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  1. I. BASIC INFORMATION :: Game Title BombHopper.io :: Genre Action, Puzzle, Platformer :: Developer Julien Mourer Twitter | Discord :: Platform Browser (PC and Mobile) :: Availability BombHopper.io | IO Games | NewGrounds | Titotu | CrazyGames Beta, Free (Ads-based) :: Release 17 November 2019 :: Rating Everyone :: Trailer II. BETA REVIEW What can you do with a handful ammo of bombs? Apparently quite a bit in BombHopper.io, a physics-based puzzle platformer where you play as Hoppi, a cute yellow square who has to rely on its ammo supply to safely find its way out of the strange world it lies within. When we think about bombs, we tend to think of their destructive nature and would expect to detonate them in games to damage various things like enemies and obstructions. However, instead of blasting ammo for the purpose of destruction, the main focus in this puzzle platformer is on the resulting thrust force that sends Hoppi, an otherwise inert square, propelling forward. Currently, there are 48 short puzzle levels available in this casual browser game and they are presented in progressive complexity and difficulty. While more levels are expected to be added in the future, the existing set already provides around twenty minutes (and more, if you are retrying for better scores) of puzzle fun. The world in BombHopper.io is made up of simple basic shapes and specific colour codings that are pretty intuitive. Platforms in grey denote a regular concrete surface, while blue shapes denote a slippery surface (cool like ice) and red ones indicate an instant kill pitfall (dangerous like fire). There are also purple breakable surfaces and orange elastic boundaries that open even further possibilities for level design. Last but not least, the exit point of each level is a conspicuous green door. All these neon coloured elements are placed against a dark backdrop, which makes for great visual contrast. Menu buttons are kept to a minimal and positioned along the screen borders, creating a distraction-free user interface (UI) layout that allows players to focus on the puzzle itself. The buttons are pretty standard: “menu” for viewing the overall progression map; “restart” for retrying the current level afresh; “skip” for moving to the next level without solving the current one by watching an advertisement; and the self-explanatory “fullscreen”. One particular thing that surprises me regarding the UI design is the cue pointer that will point the player to the “restart” button when one did not manage to clear the level but still kept trying to fire despite not having anymore ammo. And this cue pointer is not simply static; it grows in size and eventually blinks in bright red with each fire one tries to make on an empty ammo slot — talk about some rather attention grabbing visual cue! Playable with just a mouse, BombHopper.io challenges players to propel Hoppi to the exit using only the given ammo. Even though there is no wordy tutorial or explanation prompt given in-game, the puzzles are presented in an intuitive, easy to understand manner. I find the learning curve comfortable as the levels introduce new elements gradually, and the individual level’s name generally provides players with a hint about that particular level’s objective. Apart from the variety of environmental elements present, the game also incorporates different ammo supply and types available. In the easier levels, players are given an unlimited number of ammo to spend but the game soon challenges them to complete a particular level with limited number of ammo fires. There are also two types of bombs present: orange bombs that detonate immediately upon contact with a surface and red bombs that detonate only after a few seconds. This variation in ammo type, albeit subtle, has a significant impact on how a level may be approached. Despite being a puzzle game, BombHopper.io’s solving mechanics actually lean more toward hands-on trial and error rather than strictly intensive thinking. With enough patience, one could solve most of the levels via pure experimentation. Naturally, coupled with an adequate understanding of the physics and rules underlying the game, the time taken to solve a level would be shortened. Beginner friendly, BombHopper.io is suitable even for players who have never played similar genres before. Of the available 48 levels, some of them require players to think outside of the box while a few are grouped around a general idea with minor alterations to the puzzle setup that have little to no effect on its solving method. This results in some of the levels bearing much resemblance to earlier levels and giving a sense of repetitiveness. While present only in small numbers, the similarly repeated levels may still feel boring for players who enjoy racking their brains instead of memorizing. For the competitive players, BombHopper.io offers a stars system that reflects how fast a level was completed. Each level has its own time requirement set for players to achieve that full three stars rank. To fulfill the needs of those who like to share their personal best timings on their own social media channels, the browser game has embedded Twitter and Facebook share functions (the latter, however, is still in development). On its own, BombHopper.io is fun to play until one has cleared every level and attained the best timings for all levels. It may seem like this browser puzzle game is good for only a few short playthroughs but since April 2020, the developer has been pushing out beta features supporting custom levels, greatly expanding the fun that players can possibly enjoy with this little bomb physics puzzle game. Best accessed through a desktop browser, the custom level editor allows one to design their own playable levels by playing around with the available game elements and Hoppi. The editor supports saving and loading, which makes it convenient for one to keep their current level edits and continue working on them at another time. Once logged in with Discord, one could also submit their creations to the growing list of custom levels that is accessible by anyone to play. The next time you are looking for a quick puzzle game that also features a relaxing music track (composed by Koku), do give BombHopper.io a try. You can now even design your own custom levels for others to play if you are feeling creative. Finally, stay in the loop with the game’s active development and share your adventures with other players in the official Discord server! Get ready to hop on and blast off!
