Preview: Habitat

Habitat, by 4gency

Facing a station full of rival paleontologists, Dr. Robert Bakker determined to settle the endotherm/ectotherm debate for good.

Here’s a frightful vision of the future: after an underpaid lab tech spills out a vial of runaway nanomachines, humanity is reduced–or I guess, if you want to get technical about it, elevated–to a race of low-earth-orbit garbage collectors. The planet is now an untouchable seething mass of machines, so the remainder of our species take to space to eek out a living on orbital junk.

Luckily before the end times, before The Spillage, someone had the foresight to launch Ferris wheels, spare Statue of Liberty heads, cruise ships, Vulcan cannons, and other life essentials into space. When welded together into a riotous, lumbering assemblage, these various parts provide the air (“omni” as it’s called), electricity and fuel you’ll need in order to… in order, uh… well, your raison d’être is, at this Early Access juncture, still very much up to you.

But not in the good sense of self-determination amidst a world teeming with possibilities. This is the bad kind of freedom: purposeless, directionless, a ship with no rudder to tame the terrible inertia of its strapped-on rocket boosters as they send it spinning to pieces.

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Preview: Metrocide

Oh, E Button, is there anything you can't do? *swoon*

Oh, E Button, is there anything you can’t do? *swoon*

My contract—Rebecca… something, late twenties—passes by the alleyway and I swing around behind her, coolly pulling out the blaster hidden in my coat. Or, well, I thought it was “coolly.” Too close, I guess, because she hears the high-pitched whine of my weapon starting up, and whips around with a piece of her own. For a tense few seconds we’re both standing there on a deserted street, soaked to the bone from rain and furiously hammering the triggers of our respective gats as they charge.

I’ve got the drop, though. One in the chest, she’s down, and I’m off into the alley again before the body even hits pavement. No line of sight for the two security cams on this block, so the police drones shouldn’t show up until someone spots the body. Still won’t do to hang around. Even if they can’t stick me for the body, I could get pinched for the gun. Throw away twenty-five of the 300 creds I just made? You better believe I worked for that money.

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Early Access roundup: Rodina, Merchants of Kaidan, Exodus of Sol and more

Rodina, by Elliptic Games

“I just can’t understand these readings, Captain. The planet seems awash in… textures!”

I return from death’s door having caught a glimpse of the underworld, and I can report this: they’re expanding down there, adding a lot of uncomfortable new seats for all the Early Access devs whose games never bear the promised fruit. I suspect we needn’t worry about Rodina, though, now $14.99 and in quite playable form. (In fact you can get away with paying as little as $2 on the official website, at the cost of any future updates.) The game that was once a name-your-price curiosity is now a “Daggerfall in space” in the making, a seamless solar system with RPG and exploration elements.

If you ever played Noctis, which was doing procedural planet-gen when everyone else still thought Unreal’s lens-flare valley was a neat trick, Rodina should strike you as an obvious successor. See below for video, and for some other hopeful causes plucked from the Early Access milieu.

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What’s in the box: A-10 Tank Killer

Of everything that stands, the end.

This is the end, beautiful friend.

[Today on a very special episode of RDBK: Phil takes ill with what he affectionately calls Billy Mays disease, as whenever he attempts to leave the bathroom he cries, "but wait, there's more!" Meanwhile the rest of the gang visit the archives and become enthralled by this Dynamix classic. Check your local listings for details.]

There are only a few admissible candidates for best flight sim of all time, and A-10 Tank Killer is surely among them. It has a natural advantage in that the “Warthog” is simply the best possible plane for simulation: it has all the avionics and weapons of a modern aircraft, but its close air-support role demands that you still get down and dirty with its 30mm Avenger cannon. Whether chewing up armor or cratering runways, dogfighting MiGs or shrugging off SAMs, dealing death from on high or from the nap of the earth, there’s very little the A-10 can’t do.

Released in 1989, A-10 Tank Killer was one of many achievements by lead designer Damon Slye and his talented Dynamix studio. Like all of the Dynamix games, it shows preternatural awareness of the line between realism and fun. The edition seen here is the 1991 version 1.5 update, which added VGA graphics, better sound and improved flight models.

It’s a goddamned shame it isn’t available via digital distribution. Until that day comes, we must content ourselves with What’s in the Box–which as it happens is quite a lot to see.

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Pew pew! That’s the sound of Gratuitous Space Battles 2, closing fast

Gratuitous Space Battles 2, by Positech Games

Putting the Big Bang theory into practice.

For my fellow devotees of beam weapons, crumpling bulkheads and the lyrical phrase LIFE PODS GET TO THE LIFE PODS, there can be no more welcome news than this. Positech Games has announced Gratuitous Space Battles 2, the follow-up to 2009′s underrated space battlefield/playground. Positech owner, Renaissance man, and all around nice guy Cliff “cliffski” Harris has this to say:

I love space battles. I love em to bits. I could sit and watch them on and endless loop. There is so much to them, the feeling of scale, the sound effects, the particles, the cool lasers, the amazing nebula backdrops and the vast vast fleets of ships doing amazing acrobatics. As a kid I grew up watching the original star wars movies and playing Elite. Space Battles are in my blood and I love them. [...]

