March 28: Old Favorites and New Releases

This week I poured most of my gaming time into Stellaris: Federations the latest DLC for Paradox Development Studio‘s hybrid 4X/Grand Strategy space opera simulator. I really think this might be the best major expansion Stellaris has had to date. It certainly renewed my waning interest in the game.

I’ve finished one campaign with the expansion so far, picking up 6 of the new achievements and “Relic Hunter.” Overall the campaign was kind of a disaster but it was good learning experience to get back into the game. I also started a couple of new games: the Stewards AAR and, so I wouldn’t get too far ahead of the writing, a third less friendly campaign as Militant Authoritarian Spiritualists. For that one I used the story based “On the Shoulders of Giants” origin and it’s really cool.

I feel like I’ve been seeing a ton of new non-diplomacy content. Quite a bit of it is probably things I hadn’t seen yet from Distant Stars and Ancient Relics but the game feels a lot fresher than last time I played. I think they snuck in quite a few new events and archaeological sites. But my favorite thing from the expansion has to be all the new art gracing old events and anomalies. Some of them I’ve seen a hundred times but the new art really catches my interest.

The other thing I played this week was Amplitude Studios’ Endless Legend. I enjoyed the original Endless Space tremendously but somehow never got around to playing this fantasy installment of the franchise until it was Free to Try this week on Steam. I know the game has been very well received and was high on some lists for Strategy Games of the Decade but it just didn’t work for me. Maybe if I had played it six years ago.

Three things really killed it for me. First, the lack of contrast on the map. Maybe it’s just me but I can’t tell WTF is going on. Is that a tree? A village? A monster? I don’t know. Everything is so dark and just blurs together. It’s super hard for me to tell what I’m looking at. I’ve never appreciated the Civilization bright cartoony colors so much. Second, I just played a lot of Endless Space 2 so everything here felt both very samey and less polished which isn’t a good combination. Third, the whole time I was playing I kept asking myself why I wasn’t just playing Age of Wonders. Now, of course, Planetfall, released in 2019, is going to feel more modern (arguably) than a game from 2014 and you might not think it’s fair to compare them, but we’re in 2020 and I only have so much gaming time. I can’t really justify buying this when I already have several newer games that are so similar.

I am still looking forward to Humankind a lot. Amplitude does great work and I do wish I had played Endless Legend when it was newer.

I also went back to Fire Emblem: Three Houses to start a new play through with the Golden Deer house. I’ve said it before but the Switch is just great to relax with when you’re tired and tired sums up how I think most of us are feeling this week. I haven’t played with the new story DLC for Three Houses yet either so that should be fun.

Fire Emblem: Three Houses - Hilda

I am learning why you all went on about Hilda so much last summer

There are several things coming out next week that I’m really excited about.

On Monday the long awaited Mount & Blade II: Bannerlord charges into early access. I really wish it was the full release but I’m willing to break my no early access rule for Taleworlds. My history with the franchise goes far enough back to remember Zendar and the Dark Knights so I know there will be an entertaining game experience in there even if it’s still missing a few features. Returning to the battlefields of Calradia is too tempting to pass up.

One day later Egosoft will be releasing X4: Split Vendetta the first expansion for X4, alongside the full release of the 3.0 patch which has been in public beta for close to a year now. X4 was a game that got off to a rocky start. After the PR disaster of X: Rebirth, Egosoft really needed to make a strong comeback to mainline X series. While I personally enjoyed X4, it got mixed reviews from the core audience and the company spent more than a year playing catch up, not unlike what happened with Paradox and Imperator. Now the core game has finally reached a state where they are working on paid content again and I can’t wait to get back into it and see all the changes. Steam says I haven’t played since February 2019 so I am expecting a very different experience next week.

Finally, Aurora C#, the sequel to Aurora 4X which some folks have been waiting for about as long as I’ve been waiting for a new Mount & Blade. There is no formal release date and it looks likely to slip into the first weeks of April but it definitely going to be here before I’ve exhausted the other two.

If there was ever going to be a good time to have too many exciting new games at once this is probably it.