  2. Developer/Publisher: Mooneye Studios Genre: Adventure, Exploration, Narrative Price: £25.99 PC (Steam, GoG, Humble) Console (PS4, XBOX1) TBA (SWITCH) Official Website Breathtaking Before playing this game, all I had seen was the trailer and it was absolutely gorgeous. The visuals and lighting were inspiring, and the music a beautiful melody. What struck me most is the concept of the game. Giving me the chance to not just run through fields of grass on four legs, but fly through the skies, trample down canyons and swim in underwater worlds. No time was wasted, soon as I could I jumped into this world. The story is told through memories of the past Reincarnation seems to play a role in this world as you are wolf now but was once a human in an ancient lost city. Your companion tells you as much and you learn a lot about the story and world through him while exploring. This floating light explains the memories you find and gives you an insight into the cultures and beliefs of the ancient civilisation. I won't go too into the story as I feel it's brilliantly told and has a beautiful message that is best experienced first hand. Fly, dig, crawl, climb, swim and run Lost Ember sure give you a lot of options when exploring its vast world. Now, this isn't an open-world game, it is a linear story. However, the world designed is so large and diverse, you would be forgiven to think otherwise. There are parts where you are directed to follow a pre-determined path or follow a cool fast-paced scene (some of my favourite parts). Those are only occasionally. A large swathe of the game is very open and I found myself getting lost constantly and finding secrets and collectables. This is where clever level design comes in, for even when I was lost in my exploration and curiosity, there are visual cues such as flower paths and light. I have great respect for when a game uses the environment to guide me, it feels so natural and freeing. Freedom of exploration is the big selling point of the game and Mooneye have succeeded brilliantly. To repeat an earlier statement... Breathtaking The music is wonderfully orchestrated and fits all the scenes and emotions you will feel as you learn more of the story. The final song at the end is the winner and a favourite of mine. You will want to buy the soundtrack (or at least listen to it on Spotify), trust me. There are not satisfied with just having beautiful sounds resonating in your ears, they have to create these awe-inspiring environments too. I will admit, the first half of the game was beautiful but repetitive in terms of colour, design and overall feel, but boy does it escalate. You will be leaving those lush greens behind to brave duststorms in the desert and canyons that evoked memories of Lion King (STAMPEEDDEEEEE), there's freezing blizzards that will white-out your screen and serene underwater worlds. The variety was very surprising and unexpected, which made me even more blown away. A nice touch was seamlessly blending the ruins of the lost civilisation into the environment. You truly felt like you stumbled on something great, it was organic. Replay Value Being a linear story there isn't too much reason to replay the game. However, I am sure many of you will be like me and would love to just dive back into the world and explore freely, jumping from animal to animal and experience true freedom (hmm I wonder if there is a free roam mode? I'll have to check). There is one thing that will keep you playing after finishing the story, all you completionists out there have a heap of collectables to find from mushrooms to lost relics. Final Thoughts This will probably be very predictable considering my use of words throughout the review. It's a beautiful, gorgeous crafted world to explore and live in. My expectations were met and then exceeded when I hit the midway point, the change of environments really did it for me. Music was consistently good and the story kept my attention with intrigue and curiosity and finally heartfelt and meaningful moments. I cannot recommend this game enough and implore you to go out right this minute and buy it. You will not regret it. FULL DISCLOSURE: Game was provided free for review purposes. I thank Mooneye Studios for trusting me in providing an unbiased and thorough review and for the wonderful experience. If any devs want to get their freshly made gems- I mean games- fully reviewed, drop me a message on here or on my email [email protected] I will check out your page and see what article or video I can make for you. Also can help with creating Presskits and Promotions for those that need it (whether being released soon or in the far future) Signed:
  3. Key Information: Developer/Publisher: Nysko Games Ltd Genre: Strategy, RTS Price: £10.99 (Steam) Overview: Dwarves of Glistenveld is a real time strategy game with elements of base building, exploration and even RPG elements, which sees you take control of a Dwarven Clan of your own to take on hordes of grubby Goblins. Currently it’s in Early Access having released mid-October while the dev team work through a complete Six chapter single player campaign, but the initial release already includes 6 levels within Chapter One to play through, along with a sandbox skirmish mode, a couple of pre-created one off scenario maps, and a map editor for the more creative among us! Review: The majority of my time so far has been spent playing on the single player campaign, which serves not only as a tutorial for the game mechanics but also provides more than a few giggles with the scripted dialogue between the Dwarves you control and come across. You find yourself setting up fresh on each individual map with a set goal to achieve before you’ll be able to progress the story and migrate to the next section of the larger campaign map, initially you can expect to get through scenarios in a very short time indeed, essentially once you can prove your efficient enough at mining out rock walls, chopping through underground roots or teaming your Dwarves up to play whack-a-mole with the Goblins that also inhabit the underground caves. That said, it really doesn’t take long for the campaign scenarios to ramp up potential challenge and work required to get through to the next scenario, and by the time I’d got to four/five scenarios into the game and past what I’d term the tutorial and into the real gameplay, it was taking a good hour or two to clear through a map, perfect for an evening of relaxation after a hard days work! Missions