At first glance, Unity of Command 2 may look intimidating, the familiarity of the pint-sized tanks and military men that populate its World War II battlefields obscured by an impenetrable fog of unintuitive jargon and confounding icons. But once the confusion clears it reveals a surprisingly straightforward wargame whose keen focus on establishing and severing lines of supply delivers remarkable strategic depth.
This isn't really a strategy game about marching your troops forward to attack the enemy. Unity of Command 2's twist on the genre makes it a game about manoeuvring your units to occupy spaces that maintain clear supply lines to your forces and deny supply to the enemy. In fact, the winning move often involves holding your position. Sometimes you don't even need to engage the enemy at all; you just have to starve them out.
Placing you in charge of the Allied forces in 1943, the campaign opens in North Africa before pushing up through Italy and into the heart of Western Europe. Missions arrive in groups known as conferences, one of the first off-putting terms you'll encounter. At the start of a conference, you can spend prestige points on upgrading your field headquarters, extending their range and efficiency during combat, and on purchasing theatre cards that you can play in battle to grant additional abilities. Beat all the missions in a conference and you unlock the next, along with another chance to upgrade and purchase.
Luck and short-term planning combine here in an interesting way. The cards available to purchase are shuffled randomly, meaning you can't always rely on picking up a favourite and may need to accommodate a curveball or two. And the choices you make are locked in for the duration of the conference, so you've got to manage with what you've got in terms of HQ upgrades and make those cards last over several missions. Knowing you have only three opportunities to use a naval bombardment over the course of a single mission does a lot to focus the mind. Such constraints force you to make bold choices about which targets you absolutely must hit and when precisely is the right time to do so. Get these plays right and you feel like the greatest general the world’s ever seen. Extra cards can be collected during missions as you complete certain objectives, but they arrive more as a relief package--an unexpected boon to your cause rather than a way to undermine the decisions you finalised at the last conference.
At the outset of each mission you're able to survey the map and plan your approach. Usually there are a couple of primary objectives that must be fulfilled to complete the scenario, accompanied by a few secondary objectives that, if achieved, offer a bonus reward or even a slight tactical advantage in the next mission. These objectives are designed in such a way to guide you across the map, and the attentive player will glean useful advantages from them. For example, if the objectives ask you to take a certain town by turn 5 and a second town by turn 8, then it's likely that taking the first town will be beneficial to your efforts to take the second. And if you're tasked with taking and holding a location then doing so will undoubtedly accord an ongoing advantage. Clear, concise objectives provide a structure to each mission that makes it easy to digest what's expected of you, and when you should be aiming to have it accomplished.
Rounding out the preparatory phase, the units at your disposal are pre-assigned as per the scenario, so you're never burdened with choosing whether or not to deploy the US 13th Airborne or the 7th British Armoured Division--they're already there, conveniently positioned on a hex, ready to go. Although units come in only two types--tank and infantry divisions--there's a host of critical attributes that can distinguish one tank division from the next, assuming you can get your head around the collection of arcane icons used to describe them.
Units are composed of "steps," an offputting, unfamiliar term that basically measures the health of the unit. All else being equal, a five-step unit will beat a three-step unit. Yet in these variable battlefields, things are rarely equal. Tiny stars and crosses next to a unit indicate whether it's an elite, veteran or regular unit, but these icons are all-too-easily missed, and even after dozens of hours of play I still found myself occasionally not noticing I was sending a regular infantry to their doom against an elite. Other, multi-coloured symbols represent various specialists serving in the division, but there's no tooltip or in-game explanation as to how a specialist can benefit a unit. I had to rely on an external guide, alt-tabbing out to remind myself that the dark blue icon with the chevron indicated a self-propelled anti-tank specialist while the chevron and dot meant it was a towed anti-tank specialist. There's a lot to remember and keep track of, and unfortunately, the tutorials and in-game tooltips aren't up to the job.
