Tropico 6

Kalypso has let loose the beta of Tropico 6, but only for those who pre-order the game through its shop. A Steam beta was announced in August, but that doesn't have a date yet. 

Due out in January 2019, Tropico 6 is the latest entry in the series, but has a different developer than the last three games, with German developers Limbic Entertainment taking over instead of Bulgaria’s Haemimont Games. The newest entry in the series highlights a few key features, such as the major series shakeup of multi-island archipelagos that emphasize transit networks including bridges, tunnels, and public transit. 

Tropico 6 returns to a greater focus on the player’s character—the dictator El Presidente—with customizable outfits, palaces, election speeches, and the like. These features, of course, return alongside classic city-builder series gameplay like managing imports, building housing, and having dissenters shot in the street.

Also, there’s this entirely absurd live action trailer about it:

Tropico 6 is due to release January 29th, 2019. It’s in the Kalypso store here and on Steam if you'd rather wait for the beta. 

Willowbrooke Post

There’s two games I didn’t think I’d ever be talking about in the same breath, but here we are. Willowbrooke Post is an upcoming game where the player returns home to manage their parents’ post office for a year following their “sudden departure,” in the process meeting the local community, learning about them, and stamping lots of letters. Willowbrooke Post will be developed by Dante Knoxx and published by Excalibur, the company behind odd, endearing broken car simulator Jalopy

Willowbrooke Post is a setup that’s familiar to anyone interested in farm life games like Stardew Valley, all about meeting characters and becoming their friends—or, actually not. Of note in the game’s description is the ability to do things like steal peoples’ mail, negatively impacting your relationship with them. It’s scheduled to release into Early Access in early 2019. The Early Access build will be a “comprehensive post office management experience, while introducing a cast of memorable and varied characters and laying the groundwork for an intriguing and engaging narrative.”

You can check out Willowbrooke Post on Steam. For the further curious, the developer gave an EGX talk about the game

Diluvion: Resubmerged

Last year Holly Nielsen reviewed Diluvion, a game about being captain of a submarine straight out of Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, and said, "While the watery depths you explore are a 3D space, when switching to an interior view of the submarines or cities you come across, the 3D transforms into hand-painted 2D graphics. These areas are where the style of Diluvion comes into its own, and the inspiration of Jules Verne is fully felt."

She had some criticisms, particularly for its checkpoints, but also for the UI. Players had plenty of feedback for indie studio Arachnid Games too, and so they spent another year working on an update which they're now ready to launch. Resubmerged is a free update that makes salvaging more dynamic, adds depth to the looting, crew management, and sub upgrading systems, has more ship customization, and "enhanced visuals, new graphics settings, a complete UI overhaul with improved quest tracking and waypoints, the ability to save anywhere, and revamped landmark, navigation and pathfinding systems."

It's a significant upgrade, one that also includes "new side quests, artwork and music alongside a number of quality-of-life improvements." Check it out on Steam.

Resynth

You know what Sokoban puzzles are? They're the ones where you have to push boxes around on a grid until they're in the right positions, normally in the corners of an oddly shaped warehouse. And then, if you're me, you realize you've accidentally squeezed one of those boxes into a corner and because you can only push and not pull there's no way to get it out and you quit.

Resynth is a Sokoban-style puzzle game from two indie designers who previously worked on the paint-splatting platformer de Blob, which had an excellent jazz/funk soundtrack. Music's important to Resynth too. While you're pushing blocks around there's a white line wiping across the level from left to right. Each time it interacts with an object it plays a beat, so as you move everything into its right place the repeating music of that level gets more complete, until finally the level and the tune achieve harmony.

In theory, anyway. In practice I put something in the wrong spot and then wish I could pull it out even though that would defeat the entire point of Sokoban. Fortunately in Resynth you can hold down Z to undo moves, which it does with a cute rewind sound effect.

Resynth is out now on Steam. It's got a level editor too.

Geneshift

GTA-inspired top-down shooter Geneshift was released in 2017, after Ben Johnson spent nearly a decade developing it. Last month Johnson joked on Reddit about making a battle royale mode for Geneshift with rounds that lasted only 20 seconds, and based on the positive response he decided to make it a reality. Ultimately, 20 seconds proved to be a little too quick, so Johnson decided to make the rounds in what he calls 'Battle Royale Turbo' a bit longer: two minutes. You can watch the trailer above.

As you can see, all the elements of battle royale are there: dropping onto the map, looting for gear, lots of vehicles and weapons, and the closing circle of death—but it all happens in 120 seconds. But there's even more to it than that: if you're killed, you can respawn as a zombie instead of just spectating. You'll have limited health and a single melee attack, but if you kill another player while zombified you'll be able to return to the match as a human. Zombies are also immune to the death-circle, so you'll be able to travel in and out of it at will.

