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Review – Bad North – Rethinking Strategy

I’ve been a fan of strategy games for a very long time. I’m also a graphic designer and have a sweet spot for great art and beautifully crafted experiences. When I first heard about and saw the first concepts for Bad North, I just had to check it out.


Bad North takes place in a Norse inspired universe. Your goal is to explore as many islands as possible; find new allies and powerful artefacts as you defend the land from the vicious attacks of incoming barbarians.

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As straightforward as this sounds, there’s a lot more to Bad North than meets the eye. The seemingly simple and endearingly looking game unpacks its complex tactical mechanics as you progress in the game.

Units/Parties

You start off with two parties composed of a specific number of units. Parties have the ability to move around the islands without many restrictions, but so do enemies. Choosing your path and unit placement around the islands becomes extremely important if you want to mount a successful defense.

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Specializations

Basic units can acquire one of three specializations: Pikemen, Knight and Archer. Each one of these comes with stats and equipment as well as with upgradeable special abilities, adding a layer of unit composition to the game. Upgrades can be bought by defending islands and collecting gold from each of the buildings. If the enemy destroys one of these buildings, you’ll lose the chance to profit from it.

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Specializations are important as you’ll be facing different enemy units that can be weak or strong against some of your specialized units.

Islands: Terrain/Weather/Buildings

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An island’s terrain and surface can be used to your advantage during engagements. But time is of the escence and reacting timely to incoming enemies is important as it will take time for your units to move from point A to point B. There are building structures in every island which you can use to heal the parties that have suffered losses.
But beware, parties are innactive during this process and you can face the situation of falling a few men short during a battle if you decide to heal at the wrong time.

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Weather also plays a role in range and effectiveness of archers. Windy environments, for example, can affect the reach of a shot if your archers are placed in the wrong location.

Items

Items can be found after defending an island and can aid you in battle by calling in reinforcements and boosting your fighting capabilities. Each party can carry one item. Items are also subject to upgrading.

Game over

Bad North is an unforgiving game. Once all of your parties die, your journey starts all over again.
But don’t lose hope just yet! Fleeing the island is an option. You can use the enemie’s boats to evacuate your most battered parties to save them from death. Abandoning the island all together, however, comes at the cost of not receiving any gold.

Additional parties can be found when you aid islands against incoming enemy attacks. But gold is scarce in this hostile word so choose your upgrades wisely.

All in all, my hype for this game was met with more than what I expected. This title by developer Plausible Concept mixes tactics, real-time strategy and tower defense elements into a seamless gaming experience. If you’re into all things strategy games, make sure to grab this title. Bad North is now available on Steam and is purchaseable in all major consoles.

 

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SideQuest – #1

– By Aecium

My journey to creating Side Quest is a winding one that has given me the chance to face my anxieties and which I can trace back Starcraft.
I actively played Starcraft & Starcraft: Brood War from their release until somewhere around 2004.
The campaign is what hooked me, with a story that spanned the depths of space and three very unique races.

After beating the campaign I played custom maps, free-for-alls, and comp-stomps. The ladder was not a place I felt comfortable in. The few times I did click that button, the games ended fast and painfully; I was not up to the task.

Eventually, my attention turned to other games and to more “adult” goals, including a full time job, a girlfriend who is now my wife, buying a house and so on.
Being a computer geek at heart, games were still a part of my life, just not always as much as they had been.

As 2010 approached, I heard about and felt the hype for Starcraft 2: Wings of Liberty. However, I steered clear. I was not ready to get sucked back in just yet.
My resistance to StarCraft 2 held strong until mid 2013 when I stumbled onto to the Twitch app on the Ouya. That weekend, StarCraft 2’s World Championship Series happened to be a featured stream. I watched players like Polt, Scarlett, Jaedong, and MC playing StarCraft 2: Heart Of The Swarm at amazing levels. I was hooked all over again.

Within a week of watching the WCS, I bought Heart Of The Swarm and was pulled back into the the Starcraft universe.
Again, I started with the campaign and was reintroduced to old friends in the continuing saga where the very existence of the universe was again in the balance.

