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Ben Clark

Freelance writer and technology enthusiast.

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In 2004, Blizzard released what has probably been their most prolific and most successful game to date, it is of course none other than the fantasy MMORPG World of Warcraft. Love it or hate it, the impact that the game has had on the MMO scene has been astronomical, not only pushing its predecessor titles into irrelevance, but managing to rack up an absolutely massive eleven million subscribers at its peak.

Even nine years after its release, WoW continues to dominate thanks to a steady content stream from developer Blizzard Entertainment, which has proven successful in keeping the fans satiated, and more importantly, paying.

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Swords and Slaughtering – War of the Roses and Chivalry Double Review

Today, the hacking and slashing, blood-drenched world of the medieval era has been rather neglected in the realm of video games. The only real nods to the old era of swords, castles and measly peasants have been in the form of heavily-adjusted fantastical interpretations as opposed to true-to-the-core historical setting. Not to say that this is not entirely unjustified – whilst modern shooters have the advantage of being ‘true-to-life’ in the sense that the fundamental principle behind the firearm is point-and-shoot, trying to convey the true skill and physical aptitude behind deft swordplay is a very tricky matter indeed.

Despite this obstacle, two developers have leapt forward to have a swing at this challenge: Fatshark Studios have lunged forward with the big and ambitious Wars of the Roses, whilst Torn Banner Studios have brandished a fully stand-alone adaptation of their original Half-Life 2 mod with Chivalry: Medieval Warfare. So, does this duo carve out a bold new stake in the FPS-dominated market, or will they be forever condemned to the dungeons of insignificance? Read on to find out.

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We all know the classic Biblical tale of the Tower of Babel – Humanity, looking to prove its worth and prowess in the field of fancy architecture, decides to construct the largest tower ever, which seemed like a rather decent idea. God, on the other hand, wasn’t too pleased about this, and decided to crush humanity’s efforts in a rather unorthodox fashion; by bestowing upon the workers the ‘gift’ of multiple languages. As Google Translate was not quite available at the time, the project had to be scrapped due to the obvious ensuing communications issues. It remains a classic story of the price of hubris, and has been adapted into a rather light-hearted game, which has now made its way to Windows Phone.

The port, brought to us by Ubisoft, is more than a fitting homage to the source material. Not in any way because it is a well-made title, though! On the contrary, Babel Rising can sadly only be described as a disaster of Biblical Proportions, one that not a thousand prayers could give salvation to. Read on to see how Babel Rising would steer even the devil himself away.

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“Jones, to shields, double time!” I barked, sitting impatiently in front of an array of pulsating red alerts which were bathing the hectic cockpit a violent red. With a flick of my wrist, I set the starboard airlock to open, dismissing the ablaze compartment’s oxygen into space, and with it, the fire engulfing it.

That however, was the least of my problems; our oxygen unit had been severely damaged by a missile, forcing Cater to abandon the engines to repair it, not to mention that in the dark, starry distance, the marauding Mantis pincer-craft had just brought its missile system back online. I looked to weapons – all our ordinance had been expended, and our last pulse laser volley had been a series of clean misses. The FTL recharge was crawling at a snail’s pace, and-

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It has been well over two years now since Microsoft’s bold new square-centric foray into the world of smartphones was unveiled in the form of Windows Phone 7, and the accompanying Metro UI. Both operating system and UI were well-received, but their long term success was met with scepticism in the face of the titans of Apple’s iPhone and Google’s Android. Today, we’ve seen the rough start for Windows Phone blossom into a serious mobile competitor for iOS and Android, one that is continuing to thrive and grow as the two tech titans thrash and brawl; We’ve seen the quadratic-laden Metro UI sneak its way onto the Xbox 360, Microsoft’s own Zune MP3 player software for Windows PC’s, and now onto the next iteration of Microsoft’s Windows PC operating system.

In the wake of the impending release of both Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8, which should prove to be a make-or-break launch for Microsoft in terms of both its grip on the market and impression on the mobile space, we’ve seen the lead players in the tech world step forward with their eager contributions to the oncoming pair of OS’s, and I’m here to take a look at the most intriguing of the bunch.

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It’s safe to say that the gaming scene has witnessed what is easily more than a fair share of MMORPG’s in recent years. From the classics of Everquest and Ultima Online to the game-changing hit World of Warcraft and the myriad (yet slightly boring) EVE Online, there seems to have been no expense spared in sending eager players forth for gold, loot, and the life-consuming quest for an epic mount.

Now this would be all well and fine with me, but by some strange peculiarity we seem to have been left with a superfluous plethora of titles that, whilst borrowing heavily from Blizzard Entertainment’s magnum opus, seem to have been unable to capture its staggering popularity and lasting impression.

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Back in the old days of smartphone infancy, your options for some ravenous digital gaming were somewhat limited; anything more than downloading a basic open-source port of Civilization or ‘some game from some site somewhere’ would require the ownership of one of Nintendo’s coveted Gameboy systems, lest you be relegated to the living room sofa. However most of the handheld consoles of the day were generally regarded as mere child’s play, certainly much too juvenile a pastime for the crisp-suit-toting, HP iPAQ-wielding business elite.

Of course, with the completely game-changing advent of the iPhone, iOS and Android, focus has turned to the viability of the modern-day smartphone as a viable gaming platform to rival dedicated solutions from Nintendo and Sony. So far we’ve seen some rather stellar results, with titles such as the casual hit Angry Birds and the more console-quality titles such as Infinity Blade demonstrating that the phone of the 21st century can entertain you in the gaming space, too. With the welcome introduction of the Unity 3D platform to Windows Phone, things could get a lot more interesting.

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Remember that old browser game that all your friends used to play? Remember that time you tried to attack a level 50 Jogre and got killed? Remember that time you accidentally closed your browser window and panicked for the next day over whether or not your account was being hacked by strange internet forces of darkness?

Ok, maybe it wasn’t as bleak as that. For me, Runescape was always ‘that game’ that people played if they couldn’t afford a World of Warcraft subscription or a good enough computer to play it on. It was ‘that game’ where you would spend hours on a quest instead of a few repetitive minutes of boar-slaughtering. Now, after over ten years since its official release, I think Runescape is ready for a review.

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For those of us who remember the 90’s with a certain level of fondness, you may have been a fan of some of the brilliant Sci-Fi strategy games of the era. Amongst such brilliant titles such as Sid Meier’s Alpha Centauri and Starcraft stood one of the mightiest examples of the turn-based-strategy genre ever created: Master of Orion II.

Featuring great visuals and sound, an intuitive interface, and almost limitless depth, MOO2 (as it was lovingly referred to as by fans) became an instant classic. Unfortunately, a disappointing sequel amongst other things swept the series away on the winds of time, never to see a sequel again. However, the legacy of Master of Orion has by no means been lost! A new title flying under the moniker of Endless Space seeks to bring back a bit of the strategy that made MOO2 so engaging. Does it succeeed? Read on.

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To many, myself included, there has always come a certain novelty and boyish joy out of the not-so-simple wargame; an occupation which pitted a lot of my childhood in eager sessions of assembling and painting tiny plastic armies, only to be butchered on a minute synthetic battlefield at the mercy of a set of dice.

Of course, the world of digital gaming has been no stranger to the art of strategy, although most translations from the classic wargame have been in the form of more action-oriented RTS’s such as Starcraft and the Age of Empires series’, with a seldom few titles coming close to really putting ‘armchair general’-style control in the hands of players. Fortunately the tide may finally have turned with Eugen Systems’ new title; the aptly named Wargame: European Escalation. Does it deliver a decisive victory, or is a general retreat in order? Read on to find out.

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