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About Malkael

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  1. Three Moves Ahead 548: 2021 Recap

    There has been a distinct lack of 3MA episodes on transportation focused "tycoon" games for a few years despite the releases of games such as Railway Empire, Railroad Corporation, Transport Fever 1 & 2, Mashinky (Early Access), etc. So, who knows if any 3MA panelists are even interested in the genre these days. But 2021 was a good-to-great year for transportation focused "tycoon" games with Voxel Tycoon and A-Train: All Aboard! Tourism. Even if you want to exclude Voxel Tycoon for being an Early Access release, the year was still well worth it on Switch and PC for A-Train: All Aboard! Tourism in my opinion. At this rate someone is going to have try organising a Tom Chick reunion so we can finally have some transport games discussed again, since Tom included A-Train: All Aboard! Tourism within his Top 10 games of 2021 list.
  2. Episode 390: Medieval II: Total War

    Ah, the one Total War game headlined by the -- at the time -- Australian (Brisbane) arm of The Creative Assembly. The off-shoot CA studio are also credited with supporting The Creative Assembly (UK) in developing Rome: Total War prior to Medieval 2: Total War. While perhaps overshadowed commercially and in the mainstream by RTW -- fair enough given RTW was not only a good game but also spawned side-media like the BBC's Time Commanders and the History Channel's Decisive Battles -- it is still considered by many in the Total War community to be the pinnacle of the series in several aspects. Certainly, the Kingdoms expansion is still to this day considered one of the best ever Total War expansion packs due to amount of good quality content delivered, over four different theatres of war, at the usual expansion pack price range. Interestingly, M2TW also graphically modeled the various armour and weapon upgrades you could give to units in both singleplayer and multiplayer. You can usually visually tell apart Levy Spearmen that have received the leather armour upgrade from an armourer from those Levy Spearmen that haven't received any armour upgrades so far. So not only did M2TW improve graphically upon RTW by introducing model variety within units to decrease the cookie cutter appearance of individual combatants within units but it also improved upon RTW by visually showcasing what weapon and armour upgrades a unit have received, if any. It is difficult to pinpoint what makes M2TW so special when there are so many factors but the vibrant modding scene has definitely helped significantly lengthen M2TW's lifespan, and with the Europa Barbarorum II mod -- sequel to one of RTW's most popular historical mods -- the game can even cover antiquity these days among many other historical and fantasy periods. Plus just when you thinking the ceiling for what is possible has been reached sometimes someone in the mod community shatters it and opens up an even deeper realm of possibilities; which isn't bad considering some of the hardcoded limitations and the age of both M2TW and the underlying engine. To this day it is still one of the easiest Total War games to get into when it comes to modding, and certainly one of the most open in terms of what you can set out to try and achieve. Been a long day so I might come back at a later time to contribute some more points of discussion, appreciate the episode and M2TW is up there with Shogun 2: Total War as one of my favourite and most played games of the Total War series. Hoping that one day CA can revisit Empire: Total War in a sequel to rewrite the wrongs of the original because behind all of its technical flaws there is both the setting, premise and design elements for a great game in there.
  3. How to fix Total War's combat

    If there is one thing I hate about online Rome 2\Attila battles with a passion it is the spaghetti lines, nothing ruins the whole selling point of seeing giant armies and blocks of soldiers clashing up against each other like seeing units strung out like spaghetti two ranks deep because it is the most effective way of minimising the lethality of ranged units and because in melee combat typically the widest unit wins due to an effect called "Wrap Around". Cavalry kind of counters that since you need some actual weight to your units, provided by having your units drawn up deeper, when opposing a charge but there is only so much cavalry can do to bring some sense to an otherwise farsical situation that often sees even Pike Phalanxes give in to the illusion-shattering craze.
  4. Nobunaga's Ambition: Sphere of Influence

    The historical events and quests are entirely optional and you can disable them if you want, even if you do enable historical quests you don't have to follow them if you do not wish to. If you want you can disable historical events, historical quests and even make everyone live forever. The game is far more sandbox Grand Strategy with the ability to follow historical events for a cinematic, narrative reliving of history than it is structured cinematic, narrative scenarios with elements of sandbox Grand Strategy. Want to begin a campaign as the Matsudaira using the Rise of Nobunaga scenario and totally rewrite history by wiping out the Oda before Nobunaga even comes to power? You can do that, as long as the Imagawa don't try and smash you first. After all you this is a game where you can create your own custom clan with your own custom characters, with their own custom backstories, start practically where ever you want and create your own zany alternate histories. What if the gods of Olympus invaded Japan? Seriously, the number of customisation options there are to tailor the difficulty settings to your liking was mindblowing enough before I even got into messing around with whether fictional maidens are born, whether maidens can be officers, character lifespan and such. Unless you want to follow the historical quests to check out the story and beautiful cinematics, you can basically think of the different historical scenarios as different starting points to try out, similar to the different bookmarks in Paradox games. There's even a fictional scenario that involves all of the famous clans and their most famous daimyos starting out roughly equal in size and power in a battle royale for the Shogunate.
  5. Nobunaga's Ambition: Sphere of Influence

