Firaxis is taking Civilization to the stars

Announced yesterday, Sid Meier’s Civilization: Beyond Earth is a fully fledged game that tasks players to colonise an alien planet. It is set after “The Great Mistake”, an event hundreds of years into the future that makes Earth no longer inhabitable to humans. After fleeing the planet, players will get the opportunity to rebuild humanity in their own image, to either repeat the mistakes of the past or steer humanity in a new direction and thrive.

"Every time it’s a different story, a different imaginary tale about who humanity grew up to be over the next 5,000 years on this strange, alien planet. [It’s about] starting from a place of safety and taking a journey that’s both dangerous and invigorating into a strange new future and the revelation of wonder along the way. Friends and enemies start to take on a whole new meaning when your enemy has transformed itself into a robot. What does that mean for your civilization? How could you ever get along? That sort of thing: putting interesting decisions like that in front of the player, all the way through the game."

Like previous games, you’ll choose a nationality, but with a revamped title there comes new features to tweak the balance of your game. Your choice of spaceship, cargo, and inhabitants all have an effect of how your new civilisation will turn out, and your mind will have to open up to all the new possibilities that the future could bring with a new and more intertwined tech web.

In broad terms, there are three different affinities your people could follow. Will you choose the harmony affinity and adapt to your new world, choose the supremacy affinity and take control of both nature and your own humanity, or look towards the past with the purity affinity and try to rebuild the glory days? Whatever you choose, Beyond Earth is taking Civilization to a new era. Instead of following history, you will make it.

Sid Meier’s Civilization: Beyond Earth is due for release in the autumn for Linux, Mac and Windows PC.

That’s the problem with futuristic scythe hands: nothing in Gap fucking fits you anymore.

Papers Please Review: Kerchunk.

A Ministry of Information Investigator is visiting today. I quickly tear down my son’s drawing from the wall and hide it under the day’s newspaper. Unauthorised decoration.

There was a problem at the Metro last night. Possible terrorist activity. The Investigator asks me if I have ever seen this symbol before. It is a square sun, the same symbol that was stamped on my newspaper this morning. He asks if I had any information on the terrorist group called EZIC. My eyes flicker guiltily to the EZIC code breaker on my desk. “No,” I say.

The next day I refuse one of my fellow citizens entry back home as her passport is three days out of date. Glory to Arstotzka.

My son is ill. My salary is based on how many people I process correctly and even then it sometimes doesn’t cover my living expenses and my family goes without food. I am taking bribes from drug dealers in one hand and handing out diplomatic passports to revolutionaries in the other. I am powerless in everything except the kerchunk of the border stamp.

Papers Please is brilliant. It is starkly compelling and brutal in its honesty. For once you are not the hero of the tale – just the bureaucrat. Based in an unknown part of the world that may as well be East Germany, your character has been lucky enough to be assigned work at the newly opened border crossing. The line stretches to infinity. You are probably the only border inspector. The graphics are drab and minimalist just as the music trumpets oppressive patriotism and just as you have to remove your son’s colourful drawing from your wall. The hundreds of people I assess every day are soon reduced to page after page of documentation, my satisfaction with the job only achieved as I spot their tiny errors. The paperwork builds up until it seems the system is actively working against you, that it wants you in jail. I don’t listen to what the asylum seekers say anymore.

You will not finish this game with your character’s humanity intact.

The game can be difficult. Starting off you can only let fellow Arstotzka citizens enter, but tomorrow foreigners are permitted and the rules will start to grow more complicated. There’s a new piece of documentation to examine on your tiny desk, which is already cluttered with reams of new information and the new wanted list in the daily newspaper. It serves to create an enormous sense of claustrophobia as you desperately shuffle through these documents looking for one discrepancy that is the difference between getting paid and getting warned. You make $5 for every correct processing, but two warnings means you are fined $5 for every subsequent failure. Fail to make enough money and your family will get sick and die. Choose to feed them when you don’t have enough money and you will be jailed and your family sent away. You are soon reduced to turning off the heat one day and going without food the next.

One of the people you are processing mentions how thin you look.

Early on, the game makes it seem easier to turn people away as it means you can process people faster without fussing over a fingerprint check or body scan, but even that is dashed later on. You are constantly weighing up the consequences of your actions, living with the day-to-day struggle rather than look towards the end-game. What happens at the end? Will you make it to the end without dropping the ball? The meditative quality of the gameplay is constantly interrupted by outside influences that will bring great consequences to your character, but you’re sometimes too focused on the spot-the-difference puzzle game to pay attention. Only after the processed person has left can you take stock, look at the warning slips that have somehow piled up, and choose to care that the picture on your wall was drawn by a dead child.

