Paradox Interactive is known for frighteningly deep strategy games, and its upcoming titles are no exception.
I paid Paradox Interactive a visit today to see how their latest PC strategy titles were coming along. While I didn’t get a chance to spend time with all of the games they had on show, the three I did see represented three very different approaches, all of which provided enough depth to drown in.
Free to play MMO Salem casts players in the role of a colonist in a fictional New England-inspired setting circa 1500-1700. The world is randomly generated, but all man-made structures are just that — players build them. Building is a simple matter of choosing a structure from the menu, choosing a location and then gathering the appropriate resources with which to build it.
Salem’s peculiar stats system highlights the fact that this is far from a traditional MMO. Players spend one of four bodily fluids — blood, phlegm, yellow bile and black bile — on various actions. Phlegm is used when performing actions such as gathering resources. Blood is effectively the health bar. Yellow bile is used to perform specific skills, and black bile is spent on studying new ones. Running out of any one of these causes the player to collapse unconscious and be at risk of being killed — and death is permanent.
Well, sort of. While the previous character can die, the player can create a new character as the heir of a previous one, and inherit the land they held. Land in Salem is much more valuable than your individual character.
The game takes an interesting approach to PvP — players committing crimes leave behind clues, which other players can then use to track them down. If the crime is serious enough, a player’s character can be summoned and brought to justice even when the player is offline.
Salem is set to launch an open beta in early 2012, and see its final release in the summer of next year.
Naval War: Arctic Circle
A far cry from Salem’s cartoony super-deformed graphics, Naval War takes a clinical, vector graphics approach to sea-based warfare, inspired by ancient strategy title Harpoon. It’s been crossed with elements from modern real time strategy games to make it somewhat more accessible, however.
Set in the year 2030 and using currently existing technology, the game focuses on a series of conflicts between NATO and Russia. In an attempt to be accessible yet deep, the game uses considerably fewer units than a typical real time strategy game, though each is a powerful force in its own right. Players can use sensor technology such as sonar in an attempt to locate the initially invisible enemy units and then engage them in combat using their submarines, destroyers, aircraft carriers and airplanes.
The graphics are simple but very clear — though the developers are considering adding an option to use authentic abstract naval iconograpy for those who enjoy a more realistic approach. And for those who simply can’t live without watching things go boom, an optional 3D “live” window shows what the currently selected unit is up to, though this hadn’t been fully implemented in the demo I saw today.
Naval War: Arctic Circle is due to release digitally on PC in the second quarter of next year.
Crusader Kings II
Crusader Kings II describes itself as a “grand strategy game” and it’s not difficult to see why. Set in Europe and Northern Africa between the years 1066 and 1450, players can choose to take on the role of any one of hundreds of historically-accurate characters — from kings to local lords — and attempt to accrue as much prestige as possible through a variety of means.
Taking on the role of King Harold in 1066, for example, puts you at immediate risk of having gross bodily harm inflicted on you by William the Conqueror as he invades from across the English Channel. It’s not all about warfare, though — you have to consider where you’re going to get an heir from, the needs and wants of your vassals and even fulfilling the Pope’s requests for holy crusades to the Middle East.
There’s a staggering amount of depth on offer and this comes to a whole new level in the 32 player multiplayer mode, in which players can take on the role of any character in the region, from the ruler of an individual province to the king of an entire country. This raises the interesting possibility of improvised competitions where disparate baronies do their best to overthrow the king of a nation, for example — it sounds like a lot of fun, though extremely time consuming.
It’s certainly a game you’ll need a strong multitasking brain for, though the sense of satisfaction on offer as a reward for your hard work will be immense.