However, once you've taken stock there's the opportunity to make some last-minute adjustments, adding more regular or specialist units to this squad or that, to better suit the strategic gambit you wish to employ. Deploying an engineer specialist to the siege at your primary objective will help whittle away the enemy's fortification bonuses, but maybe you're better off assigning them to the infantry in the east to help ford all those rivers and secure a secondary objective? All these resources are limited, though, and the trade-offs you're forced into always carry weight.
The importance of every decision you make is heightened by the tight turn limit applied to each mission. Of course, you're free to take all the time in the world on each turn. But Unity of Command 2 is a wargame with a fast turnover, and that's precisely what makes it so accessible. Brief skirmishes are the order of the day rather than long, drawn-out stalemates. Often you'll be asked to tick off secondary goals within three or four turns while 10 or 12 turns is a generous amount of time to secure the primary objectives. Experimentation is encouraged by the short time scale. Roll the dice on one strategy, fail quickly, and then before you know it you're back at the battle planning stage, pondering a more effective approach based on the lessons taught by your unsuccessful sortie.
Battles are won through a combination of clear, decisive strikes and a conservative support structure that can swiftly respond to any breach in your line. The way you have to manage logistics through the supply line system turns what could have been a puzzle game about finding the correct solution into a meaty strategy game brimming with flexibility. Victory is all about identifying where you really need to break through the enemy line to secure that vital railroad junction that will cut off supply to every enemy unit in a particular region of the map. Or it's about realising that you can drop those paratroopers behind enemy lines to blow up a bridge that will deny the Germans' ability to keep supplying the frontline. Seeing your plan executed successfully is incredibly satisfying, but at the same time, it's still entertaining to see a plan fall apart as enemy tanks overrun a key chokepoint, suddenly finding yourself scrambling to hold the line and divert supply to your now-stranded troops.
Unity of Command 2 is an overall excellent wargame. The early going can be tough as it takes time to acclimatise to some idiosyncratic terms and learn to interpret the raft of poorly-explained icons. Persistence--not to mention some handy community-written guides--does pay off, though. Stick with it, and you'll be rewarded with one of the finest strategy games in recent times.
Cryptic Studios is making a free-to-play action/RPG in the vein of Diablo based on Wizards of the Coast’s massive hit card game Magic: The Gathering. For our recent cover story, we were fortunate enough to get the first details and extensive hands-on time with Magic: Legends. From the strategy behind building decks to engaging in non-stop action via spells and summons, we saw a lot of promise. Here are the biggest highlights of our experience.
Cool And Satisfying Spells
This is a game about magic, after all. What would it be if you didn’t have interesting spells? Magic: The Gathering has a glut of impressive spells, but bringing them to life in an action/RPG is a whole different ball game. A card has some gorgeous art and straightforward text to convey function, but that needs to be reimagined for a flashier, action-packed adventure, so a lot of care went into bringing Magic to this new format. You should feel powerful when doling out your spells (and they should look cool, too). Thankfully, Magic: Legends fulfills that fantasy. Cast Fire Vortex and watch enemies get sucked into a merry-go-round of fire. Need to push them back? Use the spell Tidal Wave to envelop enemies in a flood of water, washing them away from your character and leaving a pool of water in its wake that applies a snare to foes for over five seconds. Want to be crafty and confuse foes? Summon an illusory ally to take some of the heat off yourself, or select Telecast to teleport to a new location – disorienting the baddies you leave behind, while also dealing big damage to the ones surrounding your new location.
While each class has three permanent abilities, the spells you cast are up to you, depending on which you pick for your 12-card deck. At any time you have a random hand of four spells to cast. These come in three different types: sorcery (instantaneous or short duration effects), creature (summoned pets), and enchantment (long duration, sets a “rule” to build around). As we played, we all quickly chose our preferences, focusing on getting the most out of these spells and using them at opportune moments. Having one spell take out a swarm of enemies never gets old, and being able to upgrade your favorites to see more devastating outcomes makes you feel powerful.
