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Swords of the Sun

Swords of the Sun is a modern fantasy military game first released as a trilogy, eight years ago by Luna Studios, and recently re-released as a single, remastered title. Swords of the Sun's interstellar setting takes place in an alternate present, where humankind has gathered under the wings of vast galaxy-spanning communities. One third of humanity is under the firm control of the Impera, an autocratic and theocratic empire that founds its power on the manipulation of history, leading its subjects to believe it has existed for thousands of years -- while in reality, it is a recent creation, built upon the remnants of the first interstellar democracy. Alongside the Impera stand many smaller powers, from the semi-independent planets of Erebto the Pleiades -- and further away, the Agora, the last heir of democracies past, locked in a bitter cold war with the Impera. As the 13th Phalanx, one of the Impera's elite legions, decides to defect after it was forced to destroy a rebelling planet, the Agora decides to fan the flames of Ereb's brewing rebellion. Interstellar war looms, and the player is at the first stage, alternating between the individual points of view of 13th Phalanx and Agoran soldiers.

Swords of the Sun perhaps the most emblematic representative of the semi-linear narrative game revival in the previous decade. It puts the player in the role of mid-level officers, completing its first person combat gameplay with small-scale strategy elements carried out via a system of active pause. The campaign is semi-linear, with mission environments ranging from mostly linear corridors to large open world maps and organic objectives. With its "rugged space opera" aesthetic, multi-choice story spanning several years and ten characters, as well as its fluid gameplay, Swords of the Sun has earned the praise of the public and specialized press alike, to the point of warranting a recent remaster.

"Playing Swords of the Sun as a single game and not a trilogy is a strange experience, in no small part because of how wildly different from each other the three games are. The first Swords of the Sun is a well-rounded and competent military fantasy romp that a memorable mid-game twist barely elevates above its hundreds of brethren. The second opus is possibly the quintessential game of its style, a truly well-crafted masterpiece that brings the player from one epic setpiece to the other without ever losing track of its themes and characters. The third game is possibly one of the strangest experiences I've ever had. It starts like a retread of its predecessors and then, halfway through the game, becomes something else entirely. The last twenty hours of Swords of the Sun III are an insane, amazingly fun succession of love letters to basically every fantasy genre at once, from noir detective stories to old fashioned military scifi. It has no qualms bringing the player right from a moody car chase under the neon rain to a full-scale invasion of the Earth seen from the spine of a kilometer-long ship, and it does so with pride and confidence."

-- Rock, Paper, UREB.

"What truly makes Swords of the Sun an amazing experience is its tenth mission, Awake on Distant Shores. So far, the game has been a fun but ultimately constrained romp, tasking you with following in the footsteps of its grizzled cast of 13th Phalanx veterans. And then, suddenly, without warning, it throws you into the tenth mission, that cold opens on an Agoran mechanized unit being hot-dropped on a hostile imperial world. The pseudolatin chants of the soundtrack are gone, replaced by synth riffs. You're now a blue-skinned woman from the Pleiades and you're behind the displays of a light tank, just reeling from the shock of ground impact. You're fast, nimble, heavily armed and you're part of a vast armored spearhead filling the entire desert around you. UREB strikes and railgun shots fill the night of a world three thousand lightyears away from the Phalanx's theater of operations. That's it. That's now a proper war. The game just dramatically expanded its scope -- and became brilliant."

-- Game Enquirer.

Art: Talros.

Spinward

Spinward is a popular video game -- and accompanying material -- released ten years ago in the Traverse by the Eloran Games Factory, and three years ago as a remastered version in Communal Space. It puts the player in the role of a spacefarer in a secluded region of space known as the Candleworlds, a cluster of brown dwarves suspended high above the galactic plane. In the world of Spinward, the geometry drive does not exist, and spaceship utilise instead a variant of the Alcubierre drive to bridge the gap between stars, while the compactness of local star systems makes space opera possible with simple fusion drives. Spaceships are small, often airliner or boat-sized, and their cockpits are reminiscent of 1980s space technology, merged with retrofuturistic elements harking back to the early interplanetary era and even the Low Age. The players enjoy a great freedom of movement, with various updates having added on-foot gameplay, EVA and a variety of underwater and atmospheric vehicles to travel the Candleworlds. Spinward encourages the players to design their own narrative within the setting's complex weave of characters, factions and environments.

Extracts from the game press:

"With rock-solid planetary and orbital mechanics meeting fantasy starships, Spinward is a great attempt at resurrecting the space sim genre in an age where interstellar travel has become commonplace. The way it manages to create a real sense of wonder with its sprawling but small-scale universe is nothing short of brilliant."

-- Eloran Game Reviewer. 

"Spinward ships are a real joy to fly, whether you want to experience the thrill of full Newtonian flight or the direct simplicity of fully assisted flight. With their cockpits full of switches and knobs, they feel incredibly alive -- though the game relies a bit too much on trial and error during its first hours, its generous package is worth revisiting for those who missed the initial Eloran release."

--Ludonarrative dissonance.

"Spinward's world is complex but immediately understandable -- from mystical empires to ancient ruins under the red suns, from retro spaceships to interstellar communes, it manages to feel both familiar and alien at once, crafting quite the playground for space travellers. By hinting at a much larger world without quite elaborating on it, Spinward manages to be more evocative than a lot of productions with much bigger budgets."

--Phi Clio's Inquirer.

(Illustration: Elite Dangerous, screenshot by author).

Lightness of the Wind

Based on a series of books by Eloran writer Farah Sahaak, Lightness of the Wind is a very popular tabletop RPG published by Samira and Keller, a well-known boardgame and publishing company based in the Traverse. It takes place in a 1960s-inspired setting, on a planet that is being slowly swallowed by a mysterious paracausal entity known as the Erème, that defies the common laws of physics. In this scattered, oil-less world, both trade and warfare are carried out by dirigibles and airships. The boardgame puts players in the shoes of an airship commander, albeit they do not play as a character in the traditional sense of the word, instead playing as the airship and its crew. It combines elements from both tactical boardgames and tabletop pen and paper RPGs. Airship navigation and combat is handled on a map, using airship miniatures and various markers, while adventures on the ground and on-board narratives are carried out via playing cards representing the various crewmembers manning a player's dirigible and their relationships. Rules-light, employing easy-to-kitbash miniatures and relying on an open-source game engine, Lightness of the Wind is quite appreciated among space crews, with a version of the rules even enabling zero-g games. Some people play it as a pure tactical wargame, while others circumvent the airship part entirely to only use the cards -- regardless of preferences, Lightness of the Wind is an extremely popular game, with dozens of ongoing official meta-campaigns that spaceship crews may catch up with by mail.

Through space and time shenanigans, the lore primer for the first edition can be found below, in pdf format:


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