A thoughtful and personal exploration of games

Posts tagged “Civilization V

Multiplay FTW

This past weekend I spent some time playing some Diablo III and Civilization V with my friends. Hands down, some of the most fun I’ve had is with my crazy friends in games.

In Diablo III, the goal was to get a friend’s Demon Hunter some better equipment. The legendaries just kept dropping for him and we were laughing about how he was getting all the items and the Witch Doctor wasn’t getting any.

In Civilization V, I started a game with one friend where he’s America and I’m Venice. Then with him and two other friends, we did another game (he’s still America, I’m still Venice, but my other friends are Shoshone and Polynesia).

These days it’s not as easy as I’d like it to schedule time with my friends. Everyone’s getting or is already married, there’s kids, jobs, other friends. Everything’s perfectly understandable. This is, I think, one of the few times in the last several years where we’ve been able to arrange four player gaming for hours on end. It was really great and a lot more fun than I remember.

Sure, you can play these games alone, but sometimes, playing with friends just blows single player out of the water.

Until next time!

– Thomas

P.S. “The better part of one’s life consists of his friendships.” – Abraham Lincoln

Chilling Out with Games

With the end of the semester right around the corner (finals are next week for me), I’ve been looking all over to find games that help me just chill out. This past week has been Borderlands (the first one) and Civilization V (with a couple of honorable showings from a few other games that I’ll mention).

Aside from the initial PhysX issues Borderlands was having, it’s been running pretty flawlessly. I’ve made my way through the first zone of quests and I’m in the Dahl Headlands (I think that’s what it’s called). I’m having fun, but comparatively speaking to Borderlands 2, the game feels way emptier than I expected. I think this is a side effect of Borderlands 2 having fully voice acted quests. I wish I was kidding, but Borderlands is a much quieter game as a result of less chatter resulting from quests.

I never thought I’d admit it, but I miss Claptrap and his wub wub dubstep.


Anyway, Civilization V! I beat a game as Venice the other day through pure tourism. It was a marathon style game, I was on Settler difficulty (hey, I’m here to have fun, not get smeared against the wall), and it took me until around 2004 to beat the game. I’m looking forward to trying other civs (I’ve got several different multiplayer games with friends going on so I can do that) but right now my favorite game changers are Venice and the Shoshone. I have yet to get to the end of the tech tree these days, but I’m hoping to push through with a game as the Babylonians.

Now, the other games I’ve dabbled in.

Awesomenauts. They just introduced the new character Penny Fox. Normally (for deeply personal reasons) I despise foxes, but this one’s perfectly fine with me (maybe I’m moving on). Penny is extremely fun to play and is remarkably potent on the battlefield. I think she may supplant Ayla as my favorite, but it’s hard to say at this point since I’ve only played her on Practice mode with two bars of AI difficulty (it goes from 0 to 5). Yesterday I played through the entire list of characters, reinforcing my perspectives on several of them and surprising myself with how easy some of them are to play (Leon is definitely fun to play, Froggy G not so much, Voltar and Genji are equally irritating to me but I can win, Ted McPain is so cool). Further, the addition of the new announcer SUSI (Specialized Universal Secretary Interface) adds another level of humor to the game that I really enjoy. When swapping announcers, I noticed that there’s four, but three of them appear to sound the same. I wonder what’s up with that.

Redshirt. I tried this out for a few hours last night. Apparently developed by a single person, Redshirt is a Star Trek parody displayed through a Facebook parody called “Spacebook”. You manipulate social media and events to move through the careers available on the station, ultimately culminating in becoming the Commander’s personal assistant (or something). There’s two modes, Story and Endless, where Story seems to end after about 155 days or so. It’s not a bad game and it’s charming in its deceptively simple approach. I especially enjoy the away missions where people get murdered (often my entire team but me because I sacrificed someone on the other team) and as a result a lot of job openings pop up. One thing that happened last night was I accidentally got someone to ask for a relationship with me, but because I was seeking a relationship with another character (one of the little bonus things you can do) I turned him down. Ever since I turned him down, I worked to get him to like me again and then he asked me for a relationship again. Well, rather than deal with that, an away mission popped up and I had to choose someone to die instead of me. I chose him and didn’t feel an ounce of remorse. UNWANTED AFFECTION DEALT WITH IN A PROFESSIONAL MANNER!

