Earlier today at PDXCON 2019, Paradox Interactive revealed a ton of new expansions for many of their popular games. They also announced a new sequel to Crusader Kings II and a delay for Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines 2.
Prison Architect Is Getting A New Expansion In 2020
This new expansion wasn’t given an official name or release date, but it looks to be Alcatraz themed. Our best guess: You will get to build and operate island prisons. Paradox also announced that the console exclusive Pysch Ward DLC will be coming to PC on November 21, 2019.
Stellaris Is Also Getting A New Expansion And New Aliens
Paradox is releasing a new species pack for Stellaris soon, on October 24. This new species is rock-based and will feature new gameplay and in-game portraits. And later this year, a bigger expansion will be released. Federations will add more diplomacy features and a galactic senate as well as new ways to team up with other alliances and governments.
Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines 2 Has Been Delayed
Originally set to launch in early 2020, the game will now launch later than expected. It is still coming out in 2020, but no window was given. The developers released a blog post detailing their reasons for delaying the game, stating “… there’s the responsibility to avoid some of the issues that plagued the first game, which was famously launched too early.”
Surviving The Aftermath Launches Into Early Access On The Epic Game Store
The successor to the popular Surviving Mars, Surviving The Aftermath is a management sim that is all about living in a post-apocalyptic world. The game is available today in Early Access on the Epic Game Store and on Xbox One via the Game Preview program.
Age of Wonders: Planetfall – Revelations expansion announced
Wow, they really had a lot of expansions to announce, didn’t they? Add this one to the long list of new expansions. This is the first expansion for Age Of Wonders: Planetfall and it add a new faction, over 30 new locations, new campaign missions and more. This big expansion will be out on November 19.
A New Battletech Expansion Is Coming
Heavy Metal is a new expansion for Battletech that will add eight new mechs featuring several classic designs, a Flashpoint mini-campaign, and eight weapon systems. If you have the Season Pass, Heavy Metal is included in that. The new expansion comes out on November 21.
Crusader Kings III, then, is obviously trying to keep everything that made CKII special, while at the same time making the whole experience not just prettier, but easier to use as well. Graphical improvements are obvious in these screenshots, with nice touches like including individual character designs in their own story development screens (above), but more importantly you’ll also notice that the menu system—taking cues from Imperator—has been pared right back, with a lot of the stuff previously out there, in your face and terrifying to new players now tucked away, to be accessed only when needed.
Most interesting, though, and I’m sure of most relief to curious onlookers previously put off by CKII’s density, is the promise of a new intro framed as “Guided advice to help newcomers navigate a rich medieval world. In-game suggestions tip you off to paths you might not have considered.”
Crusader Kings III is coming next year to Steam and Xbox Game Pass.
Grand strategy masters Paradox today announced a new mobile take on their big space game Stellaris, which has already been taken offline after fans quickly discovered that the title featured art literally stolen from an artist at 343 Studios, the developers of the Halo series.
Here’s the art in question, found within the game (it was quickly available in beta form in some regions):
And here’s the original piece, by 343 artist Kenny Magnusson, which was made during development of Halo 4:
Not only is it blatant theft, it’s even a terrible photoshop! The offending artist has left UNSC logos on the tanks, while the Pelican in the foreground has just been kinda…washed out, even though you can still see the ramp!
It’s here we note that while Paradox—as the creators of the Stellaris IP—are publishing Stellaris: Galaxy Command, they’re not developing it inhouse. Instead, that job went to Hong Kong studio Gamebear, whose previous title Nova Empire…looks a lot like Stellaris: Galaxy Command, even down to the main menu icons.
STELLARIS: GALAXY COMMAND:
It didn’t take long for Paradox to be made aware of all this, with the company issuing a statement saying that the game is being pulled while they perform a “full content sweep”.
E3 2019It’s time for the biggest gaming show of the year. We’ve got articles, videos, podcasts and maybe even a GIF or two.
While I was playing Vampire: The Masquerade Bloodlines2’s demo at E3 last week, I was feeling pretty smug about bluffing my way through a problem. Then, the developer holding the controller hit the wrong button, and a fight broke out regardless.
