The Rocky Balboa-esque boxing theme and pixel art are what got me to try out Punch Club, a management game from Lazy Bear Studios. On the surface, the idea of moving direct control away from the fighting seems like a bad one, but it’s satisfying to see your training pay off as your character punches, kicks, and blocks on his own. Outside the ring, it’s all about efficient management of time and money – you want to spend each day training and sparring to improve your chances of winning, but your character also has to buy food and gym membership, which means taking on construction and pizza delivery jobs to make ends meet. Making things more difficult is the fact that your three main stats – strength, agility, and stamina – actually drop a little bit at the end of each day. Just like in real life, it takes sustained work to keep your physique in good shape.
The biggest problem with Punch Club is the skill system. When I played the game, its three main build paths were very imbalanced. Initially, I went with a strength build, called the Way of the Bear, and found halfway through that I had hit a wall against the agile opponents whom the game heavily favors. The intent behind strength characters is that they get fewer opportunities to punch, but can end matches quickly if they can string some hits together. In practice, unless your agility stat is comparable to your opponent’s, you probably won’t land a hit at all. The Way of the Tiger, on the other hand, allows you to focus solely on agility and a little bit of stamina, learning counterattacks that use your opponent’s strength against them. The supposed weakness of agility – damage potential – ends up not feeling like a handicap at all. And the stamina-focused Way of the Turtle is apparently even harder to succeed with than Bear.
It’s a shame, because the interplay between the resource management and fighting works well fundamentally. If you were given more interesting and well-balanced choices in terms of designing your character and his (or even her?) story, it could have found a permanent home on my phone (where I think this game is best-suited). As it is, one time through is enough for me.
Winter is here, and with it the next release of Tarn Adams’ Dwarf Fortress has arrived.
Dwarf Fortress 0.42.01 continues to build upon the “living world” features added in last year’s major release, allowing players even more interaction with the larger world outside their fort (or lone adventurer). Troupes, mercenaries, refugees, scholars, and more will now visit your fort. Social interaction will also play a larger role so inns, taverns, and temples have been introduced as social areas. Libraries have also been added for more bookish individuals, collecting the various written works and technological advancements of the world.
To aid in the new mingling scene, the inhabitants of your world will now compose poetry, music, and dance forms. While these are currently only described in text, the Dwarf Fortress community has already begun to provide some fantastic real-world interpretations from those descriptions (Listen:The Superior Rampart; Listen:The Grasping Oaks). Of course, these features are also available in the game’s Adventure Mode. Rather than running a fort, players can instead lead a performing troupe on a world tour!
For a more complete changelog, and to download the latest version of Dwarf Fortress, head on over to Bay 12 Games.
Version 1.0 of Kerbal Space Program, the premier game from independent Mexican studio Squad, has achieved liftoff.
Kerbal Space Program has been under development now for over four years, and this final update before leaving Early Access brings with it some of the most requested features yet. The aerodynamics model has been completely overhauled, making atmospheric flight more realistic – and more challenging, with the addition of re-entry heat. Additionally, interplanetary prospecting and off-world mining have also been added, allowing players to establish mining colonies to gather and process the mysterious “ore” into fuel. And the kerbals that will be stationed on those colonies will no longer all be unisexual: Female kerbals have arrived. Finally, in addition to a collection of new and polished spaceship parts, Squad has also gone through and added interiors to every manned part, allowing players to take a more immersive look through the eyes of their brave kerbal explorers.
Whether you are a veteran kerbonaut, or you’ve never played the game, right now is a fantastic time to check out Kerbal Space Program. Even as version 1.0 leaves the launch pad, Squad is busy planning future updates, with more features, more learning, and more exploration.
I’ve been wildly interested in ants since an early age, and have often wished that there were more games that allowed you to take control of an ant colony, such as the classic SimAnt, or 2008’s Ant Rush. So I was especially excited earlier today, when Formicarium crawled onto Kickstarter.
Billing itself as a strategic simulation game, Formicarium allows players to “become the invisible mind guiding an ant-hive through difficulties and dangers.” Drawing inspiration from other titles such as Dwarf Fortress and The Sims, the game aims to simulate a procedurally-evolving world where insects and arachnids struggle to survive the environment, and each other – with the player guiding their own colony of ants.
Similar to Dwarf Fortress, the colonies or “hives” of Formicarium will consist of multiple “cross-section” levels, extending downwards from the surface. Chambers will need to be dug, food will need to be stored, and new ants will need to be be birthed. All the time, the player will need to keep an eye out for potential dangers from the surface, including antlions, spiders, bees and wasps, and more.
Formicarium is being created by a team of just two people. The development side of this duo is Konrad Feiler, whose history as a mathematician and software engineer is being put to good use developing a procedural world, filled with all manner of bugs behaving in realistic manners. On the design side, artist Dorota Orlof has provided an incredibly eye-catching style, bringing each of the game’s “characters” to life through a clean and colorful approach.
