Scotch Corner – Thinking Wrong Thoughts

Read Stuart’s column every week in The Scottish Sun, where he shares his reviews, news and podcasts with the 99.3% of the World’s population not fortunate enough to be able to buy a physical copy of the paper. The following appeared originally in The Scottish Sun on Sunday 12th January 2020.


It’s Good to be Bad

THE new year may have just started but the world is already teetering on the brink — bit political there.  So what better time to try your hand at taking it over?  Rebellion has just the game in the works with the sequel to the cult Evil Genius.  Ash Tregay and Rich Edwards — producer and lead designer of the game — feel the time is perfect for the return of the evil management game.  Rich said:

“It’s something we have always wanted to do ever since we acquired the licence at Rebellion.  There is a huge group of fans at the studio who loved the first game and really just wanted to see it coming back.”

Ash added:

“It’s a great time for the genre. In recent years there have been some tremendous successes with the likes of Two Point Hospital, Jurassic World Evolution and Planet Coaster.  It’s a fantastic time for management games in general and, for us, it’s the right time as well as the right team.”

The game will be on the PC, but Ash reckons it could go multi-platform.  He said:

“We are definitely discussing other platforms purely because we are keen to get the game into as many players’ hands as we can.  Just now it’s very much a PC-focused title and we are very keen to build it as the best experience for PC gamers.”

That means no HD remake any time soon.  Ash said:

“We are looking to reproduce what made the original great but also build on that with new content and game mechanics that will add new depth and give you reasons to replay the game—so reproducing the original game even in HD would really go against some of our core goals on the second title.”

Given some of the high-tension incidents across the globe, you have to wonder how evil a world ruler can be.  Rich laughed and said:

“Very… we are asking you to take over the world so you are in control of a criminal organisation and recruiting an army of henchmen with the overall goal to rule the world.  What is more evil than that?”

Ash added:

“Ultimately, your goal is to build a doomsday device.  They are generally not known for being gentle bits of kit so you can expect to carry out lots of heinous acts to get it built.  But we also want to give the players reasons to do criminal acts just for the sake of criminality, so you can kidnap the Governor of Maine or bake Alaska.  There are a lot of crazy and wonderful things to get up to.”

The game is 00-heaven for the team as many of the baddies got a Bond-style workout like Blofeld.  Rich said:

“The biggest inspiration has to be the earlier Bond films and the original Avengers TV show as well as the Mission Impossible show from the 60 and 70s.  That’s there we are going for most of our core inspiration.  Each evil genius will be able to be played in a separate way and we hope the player will pick the one that best suits their play style.  For example, of the two we have shown so far — Maximilian is very much about building his industrial content and getting out there and making sure the world is his.  He is very goal-focused.  Red Ivan is more of a military powerhouse out to dominate the world and prove he is the strongest.  We have two geniuses that we haven’t shown just yet and they will follow two different play styles.”

Rich added:

“We will have four evil geniuses each with their own story-driven campaign, own special abilities and doomsday weapon.  On top of that the game is very story-driven so that carries over into the hero characters.  Each henchman has their own name and background as well as his side objectives to help get them into your organisation.  Every super-agent working against you has their own abilities to use against you.”

Despite the fan demand, the team were still shocked by the early reaction to the new game, but Ash believes this is just the beginning of a truly evil reign.  He said:

“Management games are no longer a niche genre but there is still a feeling that they are — even within the development teams.  Before E3 we were on that path but after the trailer opened the PC Gamer Show we had an enormous response from a much larger group of people than we had anticipated.  I think there is a healthy scope for the game to succeed across the board and who knows where the Evil Genius will end up.  It’s a universe that is rich with opportunity.”

We Happy Few: We All Fall Down (Xbox One, PS4 and PC, £6.47)

IT’S safe to say We Happy Few has had more ups and downs than a roller-coaster since its launch.  But the trials and tribulations are coming to an end with We All Fall Down — the third and final DLC.  It follows a similar path to the first two DLC packs — a standalone tale focusing on another character in the We Happy Few universe.  But, in an interesting move, all the action takes place after the events of the main game.  This time you are Victoria Byng, who fans will recognise from the main game.  She is out to stop the Executive Committee once and for all and ultimately save the people of Wellington Wells.  But she is also battling ghosts from her past.

The final chapter is short — clocking in just over the two-hour mark — but, as a final swansong for the adventure, it has some strong moments even if does lack the killer finale that fans may have been anticipating.  But where the tale is lacking, the gameplay picks up the slack.  Victoria gets a few new moves and abilities that open up how you move around as well as deal with combat — and we loved the Indiana Jones-style whip that lets you fly across roof tops and rip up enemies.  You also get a hacking dart gun that you can use to switch off locks and cameras from a distance or stun enemies.  Overall, it is a DLC that offers fans want they love, and it’s great to head back to the We Happy Few world if even for a few hours.  It is easily the strongest of the three on the gameplay front, but also the weakest on story.

