Windward ($15) is Tasharen Entertainment’s ode to Sid Meier’s Pirates!, inspired following a Meier GDC panel encouraging developers to reuse the elements of a game that they liked; Tasharen did just that.

Windward’s RPG, MMO, and real-time strategy elements are all wrapped-up in the knots of a sailing game. Players sail the seas of a randomly-generated map, controlling a single, upgradeable ship from an overhead view. 

The next installment in the Total War series has been revealed as one that details a darker chapter in history: The reign the Huns.

It's not often that I get a break from benchmarking games so that I can actually play them. That's normally Nick Pinkerton's job, our Senior Editor tasked with handling our game content these days. Civilization is an interesting game to benchmark; it's always been regarded as CPU-intensive due to the heavy processing done between turns and has GPU-intensive buffer requirements for map movement. For some unknown reason, GN staff decided to actually play the game.

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We've certainly done worse.

Sorta.

There is a very good reason to not consume certain substances, especially not right before going to sleep. Human Resources from Uber Entertainment reminds me of those reasons. I've always had a thing for end of world scenarios – the bigger they are, the more violent they are, the better. Human Resources is a game that brings the best of the worst imaginable to gaming, just like HR brings the best of the worst to the workplace.

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After our “where did RTS go?” discussion with Pat Pannullo, former Tiberian Sun designer and current Grey Goo Lead Designer, we got a hands-on play session with the upcoming RTS. Grey Goo – conveniently “GG” – seeks to bring the genre back to its more “beer and pretzels” origins of the 90s and early 00s.

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The game still hosts a very real potential for a competitive scene, but it's specifically built to be an input-simplified RTS; the team wants to avoid the complexity of StarCraft – a game that uses heavy unit abilities, structure abilities, macro, micro, and meta play – and instead bring the focus back to core real-time strategy mechanics, the meta game, and epic battles. The resulting product is a game that scales to high competition just as well as it scales to casual LAN play (and Grey Goo does offer LAN), giving players a clear arc of progression if the desire to compete increases.

Command & Conquer may not have been the definitive “first” game in the RTS genre, but it was a milestone in gameplay and mechanics that paved the way for future titles. The 90s and very early 00s saw the rise of “strategy” as a genre, with RTS championing its market dominance. In a very similar fashion to the present-day flood of MOBAs, early RTS and campaign strategy once comprised what felt like the majority of popular titles.

rts-wallAbout 25% of my RTS collection, ordered chronologically and then by series.

Command & Conquer was just a small piece of that. We saw the arrival of Age of Empires, Age of Mythology, Empire Earth, Shogun: Total War, Ground Control, and the sleeping giants that spawned a decade of games – Warcraft and StarCraft; campaign games also grew, with large thanks to Civilization, Rise of Nations, Galactic Civilizations, and Hearts of Iron; city builders like Zeus, Poseidon, Caesar, Settlers, and Pharaoh also carved out a niche in the overarching “strategy” marketplace.

Double Fine continues to surprise with how they craft their take on various game genres. With Massive Chalice, the company has unified the turn-based strategy of XCOM and Crusader Kings with the long-term strategy elements of Civilization, looking through the genetics lens of Fire Emblem. This complex offspring of those games explores the concept of the smallest action having an impact in the longer term – a terms as long as 350 years.

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Massive Chalice Lead Animator Geoff Soulis showed us how all the pieces fit together in a hands-on demo at PAX Prime. We’ll start by overviewing Massive Chalice, then describe its classes, explain Double Fine’s flavor of turn-based combat, and tie together combat with prolonging bloodlines.

The 90s and early 00s bore witness to an effective boom-and-bust of city-builders, RTS, and other types of top-down strategy-derivatives. Industry trends are in constant flux – as Call of Duty’s success has prompted an insufferable proliferation of mediocrity, games like Caesar, Zeus, and Sim City prefixed the rise of dozens of city builder titles; in this same era, we saw the rapid iteration of the highly-successful Command & Conquer series, Age of Empires games, Civilization, and plenty of others. The industry has stopped caring about top-down management games as much as it used to, but there’s still a rather empty market for fans of the sub-genres.

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I’m obviously nostalgic for these types of games. There’s no hiding that.

Clockwork Empires immediately had my attention, and with thanks given to developers Nicholas Vining and David Baumgart, it was able to keep that initial interest throughout our hour-long GDC hands-on. Many puns and jokes that’d make a PR manager cringe later (“no!” was groaned from behind me throughout our video process), and I’m convinced that Clockwork Empires stands a solid chance in shaping up to be a solid experience.

 

We don't normally cover mobile games very much, but I thought this one was worth a mention. Jungle Rumble comes at a time when traditional RTS games are struggling, but game developers Disco Pixel have combined strategic elements with rhythm-based gameplay for a mobile pastime.

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The game is due for iOS and Android some time in April and will be making an appearance at PAX East 2014, for any attendees looking for a booth to visit. Jungle Rumble's gameplay centers around traditional tap-input as the user hammers-out a drumbeat; the army of monkeys (very monkey-in-barrel-esque) move with these taps and advance on the enemy monkeys -- harbingers of banana doom, to be sure -- and eventually gain map control.

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