GameTech: Holiday package has travel bug

Crackdown 3 is one of the games which will benefit from Dublin-based Havok's purchase by Microsoft.

MOST games have a few bugs in them. This one has the travel bug. 80 Days, based on the classic Jules Verne story of Phileas Fogg and his trip around the globe, has finally travelled from mobile to PC. Like Venice and Hong Kong, it’s a very good port. And like the best travel, it’s more about the journey than the destination.

80 Days reimagines the story of Phileas Fogg and his loyal valet Passporteau, with you in the starring role as the valet. The overall concept is the same as Verne’s novel (Fogg must travel the world in 80 days or less to win a wager) but the premise here has been slightly altered. In this version, Fogg and Passporteau live in a Victorian ‘steampunk’ world, where steam engines, airships and even magnetic railway lines are in regular operation. These machines allow the player to plot all manner of routes back to London, and not just the routes that would have been feasible in that period of history. Berlin, Honolulu, Pyongyang, it’s all on the cards. The world becomes your oyster. There are 169 cities to visit overall, each one with its own special items and characters to help (or hinder) Fogg on his journey.

Playing as Passporteau, the goal is to make it back to London without going bankrupt while maintaining the respect of Fogg, all within 80 days. To sustain this challenge, the game plays like an interactive novel, or a Choose Your Own Adventure story, presenting entertaining vignettes for Passporteau to, well, navigate. At one point, for example, your boat trip from Yokohama to San Francisco might be thrown off course due to a storm, with the ship’s captain reneging on his word and turning to Hawaii instead. Passporteau can attempt to start a mutiny on board, playing the Christian and Shinto factions against each other. Choose the wrong option, however, and things might get even worse. Another scenario involves a young girl who falls in love with an engineer — should you get involved, or keep clear? Helping her could expedite your journey, or it could set you back days.

It’s not just the vignettes that are entertaining and witty, however. Each point on the map is alive with descriptions of the city and its people.

While these descriptions are short and simple, they create a palpable atmosphere. Approaching Vladivostok, having been forewarned of its militarisation in Moscow, is a memorable moment, as is the evening you are propositioned by ‘Death’ in a New Orleans bar. With 169 cities, you’ll likely play 80 Days over and over to see all the scenarios.

Each city also has a market to visit, where items can be traded to keep your funds healthy. This often becomes the hardest part of the game. For example, Passporteau might be told that fur coats, sold in Budapest, fetch a good price in Vienna. You could change your route to sell the coat and avoid money problems, even though the clock continues to tick away, or you might forge ahead and hope another trading opportunity will present itself.

80 Days is well worth a ticket, on mobile and PC. As budget holidays go, €10 is hard to beat.

Microsoft buys game company Havok

Meanwhile, Microsoft have used their own considerable budget to buy Irish games company Havok from Intel. Havok, based in Dublin, are one of the success stories of Irish gaming. They have made physics middleware for some of the biggest franchises in the business, including Halo, Assassin’s Creed and the Elder Scrolls series.

“Havok shares Microsoft’s vision for empowering people to create worlds and experiences that have never been seen before,” a statement from Microsoft said. “We look forward to sharing more of this vision in the near future.”

In good news for gamers (and for Havok), Microsoft confirmed that the newly acquired company will still be doing business with other vendors, including Sony, which means the team is less likely to be gobbled up by Xbox and kept away from the industry at large.

However, we can expect to see Havok tech used more prominently in Microsoft exclusives from now on, starting with the likes of Crackdown 3 next year.


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