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Gamebox 2.0: Games of March 2024

This March brought us to PAX East 2024 to play new games in person, we also checked a few games at home. We rained down destruction in Nuke ‘Em All, explored a dark version of Camelot in King Arthur: Knight’s Tale, and duked it out in turn-based competition in Hex Gambit: Respawned.  Check out what we played for this month for the Gamebox below.

Hex Gambit: Respawned (Zach): Coming from One Man Left Studios and Blowfish Studios, Hex Gambit: Respawned is a turn-based tactical party game.  After choosing one of 10 different captains, each with a unique skill that you can use in matches, you can either compete against the AI in the challenge mode or against up to 3 friends locally or online.  For each match, you get a certain number of minions from different classes.  Your goal is to either take out all of your opponent’s minions or score 10 Victory Points, which you get by taking out enemy minions or reaching your opponent’s “Pillar”, which you can hit to gain points as well.  You have a certain amount of action points each turn and each minion has its unique skills that you can use.  You can also bounce across your own minions or opponent minions’ heads to cover a wide swath of the arena without incurring a movement penalty or using AP.

The game is easy to pick up and play as the arenas are compact and you only have a few minions to keep track of at any given time.  The game almost feels like a sports game, with your opponent’s pillar being the “goal” but you can also play the game tactically in all-out combat against your opponents.  The game has a clean and cartoony look that is appealing and some fun voice clips and personalities from the various captains.  There are several minion types that you can mix and match to figure out the best strategy and the game allows you to make custom matches, so you pick and choose the arena and minions available to make the game suit your playstyle.  Hex Gambit: Respawned isn’t the deepest turn-based tactics game but its streamlined playstyle and cartoony style makes it more welcoming to a wider variety of players than something like X-Com.  Hex Gambit: Respawned is out now on Steam, Xbox S/X, PS4/5 and Switch.

King Arthur: Knight’s Tale (Zach): Recently released on PS5 and Xbox Series S/X, King Arthur: Knight’s Tale is an awesome, dark take on Arthurian legend from Neocore Games.  You play as Sir Mordred, the nemesis of the legendary King Arthur.  In the climax of an epic final battle, you manage to kill Arthur but he lands a death blow on you as well.  Brought back to life on the island of Avalon by the Lady of the Lake, you are tasked with hunting down Arthur, who was also resurrected but in a much darker form, and stop him and the evil, supernatural forces that threaten to destroy Camelot.

The game is a mix of a character-based RPG, like Diablo, with a tactics game like X-Com or Mario + Rabbids.  You directly control Sir Mordred outside of combat but, once you encounter enemies, you go into a tactical mode where you move and control all the members of your party.  Sir Mordred builds up a group of allies, a new Round Table and each of the party members has their unique skills and strengths, and weaknesses.  There is some cover-based mechanics like you might see in X-Com but the game is much more melee-based, so positioning and keeping your group squared up to the enemy are key strategies.  One of the strongest attacks both for and against you is the backstab, where the exposed back is attacked.  This causes huge damage so you want to try and do it to your enemies and keep it from happening to you.

In the game’s campaign, you complete missions around the island of Avalon and, after each mission, you return to Camelot where there are several systems based around different structures of the castle that you can utilize.  You can upgrade your party’s skills, buy and sell equipment at the merchant, heal party members wounded in battle, train to make your party members stronger, and more.  You can also assign party members to each structure, which grants them a title like “Protector of the Realm” which will grant additional bonuses to that particular character and your party as a whole.  You can also issue laws and decrees as the new ruler of Camelot.

The game also features some terrific, morally gray decision-making where you have to decide how you want to proceed and how to deal with certain characters.  Each decision has its own moral and gameplay implications and they aren’t simply evil/good choices.  The game has a fantastic dark fantasy look and all the characters have really awesome armor and weaponry and you’ll encounter tons of interesting and horrific monsters along with more familiar enemies like bandits and rival knights.  You can also test your skill against human opponents in a local PVP mode.  The game has some solid voice acting and an incredible opening cinematic that gives the game the feel of something like Lord of the Rings.  If you’re a fan of Arthurian media, King Arthur: Knight’s Tale offers up a cool, dark spin on the traditional story while still featuring characters and details that will be familiar.  If you’re looking for a follow-up to something like Baldur’s Gate III, definitely check out King Arthur: Knight’s Tale.

Nuke Them All – Early Access version (Chris): Robots, Aliens, Zombies, and cosmic hazards come together to become a tactical plan in GameEraStudios’ Nuke Them All. Developed by a solo developer, Nuke Them All is a casual and silly take on the RTS genre. Instead of a typical grim-dark, military RTS, Nuke Them All leans into cartoonish humor and arcadey playability. This game approaches the classic RTS mechanics from Command & Conquer and compacts them into simplified designs for easy-to-understand gameplay and fast-paced battles. Rather than focusing on resource management and complex tech trees, Nuke Them All focuses on quick strategies and speedy destruction. Spread out on a map are control points that will automate the creation of the player’s forces. The more control points, the faster the production process. However, it’s not a cakewalk to dominate the most control points. One big surprise attack or a loss of a key control point can break through any well-made plans.

