Hello and welcome to the inaugural post of Marc Bloch Reviews Historical Video Games, a site where famous French historian Marc Bloch (1868–1944) and yours truly (Andreas Kjeldsen) talk about historical video games.

The site will be updated three times a week with a summary of the past week’s news about historical games on Mondays, a game review on Wednesdays, and a feature article, interview, or essay on Fridays.

We also have a Steam Curator list of the best of historical games, we are working on putting a GOGmix together, and if the stars align, we might bring you a YouTube channel sometime in the future. In the meantime, go ahead and follow us on Twitter at @BlochReviews for updates, and of course, read on after the fold for all the news from the past couple of weeks.

The News

The top story from the last couple of weeks is the outrage over Playing History 2: Slave Trade, an educational game from Danish developer Serious Games Interactive, which has been roundly criticised for its frivolous and insensitive depiction of the subject.

You can watch Jim Sterling risk his sanity and possibly his immortal soul by playing it here:

Most of the anger has focused on the ‘Slave Tetris’ mini-game, which has since been removed from the game (Eurogamer, Ars Technica, TakePart).

But as Los Angeles Times’ Dexter Thomas argues, there are far more serious issues with the overall tone and context of the game than just one controversial minigame.

There is a lot to say about Slave Trade in terms of how games can and should be used to teach history, and you can be certain this site will take the subject up again sooner rather than later.

Firaxicon 2015 happened this past Saturday in Baltimore, and those of us who couldn’t be there in person can at least enjoy the VODs from the panels, courtesy of Gamespot. Don’t miss the retrospective conversation between Sid Meier and Bruce Shelley about the development of the early MicroProse games, such as Civilization, Railroad Tycoon, and Covert Action:

Or Dennis Shirk and Ed Beach on the development process of Civilization V and its expansions:

Recent Releases

The much-anticipated – or at least much-hyped – economic strategy game Grand Ages: Medieval from Gaming Minds Studios was released on September 25th, and we will have a full review of it on Wednesday. (Spoiler: It’s not very good.) [Steam, GOG, GamersGate]

The superb alt-history interactive fiction/adventure/strategy game 80 Days, originally for iOS and Android, has now been released on PC and you owe yourself the pleasure of checking it out. Go on. You are worth it. [Steam, GOG]

Slitherine’s Heroes of Normandie, an adaption of the WWII-themed board game of the same name by Devil Pig, was released on October 1st. [Steam]

Cross of the Dutchman from indie developer Triangle Studios is an action-adventure game inspired by the life of the semi-legendary 16th century Frisian rebel Piers Gerlofs Donia. [Steam]

Perhaps not exactly ‘recent’ anymore, but Anno 1503, Anno 1602 and Anno 1701 were released on GOG a few months ago, and they are classic games, worthy of your attention and possibly even your money.

From the Watchlist

There are now 45 days to the release of Angry Guy Simulator Assassin’s Creed Syndicate! (Yes, on PC. “Console”? What’s that?)

Curious Expedition, the Stanley-and-Livingstone-meets-H.-P.-Lovecraft-meets-giant-freaking-dinosaurs 19th century exploration game from German indie developer Maschinen-Mensch, is now in Alpha 18. If you don’t mind the Early Access, it is as good a time as any to check it out, but if you would rather wait for the full release, it is slated for the end of the year. [Steam]

Things have been a bit quiet at Paradox recently, especially with the announcement of Stellaris as their major new title – which, as a science fiction game, we unfortunately won’t cover here – but they have revealed some new features from the upcoming expansion and patch 1.14 for Europa Universalis IV, including both some (probably much-needed) love for the steppe hordes and new mechanics for simulating political estates.

The latter seem particularly interesting, as they add three or more factions to your country, such as clergy, nobility, and burghers, or country-specific ones such as Cossacks or Dhimmi. These factions can give significant bonuses if they are kept loyal, but can also cause no end of trouble if they grow too powerful. This system seems like it could add a lot to the game, although it remains to be seen how it will be integrated with the already existing systems, something that Paradox has perhaps not always managed to do all that well.

If you like large 18th century wooden ships (and cannot lie) you might want to take a look at Hearts of Oak, an open-world Age of Sail ship simulation game currently in development by the modding community PiratesAhoy! Although still in the early stages of development, they have recently released a new tech demo. PiratesAhoy! are also looking for both testers and new contributors for the project team, should you feel so inclined.

 

That was all the news for this week! Thanks for reading, and if you like what you see, you can help us out a lot by liking or sharing the site, or by leaving a comment. As a very new site, we are extremely dependent on people helping us out with spreading the word!

Hope to see you back on Wednesday for our first review of Grand Ages: Medieval, and you can subscribe to us on Twitter for a reminder: @BlochReviews.

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