Also, side thing: I JUST figured out what was causing the power issues on my computer. Turns out there’s this thing called “Desktop Mode” on my battery icon and I have it on. It takes about 2 weeks to kick in and then it causes the system to ignore the charger while it depletes down to 50% and then it automatically charges back up. This is how it extends the life of the battery. Tragically, as a guy who does a lot of gaming, this can be perceived as an actual issue (two video cards suck up a lot of juice and the computer goes into some sort of panic mode). Whenever I reset the power, it treated it as resetting the Desktop Mode, so every two weeks it would kick in again and ignore the power supply. I have a choice now: cut off the desktop mode and just accept that my battery won’t last that long, or leave it in and just understand this will happen every now and again. I’ll figure it out.

Until next time!

– Thomas

P.S. Enjoy this video showcasing Penny Fox from Awesomenauts!

It’s a Brave New World – Civilization V

Since I got back from PAX East, I’d been hankering to play some Civ V. I wasn’t really able to until Friday rolled around (I blame school, friends, and Diablo 3 in that order).

The main reason I was so into playing some Civ V was because of several conversations I’d had last Saturday at the 2K Community Party regarding what I was missing from the awesome Brave New World DLC. I was told about the new culture victory, the tourism mechanic, and how Venice only got one city but could buy city states… and I was sold.

Why does playing Venice appeal to me? I don’t really know. Maybe it’s the simplicity of approach. Only one city, but I can have some pseudo cities? That’s not too bad. I get double the trade routes? Sounds good to me!

I purchased the Civ V Complete collection on Steam and immediately started a duel game as Venice and fell in love. The trick I use to get through the game is all about maximizing productivity and not pissing anyone off. Go for producing buildings, get a religion that emphasizes growth, have a few units on hand to protect boundaries and to poke around, horde wonders, and go for a lot of trade. It’s weird to see all this land and these lovely locations I’d expand to, but I just can’t get there. I have to take a particular mental approach in the tune of “it’s okay, that’s not how Venice operates”.

Speaking of trade, I encountered Pocatello of the Shoshone and became fascinated. My only encounters with them had been kind of neutral until I sat down and started a game as them. They’re my second favorite now mainly because of everything they do. If you build a city, they get bonus tiles (normal cities start with 7, the one you have the city in and the 6 immediate surrounding tiles, while I noticed the Shoshone get an extra 7 or so). Further, their scout has the strength of a warrior and can choose the item you get from ancient ruins. I can’t emphasize that enough: THEY CHOOSE THE FREE THING. There’s some wiggle there as you can’t just get free settlers all the time everywhere, but every few ruins you can hit the same bonus. They’re a pleasure to play and their music… incredible.

They certainly added a lot of new civilizations to the game, along with new units, buildings, wonders, some civilization specific tile improvements, I don’t think they added any new technologies (but I could be wrong), and they added several new mechanics to the game. Culture got a once over to allow for Tourism and “great works”, espionage got introduced to the game along with spies (England gets a bonus spy which makes them especially dangerous around the Renaissance period), and faith was introduced along with customizable religions (I really appreciate this part).

I know I’m late to the party (by about a year) but with Beyond Earth just a few months away, I really wanted to get some Civ V mechanisms under my belt.

See, now I want to play another game of Civ.

I’m going to go do that.

Until next time!

– Thomas

P.S. “Ah, Venice.” – Henry “Indiana” Jones, Jr. in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (he says it 3 times during the movie, on arrival in Venice, coming out of the sewer, and right before having fun with the Fraulein).

P.P.S. I also recently got the original Borderlands game and all its DLC. After fighting with the game for a couple of hours, I finally got it working. Had to install some PhysX stuff that wasn’t provided with the game. Irritating as all hell. It certainly feels older than Borderlands 2.


This weekend I spent a good amount of time playing Civilization V. I had been playing Civ IV for so long and the other day I look at the icon on my desktop, went “meh” and then resolved to learn how to play Civ V. I’m on my third duel-sized map and I feel like I’m really getting the hang of the basics of the game.