Nuke Them All is set in the far-distance future, where robots have become the top conquerors. The player takes up the role of the red robot army commander and wages war against a blue robotic army. This war will take them from the dry deserts, lush jungles, frozen ice worlds, and more. In this early access version, only a few levels of each terrain type are available, but there is enough variety for each map type. The type of terrain determines not only the natural barriers and obstacles of the maps but a few pesky encounters from chaotic forces that attack both armies. Hurricanes can form and swoop up soldiers. A sandworm can pop up from the ground and chew on whatever it can grab. Aliens can float down from the sky and teleport a unit away. There are fun wild cards that can help and hinder the fight which makes each battle unique.

The gameplay follows a typical RTS title, where you have to build up your forces and push back the enemy. Time is the only big thing to resource in the battles. Instead of gathering resources from the terrain, you fight for control points around a map that boosts the production time of soldiers and vehicles. Certain control points have factories attached to them that when controlled by an army, will start production of soldier or vehicle units. However, the most powerful factory will be a missile silo that can launch a nuclear missile at any location. Controlling that silo can be a huge edge in a fight, but missiles take the most time to create. Plus, if the enemy isn’t distracted, they can shoot down the missile before it can impact the target.  You can spend the robot powers to defend that position or send a raiding party to take over another control point. Depending on the tactic, it may not be the wises to rush for a silo if you can’t defend it safely. The game does reward players for playing with good strategies, giving stars ranks for each mission based on the performance. These stars go towards unlocking new units to be used in future battles.

Nuke Them All has a lot of charm and variety that most RTS fans should find appealing. The presentation of the game is good, there is a full cartoon opening and voice work for all the units that give the characters some personality. The map designs are fun and showcase interesting landscapes. There is a soccer map that I enjoyed, where you have to juggle between keeping a giant soccer ball from your base while defending outer control points on the sides that is a fun challenge. That map showcases the chaos and playfulness of the gameplay very well. Nuke Them All is great for casual RTS fans or gamers who want to pick up and play an RTS without hours of grinding to practice. The early access of Nuke Them All was released on March 11th for Steam.

(Zach): Coming from GameEraStudios, Nuke Them All puts a fast-paced, modern spin on classic RTS games like Command & Conquer or Starcraft.  Featuring rival armies of robots, you are looking to obliterate your opponents with a huge variety of robotic troops and vehicles.  The game cuts out pretty much all the base building and resource management of RTS games, with time being the only resource you need to keep track of.  Nuke Them All has a “capture the flag” style mechanic where there are neutral facilities all over each map.  If your troops can get to the flag and capture it, that facility comes under your control and can then start to generate troops, vehicles, repairs, or, the big one, start the countdown on a nuclear missile launch.  If you control the nuke for a certain amount of time, you can launch it on a spot on the map and cause massive damage.  Like all great RTS games though, there’s a rock/paper/scissors element and your opponent can stop the nuke if they can manage to shoot it down before it impacts.

The game has a unique look that you wouldn’t expect from an RTS, looking more like something like Machinarium than the militarized units of a C&C game.  Along with your robotic troops, there are also aliens and zombies, with the latter being a chaotic threat to both players if they get unleashed.  There are also tons of quips, dad jokes, and one-liners from your troops when you click on them or after they respond to your commands.  If you’re an old-school RTS fan, you’ll appreciate a lot of the references and callbacks to voice clips from games like Starcraft along with movie quotes and other fun bits.  The game is extremely fast-paced and it can take a bit to get used to the speed and the flow of when your troops are produced and when to defend and when to attack.

Once you get into the groove, the game has a great ebb and flow as you and your opponent go back and forth capturing flags and ultimately working your way to their base and blowing it up.  Because your buildings are constantly producing troops, you also always feel like you have some way to fight back or regroup, which didn’t always happen in classic RTS games.  The maps are varied with things like terrain to navigate, Dune-esque sandworms to contend with, or gimmicks like a train that regularly delivers a vehicle, like a rocket launcher truck.  You can create customized scenarios in the Sandbox, which also lets you test out every unit and see how they work in combat there are special maps and modes, like Zombie Horde, Nuclear football, and even some modes that replicate a tower defense game.  There are also a few maps that will give old-school RTS fans the base building and resource management that they may be missing.  Nuke Them All is a fun, frantic modern RTS that pays homage to the classics but puts a new spin on the mechanics that make it feel fresh and different for old and new fans alike.  It’s out now on Steam.

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