I think Dawn of Discovery and I have run our course and we should part good friends… You know before she starts leaving passive aggressive post-its around the house and I keep staying out late to avoid the arguments, or whatever.

The game is gorgeous, don’t get me wrong.  I’m content to pluck away at  it for hours just basking in its glistening caress.  For a while this might have been enough as a sleepy sim game but as I got more accustomed to how I wanted to layout my cities I could keep the [people - food + entertainment - clothing = taxes] equation balanced (that’s how the real government works, too) without trouble. 

Enter the Venice Expansion, with its intrigue, acts of subterfuge, and most importantly council seats.  Purchasing seats lets you buy a city right out from an NPC’s nose.  Yes, it pisses them off.  But you can easily mitigate this stuff by piling tribute or diplomacy on them just before pulling the trigger to skyrocket your relationship with them.  Some NPC’s will take buying their city as an act of war period, so not every AI will just lay down and die.

What’s the problem with a little loophole though?  Well in a game that’s basically one big fancy accounting exercise it makes complete sense to have as little upkeep cost as possible.  Which means no troops.  Troops are expensive, take up a lot of real estate, have high upkeep, and need additional resources to recover hitpoints.  Is this a fairly immersive and interesting way to handle troops?  YES!  Is it fun?  It’s a lot more frustrating than buying the city as a one time purchase =/. 

And that’s why I don’t want to play anymore.  Also enemies can rebuild turrets and castles instantly if you aren’t immediately controlling those tiles (impossible because your troops walk back to camp after a battle) and can’t recieve new orders for a quick cooldown.  A turret will take a couple armies 20 min to overthrow and cause enough damage to whittle you down after 2-3 turrets.

In the end I always just wish I’d figured out how to befriend the AI so I could buy the city.  Even with a coordinated assault that destroys all their fishing boats, sets fire to the city and lands troops all of the island you’ll grind on that one island for days in RL.  And the AI probably has 5-6 islands. 

This is pretty much the same problem I had with Evil Genius, where at a certain point the game rewards (or in EG’s case, doesn’t punish) you for slowing down.  Slowing down is more or less not playing. 

So the game says to you, “Play less!  Here’s prizes if you play less!” 

“But I want to play!” you exclaim.

It’s a bummer.

There’s a Civ 5 demo on steam.  I might be in love with it and just at a time when I was so lonely for something to replace Dawn for me.

Somehow its mastered itself and maybe transcended, now returning to grace us with its secrets.

It lacks all of the masochism I felt playing the older Civ titles and the Alpha Centauriis.  You know, that vague sense that you’d never been so confused and lost in your life?  The game was actually just clubbing you with its tech tree and the blunt trauma had caused you to lose some mental equilibrium.

Those days seem to be gone.  The UI tucks away all the complicated options into tabs so the options feel tremendous without forcing you to weed-whack through them to manage every unit.

The presentation is a little weird, I played as Alexander the Great in my first demo game and my nearest opponent was Bismark who looked like a turn-of-the-century German politician.  Every faction speaks their appropriate language (subtitled for your convenience, although omitting them might have been fun) which was really fun to listen to Caesar speak Latin (I still vaguely understand it from highschool).   The map was also littered with random geographical wonders (old faithful was right next to my Athens).

This feels a little schizophrenic.  I kind of found myself wishing we, the players, were random tribal chieftans and could change our avatars as we leveled.  I could warm up to it as is, but the anachronist history just feels forced.  The map is random, seems like everything else should be too.  And believe me, I’m NOT a rivet counter.

I think I’ll be picking it up.  I buy games with good demo’s.  I rarely buy a game without any demo, which is too bad as it seems less prevalent in the industry than it used to be.

Filed under: All TalkGame Talk

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