around…

Dissecting Dragon Age 2: The RPG

No High Scores

Today, for what will be my final Dissecting DA2 installment, I want to discuss Dragon Age 2 as an RPG. Hypocritically enough, here’s what I don’t want to debate: What’s an RPG? Everyone has their own criteria and nobody’s distinctly right or wrong… unless you think Half-Life is an RPG just because you play a role and it’s a game. No. A definition that makes an RPG out of Pac Man is not valid. So let’s just all agree that they generally involve some combination of characterization and dialog, stories and adventures, numbers, loot, character advancement, and occasionally a miniature giant space hamster. Let’s agree that a game can place more emphasis on some of these elements than others, even stripping a bunch of them completely out of the mix. DA2 is an RPG. It’s just not the same kind of RPG Bioware established with Origins. To you, that either makes it way more awesome and playable or a crushing disappointment.

Let’s establish another ground rule while we’re at it. For the purposes of this post, I am not making value judgments about players here. If you like DA2 more than I did, I’m not assuming it’s because you’re dumb or because you have no appreciation for old school gameplay. Likewise, let’s be clear that although I’m disappointed in the game, it’s not because I can’t understand what Bioware was trying to do with it and it’s not (necessarily) because I’m stuck in a bygone era that deserves to be put out of its misery (although I might be).

Agreed? Cool. Let’s continue…

Dissecting Dragon Age 2: The Dialog and Relationships

No High Scores

I’ve found it very difficult to assess the dialog system and character interaction in this game. Unlike say, the combat, it’s highly variable, which makes it all but impossible to pigeonhole. For every sequence I could point to as being trite and cliche, there’s another one I could hold up as insightful and compelling.

The same goes for how the idea of choice and consequence plays into the game. Dialog in a game like this has been and may always be of a circular nature, where no matter what you do or say you come back around to the same general ground. Here, though, it feels like that’s even moreso the case given that, as I noted in my story write-up for the game, Bioware has places it needs this story to go and by-gum it’s gonna make you go there.

First, though, let’s dig into the mechanics of it…