Picture of Paul Dean

Paul Dean


Paul writes freelance articles about all sorts of things, but gaming has always remained close to his heart. He is one half of the board games show Shut Up & Sit Down and tweets as @paullicino.

Featured articles

Rebel Galaxy review

Pace: the final frontier.

I think the system militia like me, though I'm not entirely sure. There was an incident a while back where they caught me smuggling Space Slaves (presumably somehow different to regular slaves) and we had an argument. Thinking it would end in my doom and the reloading of a saved game, I consented to a Space Fight, but then found myself Space Victorious and my Space Reputation slightly tarnished.

"The future is the same, but different." It's a phrase I've heard oft repeated and yet never attributed. Whatever its origin, it suits Eidos Montréal's vision for Mankind Divided very well indeed. Not only do the team want to continue to serve us their very particular flavour or cyberpunk cynicism, showing a world where technology has created as many problems as it has solved, they also don't want to alienate players who so enjoyed Human Revolution. "You don't have to reinvent the wheel every time," is producer Olivier Proulx's philosophy.

Satellite Reign review

Future schlock?

The future will be imperfect. All great science fiction shows this, from the ever-widening wealth disparities of Neal Stephenson, through the anthropological miscommunications of Ursula Le Guin to the consumerist, drug-addled dystopias of Philip K. Dick. Technology won't fix all our problems, change won't always be positive and progress is a subjective concept. Tomorrow won't be easy.

FeatureThe Paradox of Fredrik Wester

What's behind one of gaming's most fascinating companies?

I missed out on Fredrik Wester the first time we crossed paths. At Paradox Interactive's 2013 conference, held in a somnambulist Iceland in the middle of winter, Wester did relatively little speaking. While the development teams present showed off a diverse roster of games like Cities in Motion 2, Leviathan: Warships and Impire, Paradox's commander-in-chief was content to let them advocate for their own work. He didn't speak for anyone, didn't seem to have any need to assert himself and, as I realise in retrospect, seemed to spend a great deal of his time just listening.

While it's generally a good idea to get a new perspective on things whenever you can, Crackdown 2 developer Ruffian Games has taken this quite literally with Hollowpoint. Stepping into a presentation at Paradox's annual convention, I'm prepared for a procedurally-generated platform shooter, and that's enough to pique my interest already. What I'm not prepared for is enemies charging from the scenery itself, bursting out of the background as if they're going to leap through the screen.

One of the reasons Magicka works so well, and remains so popular, is its complete subversion of all those wizardly tropes that high fantasy has so firmly established. In lieu of pensive scholars with wise words of reflection, we have faceless idiots setting huge tracts of land alight, giggling at the cooked corpses. Instead of stuffy, bearded old codgers locked in cold stone towers, there are psychotic mages hurling lighting and firing machine guns. In Vietnam. While you can argue that it's hardly subtle, to its credit, it's certainly not staid.

Most of my memories of Warcraft 2 fall somewhere on a spectrum between the fond and the ridiculous, very often featuring elements of both. It was the first game that gave me the opportunity to win a protracted battle of minds with another person; my first multiplayer victory in something that wasn't a five minute action or sports game, set up on a rudimentary home network typical of the mid 90s. We only had one CD, but that was fine. Warcraft 2 allowed you to share your copy for the purpose of multiplayer. Blizzard were a permissive bunch.

A grieving family surrounded by wordless state troopers, distraught over a missing child. The silent stare of my supervisor, inscrutable across his desk. A tree resplendent with blood-red birds that escape to the sky in an explosion of noise. These are the almost dreamlike images of Virginia and they're set to a synth-stroked soundtrack somewhere between the nostalgic and the ethereal, its movements often overlaid by a gentle, yearning guitar whose reverb echoes about these strange and often surreal scenarios.

The overwhelming impression I get from Civilization: Beyond Earth is that interstellar pioneering is hard work. Firaxis has told us that starting a civilisation back on earth involves choices and opportunities. New beginnings are exciting and your people sprawl lazily across virgin lands like a cat on a sofa. Not so in space. Freedoms are replaced with responsibilities, possibilities with dangers. Almost from the moment you land on an alien world, you're beset on all sides by hostile alien life forms, hemmed in by a choking miasma and struggling to make sense of the things around you.

The Getae civilisation was nearly destroyed by two slices of toast. My lunch popped up and so I paused the pitched battle I was waging with another local tribe - a pivotal battle where I had a numerical advantage, but nevertheless had to press home my assault. When I came back, everything all browned and buttered, Total War: Rome 2 refused to unpause.

FeatureFiraxis opens its doors at the first Firaxicon

The strategy studio hosts its fans.

There is what I would call an impassioned debate happening as I step onto the tour bus. I wouldn't say it goes as far as an argument, since those involved are far too excited and not nearly belligerent enough towards one another, but it's clearly an intense discourse. That age-old, nigh timeless topic has reared its head once again: is Civilization 5 really better than Civilization 4?

EGXTotal War: Attila is your chance to save an empire - or end it

It's the end of the world as we know it.

