If there's one thing that separates Gamescom from other big gaming shows, it's the focus on PC strategy games. It's a big market here in Europe, and few publishers are more focused on that particular audience than Paradox Interactive. The Swedish publisher scored a big hit earlier this year with Magicka, but it's got plenty more games in the pipeline for this year and beyond. Here are the Paradox games we got to check out earlier today when we swung by its Gamescom booth.
Crusader Kings II
Crusaders Kings II is basically a political intrigue simulator set in the Middle Ages. Rather than controlling a country, you control a single family and pass your prestige on from one heir to the next throughout the course of 400 years. What makes this game so interesting is how much your empire is built around personal relationships rather than outright military might. For example, you might marry your son to the daughter of a sickly landholder knowing full well he doesn't have much time left on this mortal plane only to conveniently take over said land when that lord kicks the bucket. And even when you do want to wage outright war, politics is at the forefront of those decisions. Is your troop morale high enough? Is your weak ancestral claim to the neighboring country strong enough to keep your minor dukes from turning on you? All of this is presented on a map-based interface that's absolutely dense with statistics and bits of information, so the barrier to entry might be a little high for certain players. Still, the whole game sounds very exciting to us.
Naval War: Arctic Circle
Moving from medieval times to the current day, Naval War: Arctic Circle is a military real-time strategy games that gives you a simple radar-inspired user interface to command submarines, battle ships, and aircraft throughout the North Atlantic. While the interface is fairly minimal for a strategy game, developer Turbo Tape promises an extensive level of strategy and realism underneath the surface. For example, when sending in jets for long-distance attacks, you have to consider how much fuel they have and whether it might be possible to run out before they make a safe return. And when launching torpedoes from a submarine, the sheer sense of scale means you have time to get up and take a short nap before the torpedoes reach their target, so you'd better make sure it's the correct one. Developer Turbo Tape promises a full story campaign featuring US, Russian, and NATO forces, though it is still deciding how the storytelling will play out. Currently, Turbo Tape is leaning toward graphic novel cutscenes.
If you've played popular crafting-heavy games like Minecraft and Terraria but wished for something more expansive from their multiplayer elements, then Salem might be up your alley. It's a free-to-play massively multiplayer online game developed by a two-man team from Sweden that combines a cartoonish aesthetic and a robust crafting system. Set in Colonial New England, Salem has you playing as early Americans during a time when the United States was in its early stages and the wilderness beyond the 13 colonies hadn't yet been charted. So it's up to the players to wander the expansive map and use natural resources to develop villages and towns. To give you an idea of how deep the crafting goes, to build a house, you need not only wood from chopping down trees but also nails, which can be made by mining iron ore, smelting it, and finally forging it. You can also do things like forage for food, grow crops, bake, and use tons of other skills and crafts. There's also a role-playing element. Salem uses the delightfully old-timey "four humors" to portray your various traits, allowing you to upgrade them as time passes. With servers that can support over 1,500 players and cooperative building, as well as player versus player (where the deaths are permanent), this is one crafting game with a serious focus on the social element.
War of the Roses
War of the Roses is a melee-focused action game that has armored knights clanging swords during the titular battle between House Lancaster and House York. At least, that's what we think. We, unlike the other games, didn't actually get a chance to see War of the Roses in action, what with it only having just been announced a couple of days ago here at Gamescom. But we did get a chance to talk about it with Paradox and developer Fatshark. It was interesting to hear the number of comparisons drawn between this medieval action game and modern first- and third-person shooters. The aim is to create a visceral, action-heavy melee game with an extensive progression system; it's sort of the Call of Duty of medieval times. Senior producer Gordon Van Dyke (he of Battlefield 1943 fame) also expressed a desire to adapt a third-person camera similar to Gears of War--one that adapts quickly and effortlessly to a player's speed of movement and chosen attack. Having not seen the game in action, we can't really comment on much else, other than the fact that the War of the Roses seems like a great setting for an action game. Hopefully, we'll be able to see this one soon.