Arasmo

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  1. The year wasn’t that bad for wargames. True, SSI and Interactive Magic didn’t have great wargame releases : Close Combat IV and Panzer General 3D were pretty average, and ‘North vs South’ was a poor adaptation of the ‘Great Battles of History’ engine to the civil war. But since they published respectively the excellent 4X Imperialism II and the brilliant RTS Seven Kingdoms II, they are forgiven ! Meanwhile, Talonsoft had a strong lineup with East Front II, Battlegrounds : Chickamauga, The Operational Art of War II, Battle of Britain and Bombing the Reich. The last two games are very niche, but they are great if you can get used to the interface and if you enjoy micromanaging a air bombing campaign. I’m especially fond of East Front II : it corrected many flaws of the original East Front (1997) and had stronger AI, better random campaigns, two excellent linked campaigns, faster movement of units (the original game was horribly slow) and a lot of minor improvements. It’s still a great tactical WW2 wargame despite the clunky interface. The Panzer Campaign series from HPS also made its debut with Smolensk 41.
  2. Thanks for the show! The 1994 wargames line-up is very interesting, especially if you like tactical games. Panzer General and Perfect General II are good gateway wargames with great production values and easy-to-use interface. Operation Crusader is part of the V for Victory series. It’s a great operational WW2 wargame with an innovative WEGO system. TacOps is a very realistic modern squad-level wargame. It was released on Mac in 1994 and two years later for Windows. It also uses a WEGO system but doesn’t have any grids or hexes. Tigers on the Prowl is by far the most realistic WW2 tactical wargame of its era, with detailed modelling of line of sight, armour penetration, supplies, chain of command and order delays. Definitely not for the faint of heart, though! It spawned a few sequels: Tigers on the Prowl 2, Panthers in the Shadow and Tiger Unleashed. Wargame Construction Set II: Tanks! by Norm Kroger is also a tactical game: it covers platoon-level combat from 1918 to 1991, with a focus on mechanised warfare. It is much less detailed and realistic than Tigers on the Prowl or TacOps, but the interface is much friendlier and the IA is decent. Also, the scenario editor is very good. I discovered the game quite recently and it’s now one of my go-to games on my Android tablet (thank to the wonderful Magic Dosbox emulator).
  3. Another great show. I played quite a bit of CIV6 Gathering Storm on a friend's laptop and it seems like a very well designed game, but I didn't enjoy the experience at all, in part due to the poor AI. The olders CIV (1-4) mecanisms are more suited to the limitations of an AI. The climate change is an excellent idea on paper, but I don't think it brings that much to the table compared to good old CIV1's pollution system (which could bring global warming). And CIV1 already had natural disaster events if your city was near certain terrain types. I must admit that CIV1 is currently my favorite CIV, despite its many flaws : it manages to give the core CIV experience with fairly simple rules and short playing time compared to its sequels (never tried Civ : Revolution though). CIV4 used to be my favorite, but I have a hard time getting back to it : I'm more of a casual CIV gamer now !
  4. Episode 435: Omnia vincit Roma

    One of the best episodes I've listened to : thanks to all involved ! Annals of Rome is by far the best Rome-themed strategy computer game I played. I discovered it after EU:Rome and R: TW, which I didn't enjoy much, and I was impressed how the game manages to gives such a tense experience, with that "creeping doom" feeling you get when you are starting to lack the ressources to manage all threats at the same time, while only providing the player with very few options. I actually like the crude graphics (although I would have preferred EGA graphics) and the interface is pretty straightforward. It will probably seem too dated and simplistic for those who enjoy Paradox games, but you might be pleasantly surprised once you pass the (pretty small) learning curve.
  5. Another great show ! Some of my favorite of that year. RTS Seven Kingdoms is a 1997 game, but it's great to have it mentionned on the show ! Brilliant and innovative RTS, with strong economy and people management components. Never thought much of Starcraft. RPG I'll have to give the edge to Baldur's Gate, even if it does have its share of flaws. I also enjoyed Return to Krondor : even if it isn't as good as Betrayal, it's a nice linear RPG with decent story and characterization. Suikoden 2 is probably the best JRPG I played along with Chrono Trigger : I midly enjoyed it, which is no mean feat for someone who doesn't like most JRPGs. The random battles aren't too grating and the story is pretty epic. Grand strategy/4X Warlords III : Darklord's Rising is the definitive version of Warlords III : new campaigns, more options for the random maps, new units and heroes, etc. Still as fun now as in 1998 ! Simulation Unfortunately, I never managed to get European Air Wars to work and Falcon 4 is out of my league, but I love Red Baron 3D, which is basically a patched Red Baron II. The dynamic campaign mode is extremely immersive and "casual flyers" can enjoy themselves without too much training. Wargame Operational Art of War is pretty much a wargamer's wet dream. I didn't play the first one much, but I enjoy the last one a lot. West Front was also released in 1998 : it's a great turn-based WW2 platoon-level wargame with a pretty simple system and a huge amount of content : dynamic and linked campaigns, random battles, plenty of scenarios of varying complexity... Semper Fi is another turn-based platoon game, but it's set in the modern era and uses a impulse system you don't see much in computer wargames.
