Real Time Strategy Tagged Articles RSS Feed | Real Time Strategy RSS Feed on en Launch Media Network Frozenheim Review: A Clash of Clans Thu, 21 Jul 2022 11:31:02 -0400 Justin Michael

City-building RTS games are my jam. I've poured countless hours into titles like Banished, City Skylines, and Surviving Mars, and I've been waiting for something new to once again come along and seize dozens of hours of my time.

So, when Frozenheim came across my desk, I was excited. It's a Viking-themed city-building RTS; it's right up my alley. After hours of building, pillaging, and finding runestones to harness the power of the gods, I've come away excited for the game's future but tentative about its present state. 

Frozenheim Review: A Clash of Clans

Frozenheim has a handful of modes to choose from once you complete the tutorial covering the basic mechanics. There’s a campaign mode with a story and a custom scenario mode with options for skirmish, survival, and city-building. There are nine maps to choose from, and there's also an experimental random generation option to create something unique. There's also multiplayer available for up to eight players depending on the chosen map.

Skirmish mode is the default option in the custom scenarios section, pitting you against the AI or friends competitively, where you'll battle for resources and runestones as you work toward building and upgrading your city and defenses with various win conditions set beforehand. And those win conditions are pretty standard fare: from destroying your rival's Longhouse to using the Ragnarok rune against your foes, for example.  

There are a number of unit types to choose from, as well, some of which are special units granted to the clan you choose from the Elder’s Hut, which functions similarly to the castle in Songs of Conquest.

The strengths and weaknesses of various unit types are very straightforward and common sense. For example, scouts can cover ground quickly and dispatch a lone wolf or two if needed, but against units like spearmen, they're easily overwhelmed and killed. Archers, on the other hand, can whittle down spearmen from a distance. It's a very simple "rock-paper-scissors" system but with enough numbers, you can pull off a Zerg-rush of basic axemen and survive, especially against the AI. 

Though it succeeds elsewhere, Frozenheim fumbles combat, making the mechanic feel shallow and tacked on. While there are a good seven to eight units to choose from, in addition to a few siege weapons, combat doesn’t impress, and naval combat specifically is bland and clunky.

City-building, on the other hand, is where Frozenheim shines. Houses, as well all other structures, can slowly upgrade from tents to more permanent-looking structures as you improve the Jarls Longhouse, the core structure your settlement is built around. 

Efficiently planning your city is an important part of Frozenheim. Creating little districts creates adjacency bonuses, where perk-giving buildings maximize the happiness of your population. Placing wells in strategic areas keeps fire at bay when raiders attack with runestones carrying the power of the Gods. Defenses like towers and palisades with gatehouses can be placed to stave off attacks, too. 

Buildings like the blacksmith offer upgrades to troops in the form of percentile stat increases, but they offer no real visual change to troops. Tech tree improvements work in a similar vein but feel lackluster. And as much as I love the city-building elements, you’ll basically have a full city built in roughly 30-45 minutes, even with the odd incursion from hostile forces.

Runestones can be found on most of the maps and bestow a number of boons for your clan, though not outright; they require you to build a Temple in order to make use of their blessings. There are six runes to find on the map, and collecting all six grants you the mighty power of Ragnarok, essentially functioning as a Viking nuke to your foes. 

While there could be some better balancing amongst the six, the two best early-to-mid game runes for blessings are Freyja and Bragi, allowing you to instantly regrow harvested forests and boost the production of buildings by 100%, respectively. The powers are on a very short cooldown timer, making them very spammable, which can feel a bit cheap at times, especially with the Ragnarok ability being able to smash buildings into dust. 

Resource gathering itself is fairly lackluster, as well, with forests sprouting back up through farmland, which can be rather annoying. Eventually, I got to a point where I’d just use the market to trade for most goods selling excess leather or clothing and not even worrying about continued resource gathering. 

Graphically Frozenheim is stunning. There’s so much going on that I found myself stopping to watch things like the swaying of tree branches during a storm or deer grazing in the woods moments before my hunters dispatched them to feed my ever-growing population. Even the water lapping up on the shores has an allure. 

This carries over to the building designs, as well. The thatching on the roofs, the rough, hand-hewn plank walls of the Longhouse, and the human-shaped wooden training dummies at the troop barracks — it all makes the game come to life.

The audio is equally enjoyable. Blending seamlessly with the background effects, the music isn't overly distracting or detracting from the natural sounds of nature and the various units and NPCs in the towns. 

There are still some glitchy issues I noticed during my time with the game. Sometimes the game won't register you've clicked on units. It generally isn’t much of a problem, though, as I instinctually click-drag-select from years playing this genre. Also, the camera can get pretty wonky while scouting the map, unveiling the fog-of-war, especially around mountainous areas of the terrain. These aren't game-breaking issues, but just a bit of polish that could be addressed. 

Frozenheim Review  The Bottom Line

  • Attractive visuals and audio.
  • Virtually no learning curve.
  • Graphically stunning. 
  • Strategic city-building. 
  • Single-player and multiplayer options.
  • Semi-stale combat.
  • Spammable, somewhat unbalanced runestones. 
  • Some UI and camera issues.
  • Lackluster resource management.

Frozenheim is a solid addition to the city-building RTS genre. The game is pretty to look at and the game loop, though a bit short, is enjoyable with virtually no learning curve. With a number of single-player options and multiplayer capability, there are plenty of hours worth of enjoyment here, but nothing new or genre-defining. 

[Note: Hyperstrange provided the copy of Frozenheim used for this review.]

Age of Empires 4 Review: The Page of Kings Fri, 19 Nov 2021 18:14:24 -0500 Jonathan Moore

Age of Empires 4 stands at a crossroads. In many ways, it worships at the feet of its past, clinging to series history like a lord their land. But in others, it gazes into the horizon at a greater destiny ready for the taking, should it grow unafraid to seize it.

Calling Age of Empires 4 an Age of Empires 2 reboot would be easy enough. Similarly exploring the medieval period, and even some of the same battles, AoE 4 employs familiar mechanics found in that beloved 1999 entry and its expansions. After several remasters, new DLC releases, various developer updates, and wonderful support from the community, AoE 2 remains the standard-bearer of the franchise, with AoE 4 acting as its page.

That isn’t to say Age of Empires 4 fails; it certainly does not. More so, it's to acknowledge Age 4 doesn’t fully seize its destiny — at least not so close to launch.

Age of Empires 4 Review: The Page of Kings

Age of Empires 4 has a solid foundation to build upon in the years to come. The campaign mode is the best and most engaging it’s ever been. Four of the eight available civilizations are represented in the mode: the English, French, Mongols, and Rus. Each campaign has a series of missions (35 in total) that focus on key historical conflicts, such as the Battle of Hastings or the Battle of Kalka River.

Each campaign becomes increasingly complex the further you fight through the ages, and each can take a few hours to complete depending on your skill and chosen difficulty.

As a long-time Age player, I can’t help but wish there were campaigns for each of the eight civilizations at launch. The Holy Roman Empire, Chinese, Delhi Sultanate, and Abbassid Dynasty are left out. But the breadth of the mode blunts that blow, even if we’ve seen some of these engagements before.

The best parts are the brief but in-depth "Hands on History" educational videos. Shot documentary-style and on location, these expertly filmed, produced, and narrated shorts are immersive and engaging in ways the old-style history pages could never be.

Relic Entertainment takes things a step further by superimposing animations of soldiers and siege engines on real-world locations, imbuing these annals with History-Channel-infused grandiosity that will fill fans with glee.

Alongside these videos are others that give insight into various middle-age building and crafting techniques, as well as lifestyle activities. One explores the painstaking process of crafting chainmail, and another examines the role of hawking and falconry in Norman culture. For history buffs — and who plays Age of Empires that isn’t? — there’s no retreating to parchment in future installments.

Outside of the campaign mode, it’s no surprise that skirmish and multiplayer modes make their returns. You select your civilization, teams, victory conditions, and map from 17 varied choices that randomly generate topography and resources. Nicely, there’s a map seed generator that allows you to capture and replay specific map layouts in future games.

As for other, more granular options, you won’t find the likes of turbo mode, sudden death, or regicide here. There’s no option to open the full tech tree from the start, post-imperial age isn’t available yet, you can’t bump the population above 200, and infinite resources has been swapped out for high resources.