Or you can shout “next” and keep your nose to the grindstone. Glory to Arstotzka.


Antichamber! For those fond of different things and travel sickness!

The Walking Dead! For those who hoped the TV show wouldn’t be a steaming pile of shit!

Terraria! “That Minecraft game that isn’t Minecraft”!

Sleeping Dogs! Like GTA, but in Hong Kong!



Skyrim! See you in the spring!

Prison Architect! This gimmick is wearing fairly thin!

Rogue Legacy! ROGUES.

The Xbox One and PS4 had some pretty wacky controller prototypes

On first glance, the differences between the last gen and current gen controllers may not seem like much. The DualShock grew up a little and the Xbox controller refined some of the details, but it could have been a lot more drastic. Those little refinements came at the cost of “over $100 million for sure”, according to Zulfi Alam, Xbox’s general manager for accessories.

He’s been talking recently about the R&D for the Xbox One’s controller, a mad science venture that included, among other things, smell creation and image projection. The first would be implemented through “slugs of different types of smells”, that presumably would have to be replaced much like glade plugins, and is a fairly cumbersome feature without much payoff. As for the projector, it has been described a little like a smaller IllumiRoom concept that Microsoft debuted earlier in the year. That idea was mooted fairly early on for proving too expensive and impractical for most consumers.

So that’s smellovision and fucking walls of holograms for those of you living in this brave new Asimov-Star Trek world. These are actual controllers that exist in the vaults of Microsoft’s R&D department, guarded by elves. Probably.

By the way, general manager for accessories is a ridiculous job title. I hear Master Chief is looking hot in fur lined booties this winter.

As for the PS4? They were testing out full touchscreen and touchpad controllers before worried developers stepped in, concerned that “having to look down at the controller is not what they want to do”. So that’s a slap in the face for both the Wii U and the new Steam controller.

Countdown to Xbox One Launch: Ryse: Son of Rome

I’m not even going to preview this properly. It’s pretty and mediocre. What I AM going to post is ALL OF THE FUCKING PUNS FROM THE REVIEWS.

The Ryse and fall of the Roman Empire

Ryse: Son of Rome is let down

Ryse: Son of Rome review: before the fall

'Ryse: Son of Rome' is a Trojan horse with no surprises inside (that’s not even the right fucking empire!)

Ryse: Son of Rome review: one long fall

Ryse: Son of Rome review: Tedious maximus

Don’t bother getting up

Fiddling while it burns.

if all roads lead here, it might just be better to turn back now.

You are not entertained.

These are all real, and on an internet near you. Games journalism: going down the road of least resistance. Fuck you all.

Well, the Xbox One is finally out today, and I’ve been previewing the exclusives all this week. Take a look. The verdict? Forza and Dead Rising are worth your time, and if you like FUZZY WUZZY FLUFFY ANIMALS, then maybe Zoo Tycoon is for you.

Countdown to Xbox One Launch: Powerstar Golf

Oh my, it’s like Hot Shots Golf, only it’s not because that would be blatant copyright infringement.

Developer Zoë Mode’s pretty new golf title has a feature like a watered down Drivatar, letting you play against other player’s best outings on each hole. It’s like a ghost mode, essentially. This is a substitute for the lack of online play, although local co-op is available.

Unfortunately, the RPG nature of Powerstar means that the game shuts you out of many features that can be unlocked with enough experience points or - gasp - a couple of microtransactions or two. You bet that this has not gone down well with reviewers.

What saves it from being a throw away title is a few innovative ideas, gameplay that any golf game fan would be happy with, and a Pixar-like aesthetic.

If golf is a good walk spoiled, then at least it’s shiny.


In the end, Powerstar Golf isn’t particularly special, but it’ll win over the hearts of golf fans for sure. If all you’re looking to do is whack a ball down a course on a next-gen system with the occasional bit of positive reinforcement, Powerstar is your huckleberry.


Powerstar Golf plays a like a seasoned pro, nailing most of the fundamentals of the sport, and establishing its own identity by applying little magic to a gameplay formula we know well.

As the worldwide launch is on Friday, I’m previewing the Xbox One exclusive titles all this week. Keep your eyes peeled for more!