  6. Quite a few SimCity-likes didn't radically change the core gameplay. For example, the two first Caesar games (1992 and 1995) used the same building radius mechanics as SimCity and played a lot like it. The walker mechanics was introduced later, with Caesar III (1998). This doesn't mean that the first Caesar games were mere clones : they were mission-based and added warfare and a (very thin) province management layer. Another example : Afterlife (1996) from Lucasarts played a lot like Simcity 200, although it had a unusual theme and some added complexity.
  7. As far as I know, Half-life (1998) is the game usually credited for the giving birth to the tactical/narrative shooter, but you had these kind of games as early as 1994 : Bungie's own Marathon or Origin's System Schock introduced elaborate plots, more tactical and more open ended gameplay compared to Doom, while the little-known Cyclones already had stealth elements. What makes you think Halo is one of the most defining video game ever released ? I must admit I wasn't impressed by it at the time, but I would be happy to give it a second try someday and to revise my jugement. I don't know if MOOII really sucked all the air out of the genre. Space 4X is an old genre that already had most of its basic elements defined in 1983 with Reach for the Stars (ROS). A lot of the space 4X games that came out in the nineties, MOO included, were variations of the the ROS formula. And after MOOII came out, you still had games with a different approach to the genre , like Stars Wars : Rebellion (1998), Emperor of the Fading Suns (1997), Fragile Allegiance (1997), or more recently Distant Worlds or Sins of a Solar Empire.
  8. Thank you for this show ! 1993 is indeed an amazing year, although it wasn't as impressive as 1997 for strategy games. Warlords II would probably be my favorite strategy entry of the year, even I only play the Deluxe version (1995) nowadays. It's a great Empire-like game, very easy to get into : it works very well on an android tablet with Magic Dosbox. The core mechanics are quite similar to the first game, but it adds a lot of replayability, with five maps instead of one and the option to use random maps. The scenario editor that was sold separately was very easy to use and added a few more maps and unit sets. Empire Deluxe is a great version of the founding father of the 4X genre : the end game can get very tedious though. Master of Orion I is still my favorite 4X space game : it's simple to grasp, not too heavy on micromanagement, while retaining quite a lot of strategic depth. I only discovered Clash of Steel very recently and I find it an excellent streamlined WW2 strategy game. It must have been a big inspiration to the creators of the Strategic Command series. EA published three excellent tactical games. The podcast mentioned Syndicate, but there was also Space Hulk, a tactical game with a "dungeon master-like" first person view where you play a squad of Space Marines fighting against Genestealers, and my personal favorite : Seal Team, basically a proto "Operation Flashpoint" set in Vietnam. I played quite a bit of Ambush at Sorinor five years ago and had a great time with it. I actually prefer it to Siege, because it has more tactical variety, some fun units (the infamous war chicken!) and you have to manage your funds wisely to hire and replace mercenaries.The AI is unfortunately very poor. Stronghold is a pretty unique real-time kingdom simulator with some RPG elements. Like Majesty or Populous, you don't have direct control of your units. It has been released on GOG.com. SimCIty2000 is a classic and my favorite city-builder (sorry City Skylines !), but Maxis also published the excellent SimFarm : I never thought a farming simulator could be so much fun ! Shadow President is a very fun political simulator/grand strategy game where you play as the president of the United States. The first Settlers was also released : still my favorite of the series. Concerning management/trading games, I enjoyed Merchand Prince but I also liked On the Ball and Premier Manager 3, two soccer management games with a heavy focus on the business aspect of the sport (building your stadium, setting the prices of the seats, finding sponsors, etc.). 