I’m not particularly fussed about all of that  even if it seems regressive — and I imagine most players won’t be either. It does, however, highlight a grander overall point: there’s currently less in Age of Empires 4 than in other currently-available games in the franchise.

Perhaps most baffling is the absence of a map or scenario editor at launch. Editing maps and creating custom scenarios is baked into the DNA of Age of Empires, so it's rightfully a point of contention.

Countless players have spent thousands of hours customizing skirmishes and campaigns over the decades, making incredible experiences shared by the wider Age community and acting as engines by which the franchise has stayed alive and improved. There may have never been an Age 2: DE without such modes.

To be fair, it seems like those tools are coming in 2022.

Some additions, though, seek to adjust or refine the familiar formula to varying degrees of success.

Masteries are one of those, and they're all about bragging rights. These in-game challenges and achievements ask you to complete various tasks for each civilization, such as beating the hardest A.I. in Skirmish mode or producing a certain number of units from Keeps. There are 15 Masteries for each nation, gifting you rewards in experience, player portraits, banner designs, and more for your player card.

The rub is that Masteries can’t be completed in any order; instead, they must be completed sequentially, and their hierarchy is haphazard at best.

For example, killing 10 enemy units with Galeasses affected by the Armored Hull technology for the French isn’t so tricky, but it’s only available after Test of Strength III, which requires beating the A.I. on hard in Skirmish mode. Some players won’t find this problematic, but others will simply be locked out of rewards because accomplishing the latter isn’t attractive or just plain unattainable.

There’s also a level system at play, greeting you front and center on the main screen after completing the mandatory tutorial. Experience for this system comes from completing Masteries and daily quests (more in-game challenges not tied to Masteries). But that experience level doesn’t matter beyond showing other players in multiplayer lobbies that you’ve attained a certain level.

Experience isn’t used for purchasing items or unlocking new Masteries, maps, or units. It just exists. For those after a purely single-player experience, it serves no function whatsoever, and I can’t help but think time and effort could have been spent elsewhere.

Adding in a map or scenario editor, perhaps?

Mechanically, Age of Empires 4 plays like a mixture of Age of Empires 2 and Age of Empires 3. Advancing from the Dark Age to the Imperial Age, you build villagers, military units, and structures at a blistering pace to gather resources and take control of land faster than your opponent. 

From combat to trade, many systems are familiar instantly, and this is where Age of Empires 4 doesn’t really need to iterate very much. The franchise has honed its gameplay to a fine point. 

Grouping returns, which allows you to select units for the creation of regiments of any unit type. The system is perfect for sieges, flanking, or bump and run aggression. Stealth forests take a cue from the stealth mechanics found in AoE 3: The Warchiefs and allow you to place units in certain areas out of enemy sightlines.

Wall battles make sieges both flashier and more engaging, whereby swordsmen and spearmen can now attack archers and other units by way of siege towers or infiltrating gates and guard towers. 

Neatly, rank and file soldiers can now build battering rams and siege towers in the field, using them as Trojan Horses to approach embattlements. No longer must you send engines ahead without protection lest troops be cut down by arrows. Soldiers can hide inside, exit to battle nearby enemy units, and retreat to cover while remaining on the front lines.

Landmarks tweak the familiar aging-up mechanic, and like Age 3, bypass the need for building a certain number of structures to move on to the next epoch. These Landmarks are like little wonders; they can be built as soon as you have the resources to do so, and each has unique buffs and rewards, such as having the ability to heal nearby units or reduce the cost of all technologies throughout the ages.

It’s a tangible improvement I appreciate over the more removed nature of politicians in AoE 3 or the drudgery of building structures for the sake of it in Age 2.

Perhaps one of the more exciting parts of Age of Empires 4 is the inclusion of asymmetric nations in the Mongols, Chinese, Rus, and Delhi Sultanate.

Mirroring their true pastoral nomadic lifestyle, the Mongols can pack up and move all of their buildings at will. They also have access to the Ovoo, a building that automatically collects stone, freeing up villagers for other tasks. They don’t have access to farms or farming technology, so they rely on pastures and sheep. 

When aging up, the Chinese employ dynasties with buffs and unlocks, calling to mind Home City Shipments in Age of Empires 3. They also have Imperial Officials, which collect gold from buildings, subsidizing the need for gold mines. The biggest hurdle with the Chinese is that they must build both Landmarks to move on to the next dynasty and open up more buildings, units, and techs. 

The Rus have unique relationships with resources. They can generate gold from hunting cabins placed near dense forests. More trees equate to more money over time, though building too many in close proximity decreases that yield. This dynamic creates new stratagems around Lumber Camps to push players further from their bases than they usually would venture. 

The Delhi Sultanate doesn't need resources to research technologies, but progress is painstaking. To boost this and military production, they employ Scholars, garrisoning them in various buildings for speed boosts. 

And the Abbasid Dynasty takes an entirely different approach when advancing to the next age by building a singular Landmark, the House of Wisdom, and attaching different wings to advance and research new technologies.

All told, there are many unique elements with these civilizations that open up numerous tactic/counter-tactic playstyles. And despite the learning curves each of these factions presents, it’s in using them that the true potential of Age of Empires 4 shines brightest.

Age of Empires 4 Review — The Bottom Line


  • Stunning "Hands on History" documentary-style campaign videos
  • Improvements to siege mechanics
  • Improvements to building and combat animations
  • Addition of stealth forests
  • Asymmetric civilizations
  • Familiar gameplay


  • Familiar gameplay
  • No map or scenario editor at launch
  • Over-emphasis on cosmetics
  • Pointless experience system
  • Unbalanced Mastery challenges
  • Water-color art style is muddy in places
  • Long load times in Skirmish mode

Age of Empires 4 does a lot of things right, but it curiously gets knocked off its horse when it could be champion of the tourney.

New asymmetric civilizations with unique units and compelling mechanics create new strategies in a land well-trodden. Add in the adjustments to siege warfare, modified systems for aging up, and the inclusion of stealth forests, and there’s the start of something here, perhaps something that could grow to be as impressive as Age of Empires 2.

But there’s also a general feeling that Age of Empires 4 doesn’t quite know what it wants to be yet or who it wants to cater to. Putting so much focus at launch on multiplayer is perfectly fine, but it also leaves some long-time single-player fans cold, especially with the exclusion of a map or scenario editor.

Notwithstanding the tremendously engaging educational elements of the campaign, having only four civilizations playable in that mode at launch seems like missed potential, even if, historically, we’ve never gotten scenarios for all of the civs from the start.

I’ve enjoyed my time with Age of Empires 4 quite a bit, and I’d recommend it to any Age fan. But I wouldn’t do so without a few important caveats. Age of Empires 4 may finally be available after 16 years, but it hasn't arrived just yet. There are still resources to gather and troops to assemble.

[Note: Microsoft provided the copy of Age of Empires 4 used for this review.]

Age of Empires 4 Hill Bonus Explained: How Does It Work? Sun, 31 Oct 2021 15:03:24 -0400 Hayes Madsen

The hill bonus is something familiar to long time Age of Empires fans, and whether Age of Empires 4 has a hill bonus is a question on many minds. There are plenty of differences from the previous game, including how the hill bonus works. We'll go over exactly what's different in this guide, so read on.

How Age of Empires 4's Hill Bonus Works

The short answer is that, yes, Age of Empires 4 does have a hill bonus, although it doesn't work like past games. Fans of Age of Empires 2 will know that units get a roughly 25 percent boost when fighting enemies at a lower elevation, but Age of Empires 4 doesn't have any damage bonus. 

Instead, units have an increased line of sight when on hills and higher elevations. This means that it's advantageous to put archers or siege engines on hills, as they have the highest vision of any unit and will be able to pelt enemies from a distance. 

One of the other bonuses of being on a hill is that enemy units, like cavalry, don't get a charge bonus. On solid ground, cavalry has a charge attack that does extra damage when they connect with an enemy, but this bonus doesn't get applied when cavalry moves up higher elevation. 

Keep in mind that units on walls function differently, gaining a big boost to defense as well as a bonus to their actual ranged attack. 

Fighting on higher ground isn't going to be a total game-changer in Age of Empires 4, but it can help give you the leg-up you need if you place your units correctly and take advantage of the hill bonus as it was intended.

If you found this guide helpful, take a look at our other Age of Empires 4 guides here on GameSkinny.

