Weekly Bits

TODAY: All the latest from this week’s top gaming news – Imperium Galactica II: Alliances is this week’s featured Blast from the Past

Blast from the Past

Imperium Galactica II: Alliances was a real-time 4X with character, battles and even city building

The 4X genre is mostly just the stuff of civilizations clashing, but Digital Reality tried something a bit different with its Imperium Galactica series. Imperium Galactica II: Alliances released in December 1999 across Europe and in April 2000 for North America, and was leaps and bounds beyond the original 1997 game.

Much like its predecessor it kept its real-time element of managing fleets, planetary ground battles and even colony management and ‘city building’, but it learned its lessons. Imperium Galactica II opened up the galaxy even more for conquest and thrust three major empires into the spotlight, with another five ‘minor’ factions who didn’t get their own game discs.

The Solarian Federation, Kra’hen Empire and the Shinari Republic all got their own full single-player campaigns as you navigate their unique strengths and goals. The other five were left to mix things up in the galactic neighbourhood, though you could also play as them in a skirmish or multiplayer. Personally I always enjoyed the credit-hungry Shinari Republic, especially because they had the ‘ship manipulator’ tech that meant you actually seized control of enemy ships in battle.

IG2: Alliances was spread across three CDs with a ridiculously high quality print manual

You of course explore the galaxy around you, exploit its resources and look to colonise. Imperium Galactica II however had you actually building out the colonies – you could visit each of them and physically place the buildings. Obviously when you’re a star spanning empire this gets tedious quickly and you’ll be giving that over to the AI governor to handle.

These aren’t just mini city sandboxes either because land battles actually take place in the very same colony maps, meaning you might not win the battle for control of the world but you can sure as hell wreck the fanciest and most expensive buildings. Graceful defeat is still a defeat, so why be graceful about it? Tear down those hospitals!

Fancy tech also means you get to build fancier starships and you actually design them in Imperium Galactica II, which isn’t unique to the series at all, but you can just opt to have the ‘best’ design made for you. This is a shame though because you’ll miss out on leveraging some rather nasty advantages. Each faction also has unique techs that you can sell, or steal. Those damn Antarians for example have the best hyperdrives in the game, and that means you can’t catch them in a straight up chase – you have to try and ambush them.

Real-time 4Xs have a whole other level of tension to them – blink and you can lose worlds

Espionage was another big factor in this 4X and you ignored it at your peril. You can of course steal tech from each other but you can also sabotage, or even try to incite a rebellion. This is especially powerful if you know an enemy is hiking up their taxes to pay for the war effort. You’ll want to make sure you’ve got some on counter-intelligence duties. Of course you could always have a nice chat with your neighbours. The simple math of Imperium Galactica II was that if you were powerful then others will be nice to you, hoping to avoid your next purge, but if they sense weakness then you can forget securing a trade agreement because they’re coming for you.

While dated by today’s standard of 4X’s like Paradox Interactive’s Stellaris, there’s still something special about Imperium Galactica II: Alliances. It’s even better if you can play with friends as you look to carve up the galaxy before the inevitable ‘winner takes all’ space battle to decide the Emperor of the stars. Why do you think I favoured the ship manipulator? It doesn’t matter how many destructor rays on battleships you’ve got when I can make them mine, xeno scum.

Where to get Imperium Galactica II: Alliances today?

You can get hold of Imperium Galactica II: Alliances quite easily with it on sale digitally via Steam, or GOG.com. It’s not that much either (£8.99 / $9.99) and you could even the grab the original 1997 Imperium Galactica through Steam and the DRM-less GOG as well for half that. All will serve the God Emperor of the Kra’hen Empire in time.

Weekly Top Stories Recap

Fans call Pokémon Sword & Shield Expansion Pass DLC exploitation

Many Pokémon fans were outraged when Game Freak revealed that Pokémon Sword & Shield would not include the entire Pokédex, and now they are fuming about the upcoming expansions too.

Game Freak added a bunch of new Pokémon native to the Galar region but claimed that including the entire Pokédex was ‘too difficult’ and that they had to trim it down. They also said they would not be adding the entire Pokédex to Sword & Shield.

Isle of Armor and Crown Tundra are coming in 2020

Now they are adding hundreds of old-school pokémon, which has led fans to speculate that Game Freak trimmed the Pokédex so they could sell the missing pokémon as DLC. Fans enraged by the realities of business decided to grill Game Freak co-founder and head of development Junichi Masuda on Twitter.

His response: “It’s a public holiday today and it’s my birthday, can you let me relax?” Truly villainous. The expansion passes for Sword & Shield – which are exclusive to each version – cost $29.99 and will add two new regions, new stories, new Pokémon and hundreds of old fan favorites.

Sony will not exhibit at E3 2020

Like last year, Sony has announced that they will not exhibit at E3 this year, and will focus on consumer-oriented events instead. Until last year, Sony had been a regular fixture at E3 since 1995 and tended to announce their new consoles there.

“After thorough evaluation SIE has decided not to participate in E3 2020,” a Sony Interactive Entertainment representative said. “We have great respect for the ESA as an organization, but we do not feel the vision of E3 2020 is the right venue for what we are focused on this year. We will build upon our global events strategy in 2020 by participating in hundreds of consumer events across the globe.”

Could this be the last big E3?

Following the success of Nintendo Direct and Sony’s State of Play, it appears that bespoke events and direct communication with fans is the future of videogame PR. There is speculation that Sony will reveal the PlayStation 5 at the upcoming PlayStation Experience event in New York City between February 14th and 16th.

Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE Encore review round-up

Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE Encore is an enhanced port of the 2016 Shin Megami Tensei and Fire Emblem crossover set in modern-day Tokyo. What do the critics say?

