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Sunday, November 05, 2006

This Month in Games : November

Ladies and Gents, we have hit the mother lode! As we all know from the state of Woolworth's adverts on the telly, Christmas comes at least fifty days early in Corporate Land; and as a result November's gaming bounty will keep geeky digits warm long into the dark winter night. This month, we as gamers witness the release of possibly the finest games of the year; In this jovial time, let us remember the games less fortunate than Battlefield 2142, games that offer entertainment but not true greatness, games that are overlooked and left to suffer the season in solitude. Where to begin?!

Sid Meier's Railroads!

Perhaps because this game is really good fun, perhaps because I have an unnatural fondness for railways, or perhaps, although I love writing for Splines, all I can think of right now is jumping back onto Sid Meier's Railroads - I love this game. Playing SMR can best be compared to being presented with a lively tapestry of country and town, industry and business, supply and demand... and being told to spawn a sprawling mess of metal and steam in order to generate profit from a newly-emerging industrial society. Hamlets become towns, which grow into cities, all the time increasing their lust to produce and consume resources - with all their development closely linked to the expansion of the railway network, either by you or your competitor. The naivete of the early scenarios' 'train set' ethos quickly dissipates to be replaced by challenging, ruthless business. Hostile takeovers and industrial monopolies are just some of the dirty tricks you can dabble in, or become the victim of. Buy it here. You won't regret it.

Flight Simulator X

Let's get the important question out of the way first. Yes, the X in Flight Simulator X is pronounced 'ten' and not 'ecs'. 'Ecs sounds better, you think? Ecs would have embodied the evolution implied by the inclusion of impressively detailed photographic mapping of the globe in Microsoft's latest Flight Simulator title. Ecs would bridge the gap between Microsoft's main gaming markets - the XBox series and the PC - emboldening Microsoft's marketing strategy to encourage independent modding of their games and encouraging gamers to transmit across the gap between formats. Ecs carries a certain mystique with it, breaking away from Flight Simulator tradition, and what some may claim to have become a stagnant license. Ecs just sounds better. Flight Simulator X is an impressive, and pricey, (50 pound for the standard edition, 60 pound for deluxe) addition to a gamer's collection. There's reason to assume a progression from earlier editions of Flight Simulator, with a greater volume of interesting ariel challenges and vastly improved depth and height modelling; a frequent virtual flyer or unseasoned novice should consider trying on a new pair of wings. But I'm not going to buy it until either Microsoft reduce the price or make you their new marketing manager and sack this woman.

Okami is a special, beautiful game. Available for the PS2 in the US right now, and in the UK from Febuary, I feel genuinely sad knowing that unless this title comes to the PC I'll never get to play it. Having only gasped at screenshots and read the review, I feel as though it would be best to quote Edge magazine to give my readers an idea of the worldly wonders of Okami.

Extracts from Edge:

"Okami is certainly an epic, a luxuriously long, physically vast adventure peppered with side-quests, mimigames and micro-comedies, and with a cast of hundreds. But Okami is an epic in another sense too, in the precise, literary meaning of the word. It follows neither a single narrative arc nor a logical gaming structure. It is a rambling, episodic tale, by turns grand and nonsensical, crude and beautiful: a hero's journey that continues long after its three acts appear to be over. It is one of the great videogame legends"

The visual style is profoundly oriental. The player's avatar is a goddess, embodied by the form of a magically gifted wolf. Combat and interaction is dealt with in 'brushstrokes', on-screen gestures which, (when performed successfully) trigger a power to be activated. I really want to play this game, and you can find it here.

That's the end of my recommendations for this month. Too harsh? Well, you could always try Neverwinter Nights 2 (PC), Medieval: Total War 2 (PC) or Canis Canem Edit (Bully(PS2)).


Galactic AE said...

Okami is beautiful and I'm disappointed that Capcom did away with Clover studios. They were a creative bunch.

DuBBle said...

Galactic ae - I had no idea Clover were going to be shut down! According to Wikipedia, the dissolution happens "at the end of March, 2007". Talented developers never disappear, they just move on.