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Crusader Kings 2: The Reaper’s Due is the expansion for the incredibly engrossing incest-and-murder simulator that is Crusader Kings 2. The general aim behind this expansion was to… expand… thoroughly on the mechanic of illness within the game. Previously, characters can become ill somewhat randomly; they would gain the trait “Ill” and it might become worse, or get better – nothing you do really affects what happens. Now, with the (perhaps slightly expensive price of $10) purchase of The Reaper’s Due, characters can contract a wide variety of illnesses, including developing specific symptoms with their own associated effects. Alongside this, you gain the ability to appoint a Court Physician, whose job it is to ensure the people within your realm don’t die horribly of food poisoning. However, when hunting for new Court Physicians, if you refuse one who is interested in the job, they just… die. They “disappear without trace”. It makes me feel like an arbitrary mad king; so… powerful: “Won’t someone rid me of this troublesome Doctor?” This, of course, comes with an expansion of plague – this is the Middle Ages, there are epidemics aplenty; to bring the game even closer to historical accuracy, you can now catch a variety of serious ailments, including Black Death, Slow Fever, Dysentery and so many more. The total amount of enjoyment and fun added by this expansion? It’s tricky to say; adding more content into a grand historical strategy game like this usually creates either more difficulty or more layers of depth within the game. The latter can generally be seen as superior to the former – mindless difficulty is almost always boring, whereas increased depth can usually be enjoyable. The Reaper’s Due causes you to need to deal with making sure your characters don’t die horribly from a random affliction of cancer. There are a variety of events added to create further flavor, including the ability to dictate how your physician treats you. So, it certainly adds an additional layer of depth not originally present. It is, however, rather frustrating that characters get a variety of illnesses and die more often. Sure, it’s historical and correct, but the increase in managing your family’s ailments can get a little tedious. Having more characters dying from ailments can feel pretty random at some points. Sure, it makes sense – people get sick and die! But, having your best kid (genius, with awesome military traits) die from a cough and then suddenly your wife has cancer and your physician is useless. I’ve certainly laughed quite a lot at random deaths, but I’ve also become very irritated at losing people when it was inconvenient. Such is Crusader Kings 2, however…
Europa Universalis IV (EU4) is a game that I endlessly come back to – I broke the 4 digit club (1000+ hours) over a year ago, but I still keep coming back to it. Paradox’s continuous release of expansions, patches and DLCs means that there is always something fresh for me to return to. This is both a good and bad thing. On the one hand, I get to experience a game I love and enjoy somewhat new each time, enjoying new features and changed mechanics. On the other, it feeds an addiction that sees me going to bed at 1 in the morning, despite previous obligations. Paradox Interactive, one might say, is the most friendly Swedish drug dealer I know. Europa Universalis IV’s most recent expansion, ‘Rights of Man’, focuses on increasing the control you have over both your subjects and your leaders. Paradox love to alter the game mechanics of their games quite drastically with new expansions and ‘Rights of Man’ is no different. To start, numerous nations have updated government forms, as well as increasingly interesting Dynamic Historical Events, particularly focusing on Prussia and Ethiopia. There’s a lot of really interesting changes to Prussia’s government, for example, that makes them more of an Army with a State, rather than a State with an Army. If that makes sense. The meat and bones of this expansion however is the addition of Traits. Now, both leaders and rulers can gain traits that affect their stats that they bring to the table, as well as how they govern. Maybe your ruler is greedy and gets more tax revenue; he could also be Loose Lipped, so you can expect that he’ll spill the beans to other nations about his plans to attack that tasty neighbouring minor nation. These traits are gained over time and really help to build a sense of identity and character for each of your leaders. The most significant change I experience in the game is the change to technology. Previously, all nations existed within technology groups – these groups dictated the cost of going up a technology level, thus providing access to better buildings, different army types and a myriad of other benefits. You existed within those technology groups based on where your nation started – it makes sense as after all, a Native American nation is clearly not going to progress at the same rate technologically as a European nation, right? Now however, all nations start on the same footing – they progress and purchase new technologies at the same base cost. However, we now have a lovely new feature called Institutions. These essentially represent an idealism, a way of thinking or great change in the manner in which life is lived. Most nations start with Feudalism already in existence (not all nations, though! Tribal nations understandably do not!). The Renaissance is next, followed by the outbreak of colonialism. These Institutions spread across the world through provinces, getting more and more accepted each month – a nation can pay to have it accepted nation wide, with a diminishing gold cost associated with the amount of provinces that have been ‘converted’ to that Institution. Alongside cheaper tech, you also get access to a few mild benefits – for example, having Feudalism means you can enjoy an extra Military leader on your staff. This is all really interesting, but it comes with a few problems. Firstly, Institutions appear in a random province when they do appear. Basically giving that nation those benefits for free straight away. Nations that don’t have that Institution receive a yearly 1% tech penalty, up to 50%! Problem is, even if you’re playing Prussia in Northern Germany, you might have to wait about 50 years to get the Institution to take effect in your nation, essentially giving you a massive malus to your technology in comparison to some other nation that was lucky enough to get it first. It just takes waaaaay too long for it to spread. Another problem it brings is the dependence on gold – because you can pay gold (dependant on the amount of your provinces so far converted) to convert your whole nation, gold becomes even more insanely important to a game of EU4. Countries with the most cash can now essentially buy cheaper tech in comparison to others. So, money improvement is now fantastically the most important aspect to EU4. I’ve actually declared a pretty major war in Europe, simply so that I can nick some of that other nation’s cash to pay for the institution, so as to get a tech lead on those around me. While it adds a really nice layer of strategic depth, the irritation of needing to manage technology maluses to a far worse extent than previously, coupled with an excessive focus on gold generation, means that ‘Rights of Man’ is less about Thomas Paine’s treatise on the innate rights of his fellow man, and more about living in a rich man’s world. You can see Aldrahill’s YouTube channel right here, where he’s currently playing Ethiopia in EU4, doing some achievement hunting.