1993 was a huge year for point-and-click adventure games : Gabriel Knight, Day of the Tentacle, Return to Zork, Sam & Max : Hit the Road, Simon the Sorcerer, Companions of Xanth, Legend of Kyrandie : Hand of Fate... And Legend Entertainment released two great interactive fiction games : Eric the Unready and Gateway 2. It was also the rise of the CD-ROM adventure games, with 7th Guest and Myst. The RPG lineup was very strong : Betrayal at Krondor is a masterpiece, Dark Sun is a diamond in the rough, Lands of Lore is a beautiful and streamlined Dungeon Master like, Ultima VII : Serpent Isle is one of the best entries of the series, Might and Magic V is a fine conclusion to the classic era of the series, Shining Force II and Ogre Battle are fine tactical RPGs... Breath of Fire, Secret of Mana and Phantasy Star IV are also beloved by many (not by me though). The action lineup has of course Doom, a lesson of level design, but also two very good puzzle/platformers, The Lost Vikings and Fury of the Furies, two impressive (if not actually very good) rail shooters, Starfox and Rebel Assault, two excellent old-school amiga shooters, Uridium 2 or Disposable Hero, the manic Gunstar Heroes , and my favorite action game of the year after Doom, The Chaos Engine, a frantic gauntlet-like game by the famous Bitmap Brothers. There were some brilliant flight sims and space sims as well : X-WING and Privateer have been mentioned, but there was also Ace over Europe, Elite II, Strike Commander, Subwar 2050, Tornado or TFX. For me, Strike Commander is probably the strongest of the Commanders along with Wing Commander Prophecy and Privateer, while Tornado is a very detailed flight sim with a amazing mission planner. Understandably, the podcast focused on american sport games, but a few interesting soccer games were released, like FIFA soccer, with great graphics but mediocre gameplay ; European Champions, a neat arcade soccer game with unusual control scheme ; Goal, a game that rewards technical skills and by far Dino Dini's best effort in my opinion.
  9. I do agree that quality control wasn't great in the nineties, but even for the time, the original released version of Emperor of the Fading Suns(EoFS) was incredibly buggy and unfinished : I never played a game released in a worst state apart from Descent to Undermountain and Pool of Radiance : Ruins of Myth Drannor. Not every game in the nineties suffered from savegame corruption ! Fortunately, it's definitely in much better shape now, thanks to the hard work by fans of the game, and those who had a bad experience the first time around should definitely revisit it. I had a bit of a retro space 4X craving recently and replayed EoFS along with MoO1 and MoO2 : of the three, I must admit I enjoyed MoO1 the most, because it is so tightly designed and a good singleplayer challenge, and I enjoyed MoO2 the least, because I thought it was a bloated sequel with too much pointless micromanagement. EoFS has some extremely strong points that you summarized very well, but the amount of micromanagement and the dumbness of the AI makes it an inferior singleplayer experience to MoO1 in my opinion. It's still an impressive game, and I'm sure it would be a brilliant multiplayer experience with very commited players.
  10. Episode 417: 2017 in Review

    It would be great if posters gave their own personal strategy gaming highlights of 2017 : there are so many games around that it's easy to miss a good one ! Favorite strategy game released in 2017 The Operational Art of War IV. I only dabbled a bit in the first one when I was a kid. The fourth one isn't a huge leap forward, but it does have an amazing amount of scenarios, more refined rules and an improved interface. I didn't dare dip in the big scenarios yet, but I enjoyed all the small ones I've tried. I found the game fairly easy to pick up and play : you don't need to know every nook and cranny of the ruleset to have fun. The game is quite detailed in some areas, like the combat mechanics, and surprisingly simplistic in others : there is no real chain of command for example. Still, it's a great traditional wargame with a very flexible engine. It doesn't require too much computing power either, which is a huge plus in my book. Favorite strategy game discovered in 2017 John Tiller's Campaign Series. It's a compilation of WW2 platoon-based wargames that came out in the late nineties : East Front, West Front and Rising Sun. The rules are inspired by tabletop wargames of the seventies and are quite simplistic, with no modelling of suppression fire for example. The amount of content is mind-boggling : randomized and linked campaigns, hundreds of scenarios of all level of complexity, huge database of units and OOBs... Depending on the scenario or the campaign, you can control a battalion, a regiment or even a corp. I don't really enjoy the higher levels of command, because I think the amount of units gets out of control, especially with all those HQ and transport units, but I'm having a blast with the battalion level scenarios and campaigns. Favorite strategy game rediscovered in 2017 VGA Civil War is a old shareware game of the nineties : I enjoyed it a lot as a kid and I revisited it this year. It's a beer-and-pretzel WEGO grand strategy game that manages to be simple while taking into account a lot of factors : rail movement, blockades, supply, leadership, fortifications, recruitment, etc. The whole war can be finished in 30 minutes, and they are a lot of options to add replayability. The graphics are simple but very clear and the keyboard interface is pretty convenient. Last but not least, the game is legally available for free at http://www.hutsellgames.com/civil-war-strategy/
