Warsong

Warsong

Okay, there is a chance you played it – but I would guess it’s unlikely.  This gem of a game came out for the Sega Genesis (and was called Langrisser overseas).  I am not sure what inspired me to pick it up at the time.  I had heard nothing about this game in any of the magazines I read, none of my friends had played it, but something about it caught my eye when I was mulling what game to purchase next.

Warsong-Sega-Genesis

But something about the back of that box must have sparked my interest, because I took the game home, put it and and began to play.  The define what Warsong is, I would say it was a fantasy strategy/RPG hybrid – maybe the first I had ever played quite like it.

I immediately loved the game’s art style.  The graphics had a colorful, anime feel to them when showing character portraits.  The actual battles that took place were actually pretty active as soldiers kill each other off.  The backdrops and map designs were actually pretty well detailed also.

Warsong-Sega-Genesis

The sound and music get the job done.  There was nothing terribly memorable about it, but this was a game that was more about the tactics.  It would have been nice to have a bit more variety in the music, but I don’t recall it ever particularly bothering me either.

So how did the game play?  Well, there were two aspects to it.  There are the leader characters, and they are the most important.  Hints of Fire Emblem here, as when a leader dies, he or she is gone for good.  I recall saving often to prevent that from happening.  Shades of Dragonforce follow, as each of these main characters had soldiers units they could control.  Each character has a range or aura of influence and if their soldier units fight within that range, they got bonuses to their stats.  Each leader can hire different kinds of soldiers at the start of each level, and there is a sort of rock/paper/scissors mechanic to which soldier units perform best against one another.

Warsong-Sega-Genesis

There are other factors as well, such as terrain and if your leader characters have any gear equipped (at the start of each level, a scenario is given to you and you have a chance to spend your hard earned gold on different kinds and quantities of soldiers, and that is also when you can choose to put a piece of equipment on a leader character).  I recall getting so good at the game that I could go through the first couple of levels or so without buying any soldier units, to conserve money for when I would need it more in subsequent levels.

Warsong-Sega-Genesis

When a leader character dies (the enemy units are made up of these as well), their support soldiers will perish as well.  Some levels also have assorted neutral characters who will go after anyone who gets to o close.  Some missions are designed for certain types of soldiers as well – for example one of your heroes can hire mermen and they are almost essential for water combat – but useless in levels without water to cross.

The game is made up of twenty levels, which may not sound like much, but each stage can take quite some time to get through.  The menu and controls are very simple to navigate and while it is easy to learn – there is are so many different tactics and unit strategies to apply that there is perfectly valid reason to come back and play again once you beat the game.

Warsong-Sega-Genesis
The story itself is nothing new – good guys are put on the run for attacking bad guys.  Good guys regroup after getting smacked around a bit in the first level, and rally a force to defeat not only the known bad guys, but the evil controlling them behind the scenes.  It is all really well presented though, with story pieces between levels and dialog scenes from characters on maps.  While you have no options to change the storyline itself, it was actually one that I found fairly interesting.

The RPG elements come in the form of gold, equipment, experience and levels.  In fact, this game was the inspiration to a leveling system I implimented on my MUD over a decade ago that I called a Tier system.  Your characters start off a specific class, level up to a point, and then choose one of two.  Level up some more, and you can again choose one more new class from a new set of branching options.  Some characters were so similar that their later tiers became the same thing, like Magic Knight, but there were unique ones too.  For example your lead character Garrett can become a King class, and no one else can.  Each tier brings new skills and powerful stat boosts and adds a good deal of replay value to the mix.

Warsong-Sega-Genesis

And replay I did – I can recall beating this game at least three times – maybe more.  And it was a hit among my friends who initially asked: Warsong?  What’s that?

But these were the same friends I had gotten hooked on strategy games on the NES years before too (Nobunaga’s Ambition, Bandit Kings of Ancient China and Romance of the Three Kingdoms to name a few) – so they gave it a shot and not a single one disliked it.  Most of them borrowed it long enough to beat the game once if not twice (and one other friend borrowed my copy for a day and a half.  I was a bit surprised when he handed it back to me and said I could have it back.  I asked if he had not liked it – turned out he simply went out and bought his own copy afterward).

Warsong-Sega-Genesis

To this day, this ranks as one of my favorite all-time video games, and influenced my opinion on what a strategy game could be.  It also had clear effects on my own game design years later for my MUD, Kingdoms of the Lost.  I played it again recently and feel that it holds up pretty well today still.  If I bring it up in conversation with most gamers though, none seem to have ever heard of, let alone played this under-appreciated classic.

[youtube width=”560″ height=”315″]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VDcZlC3oZWc[/youtube]

If you are interested in how it plays?  Here is a quick video down below that really shows off a lot of the game as you start off in a scenario where you and your troops are under heavy attack right off of the bat.

