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E3 Expo: Video Games about Building Up, Not Blowing Up

(Originally published on Blogcritics.org)

Bounty Train puts you in charge of building a rail empire and opening the west.

Bounty Train puts you in charge of building a rail empire and opening the west.

When I thought about attending the Electronic Entertainment Exposition – E3 – held at the Los Angeles Convention Center June 16-18, I wanted to find games about building things up, not just games about blowing things up. When my daughter was young, we would stay up all night sometimes playing Sim City. No shooting or hand grenades were involved. That’s the kind of game I was looking for.

I found two good examples distributed by the German company Entertainment: Bounty Trainand Valhalla Hills. Both titles are still in development but look promising.

Bounty Train

Bounty Train puts the emphasis on American history. Your job is to run a railroad in the period beginning after the civil war. This was the epoch when trains played a critical role in opening up North America for development.

In Bounty Train from Corbie Games you start out as the wealthy son of a railway baron, but suddenly lose all that and have to start from scratch in order to save your family’s reputation.

You build your company by hiring a good crew, buying the best locomotive you can afford and doing what you need to in order to keep it fueled and in good repair. You deliver cargo and complete tasks for your clients. You face competition from other railroaders and must deal with local bandits and angry Native tribes. People want to steal your cargo, or even your entire train, so you have to consider security. There is some shooting, but that’s just part of doing business, not an end in itself.

Bounty Train is scheduled for release on Steam Early Access for both PC and MAC during Q3 2015. A teaser showing how the game will look is available here. You can also follow the development of various game features at the Bounty Train blog and on Facebook.

Valhalla Hills

 This game, by strategy-and-simulation experts Funatics, puts you in charge of an isolated part of Viking civilization. The premise of the game is that the Norse god Odin has bared the gates to Valhalla, leaving Viking heroes nowhere to go after dying in battle. Your job is to build up this outpost of Viking civilization until your heroes can climb the highest mountains and reach Valhalla on their own.

You can’t just start marching up mountains, however.

Daytime in Valhalla Hills – not a suburb of LA, but a place to develop a Viking culture.

Daytime in Valhalla Hills – not a suburb of LA, but a place to develop a Viking culture.

Your group of Vikings needs to build homes, develop food supplies, make warm clothing, and find ways to craft the tools a growing community needs. You start off on one island and keep expanding to other randomly generated islands until you find the highest mountain, the one that will get your fighters into Valhalla.

There are also ghostly mountain dwellers to be dealt with, marauding beasts, and raiders from the sea. Mines must be dug, farms developed, and defenses created. This is a building game at its finest.

That figures because the chief developer is Thomas Häuser who was the mastermind behind The Settlers 2, a building game from the 1980s that had millions of fans worldwide.

Valhalla Hills will be released Q4 2015, on Steam Early Access. To find out the latest news check the game site  or the Funatics site.

Bounty Train current development stage teaser from Corbie Games on Vimeo.

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