Big Summons For Big Damage
A significant part of this game is summoning when you’re not casting direct-damage spells, and they are your best chance at surviving against the large waves of enemies. Your summons depend on what you put in your deck, but watching them multiply really drives home you’re building your own awesome army of majestic creatures from the MTG universe. Putting buffs on your summons will also cause them to grow to epic proportions, which is a sight to behold on screen. During our hands-on time, we summoned a variety of creatures, such as baloths, griffins, angels, flametongue kavus, and earth elementals. You definitely want these powerful beings on your side, and it was a treat when we had tons of them following us around on-screen, ready to brawl at a moment’s notice.
The Joy Of Mixing And Matching Decks
One area where you have a lot of freedom to customize is in building your deck. Just like in the card game, this requires thought and care, but you can decide how much you want to get into the weeds of it - Cryptic said it’s considering some sort of sample versions for players who don’t like to tinker. For those that do, you want something that suits your playstyle, but also, if you’re playing with others, complements their decks.
For instance, we had someone focus on buffs to ensure our summons would stand the test of time and dole out ridiculous damage, and all of us focused on healing, which meant we weren’t going down easily. The cards you can choose from all represent the five colors of magic, and you don’t have to stay tied to just one, regardless of class. The Geomancer class may be all about playing aggressive and in-your-face like most red cards, but that doesn’t mean you couldn’t pair it with some white to give you access to angel summons and healing spells. However, unlike the card game, you can only use two different colors for your decks.
The developers said they plan to have leaderboards of the top decks so people can see different creative ways to approach the game’s challenges and follow their lead if they wish, just like how people look for decks in the card game. This gives you something to aspire to, as maybe you need to rank up a certain spell to get the most out of that type or deck. Cryptic said it doesn’t want one deck to reign supreme. It won’t be banning cards like MTG does, but the team is working to ensure the game is balanced and there’s no runaway option for success. Building our decks became far and away the aspect we had the most fun with, and it’s cool to have something that’s slower, more thought-intensive to complement the non-stop action once you’re on the battlefield.
Intense Action Rising With Our Mastery
Magic: Legends is about loot and epic battles. To ensure everyone is getting a challenge that excites them, Cryptic spent a great deal of time developing “The Director.” The Director A.I. measures the intensity of battles and adapts the situation to how you’re performing. This is separate from game difficulty, but in case you’re wondering, the game does have the standard modes. The Director is more about the moment-to-moment action and providing some variety and unpredictability. If you’re really mowing down the competition, it might spawn a miniboss you didn’t experience when you previously played the quest. Or if it ups the amount of enemies attacking you and you start to get overwhelmed, it will tone down the action so you can regroup. Taking on these tougher challenges rewards you with better loot drops. In our ventures, there were points where we were tearing our opponents to shreds, and The Director stepped in, spawning a horde of enemies that filled the screen. But we got the last laugh with more shards to upgrade our cards after the level.
The Harmony Of Working With Others
You can certainly play Magic: Legends solo, and we all did our first few missions alone. It’s still fun playing that way and helps in getting acclimated to things, but playing with two other players is really the best way to go. The fights are more thrilling as you see all your different spells and summons come together. It gives you more freedom in how to approach things, as well. Some missions have time limits to get specific things done, so you can get a jump ahead by splitting up. And there’s something to be said about seeing your different decks come together.
When we played, we all made our decks by what we each liked best and just went in. What ended up happening is we had a great deal of summons, buffs, and healing. When we got to our main boss of that area, Josu Vess, we were able to really see the power of these combinations, especially because he was weak to summons. Playing with others also just makes the battlefield more chaotic and interesting. Imagine a bunch of spells going off at once, or seeing the combination of all three players’ summons roaming around the battlefield together. It’s as great as it sounds.
