Release roundup: Grand Casino Tycoon, Wrath of the Druids & Space Commander: War and Trade

Three brand new releases to get excited for! We’re taking a look at the new casino builder Grand Casino Tycoon, the Wrath of the Druids expansion for Assassin’s Creed Valhalla and Space Commander: War and Trade for the Nintendo Switch.

Grand Casino Tycoon  

A bit of a departure from their normal sim-type releases, Grand Casino Tycoon is being published by Aerosoft Gmbh and comes out on May 20th for Steam. It was developed by Stillalive Studios, who after years of Bus Simulator games recently surprised us with the sci-fi title Drone Swarm and are now making the switch to the casino/management genre.

Looking not too much unlike LVGameDev’s SimCasino, a title which is currently in Early Access, Grand Casino Tycoon comes at a good time for budding casino builders. But where SimCasino also expands towards the hotel side of things that’s so prevalent in (especially) Las Vegas casinos, Stillalive’s take on the genre focuses on the casino floor.

The game is all about carefully planning your floor layout, keeping your customers happy while at the same time taking them for all they’re worth. You know, the typical casino business plan, we’d imagine. You do this by providing the games they want to play, but also by making sure they can play them in the conditions they prefer. To manage this, you can look at overall happiness but you can also zoom in on individual visitors – some which might indicate that the environment is too loud for them.

grand casino tycoon

Signals like that can be ignored, but that might cost you. You might also make some quick tweaks by installing a wall that blocks sounds from adjacent playing areas, which can make the noise-conscious gambler stick around longer. Other players will have different needs, and these include obvious things like food and drinks but also the need for privacy – which is a tricky one because you also want cameras everywhere to catch cheaters.

Manipulating (or should we say “guiding”) the needs of your visitors is intuitive and fun, and includes consciously and subconsciously carving out their intended routes through your building. It doesn’t radically turn the sim genre upside down, but it’s a good way to spend hours upon hours tweaking your casino – and before you know it it’ll be early morning – much like in a real casino.

Assassin’s Creed Valhalla – Wrath of the Druids DLC

Ubisoft certainly took their time with the release of the first major expansion for Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, which we reviewed back in November. Warth of the Druids is out now for all systems though, after a minor last minute delay – a great reason for us to dive back into the game.

druids2

Valhalla had been gathering a bit of digital dust after our initial playthrough of the base game, which we really enjoyed. A lot of that was because of the game’s massive length, with a “quick” playthrough lasting over 40 hours and a normal one somewhere upwards of 60 to 70 hours. With so many other games out there to play, it’s not a game you quickly dive back into.

Wrath of the Druids feels like it was designed with exactly that in mind – easily accessible even to those who have been out of the game for a while. Heck, even if you never completed Valhalla you can still enjoy Wrath of the Druids, because it feels like a standalone adventure. In many ways, it even makes a case for a more episodic format for the Assassin’s Creed franchise – the only downside being that it doesn’t do much to tie itself into the main storyline, which is disappointing to those who are invested in it.

The story in Druids takes Eivor to Ireland, where his cousin Barid has assumed the throne. Amidt struggles for power and prosperity, you’ll also have to deal with the Children of danu, a cult that dabbles in magic and “the old ways”. The story, full of intrigue and strife, is another interesting one, and fits with the narrative beats of the core game – so it didn’t take long for it to draw us back in. What also helps is that Ireland feels different from the base game with its greens and rocks, encouraging us to explore.

druids

Looking beyond story and towards gameplay, a lot of missions tie into furthering Barid’s agenda of reinforcing Dublin’s economy and the usual ‘Creed’ side activities – some of which are dubbed ‘Royal Demands’ here. It’s ultimately ‘more of the same’, but that’s not a bad thing here, and the boss fights in particular are noteworthy as they pit you against the druids and their magical ways.

If you already had the season pass for Valhalla and were waiting for the expansions to come rolling in because you enjoyed the base game, then you’ll enjoy Wrath of the Druids. If Valhalla felt too overwhelming in size, then it’s good to know that at over 10 hours, Wrath of the Druids is more manageable while also putting full priced games to shame.

Space Commander – War and Trade (Switch)

Out now for the Nintendo Switch, Space Commander – War and Trade doesn’t try to hide its inspirations – they’re right there in the title. With its space shooter gameplay and emphasis on economy and trading, this one is aimed at those who enjoyed games like Wing Commander and Privateer – but how well do those experiences translate to a Switch game?

space commander

Perhaps, to answer that question, it’s good to point out that Space Commander has its origins in a mobile game that was free-to-play as well, so naturally it’s going to have a different kind of scope despite a few familiar traits. You’ll start off with a basic fighter ship with which you’ll undertake various missions, before the game world starts opening up more. Alternating between deep space and the airspace of various planets, you’ll travel quite a bit, and there’s a interesting dynamic in which you can choose to fly at hyper speed and avoid space pirates, but at the expense of more fuel. Repairs are handled aboard space stations, which are also trade hubs.

I never played the mobile game, but perhaps it’s why these trade portions of the game feel unbalanced. Very often the rewards for a successfully completed mission barely cover your expenses, leading to a frustrating outcome – especially if you just barely completed the mission to begin with. Trading’s a safer option, but also far less exciting. I’m assuming that pay-to-win mechanics ‘helped’ during the mobile phase of the game, but on console a it feels unbalanced.

space commander2

As you’d expect, combat is a bit simplified from the likes of Elite Dangerous of Wing Commander – this isn’t a game for people who prefer their space shooters with a HOTAS controller, but instead sits between a regular space shooter and a rail shooter. It’s accessible as a result of that, and fun to play because it also looks the part – were it not for the unbalanced gameplay elements that make them stressful, I’d constantly be in combat mode, taking breaks just to spend my earnings.

Let’s hope that Space Commander – War and Trade gets a few more gameplay tweaks post-release. For the moment I’d recommend playing Everspace over this one, but with some time and attention this could be a solid new alternative for space shooter/trading fans.

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