Paradox may have had a more modest line up at this year’s Gamescom, but there was still plenty of interesting stuff to see – and all of it new! Apart from A Game of Dwarves, but with the imminent beta we’d thought we’d save ourselves so we could do a proper hands-on session for you. Below is a brief round-up of what the Swedish company has in store for gamers over the coming year…
Impire was definitely the strongest game on show this year. A curious mix between Dungeon Keeper and the as yet to be released Game of Dwarves, Impire is already looking like it’s going to be a great title. You, as the ‘Dungeon Master’ (a feral looking Imp that can upgrade and become a bigger looking Imp) have your dungeon, which you can build and shape how you want it, and as long as you have minions to maintain it and demonic horrors to guard it, you’ll get on fine.
Develop your dungeon past a certain point, and you start attracting ‘Heroes’ who have nothing better to do but to come and raid your dungeon, which you’ll need to deal with using either mobs or traps. We really like games that play on the typical Dungeons vs. Heroes element, and it’s always nice to play as the other side once in a while. Whether the Heroes are there to kill everything, or just to complete a specific objective, you can either kill or capture them to use for nefarious and often hilarious purposes.
It’s not all about indoors action though – you can send our raids to surrounding areas for supplies, or quests, or just for lulz. Each location you go to will have its own rendered ‘mini’ area for you to explore, although we’re unsure how big they will turn out to be. Still, it’s better than just a simple auto-resolved encounter. Your local area will also have a fully explorable outside section that you can poke around in, usually for quests but also for key resources that you will need to maintain your Dungeon. Be careful though, as for both types of areas you need to commit troops to go there and get what you need, meaning there’s less troops around to defend your dungeon.
The game is going to have a full-fledged, narrative-driven campaign mode (where you take the part of an imp who was summoned by a rather useless warlock), sand-box skirmish mode, and online multiplayer, which we’re told will involve a wide range of interesting game modes. There’s even two separate ‘factions’ you can control, each with their own unique unit and build trees.
I think the main thing that impressed me about Impire is that, despite a Q2 2013 release date, it already was incredibly playable. All the features were there, you could play around with everything… I kind of feel sorry for A Game of Dwarves now, as despite the two games being different enough by comparison, Dwarves looks a bit low-tech. Definitely one for you guys to keep an eye on.
Europa Universalis IV
Definitely one of this year’s most anticipated reveals, Europa Universalis IV was always a matter of ‘when?’ and not ‘if’. Taking all the lessons learned from the likes of Hearts of Iron III, Victoria 2, (and especially the new engine developed through Sengoku and Crusader Kings II) EU IV is going to kick off a new generation of internal Paradox titles (now called Paradox Development Studios) in style.
Europa Universalis IV is making a load of changes all across the board, although only a handful were available to show at this year’s GamesCom. The trading system, for example, has been updated to take the action away from the traditional ‘Trade Hubs’ of EUIII and more towards Trade Routes, where you use your merchants and even ‘light’ navy ships to steer trade down the routes that go in and out of your country. There are lots of modifiers that can affect trade and how well this ‘diverting’ of trade helps you, but at some level every nation can get involved with these thrifty shenanigans.
Other systems that have been tweaked include Diplomacy, where more visual feedback is given to the player so they can see why someone does or doesn’t go for a proposal, adopting Crusader Kings II like/dislike modifier system. There are also cool new features such as Rebels support being handled through the diplomacy interface as well, and late-game concepts such as coalitions. Religion as well has also been given some tweaking, with things like Religious Unity being very much in the forefront – the more you have, the better – and in general many of the interfaces have been streamlined and improved.
Those worrying that Paradox are going to ‘dumb down’ the game, never fear – the only philosophy the studio have when it comes to things like this is that the game needs to be as complex and hard to master as possible — but that it shouldn’t be hard to actually play.
So far, it’s all looking good, but the only criticism we could possibly levy against them at the moment is that they may have announced it a tad too soon – there’s honestly not a lot to say about it right now other than it looks fine. Europa Universalis IV is not due for release until Q4 2013, and whilst they are keen to get members of the community involved to help beta test, the rest of you have a long wait ahead of you. Back to EU III it is then.
Cities in Motion 2
Cities in Motion 2 is (unsurprisingly) the sequel to 2011’s Cities in Motion – the mass transport simulator that basically grabs the public transportation parts of city management games like Sim City and Cities XL, and takes it further. Cities in Motion always stood out in my mind as a neat idea for game that sadly didn’t quite hold up in the long-run, but we’re glad the team have been given a second chance.
Already, Cities in Motion 2 is looking like it could be the better game. For starters, instead of the cities being static (and then only ‘expanding’ along a predefined path), the cities are completely dynamic. You can place down roads and affect how the city expands, and then you can place the transport networks down to service them, which inspires more growth which needs more roads… and so on.
They’ve also improved the micro-management bits of the game as well – for example every transport network needs a depot for the servicing and maintenance of the vehicles (and depots can serve up to five networks of the same type), and they’ve also implemented a time table system, so you can tweak how many vehicles are in service through-out the day to adjust for peak and off-peak times, night-time services (oh, there’s a day/night cycle now, by the way!) and so on. Don’t worry though if micro-ing stuff like that isn’t your thing – there are plenty of pre-sets for you to use as well!
Sadly, being such a small team there’s only so much that that the guys can get done within the time frame that they have. For example, we were only shown three of the key transportation networks that they are focusing on – Metro, Train and Bus. This seems a little limited for a game like CiM, but they would rather get those three done right then have five or six done half-right – a key lesson from the last game. Those helicopters you could place about the place are gone, for example. That’s no to say more aren’t on the way – the new engine the game is using allows for bigger and more environmentally diverse maps, like lakes, which means boats, and who knows what else they may try and fit in.
All in all, Cities in Motion 2 is shaping up to be the better game, although we’re curious as to how the new direction is going to be affecting the product’s DLC strategy. As limited as CiM was, the set-growth of cities allowed them to essentially sell other famous cities as DLC, with you then trying to manage the unique transport needs of those places. With dynamic evolution, the draw of buying ‘real-world’ cities kind of loses its charm (not to mention CiM2 has done away with the 1950’s start point, keeping everything in the modern times). We’ll have to wait and see with this one, but on a basic level we’ve not had anything to object to so far.
It may look like Paradox doesn’t have a lot going on right now, but the company simply want to give every game its due – there’s still plenty on their slate for this year and the next, and over the coming months we’ll see more on their other titles, like the recently re-announced March of the Eagles. For now though, Cities in Motion 2, EUIV, Impire and A Game of Dwarves are what’s getting the love, and four more deserving games you’d be hard pressed to find. Keep up the good work Paradox — here’s to 2013.