Civ V My Favourite Sink Time

We all have our go to game. The title we fire up when we have an evening or afternoon spare and nothing but time to recline into. For me that game is Sid Myer’s Civilization V. But when I launch this turned based strategy title I lose the next two weeks to game-play. Looking over the Steam stats I have given over three hundred hours to perfecting the best Civilization and still cannot win above King difficulty.  What is it about this particular game that eats my weekends and leaves me avoiding evenings with friends? There’s two main reasons: it’s unique within its genre and the game is rich with choice.

At the start of the game you pick a nation or civilization to role play like the Celtic tribes, Germany, or the Mongol war hordes. Each country comes with unique buildings and perks to influence game play. You then develop your empire by settling more cities, working the local resources and researching technological advancements. But what separates Civ V from other turned based strategies is that  you don’t need to  conquer your neighbours in order to win the game.

Victory can be achieved in numerous ways. You could be a diplomat and be voted world leader by the united nations, wooing your opponents with a silver tongue and gold gifts. Alternatively, scientific and cultural domination are attainable by being the first nation to reach space or producing the most influential tourist capital by creating great works or art, writing and music. Of course the way of the sword, musket and nuclear bomb is still an option but just like reality it’s challenging because no empire in history has controlled every country.

Negotiating the path to winning is not simple. The game is filled with features that hinder or support your chances against the other nations. Creating, controlling and spreading a religion is highly competitive, just like the rush to build world wonders such as the Great Wall of China, Statue of Liberty or Kremlin. Then you have to worry about hordes of barbarians stealing your workers, sneak attacks from other countries, sustaining trade relations, picking the perfect social policies for your empire and trying to keep your people happy. The effort required to conquer in Civ V is colossal but rewarding and probably the reason sink so much time into the game.

I made a deal with myself. Once all the victory conditions  had been achieved and if my laptop could cope with the new tech I would treat myself to Civ VI. This goal was reached several months ago, and even though I tempt myself watching videos of the latest installment, I cannot take the plunge to update and  give up my favourite game. After four years I am still challenged by the title and have truly played the original sale price of thirty five pounds. If you want to lose the next few years of your life I would recommend you do the same.

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Pokemon Ultra Sun: Gen VII and the Growth of the Games

It has taken me six days to complete Pokemon Ultra Sun. I would have finished sooner if I wasn’t an adult and had to work in between playing. Regardless, I’m content with the time sunk into the Pokemon company’s latest title because I believe it is their best offering yet. In fact, I am grateful to be playing the game later in life as I have been able to play most of the other titles as well. This has allowed me to watch the series develop and mature into the current generation. I’d like to highlight some of the evolutions in the games that have begun to thrive in the newest editions.

Storytelling

Since the original Red, Blue and Yellow titles the Pokemon games have followed a standard formula. Each new edition gained slightly more features, a new set of critters to catch and benefited from the upgrades in recent technology. Over time the games became fairly standard in their content. You start your journey as a child to collect that region’s badges; another child forms some form of rivalry with you and will attempt to defeat you throughout the game; you have to foil the plans of the country’s evil team and capture the legendary Poke; finally you defeat the Pokemon League, become Champion and all there’s left to do is collect every creature to complete your Pokedex.

I won’t deny that Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon share all of these common traits that epitomise the series. However, the newest games expand heavily outside of this. Instead of the traditional eight gym set up, you have to complete a series of trials. The trials always conclude with you fighting a totem Pokemon instead of a gym leader. These beasts are buffer versions of what you normally encounter in the wild and present a harder challenge than can be found in most Pokemon games. Frequently, I found myself defeated by these new obstacles.

Until Ultra Sun and Moon your journey to become the region’s Pokemon champion was always hindered by an evil team e.g. Rocket, Plasma, Magma etc. The new games not only boast Team Skull but you also have to contend with the Aether Foundation, the Ultra Recon Squad (are they bad, good or just cyborgs?) as well as the post game Rainbow Rocket whose ranks include every villain from the previous titles. The expansion of the story is perhaps due to technology as well as how much time developers can pour into the games. No matter what the cause of the fresher and more expansive story is, the result is a more engaging and unique experience.

Variety

After seven generations of games the Pokemon franchise has expanded a lot. The original 150 creatures has multiplied into 807, which is an awful lot to choose from. The Alola region offers over 400 of these to capture. I put my starter in the box and made my team completely of Pokemon that resemble dogs.  This was only possible because after so many games the world has a ridiculous variety of creatures to choose from. Not only are there a lot of Pokemon to fill your party but you can also catch almost every legendary (I don’t think Mew, Celebi or Shaymin are available). The plethora of options allow for endless combinations and fresh ways to play. This is developed further by regional variants. These variants take the standard Pokemon you have come to know and exposes them to different biological diversity. A new region provides new environmental pressures and their result is abstractly evolved Pokes.

