It’s cute, yellow and cuddly — and now you can talk to it! One of the games that we were quite frankly afraid of at this year’s E3 was the one that featured the cutest critter ever to grace Nintendo — Pokemon Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire. These game features a first in Nintendo gaming: a feature that lets players interact with Pokemon on a verbal level. And that’s simply frightening.
Not necessarily in the “we’re going to die” sense, but more in the “we’re about to lose our lunch and get hooked on something mortifying” sense. Because, truth be told, Pokemon Omega Ruby and Pokemon Alpha Sapphire rom are one of our heroes. And we’re pretty excited to get a chance to talk to the electric rat. No, we’re not wetting our pants in glee at the prospect — but it does look like it’ll be pretty cool.
The game has been out in Japan for some time, and reportedly Pokemon Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire really does react negatively when someone says “Nintendo” (or more accurately, “Nintend” — seriously, that’s how you have to pronounce it to make Pika mad). The game really isn’t a game at all — it’s more of a toy. Those who wish to interact with the Pokemon simply hold down the trigger and speak into their Nintendo 3DS; when they let go a bubble of speech shoots out at Pokemon. Players can be nice or mean, and Pokemon will react differently. You can train the critter to perform tricks and even join in on the fun when Pokemon Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire meets up with some buddies.
Ultimately, this isn’t exactly the most awe-inspiring game coming down the line. But Nintendo definitely knows how to capitalize on a good thing, and the Pokemon franchise has been very good to the company. We expect this product to sell like hotcakes on Pokemon’s looks alone — but we’re also assuming that there will be some pretty innovative gameplay. At least we can hope. We’ll find out when the title ships internationally. In the meantime, here are some pretty pictures of a 3D of the game.
Back in 2014, EA developed SimCity Buildit . At the time, both 3D games and the city building genre were quite outdated, and the result was a classic mobile game of simulation. Originally titled Simcity Mobile, SimCity Buildit was the first game to use fully 3D elements on a prerendered background. It also took advantage of the cutting-edge of the day advantage of mobile devices of today.
EA is hoping to recapture that experience with this mobile, this time as the publisher. Maxis is taking over the development duties, and from what we saw from a recent build, is doing an admirable job of capturing the basic feel of the original. But unlike the previous version of SimCity, Buildit will be coming out for a wide variety of platforms, both on iOS and Android.
The story continues from the original game… sort of. In SimCity Buildit, players took control of a city as a mayor. But in this game, everything has been updated. Gamers still control the city, only this time more on management. Also updated this time around are the amazing graphics. Maxis has been working hard to develop a proprietary lighting system that makes the shadows and light utterly convincing. While we only saw a few of the more than 1,200 prerendered backgrounds, they looked almost photographic in their detail. Just as impressive are the subtle segues between the in-game play and the profession CG cutscenes.
And just as smooth as the graphics is the clean interface. While we moved about in the standard mode, no graphics or interface cluttered up the screen.They were slight and almost transparent, but they provided plenty of information in a hurry. That sort of minimal interference between the game and the gamer seems to be a hallmark of Maxis’ approach to the project.
The gameplay itself should be familiar to fans of original SimCity series, as well as other titles. Moving your 3D city through the prerendered environment is a snap with a screen, and the intelligent camera system was always well positioned in the action we saw. The gameplay is going to be a balance of both simulation and management solving, with an emphasis on management that fit into the tone of the game. Saving games on the mobile will be handled via amulets that have to be discovered, but, once found, will allow games to be saved anywhere. Players, however, should be able to save anywhere at will.
It’s a beautiful-looking game so far, and Maxis promises us that SimCity Buildit will be ready for an update next month. Since the last SimCity game came out 3 years ago, there is some question whether the series has much clout among gamers. And the market is a lot more crowded with horror games these days than it was back then. But Maxis is taking its time with this one, and if the version we saw is an indication of the final product, we’re looking forward to being alone again.
You know a game is ambitious when it can be put into several different categories. Boom Beach, from Supercell, began life as a technology research project for a massively RTS online game. Originally entitled Boom, the game has evolved to become a massively RTS, squad-based, island combat sim with realtime strategy elements. If done right, Boom Beach could be one of those games that is so immersive and complex players will start selling their plasma to support their habit.
At first glance, Boom Beach looks like a typical base building game. Players get to choose from a variety of troops and use them through attacking islands. It’s the addition of these realtime strategy elements that makes Boom Beach so interesting. Teams must make important decisions about mining, technology and even reconnaissance. All the players receive a periodic wage in the form of diamonds that they can use to research new ships and weapons on their own, or they can choose to pool the resources.
The ability to play as simply the defender, or better yet, the commander, opens Boom Beach to players who don’t have those mad dogfighting skills or are hampered by poor connections. Would-be commanders can view the entire theatre of action from the game’s ingenious command screen, then bark out orders using the built-in voice commands. But space Pattons aren’t tied down to their command mode. All players can move in and out of the various roles. Besides commander and investor, there will be a choice in a lot of game features. on the Boom Beach features and its hack.
As if that isn’t involved enough, there is an actual backstory that effects gameplay. Boom Beach takes place in the 21st century after an enormous asteroid has struck the Earth. In an effort to escape the cosmic doom, some of humanity is able to escape into deep archipelago. The result is a sort of space Diaspora where three separate groups band together to form factions. Each of the three groups has a distinct technology tree, which will force gamers to adjust to different research rates, weapons or armament.