Dune II: Battle for Arrakis

[youtube id=”v-BUmM-x7eM” width=”633″ height=”356″]

Dune II: Battle for Arrakis

Plot: Arrakis, also known as Dune, is a planet rich in the valuable resource known as the spice melange, a rare resource that has caused 3 armies of the galaxy to battle for control over the planet. A challenge is set by the Emperor Frederick IV of the house Corrino to the other houses of Atreides, Harkonnen, and the Ordos to see who can harvest the most spice and therefore win control of the planet.

Dune II: Battle for Arrakis

Review: Dune II: Battle for Arrakis is a far cry from its predecessor; its only comparison is that it is a game based on Dune. This sequel is a completely different type of game sharing; no story-line or game play, but is in fact an RTS game released in 1992 by the legendary Westwood Studios who also brought us Command and Conquer.

Dune II: Battle for Arrakis

The player must select one of these 3 houses to begin playing. Each house is represented by a mentor who guides you through the basics of the game, structure building, placing, harvesting and building vehicles. Each mentor is characterized by its house, the creepy yet powerful Harkonnen, the noble and advanced Atreides, and, err, the Ordos (a race created for the game, the one no-one really likes to use).

Dune II: Battle for Arrakis

The game starts off easy at level 1 (as you would expect) and your mentor takes you through the basics with a few minor attacks for you to defend against. The game then progresses each time you defeat the enemy (or in the earlier levels have harvested the required amount of spice). Credits are accumulated through harvesting the orange spice field on the map and returning the full harvester to the refinery, credits can then be exchanged in the usual manner for new buildings, defenses and vehicles.

Dune II: Battle for Arrakis

The game is played over 9 levels, perhaps it doesn’t sound like much but the later levels require skill and patience to beat. Your enemies appear in the form of the 2 remaining armies you didn’t select at the start, later levels sees you pitted against both armies as they team up against you, the final twist coming in the last level when the 2 remaining houses and the forces of the Emperor’s Sardaukar (an unplayable elite force whose heavy infantry are particularly powerful) must all be defeated in one last epic battle.

Dune II: Battle for Arrakis

Even though the buildings style and appearance remain the same for each house (apart from the color) they each have their own special units, such as the Harkonnen heavy-duty Devastator tank, and the powerful Sonic Tank of the Atreides. The Ordos use the Deviator, a rocket launcher like tank that can change the alliance of any unit it hits for a limited period of time. Like modern RTS games you can take over buildings and build units of other armies as well as defend with walls, turrets and rocket turrets. As the game moves up through the levels you gain more advanced technologies, the final super weapon becoming available in the final levels through building the Palace. This provides the Harkonnen with a “nuke” type weapon known as the Death Hand, the Atreides can call on the help of the native warriors of Dune known as the Fremen and the Ordos rely on the Saboteurs to achieve their goals.

Dune II: Battle for Arrakis
Conclusion: Dune II: The Battle for Arrakis contains all those things we love in the modern RTS and can be seen as the father of all things war like and destructive. Take your combat tanks and siege tanks proudly into war (never mind how slow they’re moving) and watch out for sand worms (players claim the sand worms are not biased but I’ve lost more tanks to them in one level than the enemy). Dune II is one of Westwood’s greats and an inspiration for the beginning of the Command and Conquer series released by Westwood in 1995. Recent RTS games, (ignoring the heavy emphasis on graphics, movie style clips and network/internet gaming) still takes its basic style of game play of base and army building, unique super weapons and vehicles, and the collection of resources to fund this, from Westwood’s original classic.

Frontier (a.k.a. Elite II)

Frontier_elite2_box

Space: the final frontier. These are the voyages of the starship Enterprise. Its continuing mission: to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no one has gone before.”

That’s how you roll in style in space…

Well, this quote from the famous Star Trek series, that crippled many of the young geeky minds, can easily be applied to describe the game of Frontier. In fact this and MUCH more! But, let’s get to the heart of the thing while it’s still beating…

Departing from Matthews where dogs bark with their asses…

Frontier was developed by David Braben and released in 1993 by Gametek and Konami on various Amigas, Atari ST & PC. It’s a sequel to Elite hence why it’s often addressed as Elite 2 and predeccesor to First Encounters – which is also known as Frontier: First Encounters or simply Frontier 2.

100,000,000,000 Planets in Frontier sounds unbeliveable but it’s all truth!