Geneshift's battle royale mode also includes a cash system, special abilities, and skills that progress while you play. There's a free demo you can find on its Steam page, and if you want to know more about the development of Geneshift, we spoke to Johnson about it last year.

The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion® Game of the Year Edition Deluxe

From momentary vehicle combat to hacking and cards games, minigames have a variety of functions. Sometimes they're great, giving you optional paths to engage with when you're looking for a change of pace, and other times they're crowbarred in to a game's detriment. They can provide further detail to a setting, or they can infuriate and increase the chance of the game being uninstalled within the next ten minutes. 

Minigames are used for all sorts of things, then, as this week's PCG Q&A explores. Let us know your answers to the following in the comments: what are the best and worst minigames? 

Samuel Roberts

Best: Blitzball in Final Fantasy 10

I sometimes think I'm the only person who likes Final Fantasy's underwater football game. I love how it has its own progression and move system, and that you recruit NPCs around the world to join your team, needing to pay them a salary for each match. It heightens the idea that Blitzball is an important part of life in Spira, the game's setting, and means that there's a strong connection between this minigame and the rest of FF10's journey.

Worst: Bioshock hacking

Bioshock's pipe puzzles would've been fun in moderation, but there are so damn many of them that they become arduous by the second half of the game. I like hacking represented as something visually interesting, but after a while they just slow the pace of the game down. Bioshock 2 found a way to keep the game's pace up while you were hacking turrets and the like. I'm not sure it's worse than racing in Pandemic's The Saboteur or the original Mafia, but it's the minigame I've groaned at the most.

Evan Lahti

Best: Phantom Doctrine's conspiracy board 

It's a dead-simple word matching game, but it blends wonderfully with the theme of Phantom Doctrine. The gesture of moving around procedurally-generated clippings and photos, pulling lines of red yarn between them to form connections adds to the pacing of the 40-hour campaign, providing a paperwork break, as odd as that sounds, from occasionally tedious infiltration missions. I talked about this more on a recent Three Moves Ahead podcast.

Worst: Xenonauts' air combat

I'm looking forward to Xenonauts' sequel a lot. Before imitators like Phoenix Point came along, I was calling it "XCOM Grad School." But I really hope that its air combat gets a new interface, or is just a less prominent part of the experience. It's an exhausting distraction, having to click out flight paths for multiple jets, alternating between pausing and real-time to execute commands.

Jarred Walton

Best: Fallout's terminal hacking

The best minigame is a bit of an oxymoron, but I like logic puzzles, and the "figure-out-the-passphrase" game of Mastermind that comes up in Fallout is okay. It's not particularly hard, and it thankfully doesn't come up so often that it becomes completely onerous. But it's never going to become a standalone spinoff like Gwent.

Worst: Oblivion's Speechcraft

One of the worst, and I'm not sure if you can even call it a game as such, is Elder Scrolls Oblivion's manipulation/persuasion minigame where you try to make people like you. The problem being you had to usually loop through the same responses multiple times to 'max out' your reputation with someone, and you could potentially play this game on every person you talk to. It wasn't hard to figure out the rules of the game, and it was old and annoying after the first few times I did it. Unfortunately, there were hundreds more NPCs to persuade, and part of my brain wanted them all to love me.

Chris Livingston

Best: Oblivion's Speechcraft

I'm gonna almost completely disagree with Jarred here. I didn't think highly of it when I first played Oblivion, but darned if I don't miss its Speechcraft minigame. These days I kinda wish there was a standalone version of it, like Gwent. It's absurd, naturally, in that the key to raising someone's opinion of you involves quickly admiring them, bragging about yourself, joking with them, and threatening them. Threatening them! And even though each person hates having some of these things done to them, you still have to do all of them each time, just in a way that minimizes how much they hate it. It's weird and nonsensical but it's also sort of a fun game, watching their expressions change as you hover over a colorful wedge-wheel before making a boast, saying they're pretty, threatening their life, and then dropping a zinger. It's weird and pretty dumb, but I both love it and miss it. If Bethesda released it as an app I would play it daily.

Worst: Bioshock hacking

I do enjoy the little dingaling sound when you successfully hack in Bioshock: it's pleasant and soothing. But I'm not a big fan of Pipe Mania or Pipe Dream or whatever you want to call it. I got tired of it almost immediately, and I don't understand why there are pipes of water flowing through vending machines and sentry guns anyway. I mean, thematically, I get it, but logically, making a machine love you and give you discounts shouldn't involve fixing their plumbing, unless they are actually toilets.