themselves take place on some really beautiful hexagrid maps, whether it’s the designed settings of the campaign or the procedurally generated maps within the skirmish mode, and make you truly feel like you are in a deep, dark cave system. Lighting is brighter where you send your Dwarves to explore and work, passageways and openings are blocked off by thin rock walls, and if you aren’t careful with how much you dig away you can risk a cave collapse causing all sorts of havoc for your clansmen. The design of the maps and terrain is well done, very quickly being able to see what resources are held within, or under, the walls (stone, iron, gold, gems) and also give a rough impression of whether it’s a plentiful or scarce amount of the resource as well, making it simple to plan at a glance where you want your Dwarves to begin working and how to gain the most material with the least risk of removing massive chunks of the cave. Setting up a base of operations is essential to progression within the game, as you’d expect from a title like this, and akin to the likes of Rimworld you can set blueprints and queue work orders for your clansmen to follow of their own volition, but also retain the ability to force them to prioritise on certain things where there is a sense of urgency to get something up and running. On the face of things, the crafting and building within the game doesn’t seem overly complex, and my initial thoughts were that there isn’t that much to work with, however, as you start getting deeper into the game with bigger bases and more Dwarves to work with, I did begin to see some of the depth that exists, while it does currently feel that there could be more added in to the game this is one of the major points within the development plan for the game during Early Access so I wont grumble! Finally it’s time to talk about the Dwarves, each of which comes with a set of randomly assigned traits which provide a set of buffs and drawbacks to your clansmen, ‘Gastric’ will cause your Dwarf to fart loudly and possibly alert nearby enemies, while ‘Chunky’ makes them move slower (not sure how Dwarves can get any slower!) while also giving a buff to hit points, and these can help dictate which role they’ll best fill within your clan (gatherer, miner, fighter, engineer), which they aren’t locked in to but gain additional perks the longer the stick with it and begin leveling up. Through my time playing I’d managed to level up a few clansmen as pretty decent specialists in fighting or gathering which I would keep set in those roles, but also created a good number of ‘all rounders’ which had perks across multiple job roles and could act as a jack-of-all-trades to switch around to where I needed bodies the most. Moving through the campaign you bring all of your Dwarves with you after exiting a map, and can bring them with you into the next stage of the campaign with all of their experience and gastric tendencies, giving me a real sense of attachment to them after they had kept leveling up! Final Thoughts: Dwarves of Glistenveld offers a lot of playability considering it’s right at the beginning of it’s Early Access phase, the inclusion of the skirmish mode means that sandbox players could come back time and time again to face off on randomised maps, against multiple enemies, and due to the map generation always have a different game due to the exploration needed. The game looks beautiful, and I also hadn’t come across any bugs or crashes during my time playing, which is promising. The Devs have a solid plan for the Early Access phase (more buildings, technologies, enemy variance) and as with any game you’ve got to acknowledge that buying early on when the price is low means your backing the possibility of what the game will eventually become, and in my opinion the game is definitely on the right track to become an RTS with friendly town management but real strategic gameplay. HappyFeet #CraftFightSurvive
  4. Key Information: Developer/Publisher: Dark Crystal Games / Black Tower Entertainment Genre: Turn Based, Open World, RPG Price: £23.79 Steam / Humble Overview: Encased is an Early Access offering from Dark Crystal Games, a sci-fi post-apocalyptic RPG that will bring back memories of Fallout while featuring brilliantly developed characters that give it a real lease of life and allows you to immerse yourself in the world that has been created. Originally a Kickstarter project, it was more than successfully backed, and is promising over 30 hours of story, a freeform open world with over 100 handcrafted locations, and a roster of almost 300 NPC's with their own part to play under The Dome. Review: There is truly only one place to start with an RPG like Encased, and that's the character creation system where it becomes really clear very early on the scale of depth that Dark Crystal Games are looking to bring to the table, I actually had three goes at creating my character before settling on the first one to take through the Prologue. The Dome is home to various castes of people all filling different roles within Magellan Base, like the various cogs in a wheel, where all are needed to keep things running smoothly, and choosing from these different castes will have a very real effect on your time within the game; Orange Wing is full of criminals doing menial tasks, White Wing is the scientists, Blue Wing is full of the construction and design minded people, Silver Wing is essentially full of middle management and finally Black Wing is the military. Beyond the initial choice of which Wing to join, you are then given the ability to spend points tweaking your beginner stats (think the normal Charisma, Guts, Brains etc), and finally the more specific Skills that will need to see you through life in an unforgiving world. The Skills relate to three overriding aspects (Combat, Social & Smarts) before being broken down even more specifically to categories such as Heavy Weapons, Medicine or Leadership, and within each of these sub categories are where you unlock your actual active and passive abilities for use within the world itself; I'm talking Lock Picking, Crafting, special combat attacks, and I'm sure by now you can see what I was referring to when I mentioned that game has real layer of depth in the workings here! I feel it's worth pointing out that as of the current build, while you are able to see a whole range of these active and passive abilities not all of them are actually implemented just yet, so while I was running around