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The latest game in the 15-year-old Dominions franchise released this month on Steam. Titled Dominions 4: Thrones of Ascension, this latest installment ups the fantasy strategy experience to a new level with a variety of new features. Broken into three distinct time periods, or “Eras”, players will have access to distinct nations across the Early, Middle, and Late Ages. Some nations are only accessible during certain ages, whereas other nations exist across all three. Those that do exist throughout all Eras of time will include noticeably different units and abilities, however.
Feature-wise, Dominions 4 includes a new cooperative mode known as Disciples Mode where players take control of mini-god disciples and work together to ascend their chosen pretender to God status. Another new addition to the series comes in the form of the Thrones of Ascension, for which the game takes its subtitle. Conquering the Thrones of Ascension is a new win condition that also provides stat benefits and ability boosts to controlled units at the start of a match until it is taken by an opposing player. It also adds a new objective-based strategy that can hasten play sessions for those looking for a quick fix. Dominions 4 developer Illwinter also states that veterans of the series will notice a lot of UI and streamlining improvements. The game is already available for Mac, PC, and Linux, and can be purchased through Steam or Desura. Additional information can be found on the Illwinter website.
Please, don’t get me wrong, I love weird games. If there’s a game that breaks traditional gameplay techniques and stories, I’d probably love it! Have I ever told you a few of my favorite games? Mirror’s Edge, Jet Set Radio Future, The World Ends With You…all those games do a great job of defying what traditional games in their respective genres do. I love games that are weird like that, but they still have to be a bit grounded. Tale of Tales’ trippy title Luxuria Superbia is pretty far out there. It’s essentially a beginner’s acid trip.
Luxuria Superbia is a (rhythm?) game that was originally meant to be played on a tablet. In fact, playing with just a mouse is pretty much impossible. You’ll be plugging in a gamepad for this one. You control two cursors (flowers?) inside a tunnel, and each side of the tunnel begins colorless. Through petal collection, each side begins to fill up with color, and you gain points as long as your cursors stay in the colored area. But if you fill up every side completely, the level ends.
The control of the cursors is really smooth, and I thought it made the game a little more challenging than it would be on a tablet. The sensitivity of the analog sticks is near perfect—you can always predict where you’re going to move to, and that’s essential in a game like this. It’s only detrimental in the later levels, where I noticed some slowdowns and FPS drops during gameplay. That’s weird, considering the later levels are pretty easy. The game has a very easy difficulty ramp, but I have trouble calling it a ramp. It’s more like a very small elevation change, like stepping from the street up onto the curb. This game is really, really easy. The only hard part is having enough time to finish the levels with a high score.
That is, if you’re not too put off to finish the levels. During each one, text will appear in the middle of the screen that’s…disturbing, at best. Phrases like “Touch me.” and “Oh god.” or maybe “Right there.” Might throw you off your game a little bit. Or a lot. I had them on for two levels and then paused the game and found the option to turn them off. I don’t know what I would’ve done if I had to keep them on. Thankfully, the visuals aren’t nearly as creepy. They’re mostly nonsensical, with flower petals turning into chairs and other random objects depending on the level you’re on. The music, while well-produced and interesting at times, is pretty experimental. But what did you expect from an experimental game?
I feel like this game should be judged from a standpoint of visual art/multimedia art, but I’m a game critic, so it’s not my place to look at Luxuria Superbia like that. It really does look beautiful, and I’m just one person; this could be right up someone else’s alley. As a game, however, it’s got a long way to go before I’d pick it up and play again. There are elements of replayability, and there’s a start-to-finish game, but everything else is either missing or just a little bit off. It’s worth a look, and I recommend it to anyone interested in art games or solid control schemes. Let us know what you think in the comments, too!
Luxuria Superbia will be released on November 5th for Windows, Mac, Android, iOS, and Ouya. It is $3.99 for iOS/Android/Ouya and $5.99 for PC/Mac. You can keep up to date with Tale of Tales on Twitter!