If you want to see some of what we experienced in action, check out the New Gameplay Todays we did on the Geomancer class and Mind Mage class. And keep watching the site for coverage all month long on Magic: Legends.
Platform: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Switch, Stadia, PC
Final Fantasy VII Remake and Avengers were just delayed today, but it looks like Doom Eternal is locked and loaded for its March 20 release date for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Switch, PC, and Stadia. In the latest trailer, developer id Software gives you plenty of reasons to be excited. Several new glory kills are on display, as are two new enemy types: the Marauder and Gladiator.
Doom Eternal features a single-player story that moves away from Mars to show what happens when the demonic invasion hits Earth and other alien worlds that are new to the series. Your friends can try to halt your progress through this blood tale using the new Invasion mode, which allows them to become demons. Players can also try their hands in battlemode, a new 2v1 avenue of play that pits two player-controlled demons against a fully outfitted Doomslayer. All of these options look fun as hell. Start counting the days, people.
Are you excited for Doom Eternal? Let us know in the comments section below.
Platform: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, GameCube, PC, PlayStation, Dreamcast
Jill Valentine is about to have a very bad day. As she keeps zombie hordes at bay and tries to get out of Raccoon City unscathed, a hulking beast named Nemesis is in pursuit. Much like Resident Evil 2's Mr. X, Nemesis can only be slowed and will continue its hunt after it catches its breath; he can even punch his way through walls. Capcom released a new trailer that shows just how terrifying this threat can be. Thankfully, Jill isn't alone. Carlos, who players will get to control in this remake, is also around to take a Nemesis punch or two to the face.
Resident Evil 3: Nemesis is slated to release on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC on April 3. The game comes packaged with a asymmetrical multiplayer mode called Resident Evil: Resistance, which pits four survivors against a mastermind.
If you're looking for subtlety, you may not be in the market for a Geomancer. In this exclusive look at the Magic: Legends class, we highlight her face-melting attacks, which put her close to the action. Dan Tack, Leo Vader, and Kim Wallace got to check out the upcoming action-RPG at Cryptic's offices, and they share their thoughts about the Geomancer in today's NGT.
This particular build includes a spell that creates a whirling vortex of fire – perfect for drawing enemies close together for a devastating follow-up. The Geomancer ended up being Kim's favorite class during her hands-on time with Magic: Legends, and this clip provides plenty of supporting evidence.
Magic: Legends is coming to PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC in 2020.
Magic: Legends' Mind Mage is a ranged class loadout that specializes in crowd control, and also sports an incredible escape ability that lets him drop a doppleganger and take to the shadows while foes go after the copy. At least, that's the basic idea. In today's NGT, Dan Tack, Leo Vader, and Kim Wallace talk about Cryptic's upcoming title, and how some of the deck-building conceits from the card game make the transition to the world of action-RPGs. Join us for a trip through an "ordeal" which is a smaller slice of gameplay compared to bulkier quest missions, with less focus on story and more focus on bashing baddies and objectives.
Most of the crew recently visited Cryptic's offices for the cover story, and they share their hands-on impressions of the overall game, in addition to talking about the Mind Mage.
Magic: Legends is coming to PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC in 2020.
There's a part in Wattam where your friend (an old-fashioned telephone) is crying because the sun took its receiver and is making a long-distance phone call. To solve this cellular problem, you have to gather all of your friends, stack them up, and climb on top of them so you can explain the situation to the sun and ask for the receiver back. Once you get up there, the sun gives it back and apologizes for the misunderstanding. The telephone says that it's okay, and then you carry on with your day.
That might sound like a hallucination, but that's the heart of Wattam. It's a bunch of silly concepts and weird actors being constantly thrown into head-scratching scenarios that you have to solve. In this world, it doesn't really matter that everything is so bizarre. What matters is ensuring all of your friends are happy, and every character would do absolutely anything possible to make their reality a friendship utopia.