After saving existence as we know it, for the time being, I turned from the safety and comfort of the single player to the ladder. This time, thanks to the advancements in matchmaking and league placement, it was not as scary. I still lost a lot but not as badly or as often.

During a ladder game, my opponent and I got to chatting and became friends in game, and when we were both online we would play games together. At one point, he joined a clan called TripleT. (A clan is just a group of players with similar goals of getting better and willing to help others grow their skills.) After that it did not take too long before I was invited to join TripleT. It was with the help of TripleT that I was able to rise from Bronze league to Gold (StarCraft 2’s leagues are Bronze, Silver, Gold, Platinum, Diamond, Master, Grandmaster).

More importantly in my journey to Side Quest though, was that TripleT turned out to be associated with a startup StarCraft 2 tournament organizer, the ASL, which had tournaments for all levels of players Bronze to Grandmaster. I played in all 6 seasons of the ASL. After season 1, I began volunteering for the ASL, helping with admining, Twitch moderation, building and maintaining the website, and so on.

Toward what ended up being the winding down of the ASL, they were looking for people to create content for the Twitch channel. I took a chance and pushed past my anxieties and hesitations, I offered up a show based on Archon mode, a new mode of play added in the latest expansion of StarCraft 2: Legacy Of The Void.

I thought Grizzly was the perfect person to co-host the show. I had came across Grizzly earlier by mere happenstance when I responded to a Tweet from her. She was a streamer dedicated to improving in StarCraft 2 while building a fun and entertaining stream with a great community.

So I approached her about the idea and when she agreed, Party Like An Archon was born, a two hour show that I ran production for and starred Grizzly and me playing StarCraft 2 on the ASL channel. Toward the end of 2016, Party Like An Archon was the only live show on the ASL channel. And by that point, Party Like An Archon had changed from just a way to create content for the ASL into friends hanging out, playing games, and having fun.

We wanted to grow Party Like An Archon so we made the leap to Grizzly’s Twitch channel where we quickly expanded the games we played from just StarCraft 2 to a larger set of games including OverWatch, Diablo 3, Portal 2, Heroes Of The Storm, and Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes. With more games came new challenges. Production wise, there were more scenes, more overlay configurations, more things to go wrong. And they did. Once I streamed the first 20-30 minutes to my local server instead of Twitch, and I have had my fair share of having the wrong scene up or leaving the mics muted.

One of the most surprising things to me was that I survived those mistakes and I had not died of embarrassment. People still watched and Grizzly reassured me that it was alright and continued to join me on stream. At the beginning, my fears and anxieties would have me think and feel like I could not succeed and that I was foolish for trying (but that’s another article), and yet Party Like An Archon was more than halfway through its second year.

I decided I was ready for more! I had streamed on my own channel every now and again, but I never had a set schedule. I would just stream whenever, which tended to be less and less often. I decided full playthroughs of games would have the right balance of variety to keep it interesting. At the time I pitched the idea to Grizzly and Polaris, all I knew was that I would like to do a show doing full playthroughs of games and could commit to doing it once a week for at least two hours. I didn’t even have the name until a few weeks later when I realized what I was looking for was a Side Quest. That is, I wanted something that was not a main day-to-day requirement like my career, and was important enough to put time, effort and resources into it. More importantly, it would be an opportunity to push myself, build new skills and have fun doing it. This project has also given me an opportunity to create a custom font and an animated loading screen.

Looking back on everything that led up to Side Quest, it makes me realize how amazing the gaming community can be. It gave me a space to create and the encouragement to continue in my journey. I started off being afraid of playing ladder in StarCraft: Brood Wars, where all anyone could see is your name, to being comfortable playing and making mistakes in front of people, something I would never have thought I could do and survive.

When Grizzly and I started Party Like An Archon I was not a streamer or a content creator. Now I’m very proud to be able to call myself both. What I realized is that it doesn’t matter what you are or are not. Just start doing whatever it is you want to be. Before you know it you’ll have accomplished more than you would have thought possible. To that end, I’m not a writer, and yet here I am. Please join me as I take the next step in my journey.

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