GSB2 is a continuation of my fantasy of making this come to life. There are various questions answered on the placeholder website here, but let me summarize. GSB2 will be bigger, bolder, better and have more cool effects than you can shake a laser gun at. It will have a truly gratuitous user-interface. it will lovingly embrace the possibilities of twin 2560 res monitors. It will have a super-cool feature I haven’t announced yet. It will be a PC-first game, pure and simple, and it will be in your hands either late 2014 or early 2015.

I call the original GSB underrated not just because I like it more than most people (though most enjoyed it well), but because it did something I’ve never seen before. The game’s full of battles, yes, but you don’t get to participate in them. The strategy all happens before the battle, as you upgrade units, deploy them and issue their marching orders. When you’re done planning you just sit back, push play, and find out how many admiral’s stars you’re really worth.

In many ways it’s a closer representation of real generalship–err, admiralship–than other strategy games, with their omniscient perspective and constant opportunities for intervention. And if you ask me, strategy games are generally better the less they have to do with combat and the more they have to do with planning for it. In the distant epoch when I played tabletop Warhammer, the best parts (and to the game’s credit, those most crucial to the outcome) were army-building and the initial setup. GSB captures those elements like no other.

There aren’t any videos yet of GSB2, but cliffski assures us, “Videos to come in due course. You are going to *really* like the videos.” When they’re out, you’ll see ‘em here–if your retinas haven’t been burned to cinders by lasers, as is wont to happen.

Midweek Price Drops: The Last Federation, The Sims 2, Thief Gold and many more

Thief: The Dark Project, by Looking Glass Studios

Garrett’s effort to distract the guards with news of a price drop was met with much fervor.

It’s hard to believe, but the phrase “free game” hardly existed until about ten years ago, when digital sales began to displace hard copies. Who could justify giving away games when to do so required receiving shipments, tracking inventory, and meeting the hollow gaze of one’s fellow citizen?

For news of today’s freebie (and a bunch of near-freebies, too), inquire below. First though, you should know that GOG’s expanding its supported platforms to include Linux, in celebration of which a bunch of titles are on sale, with some of them appearing on Linux for the first time:

Phew, I’m spent. How about you? Well, you’ll want to keep reading even if the GOG sale’s drained you penniless.

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Commence overwatch: X-COM: Apocalypse to get the open-source remake it deserves

X-COM: Apocalyspe, by Mythos Games

Mr. Mayor? Someone’s at the door for you.

This is bound to be a banner year for turn-based tactics games, in the midst of what must surely be a banner decade. Barely a month removed from the launch of OpenXcom, we now learn that X-COM: Apocalypse, the red-headed stepchild of the original X-COM franchise, is getting an open-source overhaul of its own.

The nascent OpenApocalypse project hasn’t got much to show for itself yet, but if you’re fluent in computer-ese you might have a look at the Github. Over on the discussion forum, ringleader “pmprog” has this to say:

OpenApoc is planned as an open source remake of the original XCOM: Apocalypse game.

Further down the line, it will hopefully get additional changes such as higher resolution and mod support.

At this early juncture, there’s nothing for players to use, but if you want to get involed, there’s plans for language packs, and when somethng gets released, it’ll need testing.

Hopefully you stay around for the ride, and we can do for Apoc what OpenXCOM did for UFO: Enemy Unknown.

When people remember to mention Apocalypse at all, it’s seldom with much enthusiasm. It had some good ideas, the story usually goes, but they just didn’t pan out. City management, optional real-time combat, and cheerful visuals aren’t bad per se; they’re just bad for X-COM, and they’re why Apocalypse is (supposedly) a bad game.

In fact, though, the game received good reviews. We’d speak more fondly of it if not for the inescapable, Chryssalid-shaped shadows cast by its predecessors. If OpenApocalypse comes fully to fruition, the Internet’s inexhaustible supply of modders will get to expand and tweak it into something more cohesive.

The menu resources video below doesn’t even qualify as proof-of-concept, but it’s proof at least that the ball is rolling.

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Stay out from underfoot: Epic boss-battler Jotun seeks funding

Jotun, by Thunder Lotus Games

Guess which is you.

This makes it official: Vikings are the new vampires, which were the new zombies, which were the new pirates, which were the new ninjas. Nothing came before ninjas: it’s ninjas all the way down, an odd quirk of the universe that grants them quite the advantage in numbers. But then, aren’t ninjas deadliest when they operate as lone assassins? I fear something’s gone awry with my metaphysics.

The new boss-fighter Jotun promises to beat my metaphysics and myriad other fuzzy notions plumb out of me. It claims Dark Souls and Shadow of the Colossus as inspiration, and in its first day on Kickstarter it’s already accrued more than a fifth of its $50,000 CAD goal. The Norse setting, hand-drawn art, and stirring score speak for themselves, and evidently too, for the gods.

Incipient studio Thunder Lotus Games needs help to hire an additional developer, pay its rent, and other sundry details pertaining to this mortal realm. $15 CAD gets you a copy of the game on release, and in the absence of an “express ticket to Valhalla” tier it seems the prudent choice.

After the jump, the Kickstarter pitch video doesn’t show off much gameplay, but speaks of randomized worldgen, puzzles to solve, and “fast-paced and brutally hard” combat. The gods smile on such words.

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