It's the year 395 and Rome is in trouble. The great power that stretched from the Middle East to the fringes of Scotland is now collapsing. Theodosius, the last man to rule both the eastern and western halves, has died, dividing control between his sons. Their empires are not only surrounded by would-be invaders just waiting for their chance, but now even more vulnerable to the power plays of their own people. They lack the armies they needs to defend their territories and the years ahead will bring disease, famine and ruinous invasions. In time, Attila will be coming and to the newly Christianised people of Rome, he may as well be the apocalypse incarnate.

FeatureGearbox's Battleborn throws the FPS and MOBA genres together

But the mix looks like it'll take some time to get right.

For a moment, I'm not sure if I'm attending a preview event run by Pixar. Gearbox Software are talking so much about their characters - about their pride in their characters, about designing and writing and keyframe animating their characters - and all the while there's footage of these cartoonish creations blasting and hacking and leaping and wisecracking their way through hordes of robot enemies. I could be watching a video game play out in front of me but, equally, I could also be watching a Saturday morning TV show. One of the good ones, mind, but also one of the weirder ones. One of the first things that creative director Randy Varnell says, with pride, is "We've got a fighting mushroom."

The Sims 4 review

Same as it ever was?

If there's one thing that Maxis' life simulation The Sims 4 captures better than anything else, it's that sense that life flies by all too quickly. Caught up in the details of the mundane, the prosaic, you can have your head down for far too much of it until, all of a sudden, it's your birthday and you're an Adult, or even an Elder. You've gained weight. Your hair is thin. The toilet is broken. While you will never find yourself in another part of the world or behind the wheel of a large automobile, you may at least ask yourself, how did I get here?

There's something of a size mismatch happening here. Colossal Order tells me it can give its players 36 square kilometres of space to build their cities in, 36 square kilometres in which they can expand and enlarge, spread and sprawl. That's enough space for suburbs, commuter towns and even arable land. In contrast, last year's SimCity only provided a couple of square kilometres and, in spite of the efforts of all the pages of team members listed in its credits (a number possibly higher if you consider that credits often only list staff present when a title ships), what happened within those city limits didn't always make sense. Colossal Order is confident it can make a larger, more coherent and more customisable city-building game with, well... nine people.

I perform a sort of dance in the desert, careful where I tread. It's a slow dance, in part because there are mines scattered about - so many mines - but also because any misstep I make could offer a dangerous opportunity, could present a sudden vulnerability. The partner I dance opposite is ready to pounce and I never quite know whether to feint, to pause, or whether it's finally, finally the moment where I should make my move.

Civilization Revolution 2 review

The whole world in your hands?

You're not a true strategy gamer unless one of your tank battalions has been destroyed by a Roman legion. It's practically a rite of passage as, since 1991, the Civilization series has been giving strategy gamers the world over the opportunity to lose battles against under-equipped, technically inferior opponents. Pikemen have stabbed at aeroplanes. Barbarians have battered battleships. Musketeers have shrugged off stealth bombers. While the series has introduced all sorts of checks and balances to mitigate this, I'm delighted to report that Civilization Revolution 2, its latest instalment, still allows the occasional victory using what I can only imagine are Ewok tactics. And, really, would we expect anything else?

Xenonauts review


There was always something a little wonky in the concept behind 1994's UFO: Enemy Unknown. The earth is under attack by extraterrestrials and so a global defence force is formed to counter it; fair enough. But when I try to imagine the conversations that might happen in dingy, smoke-filled bunkers somewhere, they always go like this:

Ghost Recon Phantoms review

Tom Clancy's Incredible Gun Collection.

There's an old Chris Rock joke about the price of bullets - about making them so expensive that people would be forced to think very carefully about who they shot. While it's not fair to suggest that the consumables in Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon Phantoms are as pricey as they are in the alternate reality Rock considers, the joke was going through my mind as I hurled my grenades and chambered my magnum rounds. Those things had cost me, and I wondered if it might have been wiser to save up for a new assault rifle instead. After all, the next one would be marginally more effective.

FeatureComing home? The return to SimCity

A year on from from its disastrous launch, our reviewer heads back to see what's changed.

Jefferson is gone. The first city that I ever built in the new SimCity, the one I laboured over for so many hours and led through redesign after redesign, is now no more. SimCity told me that there were problems with my city and that it needed to try and repair it. I could've told it that a year ago.

I never knew Walter "Bill" Heap. My grandfather, like all my grandparents, died before I was born, so I didn't get to hear any of his war stories first-hand. I'm told that, despite being decorated for his actions in the Second World War, he spoke of arbitrary and unglamorous experiences; of men drowning in harbours miles from the action because gangplanks collapsed beneath them. Things like that. Less Hemingway, more Vonnegut.

FeatureHow the developers of Endless Legend see the end in sight

Even if their Early Access peers may not.

They're making no boasts about being trendsetters but, long before Amplitude Studios put Endless Legend on Early Access, before Early Access even existed, they were already experimenting with Games2Gether, their "brand new way for players around the world to participate in the creation of a video game." Games2Gether helped Amplitude to develop their début title, the 4X strategy Endless Space, polling players to see what was popular and even letting them pitch their ideas to the team.

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