So far, the duo has a working prototype of Formicarium, and they are now moving to bring the project to full fruition as a game on both mobile devices as well as PC and Mac. To reach that goal, the Formicarium Kickstarter campaign is aiming to raise just a modest $20,000. If the idea of being the overseer of a virtual ant colony – struggling to survive in a procedurally-simulated world of competition and danger – appeals to you, head on over to the Kickstarter page for Formicarium to learn more and pledge. You can also keep an eye on the game’s website and Twitter for more news, and even vote for it over on Steam Greenlight.
Indie studio Ctytivo Games has just launched the Kickstarter campaign for their first big project, The Universim.
The Universim certainly aims high, promising to be a god game (presented by Crytivo Games as a “planet-management” game) in which you are tasked with guiding a race from the stone age to the space age. The player will achieve this primarily through indirect action, such as influencing the technological aspirations of the race, deciding where they will found their cities, and even when wars will be fought and for how long (and to what end). Once the player’s race has developed sufficiently, they will take to the stars in search of other planets that they may colonize. Each planet will have different environments and present different challenges to habitation, but the player will continue to guide their race in their efforts to become a universe-spanning empire.
Although the game seems to verge on being a Molyneux-ian pipe dream, the gameplay trailer unveiled today with the Kickstarter campaign shows that they have already completed a significant amount of the game. With Kickstarter, they are now hoping to raise the final funds to complete the game, setting the goal at $320,000. Beyond that, they have laid out potential stretch goals that they hope to be able to implement, such as planet and building editors and a multiplayer mode.
To see more and keep up with The Universim, head on over to the game’s website and TIGForums devlog. If you like what you see and want to help fund the game through to completion, be sure to stop by the game’s Kickstarter page and pledge.
Village-building simulator Banished was recently released on Steam, GOG, and the Humble Store.
From the website: In this city-building strategy game, you control a group of exiled travelers who decide to restart their lives in a new land. They have only the clothes on their backs and a cart filled with supplies from their homeland. The objective of the game is to keep the population alive and grow it into a successful culture. Options for feeding the people include hunting and gathering, agriculture, trade, and fishing. However, sustainable practices must be considered to survive in the long term.
Boldly making its presence known last night during the Spike VGX Awards, No Man’s Sky is the latest project by indie studio Hello Games (Joe Danger), and the latest title to emerge in the apparent Space-Sim Revival of 2013. Alongside the gorgeous combat of Enemy Starfighter and the trade-and-fleet management of Limit Theory, No Man’s Sky looks to focus primarily on planetary discovery and exploration, offering the player endless solar systems of procedurally-generated planets that they can seamlessly land on and explore by foot.
I’m getting strong Noctis vibes from the concept and trailer, and I’m pleased to see yet another amazing-looking space sim coming from the indie community. It’s a good time to game.
Currently slated for a release in the spring of 2014, Clockwork Empires aims to provide players with a Dwarf Fortress-like experience with a Victorian-steampunk flavor. As citizens of “The Empire,” your colonists will each have unique personal histories, leading them to interact with one another, form social class structures, and work various jobs within the colony. Thrown into the mix for good measure will be elements of Lovecraftian cosmic horror as fishmen may attack from the sea or your citizens may become cultists under the spell of eldritch gods. Gaslamp Games plans to incorporate native support for “successive multiplayer” and save-game sharing, hopefully offering plenty of opportunities for Boatmurdered-like stories to emerge.
The 0.22 update for Kerbal Space Program is scheduled to launch tomorrow, and will bring with it a new research-and-development system.
This update will be the first version to allow players access to the structured “Campaign” mode, which attempts to provide more structured gameplay than the current “Sandbox” mode. Players will now be able to collect scientific data on their various missions, which can then be used to progress along a branched tech tree and unlock new, more advanced parts. The game’s development studio, Squad, has plans to add even more of a “tycoon-like” structure to the game in future updates, with a part-cost system and procedurally-generated missions.
Back in December of 2012, my radar lit up when a prototype gameplay video of something called Enemy Starfighter hit the web. I hadn’t heard of it before then, but I immediately knew it was something I had been waiting my life for: a dogfighting space simulator with an integrated “planning phase” akin to that seen in early Rainbow Six games. Select the ships for the job, customize their weapon loadouts, designate their targets, and begin the assault – then jump into the cockpit of the wing leader and engage the enemy directly. It all seemed like a game I would dream up while playing Wing Commander or Homeworld when I was younger, and it was real.
Today, Enemy Starfighter has come quite a way from that original prototype video. It is still far from complete, but developer Mike Tipul has seen fit to show us its current state in a new teaser trailer and several new screenshots over at the game’s website. Enemy Starfighter is the debut game for Tipul’s one-man dev studio Maurader Interactive, and he has been working on it non-stop for the past year. Both the intense dogfighting and the beautiful planning phase that we saw in the original video have been polished, and larger ships have been unveiled, including capital ships, carriers, and even beam frigates.
For the finished project, Tipul is planning to inject a bit of a roguelike element into the game by means of a procedurally-generated campaign. Players will be tasked with leading the Empire’s Harbinger Fleet from system to system, crushing any and all Federation forces that lie in your way. Every time you start a new campaign, the game will generate a new galaxy for you to conquer with different systems, different enemy forces, different missions, and – hopefully – different emergent stories for you to tell of how you crushed the Federation beneath your heel.