Crusader Kings II
Crusader Kings II was released by Paradox Interactive back in February of 2012. This is a sequel to Crusader Kings which was released in 2004. This is a grand strategy game set in the Middle Ages (spanning from 1066 right through to 1453).
The game has no set story, instead it allows you to set your own goals and aspirations. You simply pick your starting character, these range from someone as low as a Duke to someone as important as an emperor.
For the most part you will be trying to gain more land and become a more powerful influence in the world. Throughout your reign you can attempt to gain more land and titles in a variety of ways. Waging war is the most obvious way, however it isn’t always possible – you must have a valid reason for attacking someone e.g. a claim on the lands they own or a crusade on behalf of your religion. Other ways include marrying your children off to other land owners, fabricating claims through the use of your council etc.
While conquering lands is a major part of the game there is also so much more going on. As a ruler you must learn to keep your vassals content, ensuring they do not plot against you or even revolt against you. You will also be able to start plots of your own, these range from the reassignment of lands to other lords or even murder plots to remove characters you simply don’t like.
This is a vast and very time consuming game (my previous game took around 100 hours to finish) and it does have a considerable learning curve initially for player unfamiliar with these style of games (There are some wonderful tutorial videos on the Steam workshop page) . That being said I whole heartedly recommend this game, it is a fantastic experience with wonderful visuals and a great soundtrack.
Far Cry 3
Far Cry 3 was released in November of 2012 by Ubisoft. As its name would suggest this is the third instalment in the Far Cry series but it has no clear link in story to the previous instalments.
The story revolves around Jason Brody who was vacationing with a group of friends in Bangkok when they are captured by a group of pirates lead by a madman named Vaas. It is up to Jason to free his friends from captivity and kill Vass.
The gameplay is divided between the main story missions and a variety of side missions such as hunting, assassination contracts and challenges. Hunting is quite an interesting feature in the game, you use it to gather skins and pelt which are then crafted into better equipment which allows you to carry more ammo or medicine etc.
There is also a number of camps on the island which you must liberate from the pirates. You gain experience point regardless of how you do this but will gain more by taking out the camp without raising any alarms or altering anyone to your presence. I personally loved taking the stealthy approach and based my weapon load out around this.
There are a huge selection of weapons in this game ranging from pistols and SMGs right up to bows and flamethrowers. You can customize all these weapons to include better ammo capacity, better sights etc.
In terms of graphics Far Cry 3 is simply stunning – the tropical island setting is really lush with life making it a delight to travel by walking, driving or even hang-gliding.
I really have to recommend this game, it’s a fantastic addition to the Far Cry series taking on-board the mistakes of Far Cry 2 and creating a very fun game.
Sam & Max: Save the World
Sam & Max Save the World was released back in 2006 by Telltale Games (now better known for titles such as ‘The Walking Dead’ and ‘The Wolf among us’). This was one of the first instances of episodic game distribution from Telltale and is a method they still use till this day.
You play as Sam & Max – freelance police, who are hired to investigate a number of incidents involving mind control occurring in their local area. The episodes contain many of the same characters and locations such as Bosco’s convenience store and Sybil’s office.
The gameplay is your standard point and click adventure game – you will be presented with an obstacle to overcome and will need to find a solution to it using the items in your inventory. The solutions will not always be obvious in this game, often seeming ludicrous at times but it is all part of this series charm.
The first few episodes can feel rather empty or basic at times but it does improve as you progress further through the episodes. I’ve currently finished the first season of Sam & Max but have another two ready to go, hopefully these will be good too.
Overall this game is a decent point and click adventure game and I’m sure it was good for the time but it can’t hold a candle to some of Telltale’s more recent achievements in my opinion.
Prison Architect was released back in September 2012 as an alpha build – it has since been added to the steam store, receiving new updates every few weeks.
As the name suggests the game revolves around you designing and running a prison from scratch. You must set up all the facilities that prisoners that need – such as a yard, cell blocks, canteens and offices for your staff.
As you progress further you will need to add more buildings such as a laundry room, workshops and visitor centres. You have to balance access to these rooms efficiently using a regime which all inmates will follow.
Balancing your regime is more of a challenge than it first seems as you want to satisfy the needs of your prisoners (or else they will riot and run wild) but also ensure you don’t get a reputation for being too soft on prisoners (which increases the chances of prisoners re-offending).