Every character in Wattam is a vibrant random object that changes shapes, forms, and sizes the more you progress and interact with the world and its environment. The game starts with one character, but you meet plenty of new pals, and later in the game the screen becomes charmingly cluttered, like a kid dumped a bunch of their toys on the floor and didn't clean it up. Among the characters are trees that can gobble up others and turn them into a fruitified version of themselves, a toilet named Linda that can turn characters into poop, and a nose named Ronald that can sniff up characters that are buried underground. The characters always seem to be having fun, embracing the change and sometimes adopting new personas and using catchphrases to parody genres like action movies and whodunits. They treat each other like old friends and run around and play with each other even when you're not controlling them. Watching them all interact and utilize their powers together adds a sense of life to this zany world--it may be weird, but they have their own fascinating ecosystem going on.
The main character is a green cube with a bowler hat named The Mayor. At the start of the game, The Mayor finds out about "Kaboom," the hidden power of its hat which launches everyone in the nearby radius into the sky in an explosion of laughter (the people love a good Kaboom). With your newfound ability and the strange charisma of a cube, it's your job to explore the world, learn its history, and keep everyone happy. Most of the time you're acting as a mediator, walking up to whoever is crying at the given moment, asking them a genuine "What's wrong?" and then solving their problems via a mini-game. It's tough work at times due to some pushback from awkward controls and sudden frame rate drops, but it never gets frustrating. You just look down and realize you're playing as a cool little apple who loves to dance and you finish the mission. It's also satisfyingly worth it at the end of each puzzle when you see your motley crew of inanimate objects cheering you on and having a blast together in this world you helped soothe.
You can play as anything on the screen, and when you swap into a character, it changes the main instrument in the song that's playing in the background. Each character has their own designated sounds: If you switch to a plant bud you'll hear the theme with a xylophone, for example, and if you switch to a poop you'll hear fart noises. Each quirky object has a clear and thoughtful theme tune, and the soundtrack as a whole always has you grooving. Sometimes I'd take a break from the main story to swap to a character and just listen to how the songs sounded from their perspective. There's a jazz song on the soundtrack called "A Long Time: The Six Years" that has no business going that hard.
Wattam is a collection of plotlines with objectives that can be completed in a few minutes, so each time you go back to the game it feels like a vastly different experience than what you were doing half an hour previously. One moment you could be running around as a miniature acorn, trying to find a spot to bury yourself, and the next you could be meeting a golden bowling pin that wants you to stack your friends to its exact height. It could so easily have been disorienting to be forced to constantly learn new mechanics and to always be playing the game in new ways every few moments, but Wattam isn't overwhelming. There's a sense of intrigue whenever a new character needs help, because whenever you help one, something in the game changes significantly--someone will gain a new power or maybe a mysterious staircase will emerge for you to investigate.
While it's essentially an anthology of short mini-games, Wattam has an underlying plot that's revealed over the course of a few cutscenes. These stop all the tomfoolery to tell a story of the apocalyptic events that happened right before the start of the game; it's a surprising tonal shift but it still fits very well with Wattam's ethos. Wattam is cool because it isn't just eccentric for eccentricity's sake--it also has a message it wants to share. You meet a few characters that come in the form of scroll, a book, and a futuristic floppy disk that explain that message and why connections and bonds are so important in this world. While they aren't the deepest cutscenes in the world, Wattam's message inside of them is ultimately heartwarming and offers context to things you wouldn't think are connected.
It isn't often that you play something that is so pure and unapologetically itself, but that's Wattam. I don't know if I'll ever play another game that makes me turn all of my friends into fruit so I can progress. It oozes passion, and it has an infectious enthusiasm that's present in each and every aspect of it. Wattam never takes itself too seriously, and that makes it easy to buy into its world and suspend your disbelief. While the gameplay is all over the place, Wattam is held together by themes of friendship and a cohesive soundtrack that actually leave you grinning long after you're done.