as part of the Black Wing with a heavy weapon, the skill's relating to those weapons weren't available for me to use, it's not at all game breaking though. The whole game takes place in a vast world under The Dome, and it's clear that the developers have spent a lot of time crafting a world that is truly immersible, especially within the multi-story Magellan Base that acts as the main tutorial for the game. Within this beautiful environment there are countless NPC's already within the game that you're able to interact with, each helping to build the world around you or provide interesting side quests to solve in between the main quest line teaching you the basics of the game. I completed the tutorial twice during my time playing, both times with different characters from different wings (once military, once management), and while the game is still in Early Access I can't understate how fully fleshed out this part of the game is, as I came across the same side quests/events with both characters and managed to have completely different stories and outcomes both times, now this could have been as a result of the dialogue options I chose, it may have been as a result of the items I'd looted from the map (and there is an awful lot to loot!) but either way it's a very promising sign that the decisions you make as a player do actually have a real impact on how things will play out! Another really key point with the map's and environment themselves, apart from how beautiful they are, is that they offer an open playground and more than one way to get to your objectives. There are numerous locked doors to overcome, ventilation shafts that you can use to move around, and especially on the map of the first mission outside of the Magellan home base there are several different ways to get around that let you don your role playing cap and get into character - do you pull Schwarzenegger and go guns blazing, or try and use some brains to avoid all out confrontation. I found myself completely sidetracked by the environment and simply letting curiosity get the better of me on more than one occasion, especially when there seemed to be some goodies locked behind a door with no obvious way in. My final thoughts on the tutorial area specifically though, are that it is a very well designed exercise in educating a player, as while you are able to fully explore the whole base and get a good few hours of game play out of it, if you are looking to simply get out into the bigger world once you've been through it that first time you can get through the essentials in a very short space of time without it seeming a frustrating experience. Combat within the game is challenging, it's hard to reinvent systems and come up with something completely new, and so any Turn Based player will quickly get to grips with the basics of the system; you wait your turn, have an amount of 'action points' to spend on movement, fighting or item usage etc, and when your points are spent you grit your teeth and wait for the damage to starting coming in. However, the combat in this game is not a walk in the park, where even a few instances of fighting one-on-one without a chance to really recover health in between will leave you crossing your fingers hoping that you just about squeeze through without dying, and when you end up in combat with multiple enemies you really need to think about what you're doing. There were a few encounters within the game where I was forced to reload the most recent save file and try a brand new strategy several times before getting past the danger, and while this could become frustrating for some people I found it really refreshing that almost all combat had a life and death feeling about them! The character you have been building along the way will have a real impact on combat, both in the way you fight but also how well you manage to do once you've decided whether to pick up a gun, or try and use some blunt weapons (or even fists) to do the talking. After a bit of playing around it appears that the skill points and abilities you choose can affect everything from the odds of you landing a hit on an enemy all the way through to the damage done and secondary effects such as reducing ability points or movement; I won't proclaim to know what's best for everyone's individual play styles, but it seems clear that the groundwork is being laid so that once the skill trees are all implemented in game you'll be able to really specialise your character as you begin levelling them up. There are also definitely a few tips that I would pass on to anyone; see if the terrain can be used to your advantage, use bullets sparingly because they aren't easy to come across, un-jamming a weapon can be a death wish and standing completely still once a bad guy is right up in your face simply means you're going to get hit hard - repeatedly! Final Thoughts: Encased is one of those games where the Early Access price can make you balk, it's a solid £20+ for around a dozen hours of fleshed out gameplay as it stands right now, however, I've seen this situation before with games such as Ark: Survival Evolved, and if the team keep improving on what's on offer right now, the early access price will seem like a steal when all is said and done, because they are truly on the right track to deliver a game that could justify a higher price when it hits full release! There are definitely a few gripes on my part, like the lack of crafting without a workbench because these were few and far between on my playthroughs, or that some tooltips/descriptions of items don't necessarily give enough information on how items affect your character, and they did cause moments of frustration but this is an early access title and you can't expect complete polish in that situation. Overall, I loved how alive the world felt while I was exploring Magellan Base, with so many NPC's to interact with and 'side quests' to complete on their behalf, and once I'd reached the end of the story that's available was genuinely disappointed there was no more to see! I want to thank Black Tower Entertainment for providing a key for me to take Encased for a whirl, and cannot wait for more updates to land! HappyFeet #CraftFightSurvive