Age of Darkness Final Stand Early Access Review: They Are Not Billions Wed, 06 Oct 2021 13:28:51 -0400 Fox Doucette

The base-builder RTS genre, popularized in the 1990s by games like Starcraft and those in the Warcraft series, used to be one of the stalwart genres of PC gaming. That was before falling into an age of darkness around the time Empire Earth 3 fell flat on its face in 2007. The last real hit in the traditional style might very well have been the third Age of Empires in 2005. 

However, the genre has risen from the dead, as so much old pop culture has in the age of the reboot, and developer PlaySide Studios and publisher Team17 are attempting to end the age of darkness with... Age of Darkness: Final Stand, a grimdark RTS similar in style and execution to 2019's They Are Billions, with a heavy-handed nod to those old Blizzard games from 20 years ago as well.

Age of Darkness Final Stand Early Access Review

The game is in Early Access, so it's also super-stripped-down and plays more like a demo than a full-fledged game. There's just one game mode — what the developers call “Survival” — and it's just like the one-off quick battle singleplayer modes in every RTS game to come before it. A campaign is, presumably, coming, but for now, it's one-off battles and only one-off battles.

A roster of heroes is planned, too, those super-powered general units who, whether based on historical figures as in Age of Empires or fantasy archetypes as in Warcraft, apply bonuses to troops while delivering suitably inspiring one-liners whenever you tell them to attack something.

For now, however, Age of Darkness supplies just one: a fellow named Edwin, who wields a flaming sword and has the personality of a wet noodle. A proper hero character in a game like this should feel appropriately heroic. Canned lines of cliched dialogue and one useful line of backstory — "a veteran of many expeditions into the Veil" — in the menu does not a hero's tale make.

Right now, hero characters aren't much more in gameplay terms than upgraded mooks, and there's no incentive for trying to keep them alive — if they die in battle, they just respawn back at base, every bit as expendable as, say, the Patriot characters in 2003's Rise of Nations.

The enemies in this version of RTS home run derby are the Nightmares, who may as well just say “zerg rush kekekeke” in a nod to old Internet memes; if you've played Starcraft, you've seen this a million times.

Buglike swarmers who die by the thousands and whose main ability is to simply overwhelm defenses by sheer numbers are rank and file here. It was zombies in They Are Billions, it's scampering four-legged critters who look a bit like long-lost cousins of the ghouls in The Witcher 3 here.

The enemy also has boss-like units, but they are relatively few in number and defined not at all in the game's lore. They're just more cannon fodder that happen to take a few more hits from regular soldiers but die just as easily from anything upgraded.

Which brings us to the base-building part of “base-builder RTS”. Everything is as you'd expect from the genre; there are zero risks from innovation. The main keep is the defend-at-all-costs objective. You lose the game if the keep falls. There are barracks for making soldiers, towers for defending stationary assets (like, say, the keep), farms and loggers and quarries for gathering the game's resources.

As seems to be the norm nowadays in the revived RTS world, the game wants you to build quickly. A system is in place where a “Death Night” occurs every few in-game days. Enemies burst from the void at ludicrous speed, and the mode is not over until you've killed every last one of them, a demented version of the multiball mode on a pinball machine with your armies as the flippers and the zerg stand-ins as the balls.

During the mode, your base suffers a random malus that may, for example, prevent your units from healing, or raise their upkeep costs such that your economy might crash while you're fighting off the enemy, or other nasty tricks.

The upside, however, is that if you win the Death Night, morning dawns and you get to choose a permanent perk that will usually upgrade one of either your hero, your armies, or your base.

The problem isn't that Age of Darkness is bad. No, it's simply competent. A report card full of B and C grades. Sure, it's good enough to graduate, but it's not making the honor roll. It's built on the RTS base-builder design document, but it has no character, no soul, no defining “Hey, this is worth it” feature to set it apart from what is, after years wandering the wilderness, a revived genre.

Yes, sometimes that's exactly what players are looking for. And yes, it's the earliest of Early Access. Age of Darkness might get better as launch approaches, whenever launch may be — gods know there are more than enough titles that got launched into Early Access and never got finished.

But is that a recommendation? Well, no. Not when you could play They Are Billions, which is a complete experience, or wait a few weeks for Age of Empires 4, or even chase down an old copy of Warcraft 3 or StarCraft, which are still great games over 20 years after they first came out.

Age of Darkness: Final Stand is simply not ready for prime time in its current state. There is a lot of work left to be done. Of course, we'll check back and see how it's turned out a little further down the line and who knows: maybe it will find that one upgrade to survive the night. 

[Note: Team 17 provided the copy of Age of Darkness: Final Stand used for this Early Access review.]

Age of Darkness: Final Stand Tips and Tricks Guide Wed, 06 Oct 2021 08:00:01 -0400 Fox Doucette

Age of Darkness: Final Stand is not terribly complex to pick up in terms of strategy. At least in Early Access so far. The hardest part of winning is less the game's Death Night mechanic and more having the patience to play all the way through the game's repetitive and increasingly challenging curve. So, a few tips and tricks are in store to help you get through it all. 

If you've played Starcraft and mastered the art of turning back a zerg rush, or if you've already played They Are Billions and figured out how to repel the horde, you already know everything you need to for Age of Darkness in its EA launch state. I have nothing to teach you. You folks are dismissed; thanks for the click, it helps my stats.

For the rest of you, however, here's a base-level crash course in the art of the new breed of base-builder RTS, which is, fundamentally, a mouse-clicking contest once you've learned the meta.

Get Your Resources


You'll want to get resource production going as fast as possible. Find large clusters of trees and put down your logging camps. If you're lucky, you'll get a narrow path between two stands of trees. You want the number to be as high as possible in the placement preview, and for the adjective helpfully provided to be “Good” or “Bountiful”.

Sometimes the best you'll be able to do is “Decent” and that's OK, but you really want to have as many trees as possible in the radius of the camp.


With food production, you'll want as much open space around the gathering spot as possible. That determines how much food you'll be able to get from it practically. Food is how you support larger populations. Larger populations are how you support large armies and staff research centers and other resource gathering points. Once that farm is placed, do not build anything in its gather radius, never, not for any reason.

Stone and Iron

Stone and iron production rely on specially-marked patches of ground with rocks or metal deposits. These are entirely determined by the game's procedural generation. They also tend to be guarded by monsters, so send your starting army — the game will give you a few military units to open the show — to push back the horde, then drop that quarry down.

Don't worry too much about iron early, however; the random map will never put it right by your starting point. You have to explore, maybe even clean out a sizeable horde, before those deposits open up. But when they do, mine them immediately.

Build As Fast As You Can

Age of Darkness does not mess around. You can see the countdown timer to the Death Night, and before that timer strikes for the first time, you'll need a barracks and several houses to support the population for soldiers.

Likewise, you'll want to build a wood workshop, which will provide the early upgrades to both resource gathering buildings and defensive towers.

A word of advice about housing: armies cannot march through any terrain that is blocked by buildings. Always leave lanes for your armies can march through. Don't cluster houses unless you've lucked into a protected cove that you can fill with buildings and that your soldiers will never need to march through.

High cliffs serve as walls to your forces and to the enemy, so don't trap your own guys, but use the fact that peasants aren't restricted in their movement — they're fully abstracted — to your advantage.

When you're running low on food, build another farm. If you need more space, send your army out, defeat the monsters guarding whatever open space you need, then plunk down a farm and possibly a light source and a tower to keep the monsters away.

Then use the surplus population to build a bigger and bigger army.

Explore and Kill While You Can

Pushing back the darkness is an active job. As your army grows and upgrades by way of bigger and better research facilities and keep upgrades, you'll be able to fight larger hordes of monsters before your army has to regroup, head back to safer ground, and heal itself — something it does automatically.

But you can only reveal resources by exploring and conquering land. That's an ironclad rule that requires you to frantically build as big an army as your resources allow and use it constantly.

This goes double during the game's daytime phase; the monsters are weaker then, allowing you to kill more of them faster. They're tougher at night and bulwarks during Death Night events. Kill them on your terms, not theirs.

Upgrade Your Troops and Buildings

Do not neglect your research. The wood workshop gives you the basics, allowing light sources, towers you can put more archers in for defense, better houses to get more population into less space, and basically every other “the same but better” item in the game. Use towers and archers to protect your keep and vital resource gathering from stray monster attacks while your army's “on campaign”.

