The will to conquer is the first condition of victory

Originally posted at GameSpot on May 6, 2008

The title of this post comes to you from Ferdinand Foch (1851-1929), a French soldier, military theorist, and writer.)

If you listen very closely, you can hear it; the sound of armor clashing against spear and sword…muskets being fired over the hills…lasers tearing into the passing ship’s hull (yes, I know there’s no sound in space, but just go with it)…all these sounds assault your ears and force you to live in that moment – whether you like it or not.

This sort of scenario is what I think of when strategy games come to mind – playing on a historical or futuristic landscape where you have the power to conquer vast amounts of land and glory, or get crushed to dust by rival factions.

There are a number of quality strategy games out there that all have the same problem – I don’t own them yet. Usually by lack of hardware (which is directly related to lack of money), these games have eluded my strategy-loving power-seeking hands up to the present.

But be that as it may, I still think on them from time to time. I think of worlds to conquer, armies to raise, and mass plans to put into effect…all while laughing maniacally, of course.

My laughter aside, I’ve felt the need to go over some strategy games I’m really looking forward to playing someday, in no particular order:

Medieval II: Total War

This one’s an easy choice, since Shogun: Total War brought me into the strategy genre. Real-time battles, hundreds of soldiers fighting in 3-D, a great score and top-down map, etc., the list goes on and on of what that game did right. I expect nothing less from Medieval II, and fact – I want more! I’ve seen the game in action, and with updated graphics and more options, I’m planning on having this game blow me away.

World in Conflict

Another game I’ve seen in action, the first strategy game (that I’ve seen) to take place in the modern world – and it looks amazing. From what I could tell, the pace is just right (fast and furious), and the story one I’ll want to see to the end. A nuclear bomb? Well, that’s just icing on the cake.

Europa Universalis III

Now we start the games I haven’t played. The Europa series of games looks to me to be a different animal then I’m used to – more on the “map strategy” and less on the battles. I’m assuming diplomacy and trade will come stronger in this game, and with the end-goal not necessarily being world domination it should be an interesting ride.

Europa Universalis III also has detailed info in spades, which is half of the fun for me. RPG detail is boring and tedious, but for some reason I can’t get enough in a strategy game.

Galactic Civilizations II: Dread Lords

I don’t have much experience when it comes to strategy in space – but I want to get some! I own Star Trek: Armada, but nothing on the epic scale this game promises to be. As I’ve mentioned, I like my strategy big – and nothing is bigger then the final frontier. Of course, I’ll want the two expansion packs – Dark Avatar and Twilight of the Arnor. If you’re going to do something, do it right.

Sins of a Solar Empire

This is the new kid on the block, having come out this past February. People talk about the death of PC gaming, but until a game like this can come out on console I hope it’s not an imminent death.

Star Wars: Empire at War

There have been some attempts at this in the past (Star Wars Rebellion), but it seems Lucas Arts got it right this time. Seems to have a very cinematic quality about it, and that’s a big seller in my book when it comes to Star Wars. The Forces of Corruption expansion looks very good as well, but I’ll get the most fun out of playing the Empire. Ever since Tie Fighter, I’ve been on their side.

Stronghold Crusader Extreme

Looking at this series, the reviews are either hit-or-miss on GameSpot – but here’s hoping the latest will be a hit. Sieges, knights, and warfare in huge medieval settings – all the right ingredients to make a great game – now it just has to come out!

So there you have it – a list of strategy games full of worlds just begging for me to rule them.

And some day. . . I will!

(Fadeout to more maniacal laughter)

Post tenebras lux

Cerebrations of the past tense

Originally posted at GameSpot on November 19, 2007

(Or, recent thoughts I’ve been meaning to get in here but haven’t had the time.)

These are not in order of importance, just simply how they’ve come into my brain:

Able to see World in Conflict over at my brother-in-law’s house a few weeks ago – the game was just as amazing as the GameSpot review made it out to be. The first thing that struck me was the graphics – stunning. The detail of the terrain, weather effects, lighting, and the smoothness at which the game ran was fantastic. True, he has a state-of-the-art PC that can handle the heavy load – but even at a lower resolution things would have looked great. The level he showed me also had some fun game play, which kept things moving with good voice acting and high drama. All that being said, it was a treat to see what’s currently out there as far as high-quality RTS.

On that same PC, he booted up Medieval II: Total War for me as well. Shogun Total War is one of my all-time favorite games, and I eventually hope to own the entire Total War series. Until then, however, this small taste will have to tide me over. Simply put, I can’t wait. It’s worth noting, however, that this game (from what I could tell) was more of what I was used to playing Shogun, just beefed up and expanded. That’s not to take away from the game at all – in fact, I see it as a compliment. I hope to spend many future hours with Medieval II and the whole series.

A few memories of old Tom Clancy games. My brother-in-law had the gold edition of the first Rainbow Six – a title I used to own – with all his other games. I never could really get into that game. If I had to nail it down, it probably was because I wasn’t that good at it. All the planning, all the map points, all the trial and error – it just didn’t add up to a fun experience. It came down to me executing a well-laid plan – and then doing just as well without said plan and shooting anything that moved.

I had to take back Band of Brothers. I appreciate the need to be realistic, but having the characters swear at least once every sentence made me pop and game out and take it right back to the store. To be fair, the first sequence in the game drops you right in the middle of a battle, and there’s no doubt a heavy amount of loud swearing would be taking place in that situation. Also, to be fair, I’m a father now – and I can’t have that crap on in the background. It’s too bad – I was really looking forward to getting into that game for awhile.

Currently playing Lord of the Rings: The Third Age, and I’m stuck at the second battle against Gothmog. I know I’ll re-visit this thought when I finish the game, but it’s not really “fun” to play. I love the source material, but that’s what carries me through. On its own, I would have stopped playing a while ago. There are some perks that stick out, and I’m glad I’ve been able to see them: 1.) Fighting (or playing as) the Balrog was sweet. His animation is done extremely well; I really feel like he’s a powerful enemy when he steps up to the plate. 2.) A sense of “being there.” Oh, it doesn’t happen a lot in the game – but when the sunset hits the wall of Helm’s Deep just right, I feel like I’m in the movie. 3.) Since the characters are the same models used in The Two Towers and Return of the King, I feel like I’m playing with weather-worn friends when they show up. I played as those characters for hours on the other games, so there’s a “welcome back” feeling when they join my party for a battle in The Third Age.

Unfortunately, a strong feeling of being boxed in by the game, big differences in difficulty from one second to the next, and a weak story (with Tolkien’s literature as a backdrop? How could they have a weak story?!) crush any of these small joys from making it a fun game. Will I ever finish it? Yes. Will I ever play it again? No.

We had a couple over this past Friday and they brought the Wii. I’ve been able to play the Wii at several friends’ houses’ and I really enjoy the console. I mean, you’ve got to love a gaming system that makes bowling that fun. My wife and I were also able to introduce them to Halo, and that was a lot of fun as well. I love that moment when someone says, “Well, we better get going…what time is it…12:40!? Just one of the many reasons why I enjoy this form of entertainment.

Warmed up Fable: The Lost Chapters and Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty: Substance this past weekend. Not really playing, just looking around. I wandered around a little in Fable, and watched the cut scenes from MGS2. I don’t have the time to play these games through again at this point, but a little remembrance tour always makes me feel good.

Post tenebras lux