  5. I. BASIC INFORMATION :: Game Title Hope; or How We Survived :: Genre Casual, Action :: Developer Sepia Cowboys Website | Twitter :: Platform PC (Windows) :: Availability Steam Paid, Full :: Release 2 November 2019 :: Content Fantasy Violence, Animated Blood, Mild Language :: Trailer II. GAME REVIEW Set in a zombie apocalypse world, Hope; or How We Survived is a narrative focused game that tells a short tale of surviving as humans amidst the continual threats and dilemmas to be faced. You play as a tower guard whose daily job is to protect Hope, an enclosed settlement for survivors, by fending off incoming zombie-infected creatures with firearms. The game depicts but a small slice of the tower guard’s life; the story begins on a day when an injured person came scrambling alone seeking aid. However, in order to ensure that they have truly not been infected, they are only allowed entrance into the settlement after seven days. In this one week, you are to carry your tower guard duty as usual, protecting this stranger as well as the residents within the settlement. For both visual and audio aspects, I would describe the game as going for a minimalist style: everything is kept simple and only necessary elements are provided. On the surface, it may look like such a style lacks appeal, yet considering the dreary zombie apocalypse setting, I think the choice to keep things to the bare minimum is a good call. In fact, the general silence and lack of sophisticated visuals actually made me focus more on what I actually do have — the dialogues, the changing weather, the injured person to protect, and the infected enemies to target. Still, while the choice to keep things minimal is rather fitting for the story, this style does not carry over too well when it comes to User Interface (UI) design. More specifically, I am referring to the “Controls” menu that squeezes text-only details about the basic gameplay controls onto a single screen. Unless one has already learned the controls beforehand or likes to find out by experimenting, one cannot escape from viewing this particular menu because there is no tutorial prompts provided in the main game itself. Granted, the instructions are kept concise and arranged neatly in bulleted points but I think it is the least satisfying part of the entire game’s visual design. Although there is no background music, the game appropriately uses sound effects (SFX) and short muffled voice clips to portray the various scenes. To my surprise, despite the very limited voice clips available (and I believe one of the clips is actually saying “Merry Christmas”), I do find them quite helpful in bringing out the intended tone in the dialogue lines. And while many may take SFX for granted, in games where the main audio you hear is simply SFX and no music, it becomes something that is pretty important. On that note, I appreciate the effort in adding a variety of SFX (e.g. blowing breeze) to make the auditory experience in this fictitious world resemble more like what would be expected in reality. Gameplay controls are streamlined as well, with the entire game playable using just the mouse (for dialogue selection, aiming, firing, and changing firearms) and one keyboard key (for reloading firearm). Number keys can optionally be used for selecting a different firearm but I personally preferred the mouse wheel. In terms of level design, care has been taken in ensuring that the shooting difficulty is increased reasonably over the first few days. The game introduces you to the available infected enemies slowly, starting from the walking zombies to flying pigeons to sprinting chickens. It also gradually adds difficulty by introducing visual noises via the weather, such as the addition of rain and lightning flashes. Even the three available firearms are introduced over time, allowing sufficient opportunities for you to try each one out as you get a new one. As all the targets are moving and you are stationed stationary at the tower top, it can take a while to learn and get used to shooting the enemies accurately. When I first played the game, I failed during the second enemy wave on Tuesday. But after two more tries, I got the hang of it and could get through the subsequent days in one go — that is, until Saturday. The penultimate day poses the most challenging level in the entire game with its mob of enemies that never seems to cease. Shooter games are not my forte and I probably have quite a delayed reaction time, so I personally took around 20-odd tries to finally clear that nightmarish never-ending wave of enemies. It left me, a casual player, with so much frustration that I do not have the desire to attempt that level ever again. Apart from the huge difficulty spike on Saturday, another thing that fueled my frustration is the inability to fast forward dialogues during retries. Generally, I like the dialogue system and enjoy the pace at which the conversation is set. But the chats become quite a hindrance when I wanted to retry the shooting bit only. While my experience with the action part of the game is somewhat marred by Saturday’s insane enemy mob, the narrative portion, as told through the verbal exchanges between the tower guard and the injured person, is still decent. We gain some insights about the backstory of the place as well as the characters themselves. However, what I like best in these casual chats is how naturally they pulled me in to care more about the injured person over time. There is a natural friendship bonding experienced within the short seven in-game days, so much so that I actually felt apprehensive about how the story will end once Sunday is reached. The game features multiple endings. I am unsure how many possible endings there are in total but I managed to get two different endings by changing my dialogue options on Sunday only, which brings me to the common weakness of similar games’ branching narrative: it is not as branching as it seems. Of course, games do not need to have extensively branched storylines in order to be fun. Still, it does undermine the game’s replay value somewhat if we can obtain all the possible endings just by tweaking the final day’s choices. All in all, the game features a short but rather heartwarming story (“faith in humanity restored” kind) that explores possible mental struggles that humans may face in such an apocalypse. Nevertheless, due to the lack of an option to adjust the difficulty level, casual players may find the shooting tasks adequately challenging and Saturday’s checkpoint rather impossible to clear. Thus, I would recommend this game to shooter game enthusiasts who are looking to read a short positive tale set in a zombie apocalypse. Sepia Cowboys’ debut game is currently on Steam with a launch week discount of 10%!