  11. Episode 417: 2017 in Review

    Thanks for the show ! I found the section on Paradox very interesting. Paradox continuous DLC policy seems like a good way to improve the game and keep it fresh for hardcore gamers while paying the bills, but it does have a few potential problems : - The "content" DLCs increase the risks of feature bloat and of messy game design (with new mechanics that don't mix very well with the old ones), since they have to add features significant enough to attract buyers without making them mandatory so that base game can still be playable. - It makes the game harder to document : it's a bit like having to document a bleeding edge linux distribution, with features changing all the time. Fortunately for Paradox, the community is dedicated enough to do that job ! - Patches created with specific DLCs in mind can mess up the balance of the game for people who don't have these DLCs and lead to player fragmentation, with players staying on older patches. Paradox did a excellent job if the "DLC fatigue" for CK2 is only getting serious now and if EUIV is still going strong. I wouldn't know myself, since I haven't played them since 2015 : I actually prefer Paradox older games, especially For the Glory and Darkest Hour, the enhanced versions of EU2 and HoI2.
  12. Thaquoth, thank you very much for bringing up PCem. My PC isn't powerful enough to achieve Pentium level speed with it, but it seems brilliant for those Win 95 games that don't work properly with Wine or VMware/Virtualbox/VirtualPC : great recommendation !
  13. I would have a hard time picking my favorite between Warlords 2 Deluxe (W2D) and Warlords 3 : Darklord Rising (W3DR). W3DR is definitely deeper : the combat system is more intricate thanks to the new unit abilities and your heroes are more detailed. It also provides a lot of multiplayer options and it's the one I play the most with friends. But I do play more W2D overall : it works perfectly on my android tablet (thanks to magic dosbox) and it's simplicity means you can fire it up every now and then without having forgotten most of the rules.
  14. Well, they only talked about games they have actually played, which can explain why they left out a few worthy games. I'm sure Bruce Geryk would have mentioned TAO if he was in the episode : he seems to be a big fan of the series.
  15. As far as I know, Harvest Moon was released in 1996 for the SNES. I didn't enjoy it myself (I'm more of a SimFarm guy), but it's a very original game that is regarded as a classic by many : definitely worthy of a Three Moves Ahead episode. I'm not that surprised they left Emperor of the Fading Suns out : it is a 1996 game according to Mobygames, which was probably their primary source along with Wikipedia for checking the dates. It's hard to know when it was actually released. The game manual is copyright 1996, but the original webpage is copyrighted 1997 and it wasn't reviewed until 1997, so it was maybe finished at the tail end of 1996, but not actually released until 1997. Emperor of the Fading Suns was actually one of my biggest gaming disappointments. At first, I thought my hard-earned summer money was well spent : the lore was superb (it made me buy the tabletop RPG a few years later), the amount of depth seemed amazing and the political dimension was mouth-watering. But I soon became disillusioned by the huge bugs (random freeze, disappearing cursor, save game corruption, etc.), unfinished features (church) and terrible AI. Even unpatched Birthright gave me much less trouble. Apparently, there are quite a few community-made patchs that improve the game a lot : you definitely made me want to give it another try ! When you revisit an old game thanks to GOG or community websites, you pretty much have the best version of the game, and you don't have to put up with the sometimes poor state of the original release : it can change a lot the way you feel about a game ! In 1997 France, very few people had Internet, so I relied on the CDs bundled with computer magazines to find a patch for a game. This means that you could stay with an unpatched game for quite a while, especially if it wasn't a mainstream game, or even never experience the fully patched game. That doesn't matter too much when the game is pretty polished on day one, like Age of Empires, Gettysburg or Warlords III, but it is a different story with a game like Fallout, which was very buggy at release (the infamous character duplication bug !), or East Front, which improved a lot through patches. I love the Matrix release version of East Front, but if I only had unpatched East Front, I probably would have got bored of the game very quickly !