The heroes of The Banner Saga, the debut effort from a three-man upstart called Stoic, are rarely heroic: one is dashed against an outcropping of boulders after he falls off a cliff, while another assaults a young girl and takes an arrow through the eye for his trouble. The backdrop of The Banner Saga may be Armageddon — or Ragnarok, in keeping with the game's Norse theme — but its characters are merely, tragically human.
Spec Ops: The Line thrives on colorful, deliberate level design; its self-conscious take on the shooter genre (by way of Apocalypse Now), and its reversal of traditional player incentives. Originally released in June 2012 on other platforms, Spec Ops' recent release on Mac captures every concept from the original for better and worse. It's as well-built a package as any modern AAA shooter — crisp, quick, and brutal — albeit saddled with some stop-and-pop repetition and decrepit multiplayer modes. However, for all the game does well, the Mac port unfortunately limps along with sluggish and inconsistent performance.
Blending a borrowed approach from Mario Tennis with elements from Sega's own Virtua Tennis franchise, Sega Superstars Tennis is an entertaining bit of fan service that delivers on-the-court action plus a bevy of racquet-based mini-games with Sonic the Hedgehog and compatriots in tow. Recently ported to Mac by Feral Interactive more than five years after its debut on console systems, this colorful affair serves up simple and approachable tennis action, and is decent fun for fans of Sega's back catalog.
The poet Tony Hoagland once said, "The glory of the protagonist is always paid for by a lot of secondary characters." And in the case of The Lord of the Rings: War in the North, the focus remains solely on a band of previously unknown adventurers, filling in little details to flesh out the fantasy world of Middle-earth and its better-known leads from other media. But despite a refreshing approach to a well-worn tale, the three protagonists of War in the North are depressingly flat, and the path to Mordor is surprisingly stuck on rails.
SimCity wasn't released on PC in March as much as it stumbled into existence, but nearly six months and several patches later, Maxis has stabilized the game's servers and addressed many of its bugs – and now the reboot of the classic series is available on Mac. Even at its most technically sound, however, SimCity is a surprisingly rigid take on fantasy metropolis planning.
Mac gamers have waited nearly two years for Tropico 4 to make the leap to Apple hardware, but fortunately, Feral Interactive’s excellent port of the Gold Edition provides countless hours of micromanagement, world building, and tongue-in-cheek humor in a single, complete package. It's a title that should be in every Mac strategy fan's collection – that is, unless you already got your fill from the very similar Tropico 3: Gold Edition.
Tabletop-gaming classic Shadowrun was released to a subdued audience of pen-and-paper die-hards in 1989, and quickly carved out a niche for itself by fusing fantasy with cyberpunk in a dystopian vision of the future that was all its own. More than 20 years later, Shadowrun Returns (developed by a team led by Shadowrun creator Jordan Weisman) borrows the 2D isometric view from an early '90s Super Nintendo adaptation, but it most embodies the open-ended heart of tabletop gaming. It's really about the democracy of storytelling.
Creative Assembly, developer of the hyper-ambitious Total War strategy franchise, has charted a more focused course with Napoleon: Total War. Even though the Gold Edition — brought to Mac by Feral Interactive — includes three add-on packs with more units, battles, and countries in tow, the mission of the game is clear: To use the Total War framework to tell a personal narrative of one of history's most determined, megalomaniacal, and successful conquerors.