Last week had no bulletin, but this week we’re back with some extra content! In this week’s bulletin we discuss Mount & Blade II Bannerlord, John Company Second Edition, First They Came, Civilization VI & VII, Minecraft Caves & Cliffs, Assassin’s Creed Valhalla Wrath of the Druids, Social Stealth in games, Aztech Forgotten Gods, Age of Empires IV Fan Preview and This Land Is My Land!

Mount & Blade II Bannerlord A Year On

It has been a year since Mount & Blade II Bannerlord was launched in Early Access! In that year, quite some things have changed. Taleworlds provided us with a nice overview of all the new stuffs in the game. First and foremost, stabilty and performance has greatly been improved and optimized (with a big fps increase for battles) and a total 10GB shrink of the total game size. That decrease is more impressive if you also consider the fact they’ve added more art and audio to the game over the year. The year also saw tweaks in the character building system, families and clans, battles, kingdoms and armies and the addition of multiplayer and a modding tool. Say what you want, at least Taleworld have worked on the game during the EA-period! But is it worth it? If you ask me, yes! But some others are still on the fence: Rock Paper Shotgun’s Sin Vega writes: ‘It’s certainly more enjoyable to play than it used to be, but I still can’t recommend it outright, and I suspect I won’t know how I feel about it until it’s finished.’ And I must concede: it is still hard to place a definitive verdict on the game, but seen as though the devs have progressed the game quite a bit (and have also listenend to the community), it will be even better in the future!

Some of the new artwork. Image credit: Taleworlds

John Company Second Edition Kickstarter

What do you get when you cross Snakes and Ladders with the East India Company? You get John Company! The board game from 2017 was a big hit. Such a big hit, that award-winning designer Cole Wehrle is working on a Second Edition! With a huge rework of the first edition, the board game will feature (among others) a six-panel board, wooden add-ons, dices, cards and resin figurines! Aside from that, the game is also a reflection on British imperialism: ‘Accordingly, the game wrestles with many of the key themes of imperialism and globalization in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries and how those developments were felt domestically.’ More on that here. You can still the support the Kickstarter for a couple of days (and as the 2nd Edition will probably not be sold in retail, it might be your only chance to get it!), which over 7000 people have already done!

Video: Drew Wehrle

First They Came Kickstarter

Staying on the topic of Kickstarting Board Games, you should also check out First They Came. A role-playing game where you are blindfolded as you are guided by audio tracks that reproduce different sounds. The game is set in 1940s Berlin, and you have to hide from Nazi-police. It is a heavy topic, but nonetheless the idea of a audio-guided RPG is pretty cool (and probably quite scary as well). As there are some sensitive and distressing topics, so the companion book will also feature safety mechanics, ensuring everyone is comfortable whilst playing. Read more on First They Came in this piece on Dicebreaker or on the Kickstarter (still 10 days left)!

Video: Chaos League

Civilization VI Updates

Whilst the New Frontier Pass’s content has all been released, we will still be getting new (free!) content for Civ VI! In the sixth free update, the devs are mainly balancing some civs, adding new True Start maps, re-balancing AI naval warfare and adding three new units: Line Infantry, Men-at-Arms and the Trebuchet! The new units will be available for all civs, and seem to be placed in spots with big gaps between era’s (i.e. the gap between the catapult and the bombard is quite, if not too, big). This also means they had to re-balance other units to make sure the new units are a true step upwards from the steps before. Check out more in the video below!

Wishes for Civ VII

Whilst on the topic of Civilization, the end of the New Frontier Pass saw some speculations on the future of the series. It seemed like the devs left us with a bit of a cliffhanger, stating that we’re at ‘the end of the season’ of DLC. This might suggest we are in for more Pass-like paths of reworks and new additions. It seems like 2K are indeed taking that route, especially as we’ve got no info on Civ VII (yet). PC Gamer’s Leana Hafer took a head start with that, and stated how (she thinks) Civ VII could re-invigorate the series. Whilst I don’t agree with her on all points, she does make some valid claims on how Civ still needs to step away from it’s Eurocentric / Westernized view and how it should be more harsh when it comes to climate change (which more of a nuisance than a real threat to civilization in the game). What do I want to see in Civ VII? My (incomplete) wishlist:

  • A reinvigorated World Congress / United Nations where you can put resolutions to the table (Civ 4/5 style) and with a Security Council-like structure, with actual powers to de-arm, non-proliferate and sanction nations.
  • Economic ways of victory / make the economy more than just a way to fund your wars.
  • Social questions in your civilization (uproar, anarchism, strikes, Workers’ Unions).
  • Less emphasis on war, more on culture and science.
  • Earlier development of cultures and tourism (instead of the traditional late-blooming 20th Century Tourism).
  • Actual democracy, where a peoples vote give certain buffs or nerfs.
  • More personal stories / world events (a la Old World).

I however do like some of the new additions the devs have made to the game, like the Barbarian Clans mode. I feel the way they have implemented these game-modes (being able to turn them on and off) should be the way to go for Civ VII. What is on your wishlist? Let us know!