I started out as Elizabeth of England because I really like the +2 to all naval movement ability and I intentionally started on a tiny islands map to use that. Well, I’ve only been playing on tiny islands maps, but mainly to help me learn how to play without getting screwed over by neighbors. That game wound up with me winning by sheer domination because battleships. Yes, I love the battleships in this game. I love battleships in EVERY game, but they just look so good here.

I moved on to playing Napoleon of France in order to secure a cultural victory. The policy tracks I finished out were Liberty, Tradition, Honor, Piety, and Freedom. It was very satisfying and I really enjoy the policy tracks since they can address many issues or playstyle approaches.

Currently I’m playing Washington of America and I’m working toward a technological victory and maybe a diplomatic (if it works out on a duel-map).

Yesterday, however, I started playing Rift. I saw an ad online somewhere and poked at Steam, found it was on there, and I was amazed at how quickly it downloaded and was ready to play. Seriously, modern marvel this Internet thing. Anyway, I made a mage with a summoner build (there’s these pre-builds that are recommended for starting in on the game as well as for noobs like me). The magic in the game is very satisfying. Plenty of flash and plenty of bang. After several hours of pretty enjoyable play, I switched to a Cleric with a single-target healing build. Lots of fun again. I love clerics who are predominantly ranged with their abilities. Very nice.

Prior to calling it a night last night, I did quick runs on other character builds: the two available warrior builds (sword and board and two-handing) and two rogue builds (huntsman and dervish). I very much prefer the rogue to the warrior in this game (so far) as they just go so much faster. That said, melee combat appears fairly boring as I couldn’t tell the difference between the three baseline attacks each of my “souls” gave me in both classes. I guess I just prefer the flashy nature of spells, but damn, the archery in this game is top notch. Seriously was doubting my choice of going with a rifle after enjoying the bow for so long, but found the rifles just as satisfying. I experienced my first deaths last night as a ranged rogue and wow, that was an experience.

Anyway, I don’t know what else I’m going to do in Rift. I think I’m going to keep my cleric (maybe) or maybe I’ll delete everything and just pick a build I really like and then try to stick to it. All I know is that Rift really hits it out of the park regarding all sorts of mechanics: ranged combat, spells, graphics, and fishing. Crafting is okay by me, as well as all the overland travel (I’m pretty familiar with walking everywhere thanks to having played Lord of the Rings Online).

I’m looking forward to more Rift and Civ V!

Until next time!

– Elorfin

P.S. “Any man who can drive safely and kiss a pretty girl is simply not giving the kiss the attention it deserves.” – Albert Einstein, attributed on the Combustion technological advancement in Civilization V.

Sins of a Solar Empire and Civilization IV – Impression

This week I’ve been playing a lot of Sins of a Solar Empire and Civilization IV. More specifically, I’ve been giving the expansion Diplomacy (for Sins) a spin and I’ve been playing around with everything that came in my purchase of Civilization IV Complete (Beyond the Sword, Warlords, and Colonization). I got both of these on Monday (April 5th), so that’s pretty much where a fair chunk of my time has been disappearing and why I never got around to writing anything before now.

First, Sins of a Solar Empire. This game is a very pretty and versatile real-time strategy game where you choose to play as the Advent, the Vasari, or TEC. I prefer to play the TEC, but that’s how I roll (plus, I name all my capital ships after Wing Commander vessels). Anyways, there’s been two expansions to date that provide fundamental changes to the gameplay. Basic gameplay is rather simple: start with your planet, scout out other planets, colonize them, research new technology, build up an infrastructure, defend against pirates, and build a fleet or three to wipe everyone else out. The first expansion “Entrenchment” (which I frequently call Entrapment when I misspeak) introduced new technology and allowed the construction of powerful starbases that have the potential to wipe out entire fleets unaided. The latest expansion of “Diplomacy” added a new method of winning the game, more technology, and more options when relating with the other races/players in the game. For some reason though, the pirates are insanely difficult to beat now. Sometimes I just turn them off unless I have a good bottleneck… which leads me into the mechanics of this particular game that appeal to me.