  6. Key Information: Developer/Publisher: Goonswarm/Black Tower Entertainment Genre: RPG, Turn Based Strategy, Rogue-lite Price: £11.39 (Steam, Humble) "Lust, Gluttony, Greed, Sloth, Wrath, Envy, Pride; these are the seven deadly sins men and women are confronted with throughout their time on this mortal plane of existence, temptations borne within the hearts and souls of us all, the slippery path set before us to lead us all into damnation." The words reverberated around the cold stone walls of the chapel, not spoken in raised tone but with a solemnity that granted them both power and presence. The Warrior was tense, for he had no recollection of how they had arrived in this place nor whether the elderly man before them was complicit in this mystery, though for now it seemed wisest to stay silent and listen. "For aeons we had believed that those hedonistic traits were nothing more than bedtime horror tales, told to keep children and adult alike on the narrow path of virtuousness, designed to keep the masses in line while our Noblemen & Women pursued a much freer life, where the judgmental eyes of the keepers of the faith did not watch." The Huntress & Priestess flanked the Warrior, focused less on the speaker and far more alert to their surroundings. Faint light crept from hanging candles in the corners of the chapel hall, casting ungodly shadows across the baroque statues based around the pillars supporting the towering ceiling, as if the shadows themselves held a life of their own. "Foolish we all were to discard the warnings of scripture as nothing more than manipulative writings, our lack of belief has deceived us all. Lust, Gluttony, Greed, Sloth, Wrath, Envy & Pride; we caved to our primal desires, and as each and every one of us traveled that path we opened the door to them. Further we debased our virtue, and we lent credence to them, granting them substance." The lights around the chapel grew dimmer, the shadows growing in thickness and seeming to move with a real energy around the hall. All three of them now focused solely on the heavy words falling from the old mans lips, reverberating around the now unseen walls. "The Sin Lords, accompanied by the lost and ruinous, the damned and possessed, hold dominion over this realm. There is no escaping from this reality, there is only the hard trail of redemption, and if you wish to feel the warmth of a bright summer day or taste the freshness of spring water upon your lips again then you must face those hedonistic desires within and overcome the Seven Deadly Sins" Overview: Sin Slayers is a new offering from Goonswarm which offers quick turn based combat, RPG progression and Rogue-lite adventuring on procedurally generated gothic maps, ensuring no two playthroughs are exactly the same. Review: The vast majority of your time will be spent on the atmospheric procedurally generated maps outside of the Church safe haven, tentatively exploring through the fog of war in search of your quarry, while also expecting something horrible to happen with every move into an unexplored tile. There are a whole range of text based events to come across, allowing you to rummage through graves and all manner of other things for some items of note, as well as static traps, traders, resting points, and of course enemy encounters. The trio of heroes you decide to bring on an adventure will allow you some tools to make exploring a little easier (the Warrior will reveal tiles of interest within a small range), though it’s worth thinking about when you decide to use these abilities, as there are cooldown timers that only tick over as you move through unexplored portions of the map, so using the Priestesses group heal prematurely can really haunt you if you encounter a bruising battle straight after! These maps are also where one of the games stand out features begins to play out, the Sin Meter, which will increase as you undertake certain actions on the map, and are very thematically tied to the Sin Lord which rules over the part of the world you’ve set foot in. Gluttony will punish players for using food items, Sloth punishes use of the healing/resting fountains, Envy will punish any crafting done while on the map. These all provide a slightly different handicap to players, as if you haven’t prepared carefully for the Sin you are facing, the inhabitants of the map will get increasingly more powerful as your sin meter increases. Remember here though, that with greater risk comes greater reward, and while managing your Sin level to keep it low will offer a quicker and easier journey, if you can handle the greater punishment the game will reward you with greater payouts after battles! The remainder of your time will be spent within the sanctuary of the Church, a place full of NPCs you’ve encountered on your journeys, and where you have the ability to use traders, change up the trio of adventurers you’re using, progress through the main quests, as well as explore the deeper parts of the crafting system. Sin Slayers can feel a little light in the RPG progression department if you’re looking for a game that offers deep customisation and a crafting system worthy of needing a degree education, however, this isn’t a bad thing when you look at what the game is actually trying to achieve. Each of your heroes will be able to level up five times, increasing base stats (like health) in a fixed way, as well as having 5 levels of abilities to choose from as you get deeper into the game, and tweaking the active and passive abilities does give you a chance to have heroes fill certain needs within your squad. One of the surprises I liked was that unlocking ability choices doesn’t appear dependent on character level, as different craftable items (stones of knowledge) are used to get deeper into the ability tree, meaning you could unlock a new heroes skill tree immediately upon recruiting them if you desired it! Crafting can either be done mid-adventure with some items (food, potions, other 1 use items) while the deeper gear crafting will be available as you steadily progress the capabilities of the Smith in the church. One thing I learnt for too late was the it can be well worth keeping hold of older ‘useless’ gear as they become ingredients in the recipes for better gear; the Old Broken Axe is needed for a Battle Axe, and that in turn is required to craft the Inquisitors Axe which ends up being a solid weapon choice! Combat within Sin Slayers offers up no major surprises to any turn based strategy player, as your heroes line up against all manner of depraved and possessed enemies, before proceeding to take chunks out of each other in an initiative based