Wes Fenlon

Best: Final Fantasy 9's Tetra Master

I've spent many, many hours across many playthroughs beating Final Fantasy 9's NPCs at the card game Tetra Master, and here's the dirty secret: I still don't understand how this game works. Honestly, I'm convinced no one fully understands Tetra Master, including the people who designed it. And yet it's a blast despite that fact. The core game is all about positioning cards on a grid, with each card representing a monster or character from FF9's extensive bestiary. Cards have differing arrow layouts on their sides and corners that represent attacking, and the object is to turn your opponent's cards to your color by attacking them. Whoever has the most cards of their color at the end wins. It's simple until you get into the strengths of the cards and what the mess of numbers and letters on them mean, at which point you'll have to consult a wiki. And you probably still won't get it. But jockeying for positioning and setting off combos that ripple through multiple cards is somehow even more fun with the danger element of never being quite sure what the hell's going to happen.

Worst: Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic's speeder race

You guys answering BioShock's pipe hacking minigame must never have played KotOR or blocked this from your memory, because it's infinitely shittier. The worst minigame in a good game, by a longshot. Who wants to drive a speeder that controls like a ton of bricks down a drab, completely straight corridor? There aren't even turns. I still can't believe this shipped in the game.

Bo Moore

I'm going to second Wes's Tetra Master suggestion and just say that I love all the Final Fantasy minigames. Chocobo racing and breeding in 7, Triple Triad in 8, Tetra Master in 9, Blitzball in 10. Even the Blitzball manager thing in 10-2 was pretty great.  I'm gonna go against the tide here and say I actually really like Bioshock's pipe minigame. I don't know if I'd call it the best minigame out there, but I didn't totally hate it.

Worst: Nier: Automata's Hacking. It's an overly complex bullet-hell minigame that's often punishingly difficult, made worse by it being forced as the primary mode of combat in the second route through the game. I found it bothersome enough that I actually never finished that second route, even though I'm dying to know the full and complete story of our intrepid androids' fates.

Tom Senior

Best: The Voigt-Kampff test in Westwood's Blade Runner

The beautiful, atmospheric Westwood adventure game had a few plot holes, but it captured the world's atmosphere obsessively, right down to the police gadgets Deckard uses in the original film. I could just have easily chosen the photo enhancer that lets you zoom and pan across pictures to unlock clues—even the sound effects are spot on. Instead I'll nominate the Voight-Kampff test. The machine measures the subject's nervous responses to questions designed to incite revulsion, which replicants find difficult to emulate. You choose your questions and watch the interviewee's eyeball quivering on a dusty monitor as their heart rate changes. It's hard to tell if there's really a system behind the questions, but whenever you put the Voigt Kampff on a character, you really feel like a detective in that incredible world.

Worst: Every racing minigame in games that aren't racers

These sound great on paper. You've got an open world with horses in it, why not have the player race against other horse riders? Hey, people race in cars right? The trouble is they are always trivially easy, or they are a total roadblock. It's really hard to make racing feel fun. The vehicle (or animal) needs to feel awesome. The AI needs to give you just enough challenge without nailing the perfect racing line every time. I can't think of many that come close to being fun. If I want to do some racing, I can go play Forza Horizon 4 instead.

Phil Savage

Best: Gwent in The Witcher 3

A minigame so good it spawned its own standalone game—admittedly one that made sweeping changes to almost every rule, becoming something far more complicated and confusing. The Witcher 3's original card game is the star of CD Projekt Red's RPG, offering a deeper way to interact with the world. It gave me a reason to explore the world outside of the clearly marked quest objectives. A tavern in a small village might be selling some new cards, or at least offer a new opponent to test myself against. It's just deep enough to be the perfect pastime, and just exploitable enough (thanks, spy cards) to let you feel like you're mastering the hobby. In fact, I enjoyed Gwent so much, that I interviewed the team that made it.

Worst: Hacking in Alpha Protocol

Alpha Protocol is a fascinating, compelling, unique RPG, and also a bit broken in some fundamental ways. But nowhere is it worse than it when it asks you to hack a computer. As in real life, hacking involves a basic word search—trying to find specific codes hidden among a nauseating scroll of letters and numbers. But even when you look through the tragic eye puzzle and manage to focus on the bits of it that aren't moving, you then have to actually move two text boxes into position. This is easier said then done because, while the left-hand box uses WASD, the right hand box is controlled by mouse using some of the floatiest movement handling I've ever had the displeasure of trying to complete to a time limit. Sometimes I think Alpha Protocol deserved more recognition than it got. But then I remember the hacking game, and no, it probably didn't.

Football Manager 2019

A football coach has landed a coaching job owed, in part, to a childhood passion for management sims.