Bloodlines 2 looks like it has a wonderful breadth of experiences to offer the player, and it has a lot of vampire murder power options on top of that. The game isn’t just about picking what kind of powers you want to use, although that is a cool part of it; I picked the power set that allowed my vamp to turn into mist. Bloodlines 2 is also about deciding the kind of vampire you want to be, personality-wise. Are you a brute, using your powers to get your way, or are you more seductive? Is your word your bond, or are you willing to screw people over to get what you want? In the mission that the Hardsuit Labs developers showed me at E3, I could run the gamut from being like NoHo Hank in the HBO dramedy Barry—in other words, a total softie—to becoming the ultimate dirtbag.
In the E3 demo mission, one of the factions of vampires in the game needed me to get some data from another vampire called Slugg who was in hiding. The faction gave me ten thousand dollars to exchange for it, though it was also really clear that I could just murder him if bribery didn’t work. Slugg is a Nosferatu, which is a vampire who has been scarred by their transformation into a creature of the night, and he was also on everyone’s shitlist for generally being a shady guy. When I met up with Samuel, the contact who could find Slugg and an amusing character who had been turned during the ’80s tech boom, Samuel asked me to let Slugg live and come into the Nosferatu fold for protection. Samuel even said that I could still take the data and deliver it to the faction leader, as long as I didn’t kill Slugg.
I chose to side with Samuel, because, why not? I was still figuring out what kind of vampire I was.
It turned out, up until my vamp accidentally ended up in a shoot-out, I was a vampire who was very respectful of the masquerade, but generally disdainful of hierarchies. Using my misty powers, I was able to traverse buildings and choke out unsuspecting humans. This allowed me to keep to the masquerade, which is the lingo this game uses to refer to the secrecy vampires have about their existence and powers.
There are clearly delineated areas in the game where the masquerade is in play, meaning that vampire authorities will get pretty upset if you flaunt your powers there. Other areas are blindspots, which are areas where you won’t break the masquerade by using your powers. These are nice spots to grab a snack or try out Thaumaturgy, which is blood magic that makes people vomit blood ’til they pass out. You can also explode them. It’s very fun.
All that sneaking around brought me to Slugg, who ran into the sewers as soon as I spotted him in an underpass. I followed him, getting into a few scrapes with humans I very easily overpowered along the way. My vamp tracked him to what was very clearly a drug dealer’s house. There was a line of people outside who all had strong traces of delirium in their blood, which I could see, thanks to the emotional resonance system.
“We actually have a few ways to incentivize feeding, besides just the blood,” Rachel Leiker, the lead UI/UX designer on Bloodlines 2 said. “You of course have blood, which fuels your vampire powers, but we also have a secondary resource called resonance, that’s sort of the emotional flavor of the blood.”
“The difference resonance types are delirium, desire, fear, pain and rage,” she continued. The more you feed on people with a certain type of resonance, the more of that emotion your vamp will feel, which in turn benefits certain actions you can take. Leiker was vague about these details, saying she couldn’t share too much just yet. “It incentivizes frequent feeding, so even if you have full blood, you can still hunt for a resonance type. It also makes it a little bit more meaningful and strategic as to how you’re feeding.”
If you want to be a friendlier vampire, you can also feed on animals like rats, which Leiker called a “little Capri Sun of blood.”
It was at this dealer’s house that my vamp accidentally stole a whole lot of drugs. Clearly, that upset the dealer and his cohorts, and the guns came out, and we had to kill them all. That wasn’t my intention. I had already more or less established myself as more of a talker than a fighter, and I was proud of having navigated this conversation with an angry drug dealer without it rising to violence. I had even been able to convince him I was there to see his boss with an offer on pharmaceuticals. They were going to let me through.
Alas, it was not to be, but it was cool to learn that there was basically no way to render the mission unwinnable. Combat is usually an option, but it’s sometimes at odds with the goals of vampire-kind. If you do opt for combat, you can use human weapons, but they’re not necessarily something you can rely on. The most effective combat choices are going to involve using your vampiric powers, but that has the potential of breaking the masquerade. The other vampires in Seattle might not take too kindly to that, as it puts the entire vampire community at risk.
“Their main aim is to drink blood and continue to drink blood for the rest of eternity,” said Cara Ellison. She’s a writer on the game, as well as a former Kotaku contributor and a friend of mine. “They really want that low risk, high reward, traverse the city and continue to drink blood until the end of their life. So, a lot of the time, the options are there to strong-arm your way through conversations. It really tries to give you the most amount of options possible.”
I saw that when we finally caught up with Slugg. He was on the defensive, which was understandable, as we had been chasing him. At first, he was reluctant to join up with the Nosferatu, but we eventually persuaded him to go. It was at this point that I realized that we had forgotten to get the data from him and would be going back to the faction leader empty-handed, most likely locking my character out of friendly interactions with that faction. Still, we had done a favor for the Nosferatu, and that might come in handy for my vamp later.