Features

In the older games there wasn’t much to distract you from the main story. If you wanted an early Dratini or Porygon you could always gamble all your money in Game Corner. Likewise, Gen IV offered mining opportunities for rare stones and secret bases were available in Gen III but none of these side features engaged me for very long. Most of them demanded you play with friends or weren’t fun enough to distract from the story line. Ultra Sun and Moon offer more rewarding features such as a surfing mini game to get between cities. Surfing whilst fun also rewards your for your efforts and skill with TMs.

In the same vein, you can ride on a legendary Pokemon throughout space. In this feature you dodge electro-balls, garner energy for boosted speed and are rewarded for your skill by traveling through wormholes where rare Pokemon reside. The new mini-games are more appealing because they are not just distracting. Even though you aren’t forced to play them they offer rare and unique rewards that are often unattainable elsewhere in the game. Dedicating your time to them is essential to completing your Pokedex and providing a complete experience of Ultra Sun and Moon.

Overall, when I think back across my time with the Pokemon franchise I am happy to see how it has grown. The content is more plentiful and richer, the game play is more challenging and whilst a lot of the traditions of the series remain untouched there is original ideas being offered. The accumulations of the franchise so far has potentially produced the best game to date. Apparently Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon are the last titles to be released on the 3DS console. It may be a few years before we see a new game and who knows what format it will take but if the most recent games are any indication then the franchise can only get better.

 

Hearthstone: Tips for Beginners

I have been playing Hearthstone for about seven months. I first began the game about three years ago along with a neighbour. After I didn’t make much progress I gave up the title and moved onto other games. Now I’m back on the Blizzard card based game and bashing my way up the leader board. In the event that time travel ever becomes possible I’m leaving some hints to myself. Hopefully, they will encourage my past self to continue with the game instead of taking a hiatus.

Don’t Spend Money

The thing that put me off other Blizzard games like World of Warcraft was the heavy price tag. I couldn’t justify a monthly subscription on a student budget. Luckily, Hearthstone is free to play and you can progress within the game without having to spend a dragon’s hoard on gold or card packs.

I have spent some money on expansions. The cost has been under £20. I spent more on booster packs and recieved less in return. I would recommend saving your real life coins and grinding your way through the daily quests, staching away your crafting dust, and only spend real money on game expansions.

Learn from others

The main reason I originally gave up Hearthstone was the lack of progress. No matter how hard I tried or attempted to create original decks, I couldn’t get past rank 20 in competitive play. When I returned to the game I decided I needed advice. I scoured YouTube for tutorials, hunted the Web for deck builds and began to emulate the advice of others.

I settled on a cheap hunter deck and began to slowly climb the ranks. As my collection grew larger, I began deferring from the premade deck and suplimented some of the less useful cards with the better ones I was acquiring. Two months later I improved my rank by seven places. The game claimed I was in the top 20% of players. Now I have the resources I can start moving onto more intricate styles of play, which will give me a more competitive deck.

Progress from Persistent Play

As with everything else in life, you can only get better if you practice. You can’t expect to be top ten after two days of play. Winning will be a long journey and even the best players don’t have a 100% win rate. It’s impossible to never lose. Just keep trying. If you do win though, don’t be the guy who continues to play cards when you have kill on the board. It’s rude to the other player.

Civ V: My Favourite Sink Time

I have a terrible habit with video games of restarting half way through. I haven’t finished the main story line in Skyrim due to wanting to create a new character. Similarly, whenever I play Sid Meyer’s Civilization V I find myself starting a fresh game after an hour of playing. As soon as my capital city begins to approach glory my mind drifts to all the other empires I could be ruling and I’ve exited to the main menu to find a new great leader to role play.

My desire to want to be all available Civilizations means that after playing for five years I have only recently finished a game. Completing a game was partly hampered by my laptop’s processing limitations, which was solved by Steam offering a less intensive touch screen option. However, the technical barrier was far less of an inhibitor than my itch to restart. After defeating both problems I have finally succeeded at all victory conditions and am able to recommend CivV as one of my favourite games.

The appeal of CivV is largely in the level of choice available. You’re offered over twenty Civilizations to choose from, allowing you to pick your favourite current or historical faction. You can resurrect The Vikings or Bablyon and continue their journey into the modern world, defying the ruling of time. Most current countries are available as well. America can be made a scientific beacon for the world again and Trump doesn’t have to be President.

In order to win a game there are several options. Naturally, war is an option for those who want to rule the world with a sword or a nuclear bomb. You can be Genghis Khan and trample cities under a Monglian war horde but it affects the happiness of your population and is a large economic drain. If you’re like myself then and war isn’t always the way then you can win through Diplomacy, Culture or Science instead.

Ultimately, CivV is a unique offering among Turn Based Strategy games. There are a myriad of intriguing mechanics to be considered such as Religion, Tourism and voting in the United Nations. Civ has given me some of my fondest gaming memories and hardest won victories. It’s not every day you that you can launch India to the moon as President Ghandi or be voted Leader of the World whilst role playing the King of Sweden.