The month began with cold days reminding me of early spring and ended with tropical heat—monsoon-like storms changing into burning sun in an instant. As usual, this kind of weather behind the window (or upon my poor skull) made me think about infinite deserts and primal forests…

Achievement hunting intensifies.

…so I finally installed Vietnam’65 after leaving it untouched for almost a year. To tell the truth, I feel old enough to get tired quickly with most strategy games, especially when they’re demanding like Crusader Kings 2 or the Civilisation sub-genre. Luckily enough, this game makes thinks quite simple and relaxing. To put it in short, it’s a counter-insurgency simulator. There will be no decisive battles, you don’t get to napalm any villages, but you’re rather playing an armchair army bureaucrat. Most of the playtime is spent on planning patrol routing, deciding where to put the forward observation base, and making sure the brave GI’s down there get their pork’n’beans and newest Playboy issues right on time. Graphics are simple but functional, the soundtrack barely exists, but I still experience the infamous ‘one more turn’ syndrome when playing this game, mainly thanks to the simplicity of rules and unpredictability of each playthrough. Besides, there’s a pretty uniform to hang with shiny trinkets, it’s a cheap move but has worked on me since the times of Gunship 2000.

Ain’t no senator’s son.

As always, being a nostalgic Amiga veteran, I go back to a classic game from that age each month. This time, I decided to stick with my run-through-the-jungle mood and launched the 1993 game Apocalypse (don’t confuse it with the aborted Playstation title starring the Die Hard Man). Now, I realise that the game is rightfully forgotten, but I feel the urge to return to it each summer. Maybe it’s the gloomy intro with great 16-bit chiptune score, maybe the green-and-tan pixel jungle mosaic in the background… I swear, if I met the devs, I’d tell them they helped to shape my taste for video game visuals when I was a kid. Too bad they also designed the game as Nintendo hard and I’ve long abandoned any hope to beat Apocalypse without cheating, but I keep returning to it for short, casual sessions.

No gods. One master.

‘Patrolling the Mojave almost makes you wish for nuclear winter’. Just like the other Bethesda game starring one Dragonborn, my first Fallout New Vegas has been a neverending story for years. Now, I’m finally about to enter the endgame and, before my Courier becomes the Liberator and Autocrat of New Vegas as intended, I decided to try out an alternative path – right towards the command tent of Caesar himself. Let’s call it the discreet charm of active nihilism. It turns out that acting deep behind enemy lines as Vulpes I.’s junior frumentarius is really engaging and reveals some really good design decisions taken by the devs. Open fight with NCR’s good-two-shoes is satisfying too (the chainsaw!), just as the succesful assasination of a certain president. At last, the bull’s standard is flying over the Mojave. If this sounds too dare, I promise to reload the game and recreate the Ides of March.

Totally not an ominous title in July 2020.

I always appreciate the paradoxes happening in my life. Recently, I have become fan of the interactive novel genre thanks to Hearts of Iron IV. Sure, I stopped playing the vanilla version after a short while, popular mods like Kaiserreich didn’t interest me at all, but then, all out of sudden, the New Order arrived. To put it briefly, it is an alternative history mod set in a world where the Axis powers won the Second World War. Luckily, unlike morbid fantasies like The Wolfenstein series, this time the dreaded victory of Ultimate Level led to a (probably) more realistic outcome with the victorious powers slowly rotting and eventually collapsing. The Thousand Years is hit by a dramatic economic collapse, the peoples of the defeated Soviet Union don’t waste their time and rise up to liberate (or reconquere, to be more accurate) a part of former USSR territory, finally, the man with funny moustache dies and his potential successors jump at each other’s throats.

A killing smile.

After the somewhat prolonged development, we finally know the date of the first full release, 21 July. Before it happens, you can still play the two demo versions. The first one, confusingly named Old World Blues, takes us to a long trip right into the wreckage of the Soviet Union where a psychopathic Nazi raider, a mad scientist, and a bunch of hapless anarchists fight for dominance. The other beta version, Don’t Surf, changes the theatre of war from the Ural Mountains to the jungles and deserts of Africa. The sub-Saharan Africa is mostly occupied by three German quasi-governments which are busy with themselves – that is, with enslaving and exploiting the native population. When the Vaterland finally falls apart, they are left alone and almost immediately get into a conflict with the last bastion of (relative) democracy in Africa, the South Africa Republic supported by the USA. Why did I mention interactive novels? The development decided to focus on the narrative rather than the proverbial map-painting typical for grand strategy games. Unusually, you don’t just read about politicians and generals, but also rank-and-file soldiers, settlers and slave, which makes the experience far more entertaining – and chilling. I’ve enjoyed all the paragraphs of text so far, even when it was obvious that the devs lacked a skilled general editor who’d take care of all the typos, grammar errors, and stylistic mistakes. While I’ve been staying away from ‘big’ strategy games for a long time, here I can finally find the motivation to git gud in order to read another in-game event. Better than another Netflix show, I’m telling you.

Now, it’s July, so what I’m up to? In the recent days, I switched between the Nazi-ruled Africe and Liberty. Yes, I’m still trying to run a complete playthrough of GTA IV, leaving Niko Belić behind me, riding with Johnny Kibbutz’s boys and getting acquainted with Gay Tony. The only gaming event I’m looking forward is the release of New Order mentioned above. Hey, maybe I’ll even do something fully childish and take a few days off to play as much as I can.

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