“There are multiple ways to finish the quest as well,” Leiker said. “You can go directly into combat. You can negotiate, you can give him the money and he exchanges the data. You can also threaten him, and he exchanges the data. You can keep the money. There’s also another option where you can be like, ‘Oh, they gave me five thousand to give to you,’ and you can pocket the other five thousand.”
Roleplaying the way I had done ended up putting my vamp into a very specific social situation that would affect the choices they could make later in the game. The Nosferatu would appreciate the favor I had done them, but that other faction would now dislike me. The way that Bloodlines 2 asks the player to roleplay makes them really examine the social cost of sticking to their guns when it comes to their personal ethics. I personally didn’t want to murder poor old Slugg, and I didn’t even really care about the data that faction wanted. But pursuing the mission the way that I thought was best had social ramifications for my character.
“We’re just really excited to see how people play,” Leiker said. “There’s so much the player can do, so many options for the player to customize their specific character for their specific playthrough.”
I don’t know what the end result will be of my throwing Slugg a bone, but when Bloodlines 2 comes out in 2020, I’ll get to really figure out what kind of vampire I’ll be, when push comes to shove.
E3 2019It’s time for the biggest gaming show of the year. We’ve got articles, videos, podcasts and maybe even a GIF or two.
Empire of Sin, a complex tactics game about running a mob empire in Prohibition-era Chicago, is the game Brenda Romero always wanted to make.
When you talk to John Romero, the renowned creator of Doom and now part of the husband-and-wife team Romero Games, he gushes about Empire of Sin. It’s a complex web of social interactions and turn-based combat that he calls “mechanic soup.” That, he said, is the reason that Brenda was the perfect person to make it.
“I mean, in interviews, the question of ‘where does this come from?’ comes up,” he said. “I tell them, this is Brenda’s design, she is lead game designer, she’s wanted to make this game for 20 years. All her experience on Wizardry 8 and working on Jagged Alliance, playing Civ for decades, playing X-Com—she wanted to put all of that into her favorite time period, which is Prohibition-era Chicago.”
In the short demo that members of Empire of Sin’s development team (including John, but not Brenda) showed me at E3 yesterday, we took Al Capone fresh from Brooklyn straight into gunning down men at a Chicago speakeasy. From there, he was able to recruit other people to his gang. Romero called these “Recruitable Player Characters.” They’re not quite non-playable characters, because you do control their actions in combat. But they are lesser in importance than the boss.
These members of your gang can come with you to rumbles with other gangs, but also have defined personalities and relationships. One member of our gang, Maria, had a lover and a couple of friends. Romero told me that if we ended up having to face her lover in combat, Maria might try not to hurt him, or even refuse the order and not come.
It was at that point that I first understood the scale of Empire of Sin. It seems like an enormous game with a lot of moving parts. Not only are you recruiting and promoting members of your gang, you have to take over territory that belongs to other mob bosses. Some of these mob bosses are fictional, while others are drawn from history. All of them have special abilities related to their area of expertise.
We played as Al Capone during the demo, who has a special ability for his tommy gun allowing him to lay down a spray of bullets. Eoin O’Niell, associate developer at Romero Games, also told me about Daniel McKee Jackson, a real-life black mob boss who will be playable in the game. Jackson was also an undertaker, and ran gambling dens in the basement of his funeral home. His special ability is called “Funeral Director.” They didn’t tell me what that does.
You also have to supply your speakeasies with alcohol, which you brew yourself, given that Prohibition is still in effect. You can just brew swill, spring for something higher-quality, or even make poisoned alcohol to trade to rival gangs. Your activities can get you in trouble with those rivals, though. Sometimes you’ll need to sit down for meetings with a rival, selecting dialogue choices to either smooth things over or make them worse. If those turn sour, well, get your guns out because it’s time to waste some fools.
The level of depth in play makes Romero Games’ partnership with Paradox very understandable. Empire of Sin has a real danger of becoming too much game—too many pieces to juggle, too many resources to keep track of, too many characters to remember the names of. In the demo that I saw, it all seems to coalesce, and I have faith in Paradox’s track record with strategy games like Stellaris and Crusader Kings II. Still, I have the tiniest bit of apprehension. Even a very good team like this one can make missteps.