Platform: PlayStation VR, PlayStation 4, Switch, PC
NIS America today released a new trailer for Disaster Report 4: Summer Memories, which is slated to release stateside for PlayStation 4, Switch, and PC on April 7. Holding true to the series' history, the new footage for Summer Memories shows players will be making allies and meaningful choices in the face of disaster.
The Disaster Report games have always delivered plenty of excitement and just as much camp. You can see plenty of both in the trailer, including a moment where the player makes someone's day by giving them toilet paper. Summer Memories released in Japan in 2018, and it's great to see it coming stateside in just a few months.
Check out the first episode of our complete Super Replay playthrough of Raw Danger (the second Disaster Report game) below:
We live in a gig economy, where the rise of social networking and mobile computing has allowed companies like Uber, Lyft, and AirBnb to alter the way we conduct business. Inspired by this economic market, Muse Games has taken ride sharing to the next logical step: emergency services. Players who join the Embr Respondr crew assume the role of a contract firefighter tasked with battling fires, rescuing trapped civilians, and protecting their reputation from angry user reviews.
“As an Embr Respondr, you are responsible for saving people’s lives,” says director Matthew Niederberger. “When you open up your map on the Embr app, you’ll see you’ve got a couple calls – a couple houses on fire – and you can pick which one you want to respond to. You can battle these fires alone or you can team up with some friends and rescue people together.”
Rescuing civilians isn’t always easy, and every call features its own pitfalls. Fortunately, overcoming Embr’s environmental hazards often leads to goofy hijinks thanks to Embr’s system-driven mechanics. Civilians follow you toward safety, but you will need to carve a path for them. Do you push back the flames with your water hose? Do you use your axe to open a new exit on a nearby wall? Or do you use a ladder to create a shortcut to the ground?
Players choose how they overcome each obstacle and how they circumvent each challenge, but fire is like a wild creature and you don’t always know how it is going to act. When I took too long in one building, the fire ate through the floor and I fell into the basement, so I had to find another route outside. On another mission, I accidently knocked a civilian unconscious when I hit them with my water hose and I had to carry them to safety.
“We discovered early on while designing puzzles with one solution that if someone doesn’t get it, the game falls apart, so from a design perspective we stopped designing puzzles and started designing obstacles,” Niederberger says. “It’s kind of a philosophical piece of our design ethos these days. We just put things in players’ ways and give them lots of tools. They might come up with a more interesting way to get through them than we would.”
That toolset expands greatly as you use your firefighting earnings to purchase new equipment and vehicles directly from the Embr app. Most equipment can be upgraded several times. For example, water hoses have upgrades for greater water capacity and higher hose pressure, which makes it easier to push people and obstacles around. An auto refill upgrade means you won’t have to run back to your response vehicle in the middle of a mission. Another handy tool is the grappling hook, which can be used to pull people and other objects around the environment, and this can be upgraded to have a greater reach or to pull heavier objects.
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Embr isn’t the only firefighting squad on the market, and during your rise to firefighting glory you might run into the competition. A Canadian firefighting startup called Hosr aims to bring socialized firefighting back to the United States. However, since you’ve signed a non-compete agreement with Embr, Hosr can’t hire you, which makes you their enemy.
“Every once in a while, you’ll get a call that seems a little suspicious, and it won’t be your usual rescue mission,” Niederberger says. “When you get one of these suspicious calls, you might end up trapped in a building, and you’ll have to use your knowledge of firefighting to escape any way you can. These missions will be a little more puzzle oriented. There’ll be some mechanics that you have to learn a little more deeply, so you might need to spray water on an electrical outlet where the wires have been cut to open a door, for example.”
Embr is goofy and full of oddball antics, but it also offers an interesting commentary on the perils of working as a contract laborer. Muse Games aims to unleash Embr early next year on PC, and is currently exploring console options. It might not set the world on fire, but we can’t wait to play more.