But enough of the boring details, let’s spill some blood on this one… Frontier is a game of undefined genre. It’s a wild mixture of simulation, strategy with adventure and role playing elements. And as much as it seems that this kind of mix’n’match would not work out it actually does and the game is no less than brilliant! It’s a true sandbox experience where you have no laid out route to game’s completition and no scripted time or area predefined events. In fact, you can play it as long as you want and how you want. That is until you get killed or die in a far out system left with no hope of survival because you’ve spent the last of your money on slaves instead of fuel aiming for quick and illegal profit…

It’s not only mining colonies and military bases in Frontier, there are some modern settlements here as well…

The game World, or Universe to be more precise consist of just a bit short of 100,000,000,000 (!!) planets and moons. There’s also 82 kinds of missions/services generated randomly, so chances that you’ll run out of things to do and places to go are quite slim. In the World of Frontier you can become anyone you want! There’s many routes you may wanna progress in, like mining, piracy, trade, bounty hunting or working for one of the multi-system organizartions and picking either of the choices does not mean that you won’t be able to follow another if you decide to do so later on.

There’s plenty of random generated missions to go through, ranging from passenger/cargo transport to spying/assasination requests…

Loads of trade commodities, ship equipment, ship kinds and different fraction promotions, provide for a long and exciting gameplay. In fact when you start of you’ll find yourself in a small settlement with a very basic ship equiped with what seems like garbage and only 1,000 credits to spare and will have to take a long and hard route before feeling safe and comfortable in the dark World of Frontier. But this is exactly what makes this game so special – it does not lead you by hand mission after mission, instead it drops you somewhere in the middle of cold and dark nowhere and tells you to deal with it! And you will have to, cause otherwise you’re not a real man (or woman, since I don’t wanna sound sexist here).

Space: The Final Frontier…

That said, Frontier is a truly excellent product shadowed only by the fact that it is not a game for all.

Many people may not appreciate its hardcore „kill or die” approach and difficult beginnings. But those who decide to go through tough initial period usually fall in love with it because it’s an entertaining and deep experience that rewards patience.

Cobra MK I – it’s not a killing machine but I’ve flown worst.

It’s really impressive how HUGE game David managed to fit on one floppy and how well it worked out in the end especially that it is mainly one person’s effort. The game looks and plays the same on all systems yet all of these had some unique and system specific bugs in earlier, unpatched releases. Bugs like famous wormholes that allowed for huge jumps over great distances in Universe using just a tiny bit of fuel or „earning” money by endlessly „trying to sell” a passengers cabin with passengers still in it…

Each “dot” even if it has no name displayed here is a seperate solar system with its own planets and moons.

Frontier is quite cheap on eBay as it was fairly popular in the early 90’s, and hence many copies are still sold for prices that are easy to swallow. Same as with earlier reviewed Fury of the Furries, Frontier is widely considered abandonware and can be downloaded from Abandonia or Planet Emulation for PC & Amiga respectively, and run through either DOSBox or WinUAE.

Apart from these two ships and the crew on this station… In space noone can hear you scream.

As much as I’m a firm believer that any game that let’s you become a Space Pirate and not only blow people to pieces with various rockets, plasmas and lasers, but also trade slaves, drugs and radioactives, deserves an easy 10 out of 10, I won’t give it. I’ll settle for 8 out of 10 because as I mentioned before not everyone will find Frontier enjoyable – it’s a difficult game with no tutorial or hints and can just be a bit too overwhelming for a Sunday player.

Attacking other ships near Space Stations may turn their defences against you, ultimately bring an end to your Frontier life.

UFO: Enemy Unknown

UFO: Enemy Unknown is a turn-based tactical strategy game with managerial and role playing elements published in 1994 by MicroProse Software on PC and various Amigas and later on on Playstation.

X-COM_-_UFO_Defense_Coverart

I wondered for a while how does one properly explain what ingenious creation like UFO is, compared to other similar games. And found no answer… So I decided to give it a whirl, play it for a while and see how I felt about it after years long brake from seeing it last. That was a HUGE mistake! A catastrophe on an unthinkable scale! I can’t stress how much time I’ve „wasted” playing it, though it was not a waste per se. Well, as you might have guessed by now, the game is not bad by no means. In fact when I started playing it I couldn’t stop until I beat it. And beating UFO takes a lot of time and patience as the game in its early stages especially is quite unforgiving. Going through it however, with all its ups and downs left me with a clear view of what I wanted to share here with you… So, let me get to it straight away…

In the beginning there was chaos…” And there is loads of it in UFO as well, especially for a first time player. There’s tons of screens, stats and settings that may seem a bit overwhelming for a person looking for a quick strategy fix, but if you decide to take your time with it and learn everything that there is to learn about the game it will reward you hundredfold! With long, deep (Oh, yeah, I said it!) adventure, that when completed will leave you disappointed… Badly… Because you’ll instantly want MORE!