The core of Empire of Sin, though, is Brenda Romero. She has a personal fascination with Prohibition-era gangsters, and the resume to back up what she wants to develop, her husband said. John pointed to her work on board games like Trainor Sȋochân Leatas examples of how smartly she turns aspects of life into meaningful game mechanics. These are both games that take real-life events and break them down into their component parts, revealing the systems of our history and everyday life. That’s the approach she took to turning the history Prohibition into game mechanics, he said.
“You basically look at, well, what did they do? It seems like they killed a lot of rivals, so that seems like some combat stuff. They became powerful through money, and that was through illegal gambling rackets and all these different places. So it’s like, we need to be able to have that in the game somehow, and turn that into a game where the other people are doing the exact same thing,” John said. “As long as all those things make sense and work together, you can take real-world stuff and turn it into systems.”
Even though it’s Brenda’s dream project, many people see the name “Romero Games” and immediately think of John. He said that Brenda doesn’t mind for now that people are assuming that her dream game is primarily being developed by her husband. “With Brenda, she’s like, ‘Don’t tweet this isn’t John Romero’s,’ or whatever,” he said. “She’s like—this is great, we’re getting press, they’ll find out she’s lead game designer, it’s not going to be a problem.” Given that Brenda wasn’t there at E3, I’ll have to take his word for it.
HOIIV’s latest expansion, Man The Guns, is an attempt to fix that. It fleshes out the naval side of the game with a whole range of extra command options, operational possibilities, repair considerations and even a ship creation tool that lets you customise the weapons and loadout of every ship in your fleet.
All of which sounds cool! But none of it actually fixes the main problem with the naval side of HOOIV. When you’re commanding armies in the game, they’re right there on the map, and when you set front lines and draw offensive arrows, you see them march off and carry out your orders.
It’s toy soldiers in the most adult, gratifying sense, and it’s easily the best part of HOOIV, yet even after all this work Man The Guns’ navies still suck. They’re just these stacks of ships that lurk in ports or slink around huge areas of the map represented by their missions icons, and putting them into harm’s way is still incredibly basic compared to the elegant and involved land operations.
Indeed adding a whole range of extra features and buttons to click has actually made me want to use navies less, since they’re still as dry as ever, only now they’re also more complex, and the last thing I want to do in Hearts of Iron IV is have to pore over more menus. Maybe you are someone who is just very into ships, or appreciate the added depth for a playthrough as someone like Japan or the US, but as someone who only dabbles with navies, I just didn’t get much out of it.
Of course this being a Paradox expansion means that there’s other stuff here too, along with new features that have also been added to the base game for free, so even if navies aren’t your thing there’s still improvements or additions worth checking out.
The transformation of fuel into a trackable commodity (one of the free updates), something that needs to be stored and whose use by fleets and air forces is tracked, is a massive game-changer, especially for anyone who wants to both use a lot of ships or aircraft and won’t have access to large amounts of oil (hi, Japan!). It’s a small change, but such a realistic one, that I really appreciated it.
Four nations also get expansions to their focus trees, two of which are OK (the US and Britain) and two of which are pretty cool (Mexico and the Netherlands). America’s has a lot of neo-Confederacy stuff that I frankly thought was a bit much even for this game, and in general their tree is maybe too big, while Britain’s bizarre Monarchist turn, which sees Churchill teaming up with Oswald Mosley, wasn’t much better (though Britain’s other new path, which lets you accelerate the decolonization process, was a very neat idea).
One last thing, and I think it’s one of the paid content’s nicest achievements, is the way governments in exile have been implemented. There’s now a full and proper system for countries whose homelands have been overrun (most likely by the Nazis), and the new Dutch focus tree plays specifically into this, letting you rebuild and rearm your forces in SE Asia before returning to Europe as liberators.
This can also make a huge difference if you’re on the losing side of the war. I was playing a game as Britain and found my war going much the same way as the actual one, with most of Europe falling as my under-sized army retreated back to England. As each ally fell, I’d be picking up bonuses in the way of divisions, equipment and leaders as the remains of defeated forces turned up in London having escaped their homeland. I had direct control over all this stuff, which I love; I’ve been able to build little French and Polish forces and have them complement my main British armies, which is super helpful at a time where my back is against the wall.
Man the Guns is in a strange place, then, where the main point of the whole thing isn’t that great, but the lesser updates sneak in and steal the show. Indeed I think the fuel system is so good that even if you skip the expansion entirely and just update your game, you’ll be having a greatly improved experience.