SuperCell is hoping most players will prefer to do their flying on the zone, where, for a little extra scratch, players will be able to enjoy more features like an added civilization, massive multiplayer support, and individual or squad rankings. However, the full stand-alone game will ship with server support right out of the box, so there won’t be any problem with finding a welcoming galaxy near you. It’s a big game, and judging by our screen shots, it looks pretty sweet already. But the question remains whether the game is going to draw well among both realtime strategy fans and RTS fanatics.
Back in the three-button days of 16-bit games, EA put out a fun little shooter called Desert Strike. It was an isometric thumb buster that spawned a couple of sequels and some fond memories here. The PC got a version in ’94, and a similar game will be heading our way this summer.
Antaeus Rising is a new tactical shooter from UK developers Rage (Incoming). Players take control of a futuristic aircraft carrier/creator in a series of assaults on a small chain of manmade islands. The story begins in 2032, with the world supposedly finally at peace. However, a cabal of those grumpy old-school powermongers is tired of waiting for this whole peace craze to blow over and wants to get back to the warm glow of a war economy.
That’s when the fun starts. According to the game’s producer, Dan Kingdom, “You, as the player, are essentially the ‘Antaeus,’ which is a super cruiser that was sunk 20 years ago in the last great war.” This nifty little boat is equipped with a special nanotech reactor engine that converts the wreckage of vehicles and buildings into shiny new weapons. As in Pandemic Studio’s Battlezone, scavengers are used to crawl the landscape and gather the debris to be returned to the Antaeus. Energy is the only resource in the game, and it is, naturally, infinitely renewable.
Another infinitely renewable resource in the game is the Soul Catcher chip. Basically, these are small key cards that contain the personalities of dead soldiers and must be plugged in to various vehicles. There are only 10 in the game, and each has a unique nationality and set of abilities. The American, for example, may be an exceptional tank driver, while the Brit is a first-class ‘copter pilot. So part of the strategy will be choosing the right man (or chip) for the job.
If one of those vehicles is destroyed in combat, players simply create another chip and vehicle in the reactor core and get back out there to the front lines. Throughout the combat, the virtual pilots are constantly jabbering away, taunting the enemy and sometimes each other. They’ll cry out when they’ve spotted the enemy or scream for backup when they are about to die yet again. Kingdom told us that part of the reason why the soul chips are so chatty is that Rage wants to reproduce that feeling of manic, multiplayer combat in what is, at least for now, a single-player only game.
Not only is there a whole lot of talking going on, but there’s a whole lot of blowin’ up as well. Because the game is so near to completion, the graphics engine is done and tweaked out and frankly looks very nice. It contains all the requisite doodads and doohickeys such as 32-bit color, bump mapping, hi-res textures, colored lighting, etc. that demanding technophiles require. The engine looks roughly familiar but is actually quite new. “It’s not even the Incoming engine by Rage,” said Kingdom, “After Incoming, they vowed to make a game with actual gameplay,” he laughs. In addition to the detailed models and colorful explosions, there is an environmental system that passes quickly from night to day, with storm fronts coming in and clearing out. And if you shoot down an enemy plane at sea, it will likely wash up on a nearby shore.
But, as Incoming nicely demonstrated, spiffy visuals are nothing in the service of tedious gameplay. Rage hopes to counter that this time with what Kingdom calls an equal emphasis on strategy and action. “It’s really up to the player on how to play the game,” he says, “Whether they want to play a more strategic version or just simply grab a tank and starting mowing everything down.” There are, therefore, two basic gameplay screens, the first of which is the command screen aboard the Antaeus. Players select among the 14 or 15 different vehicles, outfit it from a choice of 8 different weapons, slap on some armor, and then choose a soul-catcher chip. From there, gamers can set waypoints or choose targets to attack on the map and then sit back and watch the action unfold in little pop-up windows.
Of course, playing an action game from the tactical screen is like preferring soft on Showtime to the real thing. Gamers will want to get out there and put their hands on things to things of Clash Royale cheats caliber for unlimited gems. The setup is cemented to a keyboard/mouse layout, and players will not be able to remap the keys. “We want the gamer to be able to hop smoothly from helicopter to tank to hovercraft without having to worry about key changes,” says Kingdom. The camera is also fixed in place, with no way for the player to adjust the angle or level of zoom, although the camera will have a slightly different placement for each vehicle.
As Kingdom played, the similarities to the Desert Strike series were apparent. Although that game was played from an isometric perspective, Antaeus Rising has a very similar angle from behind the helicopter or tank. The action is fast and jittery with volleys of missiles lighting up the landscape like so many Roman candles. Kingdom even told us of one interesting strategy where he had trouble destroying a heavily fortified warehouse. He left the battle and went to the docks to airlift in an oil truck, which he then deposited next to the warehouse. One simple shot at the truck and his problems were solved with an enormous fireball.
If only the rest of life’s problems could be solved with a raging fireball. But Antaeus Rising has got other concerns to address. There aren’t very many weapons or vehicles to choose from, so the depth of strategy play is unclear. We’re not sure if that Soul chips idea is going to work, and there is no multiplayer component at all, although Rage has not completely ruled out the possibility.
But there are enough good ideas here to keep us interested. There are 21 stages in AR, and, thankfully, Rage has had the good sense to let gamers save anywhere. There is going to be a demo just before the game is released some time this summer. We’re always looking for more things to legally blow up, and, judging by these screen shots, we’re going to get our fill with Antaeus Rising.