UFO or X-COM as they call it in the US is a product built upon the idea that could’ve easily been transformed into three different, smaller games. First of, there’s the strategy – Globe View – in which you build your bases, send intercepting ships to shoot of alien vessels and direct your troop transport crafts to various missions – like alien terror attack, alien bases or earlier mentioned shot down UFOs. Sounds cool? Good, because it is!

ufo_enemy_unknown_01

Then there’s a micro-managerial – Base View – where you decide on your base’s buildings placement and purpose. Each building has it’s price, time it takes to put up and also provides certain commodities – like living areas, research laboratories, defences, hangars or even alien interrogation rooms, so thinking the layout through is a must. In here also, you buy, sell, research & manufacture various kinds of weapons, ships, equipment & technologies. And this is where you train, equip and prepare your troops before they get sent on a mission that most of them may not come back from.

And last but most definitely not least – Tactical View – where whilst on a missions you’ll lead your soldiers turn by turn to their painful and bloody deaths… I mean to victory against bad and ugly alien invaders, which vary in kind power and abilities! Yes… Well, initially some of your troops are bound to meet their maker in the field of battle when put up against overwhelming alien force. As they progress in game though – earn experience & gain skills, each mission will become more and more bearable until eventually with help of high tech equipment and armor designed by your team of smart bottle-bottom-like glasses wearing scientists you’ll start earning a bit of advantage. I wouldn’t hold on to that hope from the start though as that will not happen until you’re many, many hours into gameplay.

ufo_enemy_unknown_02

Because UFO punishes the slightest mistakes in tactical approach, you will have to be prepared for some serious losses when playing X-COM for the first time. That is good however as if it was not so challenging it may have not end up being so AWESOME… After all, it is fun to spray long series of bullets through purple coloured alien brains. But what’s even more enjoyable in my opinion is starting your way with your soldiers brains being spread on a pavement and slowly earning your way through the alien horde whilst learning their genesis, weak and strong points and researching means to counter them effectively.

In UFO: Enemy Unknown one can see many influences by the earlier games, games like Laser Squad or Civilization, from which UFO took what’s best and mixed into something even better. Funny enough Civilization was released by Microprose as well and Laser Squad was developed by the same team that wrote UFO. Coincidence? I don’t think so… Anyway, as I mentioned before UFO could very well be three separate, good in their own kind games but instead Microprose opted for mashing it all up into one tough but entertaining behemoth of a creation that takes many evenings to complete and keeps you on your toes through out it until the very last minute of gameplay.

ufo_enemy_unknown_03

All versions of the game are virtually the same gameplay-wise with only some minor engine differences. Differences like Amiga version having two separate release branches, one with 32 and another with 256 colours graphics (all other systems get 256 only) and a bit better music and sound effects. Playstation outing being least playable out of the lot due to the limitations of pad control compared to the mouse. All that said, any version you manage to pick up will provide you with dozens of hours of fun and challenge, and that’s what UFO is all about!

MicroProse released two continuations to UFO – X-COM: Terror From The Deep & X-COM: Apocalypse. First being direct sequel with some minor gameplay setting tweaks & alterations and second released in high resolution but with reduced micro-management scale from the whole World to one huge Metropolis. There’s been some spin-offs developed as well but mostly were not worth any attention as they fared into different genres, badly I must add. Independent Developers have been craving to shadow the success of original, releasing many similar games, especially over the last few years. Unfortunately none of them came even close to perfecting balance of gameplay and its mechanics, and MicroProse’s original is still King of the Hill when in comes to tactical anti-alien warfare.

ufo_enemy_unknown_05

It took me two weeks of serious gaming before I beat the game and I only managed to do it on normal difficulty level. Can’t wait to see what happens if I raise it a bit even though UFO was challenging enough the way I played it. Overall I want to give UFO: Enemy Unknown 15 out of 10 but I can’t, so I’ll settle for what’s available at hand…

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dupngnAS6yk[/youtube]

PC version is still on sale (well, again not still) and can be purchased on STEAM either separately or as a part of the Complete pack where it is sold along with both successors. Alternatively if you still own your original disks they can be easily used to install and run it through DOSBox. As for Amiga outing, the game same as the platform has been forgotten for years and is only available to download as an abandonware at Planet Emulation website.

Steam Sale – Mount & Blade for $4.99

Mount and Blade
Mount and Blade


Steam Sale – Mount & Blade for $4.99

If you like Defender of a Crown and want a true medieval world simulator, then Mount & Blade is what you’re looking for, especially at $4.99! It’s available now on Steam.

The game is very challenging and you will find the combat unforgiving and realistic. Usually getting hit with a sword in the game directly will result in getting crushed in the battlefield. If you want a game that makes you feel like Braveheart or Robin Hood or a knight from Camelot then you should check it out. At $5, it’s more than worth it.

The link to get it through Steam is the following: http://store.steampowered.com/app/22100/