Saturday, March 15, 2014

On Deck: Banished

Well, I have to thank Mabrick for probably killing the next few weeks of my life.  He ran a few articles about Banished, and I'm going to give a try.

Some background:  When I stopped playing Eve last year, it was not due to a lack of time, but a lack of time which I could safely play games without being interrupted.  This was due to living in a house with a very ill family member and the need to physically or emotionally support those I was with.  This put a damper of my foray into Faction Warfare.  So I started to look for games I could pause, leave, or otherwise abandon at any time.  I got back into Minecraft, specifically with the modded servers over at Ars Technica.  A good group of guys and gals over there, and we still have some mod servers going strong.  I also managed to get myself into Dwarf Fortress rather heavily, first in the normal mode and then into the heavily modded Masterwork version.

If you like Eve, there is a good chance you like very complex games that have a steep learning cruve and that reward your efforts, more often than not, with death.  Dwarf Fortress is maybe the best example of an obtuse, difficult and punishing game that manages to be insanely rewarding and addictive.  Oh, and it looks like this:

Adding "better" graphics can make it look a bit better.

It is not a pretty game.  However, it is frightfully deep.  It also has no real goals.  You start with seven dwarves, some food, some supplies, and then you unpause the game.  At the core, DF is a resource gathering and managing game.  You dig into the ground, build into the sky, create farms and pastures and mines, and generally try not to die.  The beauty of the game is the complexity of the fortresses you can build. 

Once you get food, clothing and basic defenses sorted, you are free to build whatever you want.  A giant castle, the mines of Moria, a trap infested death machine.  Some notable examples are a player who colonized Hell, replicas of the Great Pyramids, or giant statues that contain hundreds of dwarves and all they need to live.  On top of that the forum for the game is rife with community games.  These consist of games where players create backstories, random objectives, and then take turns leading the fortress for a year each, writing up the story and passing the turn on to the next player.  Some of these are even PVP like in nature, with players encouraged to leave traps for the next player to have to deal with.  One game I recently finished culminated in us luring the King of all dwarfdom to our fortress, then burying him under a mountain of cheese, stone, and valuables.

Most fortresses end due to the violent death of dwarves due to starvation, invasion, madness, breaching hell and unleashing the demos within, assualt from flaming disease spreading monsters, or more often than not, simple bad management.  The unofficial motto of the game is "Losing is Fun".

I love this game, and have spent a lot of time playing it and trying to have as much fun as possible.

There are a lot of games that have tried to take the DF formula and make it pretty.  Towns is the best example I can think of.  Much like Minecraft most of these new games have tried to address what many see as the main drawback of DF, the utterly horrible graphics and user interface.  Most fall rather flat, being either buggy, poorly made, or lacking the odd charms of DF.   Things like the random name and artifact generators, the suicidal way dwarves chase after socks lying on a battlefield, and the intricacies of years of development that simulates emotions, moods, and combat, down to each dwarf having meticulously detailed layers of skin, muscle, fat, bones and organs.

Banished looks like it might have found a middle ground, and I look forward to seeing if someone has finally cracked the graphics code and made an interesting alternative to Dwarf Fortress.

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