order. The majority of fights aren’t particularly time consuming, but as the game implements a rock, paper, scissors system of resistances and weaknesses against differing types of damage (physical, holy, projectile amongst others) you can very quickly find yourself struggling against enemies which hold some advantages over you in this department. Given that there are 40 normal enemies, on top of the 7 mini bosses & 8 Sin Lords, the random encounter fights have enough variety to keep them engaging. Your 10 heroes themselves fit a variety of slightly different roles on the battlefield, bringing damage, abilities, and utility to your squad, and it’s well worth thinking about what synergies you can create on the battlefield! I’m currently running with the Inquisitor, Paladin & Warrior, all 3 are physical damage based, but with high armour (which unlike health, always replenishes for each battle) and the passive once a turn heal the Paladin offers give a hard hitting, durable trio with some self sustain. One last word of advice within battles, make sure you hover your mouse over the battlefield items, as the game will occasionally hide some free items within some inconspicuous looking crates/bottles/tables that would be easily dismissed as nothing but decoration. Final Thoughts: I’ve put a fair few hours into Sin Slayers since getting hold of a key, and while I’m now done with writing the review, the best compliment I can give the game is that I am not done playing this one just yet! There’s plenty of challenge to be found within the game if you decide to push your sin meter to the max, and even without handicapping yourself that way Sin Slayers is not a walk in the park once you progress past the first Sin Lord. The game offers another great option for people who are looking to relax for a couple of hours in a shorter gaming session, while still feeling like you’ve had some reward even if you’re adventure finished in failure overall! I want to thank Black Tower Entertainment for providing us with a key to take Sin Slayers for a spin, and if you’ve got any thoughts let me know below! HappyFeet #CraftFightSurvive
  7. CROGGS

    Afterfall - An RPG Maker Gem

    Game: Afterfall Developer: AllyJamy Release Date: October 15th 2019 Play the full game for free on itch.io! Genre: Action-Adventure RPG I've always loved story driven RPGs with unique game mechanics like Undertale, Oneshot and the to the moon series. When done well, games in this genre can concoct an immersive and exciting world, with fun challenges and puzzles along the way. RPG Maker games do have many games like this, but I usually find myself having to sift through piles of games that can be filled with boring grinding and generic surface level stories and characters. Because so many other people have the same experience, RPG Maker games usually get a bad wrap for being lazy and boring. As an RPG Maker game, it's hard to overcome this stereotype and get the attention of gamers, especially with the increasing amount of games competing for your attention online. It's because of this stereotype that I like to give RPG Maker games a fair shot, and i'm glad I gave this game a play, because it blew me away right from the start with how it sets itself apart from the average RPG Maker game. Although it's not perfect, it still does a pretty damn good job at immersing the player into the tumultuous and intriguing world of Afterfall. The 4 years of work that went into this game definitely show. The game begins with a little bit of exposition explaining how you ended up on this alien world and pictures showing off the game's unique artstyle. You, like myself, might think that the art style is a little off at first, looking amateurish and incomplete, but the artsyle grew on me, and I came to really like it as the game went on. It's very simplistic, but gets the point across. Faces which appear in dialogue boxes aren't proportional though and distract from the expression they were likely intended to have, even being comically off at times. The lack of depth and shading can also make some objects and structures in the game look unnatural, and take away from the atmosphere being attempted. Some of the bosses and sprites which suffer from this problem can also totally take away the intensity or seriousness of a situation. But these problems are relatively small, and become less and less prominent as the game goes on, with majority of the environments and moments in the game still retaining a good amount of the emotional and atmospheric weight they need to provide a fun experience. But even where the art falters sometimes, the music consistently pulled me back into the game, with ominous, intense, fun and atmospheric music in every part of the game. I have absolutely no complaints about the music; it does its job very well and never got old. The game has two main mechanics that it uses throughout the game: exploring, and fighting. Both mechanics work virtually identically to your average Legend of Zelda game. You gain abilities and items which allow you to access certain areas, and you can swing or shoot a weapon at enemies that appear in the overworld - no turn based battles here! One thing Afterfall does differently with its exploration from Zelda though, is with scavenging. Your character in the game is a scavenger, and this fact plays quite well into the gameplay, with most items being things I've scavenged from the diverse environments I explored throughout the game, with a few quests needing you to go scavenging for certain items. This is usually a pretty straight forward and rewarding mechanic, but when searching vehicles, you have to check every single tile to make sure you scavenged everything from it, and you have to wait a few seconds at each tile to check if there's anything there. On screens with several vehicles, this can become very tedious and lead me to skipping several potentially useful items out of boredom. Apart from that, the scavenging mechanics encourage exploration, which is rewarded with several secrets that reward you with currency or rare items, or interesting new character interactions, which have some of the most interesting and compelling dialogue and characters in the whole game. I also found the fighting mechanic really fun! It's easy to understand, with the game teaching you how to use it seamlessly. With an easily understandable hotbar and weapon specs, it's easy to start engaging in fights, but it's very hard yet rewarding to master, which becomes especially true during boss fights which test you with mechanics you've already fought against before. My only complaint is how small the