Sins provides a very powerful method of feeding my desire to play with spaceships and blow stuff up. Seriously, the setting is amazing. Further, the game is very receptive to modifications by players (which I don’t make a habit of using, but I like having the option). Further still, the technology in the game noticeably improves the materials you use… for example, you can watch as your metal harvesting skyrockets when you research improvements in mining and your ships become obviously more durable when you improve their shields and armor. The real mechanic that I appreciate here is simply the function of the bottleneck. What I mean by this is a way of limiting the enemy’s approach to a narrow corridor so that I know exactly where they’re going and I can prepare for them. Essentially, it doesn’t make sense to turn every single planet you own into a fortress world because you’d run out of money trying to do that AND research AND colonize AND play the diplomacy game AND fend off pirates/other players. So, what you do is pay attention to the phase lanes and choose a point where you draw a line in the sand. I like to look for the one world where the enemy MUST hit in order to get to my backwaters. Unfortunately, not all playthroughs of Sins are created equal and in the last few days I’ve quit in disgust as my “fortress worlds” were either wiped out or ignored completely by issues with bottlenecking. There’s been a severe shortage of decent bottlenecks for me this week in Sins and the one time I got a great one going, the other side of the bottleneck was two systems: one with a pirate base and the other with another player. I was stuck behind the bottleneck with nowhere to go, but I was thinking this was cool… until the player got aggressive and punched through a part of my bottleneck. Long story short, I was winning the diplomatic way, when the game crashed and I got a minidump message in the background. Stardock, a few bugs left to work out, but I’ve got hope for you yet.

Civilization IV, on the other hand, is like my solitaire. It’s relaxing, it’s predictable, and I know where all the bottlenecks are in Europe. Further, this game is turn-based, so I rarely have to sweat out a fight, knowing my fleet will never arrive in time because in Civ IV, I can actually manage to get out of fights I might lose or get into fights I will most probably win. I’ve been playing Civ IV for the last 5 years or so (since I got it) and it’s been a lot of fun. Part of Civ IV Complete is the expansion Beyond the Sword. In this, there’s a scenario/mod/whatever called Final Frontier where the map is in space and you colonize solar systems and so forth. It’s really pretty awesome, but there was something nagging at me the entire time… NO BOTTLENECKS. I mean, seriously, pirates will come at you from EVERY direction, the other computer players will just wander around your cities doing whatever they want to (up to and including the building of star bases in my own backyard) and generally frustrating me. It’s hard to rely on the cultural spread of your cities to block out the enemies when they’ll just take the long way around and keep going. In regular Civ IV, at least there was, you know, WATER that got in the way of ground troops landing on Africa. Further, I gave Warlords a shot and there’s this neat scenario where you’re a team that lands on a planet and you’re trying to achieve some objectives. It really hinges on the whole Promotion system Civ IV has to keep your guys alive long enough to beat the scenario. It was pretty cool, but I lost after several hours of gameplay thanks to the number of enemies just getting absurd near the end. Oh, and for the record, Colonization is just crap to me. No offense to those who like it, but it’s nowhere near as colorful and expressive as regular Civilization IV. After a fashion, all this realism gets in the way of my entertainment.

So, yeah, bottlenecks are a must have in any good strategy game, be it real-time or turn-based. Further, I LIKE bright colors in my games because they make it easier to see things. Hey, that’s mostly why I didn’t like Sim City 4… too drab for my tastes in contrast to Sim City 3000’s bright color palette.

Well, there you go, a quick two-fer this week. I highly recommend both Sins of a Solar Empire and Civilization IV. They’re both LAN and Internet compatible (hell, Civ IV can be played hotseat or over email) and are way more fun with friends than without. Don’t get me wrong, they’re fun on their own, but honestly it’s nice to have someone to talk to and share little victories with (or to gloat at when you whip their butt). Both games are also very graphically pleasing and take a serious time investment (there’s nothing “quick” about strategy games).

Until next time, keep on keeping on.

– Elorfin

P.S. A little context for you all: I’ve been playing Civilization in one form or another for most of my life, I grew up with the original computer game, moved onto Civ II, then CivNet, Civ III, and now Civ IV is my favorite. Civ V is supposedly coming out soon, and I’m interested in it, but honestly, I’ve really enjoyed Leonard Nimoy telling me when I finish researching Literature that “Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested.” Looking that up, the quote actually continues with, “that is, some books are to be read only in parts, others to be read, but not curiously, and some few to be read wholly, and with diligence and attention.” Ah, Sir Francis Bacon… you’re so verbose.