Sentinels are better than ordinary foot soldiers. Arbalests are better than archers. Siege weapons, placed just behind a shield wall of troops, wreak havoc on enemy strong points. All of them, you get via research.

Likewise, unmanned ballista towers are truly at their best when they've been upgraded, able to chew through incoming monster hordes like the monsters are made of wet paper. Firepower is how you win this game. Not just quantity but quality as well.

Choose Your Perks Smartly

It helps to have a strategy in mind when you're choosing your rewards from the perk list. You get a perk every time you survive a Death Night. Some of these make your economy run better — improved resource gather rates satisfies Step 1 of this checklist. Having reduced building costs is a great way to satisfy Step 2. Having armies able to swing their swords faster and do more damage, meanwhile, is great for Step 3. And anything that improves upgrading handles Step 4 well.

Deciding what you want to give a bit of help to and what you'll handle on your own is a great way to optimize your perks for your playstyle, so decide on and then stick to an overarching strategy.

That's pretty much it in regards to Age of Darkness tips and tricks, really. This is, in every sense of the term, a classic base-builder RTS at its core, and the best practices that are as old as the genre work every bit as well here as they have in every base-builder RTS game ever made. At least for now... 

Dice Legacy Review — Is That It? Wed, 08 Sep 2021 13:56:04 -0400 Fox Doucette

Dice Legacy bills itself as a roguelike — the title, intentionally or not, evokes Rogue Legacy — where instead of hiding the random number generator behind the curtains, it turns that RNG mechanic into the main character. The dice are not only the random element that drives gameplay but also your army of peasants and soldiers fighting terrain, weather, and hostile forces on a bizarre, ring-shaped alien world.

The premise quickly falls apart once you actually start playing the game, however. Anyone with even a slight modicum of experience playing roguelikes or even games in general can quickly pick apart every narrative conceit here, seeing the game for exactly what it is — a straightforward, vertical-scrolling barebones resource management and strategy game rather than the roguelike it claims to be on the virtual box.

Dice Legacy Review — Is That It?

Your pawns are a set of six-sided dice — five at first, although that quickly grows to a maximum of 12 — which you roll in order to determine which kind of move the die can make on its turn. It could be building, gathering resources, exploring the world ahead, conducting research, engaging in battle, trading, or performing religious functions depending on the type of die rolled and the result of the roll itself.

There's a class system in place here, too. You start the game with orange peasant dice, capable of those first three functions listed above plus combat. Build the school and you get green citizen dice, who in addition to researching can also farm and build. The military academy gets you blue soldier dice, whose prime function is combat, but they're also capable of building.

The market nets merchant dice — their primary function converting resources into gold through trade, but they also explore and interact with “camps” on the map to turn potential enemies into trading partners and can do a bit of resource gathering as well. And finally, the temple nets priest dice whose function is that of healer and morale booster for the other dice on the board.

Later, late-game buildings can mix, match, and combine those basic types into hybrid dice, but the core functions you can roll on the faces of the dice are the limit of what those dice can ultimately do on the board.

This establishes a basic gameplay loop. Like any good RTS, you build a base, gather and use the resources provided on the map, forge ahead to find the enemy, then destroy the enemy base, a formula that's been enshrined in gaming canon since Warcraft: Orcs and Humans codified the genre way back in 1994. Once again, as much as Dice Legacy really wants you to believe it's a roguelike, it resembles one only superficially. Randomly generated resource locations do not a roguelike make, not on their own.

There are just a few critical flaws that prevent Dice Legacy from actually being good.

The first is that the gameplay loop is far too simple. I put about 12 hours into the game, one terminated playthrough to get to grips with how things worked followed by three playthroughs that became progressively less interesting for how easy Dice Legacy is both to pick up and, ultimately, master for anyone with a reasonable degree of experience playing RTS games. Granted, I've been playing them for 27 years (since the aforementioned Warcraft), but this game has even less depth than early Warcraft.

The second is this type of RNG is never really something to focus a game around. Maybe some people are into that — after all, pencil-and-paper RPGs wouldn't be what they are without a bag full of variously shaped dice — but in general, there's a good reason why dice rolls are usually hidden from the player's eye.

Even in tabletop, a good game master rolls the dice but then narrates to the players what happened in an in-universe tone. Abstracted randomness tends to be less immersion-breaking than literally seeing it play out in front of your face.

The third is that the “challenges” in Dice Legacy are less roadblocks and more speed bumps. Every time you roll a die, it loses 1 HP out of 16, but it is trivially easy to heal dice, with multiple ways put in place to restore those HP. Even combat, where a die that gets wounded in combat is killed if it gets wounded again, is solved super-easily through the apothecary building the game makes available from the start.

Along those same lines, the Dice Legacy has a summer/winter seasonal cycle, and winter is supposed to be a perilous time when you can't produce wheat (the basic food resource) and dice have a chance to freeze, taking them out of action until they thaw out in warmer weather.

The trouble is that it's easy to unfreeze those dice using the in-game ale resource, there's a policy you can implement to keep the farms working year-round, and generally, what's supposed to be a challenge is just another resource sink.

And the fourth is that despite the game trying to vary up play a bit with a few unlockable extra scenarios — changing the starting dice or a couple of the game rules — it's just a different coat of paint on the same car driving down the same road toward the same destination. You'll get bored long before you see everything because bluntly, once you've seen the gameplay loop once, you've seen everything.

It doesn't help that the difficulty levels are of the standard "how much do you want the computer to cheat" variety rather than the "AI gets smarter" variety, never a good sign.

Dice Legacy Review — The Bottom Line


  • Stable, apparently bug-free experience
  • Clever concept
  • If you like rolling dice, this is the best thing outside of a Craps table


  • Almost no replayability once you've grasped the basic concept
  • Too simple to pose much of a challenge
  • Building a whole game around randomization is needlessly frustrating

Dice Legacy is just too shallow and too reminiscent of other, better games. It's just far too simplistic to have any kind of real replayability, and since your first playthrough will be done in four or five hours at most, that leaves little to play for.

Sure, the game does try to extend its replay value by offering different starting conditions and rule restrictions to try to get you to play it again, but it's the same meta every time with no real variation. There's no shortage of good roguelikes out there. Crack those open instead. You'll have a lot more fun that way.

[Note: Ravenscourt provided the copy of Dice Legacy used for this review.]

Dice Legacy Tips and Tricks Guide Wed, 08 Sep 2021 13:06:14 -0400 Fox Doucette

Dice Legacy is a fairly easy game where completing the tutorial — especially if you've got some experience with other RTS games and roguelikes — will give you a firm enough grasp on the basics that you could probably win on the easier levels with no further knowledge of the game mechanics.

Just because the mechanics are fairly easy to grasp, doesn't mean you'll understand everything right off the bat. In this guide, I'll be going over topics that aren't covered in the tutorial or the game's encyclopedia since you should be going through those as a new player. Some things stand out in particular, so let's get to it.

Dice Legacy Tip: How to Survive the Winter

The game really wants you to build Steam Generators and power them with wood. This creates a radius around which your dice won't freeze in the wintertime.

Steam Generators are the least efficient way to deal with winter. At higher difficulties and on maps with fewer resources, it's a great way to end up with nowhere near enough wood for the lategame when you're trying to wear down the enemy base.

Instead, what you'll want to do is build your first District Hall, set it as a Peasant District, then put down in the six hexes surrounding the District Hall:

  • Two farms
  • A mill
  • A brewery
  • Two alehouses

For one thing, this puts your food and basic needs all in one place. But more importantly, it lets you take advantage of two council policies that are critical on any map at any difficulty.

Specifically, pass the policies that let farms work in the wintertime. Then pass the one that says that dice cannot freeze in peasant districts. Boom. You can now produce food and ale year-round, and with that ale, you can unfreeze any dice that freeze in the winter, effectively rendering the season a complete non-threat.

Dice Legacy Tip: Don't Annoy the Encampments

When you come upon an encampment, you have three choices.

One, you can just leave them alone; they'll ignore you unless provoked most of the time. They might get hostile at the highest difficulties — I haven't actually tested this — but if you're playing on those difficulty levels, you probably don't need me to tell you how to play the game. At low to medium difficulties, they'll ignore you until you engage with them.

Two, you can trade with them. The way you do this is first to ensure you have at least the level-4 maximum for a regular die in Exploration. You don't need the level-8 maximum for Forge-combined dice but it won't hurt if if you've got that. Send that explorer to the encampment and they'll probably give you friendly relations to start. Build a trading tent, train up a merchant die (use the Economy buildings to convert a citizen die to a merchant), then go nuts.

