It has happened. The day spoken of in legend. After two years, I am finally to be set free of the Curse Of Steam Charts. All its taken is entirely leaving my job in four days time to end this purgatory. The only decision left is to whom I shall pass this vexation. That, and how to avoid mentioning the actual games for one more week. And this time I’ve come up with a self-indulgent doozy.
This week, a series of gifs enticed me to take a look at Totally Accurate Battle Simulator, a game that looks like what might happen if the cast of Morph decided to start doing medieval reenactments. Amusing as it looked with its googly eyes and shonky physics, I'll admit I came to it with a hefty dose of scepticism - the term simulator often being synonymous with 'a bit rubbish'.
I mean no disrespect to the Farming Simulators or hardcore flight sims of this world, of course - I'm talking about the stripe of games like Goat Simulator that rely on being just the right side of broken and hoping the one gag remains funny for longer than ten minutes (many of them struggle).
By contrast, there's just about enough of a game to Totally Accurate Battle Simulator's absurd campaign to lift it clear of the competition. While it's hardly going to replace Total War any time soon, there's something compelling about its mission structure; one which presents you with the enemy ranks and grants you a set number of points with which to purchase and field an opposing force. As with any strategy game, picking your units carefully is the key to success, only in this instance you find yourself asking how many mammoths you want to field, or whether a large unit of halflings is preferable to a smaller force of farmers.
Back at PC Zone magazine, where I was born out of an egg, it was my job to take the raw copy submitted by our freelance writers, strip out most of the sexism and veiled threats against politicians, and produce a polished and well structured review that was legally fit for publication. One of the most commonly deleted and cliched introductions to any game about a war (which was almost every game back then) went as thus. War, huh? What is it good for? Well, this game for a start>. If you ve never read those words in that order before, send a thank you card to your nearest editor today.
I can still picture the freelancer s wide-eyes and self-satisfied grin as they smashed the enter key, confident that they had just invented a cool and original way to begin a review about wars. Bam! Now there s> an opening line, they would say, half laughing to themselves in disbelief that the very first thought that occured to them could be so brilliant, so perfect. Then they would lean back in their chair and run their hands through their hair like Christian Bale having just done a murder. I know this because I was that writer, once. Asking what war is good for and then saying it s the game you re writing about is a rite of passage for any games journalist, like finding out that you re not allowed to use the words gameplay or visceral , even when you re talking about guts spilling out.
As this is my penultimate edition of Steam Charts, before I return to nuzzle into the warm infinite belly of Horace for all of time, I thought it might be fun to take a bit of a look behind the scenes of Steam Charts, to see how this weekly column comes together.
So, hey, join me as we step behind the curtain, and learn a little bit about the magic of Rock Paper Shotgun.