Tag Archives: pc

‘Civilization’ shoots for the stars

Our planet isn’t in very good shape. The good news, according to “Sid Meier’s Civilization: Beyond Earth” (2K Games, for the PC, $49.99), is that we’ll be able to hang around for another 500 years or so. The bad news: After that, we’d better start looking for a new home.

It’s not the freshest sci-fi premise — “Interstellar” has essentially the same setup — but it gives Meier and his Firaxis Games studio a chance to expand the beloved Civilization franchise to entirely new worlds. It’s a mostly successful transplant, though at times I wished its scope was even more cosmic.

You begin by selecting one of eight “sponsors.” The United States, Canada and Mexico are now part of the American Reclamation Corp., for example, while China, Japan and Korea have joined forces in the Pan-Asian Cooperative. Their figureheads lack the charisma of classic Civ leaders like Alexander and Napoleon, and their differences aren’t that substantial in the long run.

You have a few other choices regarding passengers, spacecraft and cargo, each of which accelerates the game’s early stages. Then it’s time to make landfall. Sadly, your new home isn’t entirely welcoming; some areas are drenched with a poisonous miasma, and the native insectoids are all too eager to make a meal out of anyone who ventures away from your colony.

Obviously, we’re well beyond the “dawn of man” setup of earlier Civs, so you don’t have to teach your settlers rudimentary skills like agriculture and writing. Instead, you have an elaborate “tech web” that starts with topics like physics and genetics and levels all the way up to exotic sciences like neural uploading and artificial evolution.

All this new technology is a bit overwhelming, and if you’re not a science fiction fan you may be baffled by terms like nanorobotics and geoscaping. But “Beyond Earth” provides a helpful quest structure that lets you focus on short-term goals while you figure out what it will take to conquer the planet.

The game also lets you invest in four kinds of “virtues”: might, prosperity, knowledge and industry. And you score points in three “affinities”: harmony (adapting to the planet), purity (preserving earthling qualities) and supremacy (evolving beyond human flesh). Those points are essential to your ultimate triumph, which can be achieved several ways. Harmony, for example, can lead to transcendence, defined as the “merging of consciousness of all living things with the latent sentience of the planet.” Heavy.

While you’re juggling all that, you also have to contend with the demands of neighboring factions from Earth, which you can handle diplomatically or aggressively. There are many complicated systems at play, but Firaxis makes them work together smoothly.

Players itching to build a galaxy-spanning empire may be disappointed, because once you’ve landed on your planet, you’re pretty much stuck there. But Civ fans looking for a new world to conquer will be over the moon. Three stars out of four.

Online:

http://www.civilization.com/en/games/civilization-beyond-earth/ 

‘Dishonored’ tops diverse year in games

The video game universe in 2012 is a study in extremes.

At one end, you have the old guard striving to produce mass-appeal blockbusters. At the other end, you have a thriving community of independent game developers scrambling to find an audience for their idiosyncratic visions. Can’t we all just get along?

Turns out, we can. For while some industry leaders are worried (and not without cause) about “disruptive” trends – social-media games, free-to-play models, the switch from disc-based media to digital delivery – video games are blossoming creatively. This fall, during the height of the pre-holiday game release calendar, I found myself bouncing among games as diverse as the bombastic “Halo 4,” the artsy “The Unfinished Swan” and the quick-hit trivia game “SongPop.”

Some of my favorite games this year have benefited from both sides working together. The smaller studios get exposure on huge platforms like Xbox Live or the PlayStation Network. The big publishers seem more willing to invite a little quirkiness into their big-budget behemoths. Gamers win.

1. “Dishonored” (Bethesda Softworks, for the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PC): Arkane Studios’ revenge drama combined a witty plot, crisp gameplay and an uncommonly distinctive milieu, setting a supernaturally gifted assassin loose in a gloriously decadent, steampunk-influenced city.

2. “Mass Effect 3” (Electronic Arts, for the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Wii U, PC): No 2012 game was more ambitious than BioWare’s sweeping space opera. Yes, the ending was a little bumpy, but the fearless Commander Shepard’s last journey across the cosmos provided dozens of thrilling moments.

3. “The Walking Dead” (Telltale Games, for the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PC, iOS): This moving adaptation of Robert Kirkman’s comics dodged the predictable zombie bloodbath in favor of a finely tuned character study of two survivors: Lee, an escaped convict, and Clementine, the 8-year-old girl he’s committed to protect.

4. “Journey” (Thatgamecompany, for the PlayStation 3): A nameless figure trudges across a desert toward a glowing light. Simple enough, but gorgeous visuals, haunting music and the need to communicate, wordlessly, with companions you meet along the way translate into something that’s almost profound.

5. “Borderlands 2” (2K Games, for the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PC): Gearbox Software’s gleeful mash-up of first-person shooting, role-playing and loot-collecting conventions gets bigger and badder, but what stuck with me most were the often hilarious encounters with the damaged citizens of the godforsaken planet Pandora.

6. “XCOM: Enemy Unknown” (2K Games, for the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PC): A strategy classic returns, as the forces of Earth fight back against an extraterrestrial invasion. It’s a battle of wits rather than reflexes, a stimulating change of pace from the typical alien gorefest.

7. “Fez” (Polytron, for the Xbox 360): A two-dimensional dude named Gomez finds his world has suddenly burst into a third dimension in this gem from indie developer Phil Fish. As Gomez explores, the world of “Fez” continually deepens, opening up mysteries that only the most dedicated players will be able to solve.

8. “Spec Ops: The Line” (2K Games, for the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PC): This harrowing tale from German studio Yager Development transplants “Apocalypse Now” to a war-torn Dubai. It’s a bracing critique, not just of war but of the rah-rah jingoism of contemporary military shooters.

9. “Assassin’s Creed III” (Ubisoft, for the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Wii U, PC): A centuries-old conspiracy takes root in Colonial America in this beautifully realized, refreshingly irreverent installment of Ubisoft’s alternate history franchise.

10. “ZombiU” (Ubisoft, for the Wii U): The best launch game for Nintendo’s new console turns the Wii U’s GamePad into an effective tool for finding and hunting down the undead.

Runners-up: “Call of Duty: Black Ops II,” “Darksiders II,” “Dust: An Elysian Tail,” “Far Cry 3,” “Halo 4,” “Mark of the Ninja,” “Need for Speed: Most Wanted,” “Paper Mario: Sticker Star,” “Papo & Yo,” “The Unfinished Swan.”

What were your favorite games of 2012? Share them on Twitter at @wigazette with #games2012.