Shaun Guest, originally from Lancashire, England, but now residing in Enniskillen, Northern Ireland, manages Strule United after studying sports management with coaching at University. 

Admittedly, it's not quite premiership level yet, as Strule play in Division One of the Fermanagh and Western Football League. But it's an early love of football management games that gave Guest his passion for behind-the-scenes football tactics.

"Since I was very young I’ve been playing computer games like Championship Manager and Football Manager, and my dad used to buy me season tickets for Blackburn Rovers," he told the Lancashire Telegraph.

"I'd always been interested in the tactical side of the game and seeing transfers of players from club to club."

As a junior player himself, Guest made early links with other coaches and players, which further inspired him to pursue coaching as a career. Now he has his sights set firmly on a professional role, either nationally or internationally.

"I feel that with every session I’m part of at Strule United, I’m learning more and more. I hope to one day be stood on the sidelines in a professional capacity, whether that be at Accrington Stanley or Ewood Park. As long as I keep pushing myself and continue with my coaching licences then anything is possible."

So the next time your significant other / parent / pal gives you stick about games being a waste of time and money, show them this, eh?

While we're on the subject of Football Manager, a recent blog has hinted at new features in Football Manager 2019. The latest iteration has secured the official Bundesliga license, which means logos, kits and player likenesses from all 36 teams in the German leagues will be present.

Blood Bowl: Death Zone

Blood Bowl: Death Zone is a real-time, 1v1 take on the Blood Bowl fantasy football series in which small teams square off in five-minute, almost-no-holds-barred contests. It went into Early Access in July with eight teams, eight unique Star Players, and a $10 price tag. 

(The Steam listing describes the Death Zone challenge as a "popular pre-game show" at Blood Bowl matches, and so I guess it's priced accordingly compared to the full game.) 

It's actually on sale right now for half price, but if even that's too much of a commitment for you, you can also play it for free through Sunday. Head over to Steam, click "Play Game," wait for the 1.8GB install, and you're off to the races. Or the murderous football game, I suppose.   

Blood Bowl: Death Zone will be free to play until 1 pm PT/4 pm ET on September 30. Coincidentally or not (and I'm pretty sure it's not), that's when the sale ends too. 

Party Hard 2

Party Hard is a 2015 stealth-action game about noisy neighbors and what happens to them after they ignore your requests to tone it down at 3 am. Party Hard 2 is built around a slightly different premise—you've been fired, so it's time to crash the company party—but the underlying mechanics are essentially the same: Get inside and kill as many people as you can, in whatever ways possible. 

It's all (or mostly) tongue-in-cheek, of course, although there's no escaping the fact that it's kind of wantonly violent, too. And while I can see the need to do something about all-night revelers when you've got to get up for work in the morning, committing mass murder because you lost your job doesn't seem quite so defensible. Maybe you were really bad at it, or difficult to get along with. That last one seem especially likely, under the circumstances. 

The Party Hard 2 story trailer is a little grimmer than the previous one, too. It's more obviously demented: It's still 3 am, but instead of worrying about getting to work on time, "his glass needs to get red," the narrator says. And violence smells like melon bubblegum. Apparently some people find that arousing. 

It's all very odd, so it's good that a demo is free to download and play at partyhard.game. The download link says players will get access to the first Party Hard 2 alpha, the "Christmas alpha," and the final demo, which publisher tinyBuild said is now available. It covers the first two levels of the game, including some story elements and "never before seen story sequences." The full version of Party Hard 2 will be out on October 25. 

Tech Support: Error Unknown

Tech support: We need it, but we don't like it. But what if we were part of it? And what if, during the discharge of our dull day-to-day duties, we discovered that there's more going on in the world around us than meets the eye? That behind all those error messages and angry customers, something sinister was happening? That's the setup for Tech Support: Error Unknown, a "story rich adventure" set to come out in February. 

As a new employee of Quasar Telecommunications, you're outfitted with a purpose-built computer that enables you to work your tech support job from home, interacting with customers and solving their problems. Or you can dick them around for personal gain if that's your thing: Take a look into their accounts for potential blackmail material, or track their movements through their phones to see where they're going and what they've been up to. 

Either way, you'll eventually stumble upon something shady going on between your corporate bosses and an "anonymous rogue hacktivist group," and that's when things get interesting. Opportunities abound on all sides, if you're willing to take them.

The Tech Support: Error Unknown Steam page says that "new gameplay" will be unlocked based on the choices you make, which will ultimately culminate in one of "multiple major and minor endings." It's not available for pre-purchase yet, but is expected to go live in February 2019, and in the meantime you can sign up for the mailing list at techsupportgame.com

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