And finally, you can obliterate them. The problem with this is that it creates a massive rash of enemy attacks that get more severe the more damage you do to the encampment until it is fully destroyed. There's simply no good reason to do this on purpose unless you're chasing the achievement for wiping out a camp or you're imposing a challenge on yourself by not dealing peacefully with the camps.

And sure, if your explorer critically fails or you're playing on harder difficulty settings, war might be imposed upon you, but if you're at this skill level, you already know how to efficiently conduct combat on a scale beyond what the game normally throws at a player who's not stirring hornets' nests.

Point of the matter is be peaceful. You'll be glad you did.

Dice Legacy Tip: Towers, Catapults, and Other Fun Implements of Death

One great way to keep enemy invasions at bay is to build towers as you advance up the map; if you put two of them two hexes either side of the centerline and take the techs that expand the towers' range and power, you may never need another actual fighter die.

It's still good to have an upgraded (to at least level 2) raider face on your soldier dice, because once you get to the Others' base at the top of the scroll, the single easiest way to obliterate it is with a catapult flanked by towers. You'll need that upgraded raider die (and some iron) to fire the catapult.

Of course, this strategy will chew up a ton of stone building the towers, but unless you had an especially bad stroke of luck when the game generated resource nodes, there will probably be enough stone on the map to give your advancing settlement full tower coverage while still having enough stone for actual buildings and research.

Dice Legacy Tip: How to Manage Happiness

The game doesn't explain this, but here's a bit of advice for managing dice class happiness. Build the Town Square.

When it's built, put a die belonging to the class whose happiness you want to boost on the spot and add two ale. If you followed the advice about wheat and food/ale production mentioned earlier, you've officially solved the problem of class happiness for good. Enjoy the bonuses that happy dice provide.

Dice Legacy Tip: How to Use the Tech Tree

What you'll want to do as soon as you can is to get the techs that increase knowledge production in the workshop.

You can find these at Tier 3 and 4 of the tech tree under Production, but there is no rule against unlocking those tiers without getting all the prior tier's techs first. You just need enough wood, stone, and iron — the game provides a tooltip if you hover over the Roman numeral for each tier — to unlock them. That's it. The sooner you beef up your tech production, the faster you'll power through that tech tree, after which your citizens effectively become obsolete.

One other thing you'll want to make sure you do sooner rather than later is get the research faces of your citizen dice upgraded to Level 3 so one die can conduct research by itself. At that point, you can even build multiple workshops and put them around a Citizens' District to really power through the whole tech tree in a hurry.

That's it for my tips on improving your gameplay in Dice Legacy. Do you have any other advice to share? Let us know in the comments below.

Age of Empires 4 Release Date Announced Alongside New Gameplay Sun, 13 Jun 2021 21:15:42 -0400 Jonathan Moore

Age of Empires 4 has been a long time in the making, and perhaps longer anticipated by the AoE community. Age of Empires 3 released way back in 2005 after all. But the wait is finally almost over. Age of Empires 4 releases on October 28 for PC. It will be available through Steam and  Game Pass for PC. 

The release date and new gameplay trailer were revealed during the Xbox/Bethesda E3 2021 showcase. The in-game trailer showcases everything Age of Empires fans have come to expect from the series over the years: base building, resource gathering, relatively large-scale real-time battles on land and in the sea, and historical figures and civilizations. 

From previous showcases and trailers, we know that the game focuses on the medieval period, much like Age of Empires 2. The trailer above features knights, trebuchets, elephants, and castles. Though it's unclear which historical figures will ultimately round out the playable heroes in the game's campaigns, Joan of Arc will be one of them. Previously, developer Relic Entertainment unveiled the Norman Conquest campaign with King Harold and Duke William of Normandy. 

Previously, Relic unveiled four civilizations: the English, Mongols, Chinese, and Delhi Sultanate. The trailer above highlights two more civilizations in the French and Abbasid Dynasty, according to an AoE4 blog post following the reveal. 

The French were revealed alongside the 100 Years War campaign, allowing players to place themselves in the battles fought between the English and French in the 14th and 15th centuries. The French thrive in trade, with the Chamber of Commerce and Royal Institute landmarks helping strengthen a player’s late game. Royal Knights are one of the civilization’s special units with a fearsome charge ability.

Making a heroic appearance in the trailer is French heroine and icon Joan of Arc, who also has a starring role in the game’s key art. Teenage Joan rallied her country and led armies into battle against the occupying English. Age of Empires II fans fell in love with Joan in the title’s campaign and the development teams are excited to see her return.

Both the Age of Empires 4 standard edition and deluxe edition are up for pre order now on Steam for $59.99 and $79.99 respectively. The digital deluxe edition a coat of arms, a player profile portrait, a monument, a digital soundtrack, a unit counters chart, and a Craig Mullins art compilation, according to Relic and Microsoft. Stay tuned for more. 

Kingshunt Open Beta Prepares for Battle This June Tue, 08 Jun 2021 16:37:09 -0400 David Carcasole

Kingshunt is an upcoming fantasy 5v5 multiplayer title from developer Vaki Games. Placing players in a medieval setting with the sole purpose of destroying their opponents in third-person combat, Kingshunt will be playable soon. In fact, later this month. The Kingshunt open beta on PC goes live on June 22. 

Kingshunt mixes PvP melee combat with real-time strategy and tower defense mechanics where one group of players acts as defenders and another the attackers. There are six playable heroes to choose from, as well as a number of skills and abilities and classes such as tank and support. 

Each match in Kingshunt is a struggle for control over the battlefield as you fight for zones against hordes of enemy AI, as well as enemy players. On paper, and in recent alpha test footage, it looks and sounds quite a bit like the recent Hood: Outlaws & Legends. You'll take out everything in your path using both melee attacks and magic.

According to the developers, players will also be able to unlock "game-changing utilities" in matches that can allow you to "build and destroy your way to victory." It's somewhat unclear exactly what that means, though the trailer above does include some objects that look like siege weapons.  

Those interested in playing Kingshunt sooner rather than later can sign up for the beta at the game's official website. Currently, there's no firm release window or launch date for Kingshunt; the development team is looking to release it sometime in 2021. Until then, it can be wishlisted on Steam or pre ordered through the Kingshunt website. 

There are three versions of the game available through the website. The standard edition is $19.99. The premium edition is $39.90, including $50 of in-game currency. And the guardian edition is $79.90, including $80 of in-game currency. 

Orc Warchief: Strategy City Builder Forges Release Window Tue, 08 Jun 2021 15:31:44 -0400 David Carcasole

Orc Warchief: Strategy City Builder is an upcoming strategy game from indie developer G-DEVS and publisher Creative Forge Games. It puts you in the seat of an Orc warchief, with a legion of orcs at your disposal to conquer and defend your land. The game was announced very late last year, but it now has a 2022 release window on Steam for PC. 

You'll ensure both the survival and success of your people, while gathering supplies, building villages, and, of course, crushing those in your path. 

The challenge of Orc Warchief: Strategy City Builder is that you, as the orcs, are very much the underdog in comparison to the humans, who defeated the orcs long ago in the Great War. Hungry for revenge, you'll lead your orcs back to their rightful place as the sole rulers of the land.

Alongside soldiers and siege weapons, it appears you'll manage other portions of your Orc village as well, such as hunting and resource gathering, as well as forging weapons and more. 

There's still a lot we don't know about Orc Warchief: Strategy City Builder just yet, and it's unclear if the game will come to other storefronts, such as the Epic Games Store. Stay tuned for more info later in the year as we approach 2022. 

Slaughter and Carnage Spill Blood in New Total War: Warhammer 3 Trailer Thu, 03 Jun 2021 20:39:54 -0400 David Carcasole

Developed by Creative Assembly and published by SEGA, Total War: Warhammer 3 calls on players to conquer their daemons in the Realm of Chaos. Set to release sometime later this year, the grand strategy game received a brand new trailer as part of the 2021 Warhammer Skulls showcase, where a handful of other titles were revealed or given new footage, including Warhammer 40,000: Shootas, Blood & Teef and Age of Sigmar: Tempestfall

The latest Total War: Warhammer 3 trailer shows off the kingdom of Khorne, whose leader is the god of battle. Khorne oversees the largest kingdom within the Realm of Chaos, and by the looks of the trailer, the most devastating.