Score: 2.5/5

Narcos: Rise of the Cartels (Xbox One, PS4, Switch and PC, £24.99)

TAKE a Netflix hit, throw in some X-Com magic and you get something not a million mile away from Surrey-based Kuju Games’ latest title.  You can fight on both sides of the law — either the DEA out to stop the drug cartels in the 1980s or as the Narcos trying to do over the DEA.  Each has a decent campaign to get stuck into.  Show fans should note that most of the action takes place during the time period of the first season.  It also includes a few nods and winks to the show, including the theme song, characters and some clips.  However, the tale is very light given the source material and it doesn’t really link into the show as well or as many would have hoped.

You assault a number of missions with your five-man squad and, just like X-Com, it is turn-based so run-and-gun fans will have to dial down the trigger finger.  That’s not to say there isn’t a lot of action as you move units into place.  If you get an enemy in your sights then you can open fire and there is a new feature that lets you take control of your unit if the baddie walks into their line of sight.  The RNG — random number generator — system means you could have a shot at point-blank range but it depends on the magic number roll to see if they survive.  RNG systems will cause rows across the gaming community until the cows come home because, ultimately, it’s based on chance — but to help level the odds your units have a number of skills that you can activate or leave passive.

You’ll need to complete the side missions to unlock the weighty main mission but things do get a bit repetitive more quickly than you would hope.  And you should bear in mind that any member of your squad who is gunned down is gone forever.  Permadeath really keeps you on your toes and adds an extra layer to the strategy.  Bizarrely, there is no game soundtrack so mission are quiet affairs and the enemy AI can become very predictable which kills the challenge stone dead.  This is a fun take on the X-Com formula.  It is more forgiving than its inspiration and new players to this style of game will welcome that.

Score: 3/5

Ancestors: The Humankind Odyssey (Xbox One, PS4 and PC, £24.74)

SOME people should focus on what they’re good at and leave everything else to others.  And with Ancestors: The Humankind Odyssey, that’s very much the case.   Patrice Désilets, best known for his work on Assassin’s Creed, has made Ancestors his first indie release — and, on paper, it’s a very ambitious project that could bring something new to the gaming table.  But the launch has been over-shadowed by Patrice accusing the gaming press of not having actually played it before giving the PC version a poor score.  But he seems to have overlooked the fact that it is dull, boring and ultimately dragged out.  It’s a shame Patrice has had a pop at critics, some of whom he claimed invented a scenario where the primates ride horses, as it sets him and his new firm up for a huge fall if the console version doesn’t deliver.

Having spent a few weeks with the title, it’s safe to say Ancestors has the potential to be an outstanding game but, in practice, it’s far from that (we hope you’re sitting down for this Patrice).  The game is all about a clan of primates evolving over a number of generations with each learning new skills and abilities.  And that’s about it.  There is very little in terms of traditional story to be found.  That’s all very good, but after a few hours you learn that nothing is clear in this game and, yes, the console version offers a few more hints than you get on PC.  But it’s still a pain.  You learn through trial and error and a lot of repetition.  There is a strong survival theme which holds you back as meters drain, forcing you to stay in set areas instead of exploring.  On the whole, you’re thrown in at the deep end and left to it may mirror what our real ancestors faced but, honestly, it doesn’t make for a fun game. You slave away for hours, learning the basics of the world, only to be killed by a wild cat.  You have to work out how to do everything — from finding food and making weapons and tools — then you pass that knowledge on by unlocking neural links which future generations inherit so come into the world pre-loaded with these skills.  But there is a limit to what can be passed on.

You’ll also have to deal with the standard survival gameplay elements such as drinking, eating and sleeping, plus healing when you are hurt as most things in the world want to have you for dinner.  And yes, permadeath is in full effect, meaning you can lose a full lineage.  Add to that there are no manual saves and a lot of people will see an awful lot of work thrown in the bin, sometimes through no fault of their own.  It all feels like a bit of an HUGE ‘F you’ from the developers, if we’re honest.  On the plus side, movement through the world does feel good when you get into the swing of things.  In a way it apes the series creator’s past title, Assassin’s Creed, as you Tarzan it through the tree tops.  So the game DOES become fun, but only after a good few generations, when your clan has grown a fair bit — and that’s the biggest issue because few will stick at it to get to this content because it’s just not much fun getting there.  It is repetitive and really frustrating at times as there is a real imbalance in the weighting of what’s needed to grow.  That will put off all but the most hardened survival game fans.  Ancestors: The Humankind Odyssey is an interesting idea, it but it just doesn’t deliver because poor choices kill the enjoyment unless you like this sort of games and have a load of free time.  So next time Patrice, maybe wait before getting on your high horse!

Score: 1.5/5

I’ll be back next week with more from North of the Border. Catch ye’s…

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Stuart Cullen

Scotland’s very own thorn in the side of the London gaming scene bringing all the hottest action straight from The Sun… well… The Scottish Sun at least, every week!

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