There is no real ending to this game as it stands, so the main goal at the moment is to make your prison profitable and then sell it on (you can use the funds from your sold prison to make a new one). You can make money in a variety of ways such as completing grants and exporting products made in your workshop.
One final feature worth talking about is the contraband. Prisoners will constantly attempt to steal items such as drugs and tools from workshops, medical wards and even from visitor centres. It’s up to you to minimize the access to these contraband items through the use of items such as metal detectors and guard dogs.
Overall it’s a very fun little game, plenty of content in it at the moment and constantly getting more content added to it. This is one to check out for sure, it is bound to be coming up in the steam summer sales, so keep your eyes peeled!
47 Ronin was released in December of 2013, a fantasy adventure set during medieval Japan, based (partly) on the real events of the 47 Ronin (masterless Samurai) who take it upon themselves to avenged their fallen master and regain their honour. The cast for the most part comprises entirely of Japanese actors – aside from Keanu Reeves and a handful of insignificant characters.
As I mentioned above the above these Ronin are looking for revenge against an evil lord who killed their master and is holding his daughter hostage until he can marry her. Then we have Keanu playing Kai a half-breed with a dark past who joins their quest. The plot is rather thin to put it mildly, there are a few other side plots involving Kai’s past but that is about the height of it.
What the film lacks in plot is makes up for in visuals, with a lot of well-crafted sets and scenes throughout – ranging from a traditional Japanese town, right through to lush forests. The CGI is respectably I feel, there is only so much you can do with it and to be fair they pulled off some of the shots with mystical creatures as well as anyone could.
I wanted to like this film I truly did as it had so much potential however its average at best, minimal plot, some pretty wooden action and overall it felt far too western at times for my tastes (for a samurai film). If you want a good samurai epic then you should check out 13 Assassins or for something a bit more tongue and cheek, try Kung Fu Hustle.
Banished is a recently released medieval City-Builder/Survival game, created by Shining Rock Software (Consisting on one guy). The game has done very well for itself since its release managing to stay the top seller on steam for well over a week fighting off competition for the tenacious DayZ and Rust.
When you start a game of banished you are given a handful of citizens, a small stock of supplies such as wood, fuel, stone and iron – that is all you have to begin construction of your city. How you progress from this point is entirely up to you, prioritising tasks and ensuring your citizens are both happy and healthy. Sounds easy enough right? Wrong!
Banished is a very brutal game and you will fail multiple times before getting anywhere with it. My first two towns died out within a matter of hours because I failed to bring in enough food to support the number of Citizens had and my third nearly failed because of a lack of housing for the population to grow sufficiently. Just when you think your town is doing well it will find some way to ruin you – be it through starvation due to a bad harvest or god forbid a hurricane which can decimate your poor town.
There are multiple types of buildings you can create to help you survive such as crop fields, pastures, hospitals, wood cutters and herbalists. Each of these buildings will need to be manned by a worker in order to produce anything useful. Therefore the prioritization of resources and workers becomes very important throughout your play forcing you to balance out your workforce in or to survive.
I have reached a someone respectable population of about 200 hundred people in my current town, granted there were times where my people were dying and freezing to death but I’ve learnt some useful techniques and strategies for playing banished which I’d like to share with you.
- Food Glorious Food – The first time you lose a town will more than likely be due to a lack of food. While it may seem like a great idea to start using crop fields from the outset, it isn’t an efficient method for the early game. Instead use Gathers and Hunters which should provide more than enough food until you reach a bigger population.
- Finding Balance – You really need to learn to micromanage with Banished, for instance during winter farmers are of no use to you because there are no crops to grow. So during winter you may want to reassign your farmers to gathers or hunters to keep the income of food at a respectable level.
- A New Generation – People need ample housing before they can begin to reproduce, so plan out the amount of houses you want carefully, you don’t want to cause too much of a population boom. This can cause real problems as your people demand more food, tools and clothing – so make sure you’re ready for them!
- Education is key – Education in Banished is very important, it allows your citizens to become more efficient in the work that they do. It can sometimes double to output from a job compared to an uneducated worker. Build your schools early to ensure that your population is educated from an early stage.
Banished is a very fun but an extremely challenging experience, one which I myself have enjoyed very much so. After 20 hours on the game I feel like I might take a small break from it as my latest town is on the verge of collapsing in upon itself but I’ll be sure to start a new game soon.
This game is not for everyone by any means, those who hate to micro-manage items will find it very infuriating but there are those out there who will love it too. I can certainly recommend it.