Alongside the new trailer, it was also revealed that Skarbrand, the Exiled One would be introduced in Total War: Warhammer 3 as an extremely powerful melee combatant with twin axes that increase in damage output with every kill. 

SEGA went into more depth regarding the playstyle for Khorne's army, which they said centers around the brutality of the daemons and their constant lust for blood. They'd take a sturdy axe over the use of magic any day, and become more proficient on the battlefield the longer they're in the middle of the fight. 

You can wishlist Total War: Warhammer 3 on Steam today. There is still no firm release date, though the late 2021 launch window remains. Stay tuned.  

Age of Empires 3: Definitive Edition's United States Civilization is Out Now Tue, 13 Apr 2021 14:56:24 -0400 Jonathan Moore

Xbox Game Studios revealed the United States civilization for Age of Empires 3: Definitive Edition during the recent Age of Empires fan event on April 10. Now, the newest DLC is out and available for $4.99 on Steam and the Windows Store. The expansion is also available for free for a limited time for players who complete certain in-game challenges. 

The publisher was relatively mum on the details surrounding the new civilization during the event, which also saw wider-ranging news about upcoming DLC and expansions AoE 3:DE and Age of Empires 2: Definitive Edition. With the launch of the United States civilization, we know a little bit more. 

According to a more detailed launch trailer, which can be seen at the top of this article, the United States civilization includes a rousing general  instead of the typical starting explorer — capable of buffing troops and militiamen by placing a flag on the battlefield, as well as building forts instead of town centers and increasing the speed at which other structures are constructed.

Speaking of militiamen, these units can be called up multiple times in quick succession to defend buildings around each settlement. These can be "called from the town center, outpost, and fort." 

On top of these units, other additions rounding out the civ's ground and naval forces include:

  • The regular
  • The state militia
  • The cowboy
  • The owlhoot
  • The sharpshooter
  • The carbine cavalry
  • The Gatling gun
  • The quaker gun
  • The ironclad
  • The sloop
  • The union steamer

There are also three unique buildings included: the meeting house, the saloon, and the state capitol. 

XGS previously hinted that the USA wouldn't "age-up" the same way as other civs in Age of Empires 3: Definitive Edition. Now we know how that works. The United States moves from one age to the next through a similar age-up window, but it does so through different states, such as Virginia and Delaware, each of which provides its own pros and cons. 

Unlike other civilizations in AoE 3: DE, the United States uses immigration cards to gain certain buffs and deliveries during each age. This allows them to "borrow" from other cultures to create decks. Which cards are included in the U.S. catalog were not shared in the video, but they run the gamut of cards found in other decks. 

The Age of Empires fan event also included the first in-depth look at the upcoming Age of Empires 4, including gameplay, a run-down of four of the game's eight civilizations, and more. For a full rundown of everything in the latest DLC, head over to the game's Steam forum page

New DLC, Updates Announced for Age of Empires Definitive Editions Mon, 12 Apr 2021 14:07:44 -0400 Jonathan Moore

Both Age of Empires 2: Definitive Edition and Age of Empires 3: Definitive Edition are set to receive brand new content through DLCs and updates this year. Xbox Games Studios, the publisher of both real-time strategy games, announced the news during the Age of Empires fan event on April 10. 

Squeezed between new information regarding the upcoming Age of Empires 4 and never-before-seen AoE 4 gameplay, XGS said that the second Age of Empires 2: Definitive Edition DLC, Dawn of the Dukes, is scheduled to launch sometime in summer 2021. The expansion focuses on Eastern Europe, though that's about all we know at this point. The presentation only said there would be "new campaigns and much more, though new units and civilizations are expected. 

Following that, XGS said Age of Empires 2: Definitive Edition will be receiving co op multiplayer on a select few missions. "We've hand-picked a specific set of campaign missions and historical battles to play with friends and work together toward victory" No particulars were shared, but more will be coming "in the months ahead."

The United States civilization will make its way to Age of Empires 3: Definitive Edition on April 13, 2021. It includes a "unique new explorer, a brand home city, nine new units, and a new age-up mechanic." The announcement did not include a price-point for the DLC, which will be available for purchase on Steam and the Windows Store, but XGS said it will be free for an unspecified amount of time for those who complete a 50-state challenge. 

Additionally, the developers aren't done with AoE 3: DE this year, saying they plan to release another, much larger DLC expansion focusing on African civilizations. Though, from the sound of it, that DLC may not be ready this year, but we'll have to wait and see. Stay tuned. 

Age of Empires 4 Fan Preview Gives In-Depth Look at Gameplay, More Details Mon, 12 Apr 2021 13:34:22 -0400 Jonathan Moore

Developer Relic Entertainment finally gave Age of Empires fans their first real look at the upcoming Age of Empires 4. The April 10 fan event provided glimpses at the strategy title's gameplay across four ages. It also provided info on how many civilizations will be included at launch and what's planned to come after. It also showed off parts of the Norman Conquest campaign, one of four in the final game. 

The almost 6-minute trailer, which can be seen above, is all gameplay and no filler, showing four of the game's eight civilizations in action across four ages. The Delhi Sultanate fights the English in both the Dark Age and the Castle Age, while the Mongols fight the Chinese across the Feudal Age and the Imperial Age. 

Along the way, the in-engine gameplay trailer provides shows AoE 4's breadth of combat scenarios, giving glimpses at everything from skirmishes and ambushes to larger confrontations and full-scale sieges. Of course, base-building, hunting and gathering, and commerce get their spots in the limelight as well. 

The Norman Conquest campaign is one of four campaigns that will be available when the game launches. It begins in 1066 and deals with King Harold and Duke William of Normandy's battles as they vie for control of the throne and "civil war erupts." Though Age of Empires campaigns have always played out against the backdrop of history, it's unclear if all of the major players of this particular campaign, including the French and the Vikings, will be separate civilizations. 

The entire showcase can be seen in the video above, which gives even more in-depth information on civilizations and gameplay elements, including the motion capture used to detail individual unit animations and the "modern documentary style" present in the game. 

Relic said they would share more about Age of Empires 4's other four civilizations sometime soon and that the game will get more after launch, though that's all we know at this point.

While this is the first real glimpse fans have gotten at the long-awaited sequel to Age of Empires 3, which launched more than a decade ago in 2005, Relic said they have been working with the AoE community throughout development to make a game that long-time fans want to play. 

Age of Empires 4 was announced in 2017, and its first gameplay trailer, albeit short, was revealed at XO 2019. It is scheduled to release in fall 2019 and does not have a firm release date for that window. It will launch for PC; no other platforms have been announced. There will also be a multiplayer component alongside the game's single-player modes. 

On top of all of that, Age of Empires 2: Definitive Edition and AoE 3: DE will be getting some attention this year as well

Evil Genius 2: World Domination Best Henchmen Mon, 05 Apr 2021 11:27:29 -0400 Sergey_3847

Evil Genius 2 players can recruit and use five different henchmen at a time. But not all henchmen are created equal, so you need to choose wisely, as recruitment process beyond your first henchman is not an easy task. This guide will help you with that and provide you with a list of the five best henchmen in Evil Genius 2: World Domination.

If you're going to spend your time persuading the best crime lords of the world, then it should be worth it. Here you will find henchmen that will be doing their jobs better than the rest.

The Five Best Henchmen in Evil Genius 2

  • Health: 375
  • Smarts: 350
  • Morale: 350

Crime lord Jubei is undoubtedly the best of the best. If you decide to recruit just one henchman, it should be Jubei without a question.

His best ability is Windwalk, which allows him to teleport quickly like the wind. This can be useful in so many situations, including fights and incursions. This skill can be used both offensively and defensively.

Flow is another great skill that adds a significant punch to Jubei's hits. All you need to do is make sure that you can execute several consecutive hits that will stack your damage up with each one of them.

Jubei's only drawback is that he can't heal himself, so don't put him against too many enemies. Instead focus on a single target, such as a super agent.

Dr. Magnolia Ming
  • Health: 350
  • Smarts: 350
  • Morale: 350

Dr. Ming is not just an excellent supporter and healer, but also one of the most dangerous killers in Evil Genius 2.

Her Contagion ability is unbelievably good, especially against a small army of enemies. It emits a gas cloud that kills a whole bunch of enemies and even chases them, if they try to escape.