  • Nintendo Insider (Score 9/10) – ”Yet another brilliant Japanese RPG to add to the Nintendo Switch’s growing line-up. More Shin Megami Tensei than Fire Emblem, it’s hard to care too much when the end result is this enjoyable. Likeable characters and a satisfying combat system all wrapped in vivid visuals and a wonderfully weird and often uplifting story. Of the remaining Wii U games left to bring over to Switch, this was quite the curveball, but it’s one I hope gets the recognition it deserves second time around.”
  • DualShockers (Score 9/10) – ”The aesthetic, charm and gameplay Tokyo Mirage Sessions brings make it worthy to stand on its own and I hope that those who end up playing the game see it this way as well. Nintendo seemed to think that Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE was worthy of an encore here on Switch, and I find it to be a worthy encore, indeed.”
  • Nintendo Enthusiast (Score 9/10) – ”With quick loading and Nintendo Switch portability, it’s easy to call this the definitive version of Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE. It’s a fun, silly, and engaging experience that excels at paying homage to two iconic game franchises while also crafting its own memorable, endearing world. Fans of the addictive RPG gameplay of Persona 5 or the charming characters of Fire Emblem: Three Houses will be right at home with this game, as long as you’re prepared for yet another lengthy RPG experience to absorb your life for a while.”
  • TheSixthAxis (Score 9/10) – ”Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE Encore feels particularly timely. The world hasn’t been the brightest, most hopeful place in recent years, but leading a team of cheerful, committed teen pop idols against demonic entities makes it feel that much brighter. This is a game that’s dedicated to hope for the future, and that creativity is an integral component of that. I’m willing to believe them too.”
  • Twinfinite (Score 4/5) – ”While I never found myself all that engaged by the story or its characters –both integral parts in an RPG– I did enjoy the little interludes in between main missions. There are catchy song performances and music videos to bop to, along with cutesy outfits to put on your characters as you progress further.”
  • Nintendo Life (Score 8/10) – ”Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE Encore is one of the most colourful, approachable and downright endearing RPGs you’ll find on the Switch. Its new story chapter, music tracks and character assists improve on the original to an extent, but not enough to greatly affect its overall quality. Thankfully, what was there was already fantastic, meaning those who missed out on it the first time around really have no reason not to get stuck in now.”
  • USgamer (Score 4/5) – ”Whatever you think of port-begging, it’s justified with Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE Encore. Not only does #FE Encore give us a chance to play a great game that was overlooked on the Wii U, but it also adds a new dungeon, new songs, and content that was previously DLC. A lot of new Persona fans have been minted since #FE’s initial release in 2015, and this is one song they should all enjoy.”
  • Press Start Australia (Score 6/10) – ”Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE Encore features some much-needed quality of life improvements, as well as a strong opening and novel combat. But, ultimately, tedious dungeon design and unrefined boss battles that plagued the original remain and prevent Encore from being the improvement it could be.”

Unscored / Pending

  • Destructoid (Score Pending) – ”Although it does have some issues with text readability in handheld mode, Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE Encore otherwise represents a clear improvement over its Wii U counterpart. The ability to speed up Session combos makes the combat feel substantially faster in the game’s later stages, and the new content exclusive to the Switch release is a more than welcome addition to an already sizeable package. Despite my one issue with it, I can’t help but consider it the superior version of an already excellent game.”
  • Eurogamer – ”Unable to combine the best of two beloved series, this JRPG can’t really find its focus.”
  • The Verge – ”Tokyo Mirage Sessions is the next best thing, and yet another perfect fit for the Switch. It’s a game that didn’t get nearly enough attention as it deserved at launch — but one that will hopefully find new life on Nintendo’s tablet.”

Byleth appears in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate

The first Nintendo Direct stream of the year revealed the latest addition to the Super Smash Bros. Ultimate roster: Byleth from Fire Emblem. The professor from Garreg Mach Monastery will be taking a break from academia to join the fray, and the almost 40 minutes long stream featuring game director Masahiro Sakurai gives an in-depth look at them.

Byleth is the main character from Fire Emblem: Three Houses, and since the player decides the name and gender, two versions of the character will be available using a unique ranged style and directional weaponry.

Fire Emblem: Three Houses launched for Switch last summer

You should receive Byleth right away if you own the Fighters Pass, otherwise you’ll need to buy Challenger Pack 5. There is apparently six more characters on the way, who will form Fighters Pass Vol. 2. Each new character is accompanied by a new stage and new tunes.

CD Projekt RED confirms ‘AAA parallel project’ is Cyberpunk multiplayer

The last few days have been a wild ride for CD Projekt RED fans, as the Witcher 3: Wild Hunt developer first announced that Cyberpunk 2077 has been delayed until September, and then confirmed that they are working on a multiplayer mode for the eagerly anticipated open-world sci-fi RPG.

“The AAA release we’re working on in parallel with CP2077 is Cyberpunk multiplayer,” said Michal Nowakowski, a CD Projekt RED board member – but there’s no way it will launch alongside the single-player campaign. Most likely it won’t appear until 2022.

Cyberpunk 2077 was delayed to mid-April, and now to mid-September

While they were open about playing with multiplayer modes for Cyberpunk 2077, CD Projekt RED were adamant that the multiplayer mode would not just be a tacked-on box-ticking effort and that they needed a solid concept for it.

“…given the expected release of Cyberpunk 2077 in September and the series of events which we expect to occur after that date, 2021 appears unlikely as the release date for Cyberpunk multiplayer,” said Nowakowski. The new release date for PC, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One is September 17th. Fingers crossed!

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