Minecraft’s Caves & Cliffs delayed

Minecraft’s Caves & Cliffs update was supposed to be the biggest update to the game ever. However, it has just been delayed. In a blog post and video, the developers explain how the amount of content is simply too much for them to manage, not only technically, but also taking the team’s health into account. We don’t like the delay, but we love them for delaying with the team’s health in mind (more devs should do that). The update itself will now be split in two, with one part coming this summer, and another part during the holidays. One feature of the update, Archaeology, is even delayed to after the holidays, as it’s new mechanics are complex, and the team wants to give it the time and attention it deserves. To quote Doc Random: ‘Which I find both sad and pretty funny, Archaeology is normally always already there!’ Check out the entire announcement in the video below!

Assassin’s Creed Valhalla’s Wrath of the Druids delayed

Another delay in update season: Assassin’s Creed Valhalla’s upcoming Wrath of the Druids DLC has been pushed back for two weeks (PC Gamer). Instead of launching April 29, it will now go live May 13. Ubisoft have not stated why it is delayed, but seen as though the Ostrara Seasonal Event back in March was also fraud with bugs and crashes (PC Gamer), it might have something to do with that.

Why have games moved away from social stealth?

Staying with Assassin’s Creed, it must be noted that since the first installations the series has moved away from social stealth more and more. PC Gamer’s Jeremy Peel talked to Patrice Désilets about this. Désilets is known as the creator of Assassin’s Creed. He was the creative lead for AC I & II, and has been a advocate for social stealth in later games. After the AC-games Désilets left Ubisoft was working on a title called 1666: Amsterdam, which would have been a social stealth / NPC manipulation game set in Early Modern Amsterdam. That never materialised, as the company he was working for was bought up by Ubisoft and he was shown the door. He moved to Panache Digital, where he worked on Ancestors. Eventually, he got the rights back for 1666, and is planning on making it at Panache, but a lot has changed since the first social stealth of Assassin’s Creed. Mainly money: “You said triple-A, and triple-A, it’s money, man. It costs a lot to make, so you need to make sure a lot of people will appreciate it. That’s why, I guess, people say, ‘We’ll just do the hack and slash, and NPCs will be there but they won’t be the main part,’ which is a shame. We had something.” I loved social stealth back in the day, but I must concede that Désilets has a point when he says that it is actually quite hard to believe as a player. Let’s hope that he has another stroke of genius for 1666! Read the entire interview on PC Gamer.

Aztech Forgotten Gods

Do you like action-adventure games with a cyber flavor and Aztec lore? Then you should check out Aztech Forgotten Gods! Made by Lienzo, it will be released somewhere in the Fall of this year. Set in a modern Aztec city that has thrived as a stone metropolis for centuries, you play as young Achtli, who battles (Aztec Deity inspired) creatures called the Forgotten Gods. The games tagline is: ‘What if the American Continent was never conquered and the Great Aztec Empire took off and continued growing well into the future?’, so it’s bound for some good alternate history takes. The game will be out on all platforms, including Nintendo Switch. Read more on the website and check the trailer below!

Video: Lienzo MX

Age of Empires IV Fan Preview

Last week we got to see some things about the upcoming Age of Empires IV during the Fan Preview! Finally! We didn’t get to see much, but there are some things we can confirm: it will launch with eight civilizations, the campaigns will follow four of those through history, there will be naval combat and the campaigns will be couples with historical context through films. We only got to see the Norman campaign’s historical context, but there will certainly be more. Even though I don’t always agree with devs plonking in some movies (but more on that in an upcoming In Depth), the devs have taken a different turn for the historicity of AoEIV. Instead of focussing on one person, the campaigns will now feature the development of a civilization over time, even taking in consideration the evolution of language and architecture (yes, the language the villagers speak will change!). Read more on the game on PC Gamer and check the Fan Preview (which is also about other titles from the series) below!

Video: Age of Empires

This Land Is My Land – just why?

If you’re active on Twitter or if you follow the gaming world a bit you probably already picked up on the controversy surrounding the game This Land Is My Land. In short, the devs (Game-Labs) are making a (Early Access) game about Native Americans without consulting Native persons. What you get is a game which is not only factually (and culturally) incorrect and even harmful, you also get a online community filled with hatred and racism (surprise). To quote VICE’s Baylee Giroux: ‘This Land is My Land pushes the Indigenous monolith misconception, and has fostered a whole fanbase of gamers who perpetuate this mentality.’ I highly recommend you read Baylee’s piece on VICE about this game, as they clearly argue why the game’s wrong and why the devs actually don’t know what they’re doing.

Image: VICE / Baylee Giroux

Omar ‘oomzer’ Bugter is a recently graduated Cultural Historian from Utrecht University. Since interning at VALUE, he’s stuck around, mainly working on the Interactive Pasts website and the weekly streams. He wrote a thesis on Sid Meier’s Civilization VI and mods, so knows this game very well. He likes many other games, including F1 2020, Hearts of Iron, Mount & Blade and Crusader Kings III. He’s also still looking for a job, so tweet to him at @oomzer if you want to know anything about Civ or have a job for him.