The Cure skill does the same, but instead of killing enemies it heals your allies. Try to keep your allies away from the poisonous cloud or it will kill them, too.

Dr. Ming would be an excellent companion to Jubei. These two can single-handedly help you win the whole game.

  • Health: 400
  • Smarts: 350
  • Morale: 350

This is an artificial intelligence and the finest ranged henchman in Evil Genius 2.

The best ability is Security Network Link, a kind of a surveillance camera that seeks out enemies, and after detecting them automatically summons guards. This is a great skill to have against rogues trying to steal your gold.

Reroute Power is a self-healing skill, which also reduces any damage taken. This makes I.R.I.S. a great tank supporter that can face even the strongest agents.

  • Health: 325
  • Smarts: 350
  • Morale: 350

Incendio is truly unique!

His skills allow him to secretly drain enemy stats without them even noticing it. On the other hand, his damage is so powerful that it can hurt both your allies and even destroy furniture, which is undesirable.

His Perform Trick ability lures agents and tourists dealing damage to them. The AoE effect is so powerful that it will instantly ignite things around him on fire. The best way to deal with this drawback is to set up a few fire extinguishers at the place of the operation.

Combine Jubei with Incendio and make super agents pray for mercy.

  • Health: 300
  • Smarts: 300
  • Morale: 350

At first glance, Fugu has nothing interesting to offer. Both of her abilities, Food Poisoning and Blowfish Explosion, are weaker versions of Dr. Ming's gas cloud that poisons enemies.

But she also has a secret skill that is absolutely worth checking out. It allows you to reduce the heat during certain missions by 75 points. This can help you prevent an entire region of going into lockdown.

Fugu can also be useful for your economics, since she can make some shops available to you that will bring in huge sums of money.

Those are the best henchmen in Evil Genius 2: World Domination, so now you know who to recruit for your global operations. Also, be sure to check out other Evil Genius 2 guides here at GameSkinny.

Shadow Tactics Aiko's Choice Coming in 2021 With 'Super Brand-New Missions' Thu, 25 Mar 2021 18:00:02 -0400 Josh Broadwell

Mimimi Games is celebrating Shadow Tactics: Blades of the Shogun’s fifth anniversary with a brand-new standalone Shadow Tactics expansion, Aiko’s Choice. Set to release for PC later in 2021, Shadow Tactics — Aiko’s Choice combines the best parts of Shadow Tactics with some deeper looks at its characters and, of course, plenty of high-stakes challenges.

I spoke with Mimimi Games Creative Director and Co-Founder Dominik Abe about what we can expect from Aiko’s Choice and why it’s likely to be essential playing for Shadow Tactics fans.

Mimimi focuses on one project at a time, Abe said, and while they didn’t have the chance — yet — to develop a full Shadow Tactics sequel, there was a good opportunity after shipping Desperadoes 3.

“We had time between Desperadoes 3 and new projects,” Abe said, “and we loved Shadow Tactics so much, we thought ‘maybe we have the time slot now to do an expansion.’”

Despite Mimimi Games starting development after Desperados 3, Abe said Aiko’s Choice is pure Shadow Tactics, homing in on the things players loved about the original instead of borrowing from Desperadoes.

Aiko was the team’s favorite character, so focusing the expansion on her was a natural choice. Aiko’s Choice is still structured like Shadow Tactics, but it places a heavier emphasis on the narrative and characters than the original. 

Aiko’s Choice is about Aiko’s past and a new enemy from her past she has to encounter,” Abe said. “There’s also a bigger focus on team dynamics.”

The three new interlude missions are what make Aiko’s Choice unique. These are built around “storytelling and interactive elements” where you engage with Aiko’s comrades, learning more about them and their motivations in what Abe described as scenarios similar to RPGs. 

“It’s not super in-depth,” Abe said, “but it’s more fitting with the general style of the game.” 

In between the bigger missions, players can speak with characters and explore specific areas. The pacing is much different from the base Shadow Tactics, but Abe said these are still mission-oriented with enemies to fight and strategies to devise.

The three main missions in Aiko’s Choice aren’t for the fainthearted. Abe said that while you can play Aiko’s Choice as a standalone experience, the team built its stages assuming you’ve played the base game.

They’re big, with multiple routes to explore and potential ways to master the challenges, and they’re on par with the most difficult stages in the base game. That’s not what has Abe the most excited about the missions in Aiko’s Choice, though.

“The coolest thing is you’ll get these super brand-new missions in new locations and new environments you haven’t seen in the base game,” Abe said.

Shadow Tactics: Blades of the Shogun — Aiko’s Choice will release sometime later in 2021. If you haven’t played the original game yet, check out why we called it one of the best combinations of stealth and tactics to date.

Stronghold: Warlords Review — Building the Biggest Wall Mon, 08 Mar 2021 11:00:02 -0500 Jordan Baranowski

The Stronghold series doesn't quite have the same following as the big dogs of the RTS genre like StarCraft or Command & Conquer, but it certainly has its fair share of true believers. Stronghold: Warlords is the first entry in the series since Stronghold: Crusaders 2 released for PC in 2014. Warlords improves on many of the quality of life improvements Firefly Studios added in Crusaders 2, and also transports the series from medieval Europe to East Asia.

Here, you'll still balance your economy, protect your citizens with intricate walls and gates, and crush your foes with all sorts of devious weapons and tactics. Stronghold: Warlords will definitely provide a fun new sandbox for fans of the "castle sim" series to play in, but it suffers from a few weaknesses that demonstrate why the series never quite found as much mainstream success as others in the genre.

Stronghold: Warlords Review  Building the Biggest Wall

If I described Stronghold: Warlords in the simplest way possible, it's this: a real-time strategy game with an emphasis on walls.

This time out, the game features the kingdoms of East Asia. In the single-player portion of the game, you'll take the role of many historical figures: Thuc Phan, Toyotomi Hideyoshi, and even Genghis Khan. Across multiple campaigns, you'll find a variety of missions that lay out very basic historical contexts of their rise to and hold on power.

The basic systems of Stronghold: Warlords are not too difficult to wrap your brain around. As you build up certain elements of your settlement, such as houses, farms, and production centers, more citizens will flock to you. These citizens can be assigned to more production jobs or conscripted into your army, adding to your stout defense and helping you to conquer your foes.

There's an element of medieval urban planning involved, with several types of walls, gates, and other creative ways to keep your enemies at bay and your populace happy. As you move into later campaign levels, you'll gain access to new buildings and elements of the tech tree, which will help you fend off the stronger threats that come your way. 

Of course, there are plenty of ways to get into your enemies' fortresses, too — or deal with them from afar.

Warlords still employs plenty of micromanagement elements that will help you carry the day, but strategizing and adapting on the fly is pivotal. Probing your enemy's defense to find a weak area in their fortress can let you sneak a few troops in over the walls and unleash a surprise attack, paving the way for your larger force to take over.

These are the moments where it's easy to see why the Stronghold series has always had a following. It feels really good when you execute a perfect plan. Unlike the rock-paper-scissors style of hard counters you see in many RTS games, Stronghold: Warlords rewards you for thinking like a commander, rather than someone playing a commander. Trying to take down a foe's siege tower as it rumbles towards your keep is a harrowing experience.

Then it has to throw those damn warlords into the mix.

The big draw with this newest release, other than the brand-new setting, is the introduction of warlords. These powerful neutral units are scattered across the map with a few defenses placed here and there. Capturing a warlord, either through attacking them or using diplomatic favor, can unlock powerful abilities for your clan.

On paper, it's a sound concept: warlords provide constant objectives on the map, and ways for players to mount both dominant victories and incredible comebacks. In practice, warlords feel incredibly, well, game-y.

The idea of sending a bunch of troops to stab a guy a whole bunch so he joins your team is weird. And the idea of your opponent then sending a bunch of their troops to stab the same guy a bunch so he betrays you and joins their team is even weirder.

They can't (really) be ignored, either, as each warlord has a powerful effect on the game. In the campaign, for example, many objectives are directly tied to warlords and, in skirmishes, ignoring them only allows your opponent to reap the rewards, putting you at a disadvantage. 

On top of the frustrating way warlords are used, it's difficult to tell units apart at a glance, and there are often a lot of them in your army. In the thick of things, assigning certain troop types to perform specific tasks is messy.