    Until there is a better non-Japanese language understanding of the conditions and triggers I guess the absolute safest way to ensure you don't invalidate a historical quest is to just follow the objectives given and not go beyond that. Assuming I didn't miss a quest somewhere due to myself or the AI's actions breaking the condtions required for it to trigger then there is a fairly large chunk of turns between the historical quest to invade the Saito with Asakura assistance and the next historical quest that follows it. Without trying to spoil too much for you the next historical quest suggests that Oda Nobuhide's ambitions to conquer Mino reached a bit of stalemate up against the forces of the Saito, Asakura and Azai. I personally don't know how flexible the trigger conditions for the next chronological quest are, I only took the quest objective castle-town in Mino, but outright conquering the Saito definitely seems like it could cause the next historical quest to not trigger for story spoiler reasons. Although anyone familiar with Oda Nobunaga's life-story can probably spot why the Saito likely need to be alive.
  6. I certainly hope that one day someone passionate finds themselves in a position to successfully revive and realize the ideas at play in Shadow of the Horned Rat, similiar to how X-Com has been revived after all these years. Personally, there is also something alluring about the fantasy of being the captain of a mercenary company even to this day and video games are one of the few spaces where I can explore such fantasies. The last game I can think of that explored a similar concept is the Mercenary Campaign for Great Battles Medieval; where you also recruited an army, choose which missions to take on, equip your troops and experience gained carries over into future battles. Unfortunately for CA and SEGA I think I'm experiencing Total War fatigue despite any excitement for a long-anticipated Warhammer game, so I would warmly welcome something different which can deliver a similar emphasis on "satisfying" real-time tactical battles while providing each individual battle with some greater meaning through a campaign or similar. Not sure I have the fortitude to try and complete Shadow of the Horned Rat or Dark Omen since I've never been much of a "save scummer" but I still love the premise of the games. Now this begs the question, when is the 3MA show(s) for the 41st millenium's Final Liberation or Chaos Gate?
  7. As much as I love being able to try and follow in the footsteps of Ghengis Khan I feel the game has increasingly lost its way in feature bloat over time. New additions either don't mesh well with the original focused vision or fails to tie back into the pre-existing design neatly, detracting from the well honed design of the base game. Paradox seem committed to smaller, more frequent mini-expansions to their own detriment at times; sometimes their content add-ons feel like they needed to be done as part of a larger traditional expansion. Extending the timeline of the game back to 867 and 769 was a mistake in my opinion, the game needs more depth but it keeps getting more breadth by either extending the timeline or the landmass. Those breadth-style expansions might be what sells the best but it doesn't necassarily mean it is what is best for the game. It can have a similiar problem to Europa Universalis where everything is defined by wars and realm size, anything inbetween is just the downtime between another military conquest on the way to world conquest. Don't even get me started on how the game has changed to the point that it might as well be called Crusader Emperors II due to a number of factors, such as being about (often fantasy) empires and the stability of realms (like Kingdoms). It is still good fun but I wouldn't say Crusader Kings II has stuck to its original vision, sometimes people need to learn to leave things alone and move on.
  8. Not really sure what it is about Starcraft as a whole that has failed to capture my imagination but despite growing up on real-time strategy games I have never really been into playing or watching either the original Starcraft or its sequel. Not like I am particularly fussy towards a certain breed of RTS since I have played, and even spectated in some cases, everything from the Supreme Commander end of the spectrum through to Dawn of War II or World in Conflict end of the spectrum. I still love the genre so I keep feeling like I should be interested in Starcraft to help keep the genre alive in a niche fashion. Guess a lack of friends who are interested in Starcraft contributes to that since I often put hours in to Company of Heroes 2 due to friends. Similar situation when it comes to watching the game, I have more success being engaged in a stream if someone I follow is streaming the game. Definitely prefer playing team games, typically Arranged 2s or 3s, competitively over mano-el-mano (1-vs-1) games. Originally Dawn of War II tried to focus its balance and competitive multiplayer around 3-vs-3 but trying to balance the game so it was balanced competitively for 3-vs-3 as well as the dedicated 1-vs-1 crowd was a headache for Relic. However, there is something about Relic games and their faction design and balancing which means that what works for 1-vs-1 usually falls apart at 3-vs-3 and above anyway. Never really bought into Warcraft either, so I guess Blizzard have been missing out on someone who could on paper be a customer.
  9. Sometimes having "half a clue" about an area seems like it can be more dangerous than going in without any expectations. Going in with preconceived expectations formed by playing Dark Souls 2 first has the potential to let From Soft play you and your assumptions in interesting, deadly ways. The familiarity almost tempts you to lower your guard slightly despite knowing changes lie in wait, especially if it looks like an old, tried and true strategy still has some validity during the first attempt.
  10. Designer Notes 9: Bruce Shelley

    An amazing episode that I almost wish did not have to end, although I could listen to Bruce Shelley discuss strategy games, Ensemble Studios and the Age of... games for hours. I can only thank Bruce Shelley for his time and praise everyone who made this happen. One of my most vivid memories has to be of reading the Age of Empires help section and just soaking up all the information possible on the background of the units, technologies and everything else in the game. Seriously the amount of stuff you could read about in the thing pictured below, for lack of a better term, blew my mind during my childhood and contributed to a massive love of and interest in history. Age of Empires and the Rise of Rome expansion was up there as one of my most played games and even to this day, though more for nostalgic reasons these days, is one of my all-time favourite games. I know a lot of people consider Age of Kings, with the Age of Conquerors expansion, the magnum opus of Ensemble Studios but you can count me as one of those that loved Age of Mythology the most and who would have given an arm or a leg to see more expansions or a sequel for it. From the mythological setting, the uniqueness of the different factions (carried over to AoE3) and the power & spectacle of the god powers through to the interesting campaign... everything was amazing. While Microsoft have new content and updates in the works for the Steam versions of AoE2:HD and AoM:EE it still does not feel the same without Ensemble Studios or a direct offshot at the helm, there's something to be said for the productional values and a certain polish that separates an Ensemble Studios game from the rest. As a side note, for a lot of Age of... fans the only true victory condition is conquest and, to quote a Three Moves Ahead episode, "Wonder victories are BS".