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Tycho / on Mon, Feb 4 2008 at 12:54 am

Noah Webster, You Are My Only Hope

Despite what the Mr. Period comics might imply, I think of grammar as somewhat tyrannical, and believe that an obsession with the mechanical perfection of language is at odds with actual communication.  At the same time, I know (generally) how things should be arranged, and so non-standard uses deliver naughty thrills.  There are floating syllables in the recent Twisp & Catsby thing that can only be resolved by a very specific reading, and they project from the phrases in a suggestive way.  I even like trade names:  words that evoke fierce, yet sensitive gladiators or spry androids

But friends, there is a Goddamned line

I played Armageddon Empires most of the day Sunday, so now you get to hear about it some more.  Can’t be helped.  Or maybe it could be helped, but I have no intention of doing so. 

I really can’t believe that this game exists.  Like proponents of any medium, we collectively herald the "classics" that define and expand our expectations.  I seek out experiences that will return me to my days of importing British Amiga magazines, or dumping large chunks of my youth and vitality into the original Civilization.  I’m down for whatever, but I know what I like: to take on the computer with a friend in tow, learning to inhabit new systems of thought until we triumph or are immolated in glory.  Ordinarily, one cannot return to those times.  Absent their original context, the games are still good games but have ceased being revelatory.  The simple, fun systems I used to seek out are emerging with increasing regularity on the tabletop.  What happened on Sunday was like traveling through fucking time.  Armageddon Empires is the strange solution in which entire weekends dissolve.

The user interface, which I have heard decried, is the only serious point of contention.  The game has a very persistent internal logic, and is very explicit in how it presents itself.  The shortcuts we expect as a player today aren’t really present.  It’s a very literal interface, clearly designed by a programmer.  It wants to tell you everything, and it never wants you to feel as though something went by too fast for you to take it into account.  It’s also written in Director, so it’s not as responsive as it it could be.  I can’t really apologize for any of it, the complaints are entirely factual.  I can only urge you to see it as a kind of "peel" one must manage to devour the paradise fruit within.   

There is an interview with the creator that covers a number of topics, but the key bit for existing players is probably the free expansion coming ("hopefully") in March.  With a game that has deckbuilding at its core, you might be expecting the traditional CCG maneuver wherein your wallet is gripped, and then stripped.  Like so much else about the game, this is another opportunity to be pleasantly surprised.

(CW)TB out.


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