Countdown to Xbox One Launch: Forza Motorsport 5

Everyone is just cooing over the graphics to Turn 10’s latest Forza entry. This is the game you slap on the box of your new console and scream at everyone, “See? SEE?! The next gen is totally legitimate!”

The Drivatar system, while a horrible name, is getting accolades too. The game learn and records your driving habits and turns that data into a computer opponent for your friends to compete against. The better you get, the more skilled your Drivatar gets, and hopefully the more it wins races against your friends when you are offline.

Of course you also get to compete against your friend’s Drivatars. It gives the game a lot more depth when you know that the car that just spun off track was your mate Benny’s shitty AI car. Fuck you, Benny.


Forza 5 is beautiful, sure, with a stunning, light-filled world of engines and tire smoke. But with the introduction of aggressive, convincing AI that makes every offline race feel like a multiplayer competition, Turn 10 has charted a course for the future of the series — and created the Xbox One’s first must-own game.


Turn 10’s created a driving experience both accessible and beautiful - but it’s been stripped back to make Xbox One’s launch, and augmented with a host of ugly extras that only serve Microsoft’s bid to make a few dollars more.


Forza 5 is gorgeous and smooth as butter, and its utterly enchanting handling makes it a joy to drive hard, but this game is more than just a rock solid technical titan for the Xbox One. It’s an essential destination for the automobile obsessed.

As the worldwide launch is on Friday, I’m previewing the Xbox One exclusive titles all this week. Keep your eyes peeled for more!

Countdown to Xbox One Launch: Zoo Tycoon

A little bit early for reviews right now; the game is getting an important day 1 patch so people are holding off on making any conclusions. What will be great to watch out for are articles like this, as a grown man attempts to be objective while being a responsible zookeeper and screaming “IT’S SO FLUFFY” whenever their giraffe burps:

With Kinect, you can feed the animals, wash the animals and make faces at the animals and oh my gosh they make faces back it’s so cute I’m just going to die.

Adding to the adorbs factor is the big reveal by studio manager Jorg Neumann that playing the game will help zoos and animals in real life. As you progress in the game, and nurture your happy animals, you will get the chance to release them into the wild. Heartbreaking as that may be, the game promises an upside.

Every so often, Zoo Tycoon will have a community event: Microsoft will choose an animal charity and challenge players to release as many of a certain type of animal as possible. When the number is reached, the charity gets a percentage of the game’s profits. Microsoft has partnered with National Geographic and zoos all over the world to help fight for animal charities worldwide.


As the worldwide launch is on Friday, I’m previewing the Xbox One exclusive titles all this week. Keep your eyes peeled for more!

Countdown to Xbox One Launch: Killer Instinct

Killer Instinct is back after 17 years, carrying behind it a legacy of unusual game mechanics and people yelling about combo breakers in internet forums.

The game comes in three forms, free-to-play, “premium” and “ultra”. You can either freely download the game with one character and buy additional ones for $5 each, or buy the entire roster of six characters - with two more coming in the next few months - for $20. The Ultra package includes all this and two versions of the original 1994 game for $40.

Reviews are fairly middling, with the majority of the big publications taking the view that despite it being a promising pick-up-and-play fighting game, Killer Instinct’s current lack of content and no proper online lobby system drag it down significantly.


While we never asked for it, it’s here—and now that it is, you know, it can at times be charming, in its own awkward, obnoxious way, so long as you take it in small, occasional doses.


As much as Killer Instinct is a sound and inviting fighter mid-battle, it’s an experience that ultimately feels hollow everywhere else. Online play – as spare as it is – may present a limitless well of competition to draw from, but with only six fighters to master and very few modes of play, Killer Instinct lacks the value and staying power offered by most other modern fighting games.


There’s a fantastic combo system at Killer Instinct’s core, but right now it feels like half a game – one full of promise, certainly, but not an especially next-gen one either. The cascade of particles may not be enough to retain player interest until the rest of the game arrives.



Not only is its combat system flashy and well thought out, it’s well explained too, thanks to its powerful training tools, and what is easily the most complete guide to terminology and tactics ever assembled in a fighting game. Though it lacks an arcade mode or a full-sized character roster, Killer Instinct delivers where it counts.

As the worldwide launch is on Friday, I’m previewing the Xbox One exclusive titles all this week. Keep your eyes peeled for more!