At the same time, the AI lacks sophistication, both for friendlies and enemies. Even after several hours of play, I could never quite tell who my troops were going to attack or if they were just going to stroll past certain enemies on their way to another. When battling against AI, it was far too easy to goad units into traps and chokepoints repeatedly, cheesing out wins without a lot of thought.

For every impressive aspect of Stronghold: Warlords, there's something else that holds it back. Blasting down walls with a catapult and sending archers flying never gets old. Trying to locate your tiny troops hidden across a battlefield... not so much.

Stronghold: Warlords Review —The Bottom Line


  • Physics and strategy of siege battles is fun
  • Variety of viable troops and strategies
  • Builds some great moments of tension


  • Hard to tell unit types apart
  • Warlords don't really tie into the gameplay well
  • AI leaves a lot to be desired

Stronghold: Warlords certainly isn't bad, but there just isn't a lot that makes it stand out. The siege battles and enclosed settlements add an extra layer of strategy to things, but certain problematic areas keep it from properly utilizing those positives to create something special. 

This is a game that seems like it will find a niche audience, but it's doubtful those focused on single-player will get a lot out of it. While there wasn't a ton of opportunity to get into multiplayer games with this early build, it seems like that's where most of the action is going to be. The campaigns are more glorified tutorials than an impressive and comprehensive single-player experience, so it seems like setting up elaborate skirmishes is where developer Firefly Studios thought most of the value would be here, too.

If Stronghold: Warlords sees a little post-release love from the developers, it could turn into a great stepping stone for the franchise; there are some kinks that need to be ironed out, but it's got a strong base to build off of. If you're a long-term fan of the series or want something a little different with your next RTS, this might be what you're looking for.

[Note: Firefly Studios provided the copy of Stronghold: Warlords used for this review.]

Divide the Spoils — and Responsibilities — in Stronghold: Warlords Co Op Multiplayer Fri, 29 Jan 2021 17:09:07 -0500 Josh Broadwell

Stronghold: Warlords' multiplayer is breaking the mold a bit with a new co op mode that lets players team up to dominate the world. Firefly Studios showed Stronghold: Warlords' co op mode off in a lengthy new gameplay video and shared some insight.

Most RTS and civ-building games with multiplayer pit empires and friends against each other. Stronghold: Warlords does plenty of that in deathmatch mode, but co op lets players share resources and strategy together.

Firefly's Marketing Director Nick Tannahill said:

Stronghold is already a complex game for newcomers, with the mix of economic city building, castle simulation and real-time strategy.

Introducing co op means that one player can handle base building, while the other leads their forces into battle or prepares their defences for an incoming siege. 

Co op is a chance for experienced players to share their knowledge and help newcomers ease into Warlords' many systems, but beyond that, it's a way to divide tasks and increase efficiency in combat and management.

One player can stoke the home fires and handle diplomacy or economics, for example, and the other can wage global warfare and bring the nations under their thumb.

Firefly delayed Stronghold: Warlords so it would release with multiplayer, and that includes the newly announced co-op mode. Stronghold: Warlords releases March 9 for PC via Steam, and if our earlier hands-on experience and glimpse at new classes are anything to go by, it'll be worth the wait.

Claim 4 Free Steam Games as Part of Sega's 60th Birthday Thu, 15 Oct 2020 16:13:11 -0400 Josh Broadwell

Sega is celebrating its 60th birthday with a bevy of free games on Steam, along with plenty of discounts. One of those free games is Streets of Kamurocho, a free Streets of Rage 2 x Yakuza mashup from Empty Clip Games only available from October 17 to October 19.

Streets of Kamurocho has players choose from Kiryu Kazuma and Goro Majima and then wander the streets of Kamurocho, pounding the pudding out of thugs along the way — the usual Yakuza material.

But all this takes place in glorious 2D. Kamurocho's iconic locations and, surprise, streets are recreated in Streets of Rage 2 style.

Along with Streets of Kamurocho, Sega fans can claim the following free games:

  • Armor of Heroes — co-op, top-down shooter, available until October 19
  • Golden Axedworking prototype of the canceled Golden Axe Reborn, available until October 19.
  • Endless Zone — combination of Endless Universe and Fantasy Zone, available from October 16 to October 19

Finally, Sega is hosting a Steam sale featuring Warhammer, Company of Heroes, Two Point Hospital, Persona 4 Golden, Yakuza 0, Alien: Isolation, Shenmue 1+2, Bayonetta, and a handful of free-to-keep games including Sonic the Hedgehog 2. The sale itself ends on October 19, and it features savings of up to 95% off. If you're a Sega fan, there's plenty worth checking out. 

Stronghold: Warlords Demo Hands-On — Cry Havoc Fri, 18 Sep 2020 07:00:01 -0400 Jordan Baranowski

Gather your troops, sharpen your axes, and let slip the dogs of war. The Stronghold series is on its way back.

The newest iteration, Stronghold: Warlords, is expected to ship in January 2021, and it offers a nice change of pace from previous games in the series.

We got to go hands-on with the newest demo of Stronghold: Warlords, learning the new systems in an attempt to conquer East Asia. There's a pretty steep learning curve if you've not played the series before, but the combat is extremely tactical and satisfying. The new warlord system also seems poised to offer ever-fluid tactics in each match.

Here's what we thought of this latest demo.

Intricate Strategy

This is a game that rewards patience and strategy, and can pull the rug out from under you in an instant.

Stronghold: Warlords aims to recreate castle economy and siege warfare in an RTS. Because of this, the game puts a premium on a tactical approach. Storming a well-fortified encampment is quite an endeavor, as penetrating thick walls while enemy archers pepper you from towers is a tough puzzle to solve in itself.

Luckily, you have a lot of different tools at your disposal in Stronghold: Warlords. In the latest build we got our hands on, those tools include three tiers of melee troops and three tiers of ranged troops, as well as a multitude of siege options, including ladder troops, cannons that fire flaming rockets, and oxen with fireworks strapped to them (!) that can suicide-bomb walls.

With the East Asia setting, there are all sorts of interesting weapons to play with, as fire and gunpowder innovations are on full display here. Everything looks great as it's playing out on screen, with explosions and fire blasting troops around and units dropping left and right.

It's wild (and a bit overwhelming) to watch play out.

Stronghold: Warlords really encourages you to think tactically; just marching a massive number of axemen at a walled-off fortification is going to get them all killed. This is a game that rewards patience and strategy, and can pull the rug out from under you in an instant.

There was one situation where I wasn't prepared for the AI to employ a certain strategy, and had no answer for its long-range siege weapons when they were brought into play. By the time I'd mustered a counter-attack, it was far (far) too late.

A Steep Curve

The first time we got our hands on a playable build of Stronghold: Warlords, we talked about how steep the learning curve is. That is definitely still the case. When the final version of the game comes out, there will surely be some tutorial tools that help teach you how to play, but in this demo, you are thrown right into the action.

It will take a lot of clicking through buildings and units before you start to figure out how everything works. Certain buildings can only be placed on certain terrains, but how they are actually placed there remains a mystery. Unit strengths vs. unit weaknesses will take both intuition and trial-and-error on your part, especially when you take on the new warlord units.

These are powerful, neutral units that you can win to your side through force or diplomacy. Each Warlord offersto the factions they are currently working with bonuses and strengths in the form of resources and soldiers. A huge part of the early game in each match appears to be trying to pick and win over the warlords who will most benefit your strategy, and then playing to your strengths to overwhelm your opponent's attempts at doing the same.

It will be interesting to see how much variety there is in the Warlord factions in the game's final release and how well balanced they are.

The diplomatic options seem like an interesting wrinkle as well, as you can earn diplomacy points like any other resource and then spend them to receive powerful bonuses. Overwhelming neutral forces with kindness is a unique spin on typical RTS gameplay, though it seems you'll almost always have to switch to brute force when nearing the end of matches.

A Good Taste

Overall, Stronghold: Warlords seems to be shaping up nicely. It's a unique change of pace for the RTS genre that seems more focused on strategy and clever plays rather than twitch reaction speed and micromanagement. The setting allows for some creativity, and it's great fun to watch all the moving pieces engage in a massive battle.

Hopefully, the developers can stick the landing when addressing polish, balance, and the game's learning curve. 

Stronghold: Warlords looks like it could be a great all-nighter when it releases in early 2021. Look for the new demo and give it a shot.

[Note: Firefly Studios provided the build of Stronghold: Warlords used for this hands-on demo.]