hitboxes are for bosses with large sprites. As someone who used to use RPG Maker in the past, the problem is understandable, but still caused some frustration when I had to experiment with each boss to figure out exactly where to hit them. In general though, both game mechanics are well done and satisfying, with a clear sense of progression making it all the more rewarding. When I first began playing Afterfall, I was pretty overwhelmed by how big the world was, how many characters there were to keep track of, all the little quests to keep track of, and all the lore and information about the world I was given at the start. I couldn't keep track of everything in my head without writing a lot of stuff down, even though that much information was not needed to understand the basic gist of what was happening plot wise in the beginning. The beginning of the game lacks focus in this way, and it made the game quite confusing up until I completed the first dungeon and was the part I enjoyed the least, which is a shame because the rest of the game afterwards is a lot better, and does not have this problem, meaning that some players might quit without even experiencing the good parts. All the extra lore and intricacies of the world should be left towards the end or hidden in secret areas for people who already have a solid foundation of understanding of the world, since after revisiting the beginning of the game after completion, everything made a lot more sense. Simply put, at the beginning, there are too many names, places, groups and characters to remember right out of the gate. After the first dungeon though, the game has a focus on certain characters and groups, making it much easier to understand what is going on. The quirky, compelling and relatable characters in Afterfall is one of its biggest strengths, especially towards the latter half of the game. Every character has something to say or do, from the key players to characters you only ever interact with twice. Their dialogue can range from funny, to mysterious, to heart warming, and left me having to question the character's true intentions, only adding to how entertaining it is to talk to the characters. However, there is the rare typo, although, they aren't major typos, and can easily be skimmed over or ignored. The only thing lacking about the characters is in their designs. Some of the characters look almost the same, and are not very distinctive or representative of their personality, with only a few exceptions. But despite these draw backs, the game had me regularly looking forward to engaging in dialogue. With some of the game's narrative moments having me at the edge of my seat, waiting to see what would happen next. Now, I had a blast playing this game, and although it has several small problems already, the most notable problem I experienced in almost every screen of the game were bugs. By far the most common bug in the game is collision problems with the tiles. I can't even count how many times I walked through a wall or window tile. This is still a pretty small issue, just like everything else I've mentioned since nothing I've found breaks the game, with the most major issues regarding this being boss battles where the main character and the boss go right through what were probably supposed to be obstacles like there's nothing there. But, despite Afterfall's drawbacks, for a free game made mostly by one person, it still shines through its unique world and characters which will only grow more and more enjoyable as the game goes on. I would definitely say that it's worth a play. Tell me what you think about this unique and interesting RPG in the comments below! Thanks for reading!
  8. Key Info: Developer/Publisher: Gabe Cuzzillo/Devolver Digital Genre: Top-Down, Action, Smash'em Up Price: £10.99 PC (Steam, GoG, Humble, Itchio), SWITCH DEMO AVAILABLE Official Website Ever have those moments of pure anger where you run away into your mind, turn into a huge ape and brutally pulverise everyone in the building into a pulp during a mad run to the exit? No?... Well if you did, it would look like this. - Pros Intense Bold Beautiful Art I could just watch for hours. Punch in the face Jazz Orchestra that is procedurally generated by how Apeshit (sorry) crazy it is getting. Simple Controls. Move. Grab. Punch. That's it. Satisfyingly Hard. It has that 'Just one more try' worm that burrows in your head, telling you, you can do it. Shakes it up every level. Enemies change, surprises come into play, your strategy must evolve as you progress. Angry Violent Ape (good stress reliever). - Cons Too Short (only took me 2 hours to complete). Ape in Cage. Ape Mad, Ape break out and go on a violence-induced sprint to exit This isn't really a narrative game and that's ok. It's not meant to be and I wouldn't expect it to. However, between the bloody corridors and guards running on fire, there is a very loose visual narrative. You start in a lab, you've been experimented on and later in the next few stages, there is a progression of sorts with each of the 4 stages occupying a different environment. All these stages (presented as Vinyl Albums, so cool) work as 4 different vignettes or slices of a great Angry Ape who just wants freedom... at any cost. You would think it is just a smash, grab, have a nice day kind of game But let me tell you about my first play-through. I was immediately engrossed in the carnage and the completionist in my head said to get revenge on every single one of these men for imprisoning me, hunt them down, rip them apart and be rewarded by the satisfying cymbal crash... But no, as I picked up a dismembered arm to fling at another incoming enemy, a spray of bullets from a shotgun burst towards me, and then it hit me. I'm meant to escape. In the beginning, I thought the game frustrating, but when I started actively trying to escape, it became the mad rush it was meant to be. New levels brought more surprises, in one level lingering close to a window meant getting shot by snipers, soon I encountered explosive experts, flamethrowers, mortars falling from the sky, the variation kept coming and made everything fresh, constantly pushing me to re-evaluate my strategy. "In most games, procedural generation is there to add replayability and add very divergent outcomes. In this game, it's about forcing you to improvise. - Gabe Cuzzillo You can't rely on knowing the layout of the building or position of the guards, you have to take each moment as it comes. For those that know me, I normally get turned off a game at the mention of procedural generation, there's no authorship to the design and structure, but in the case of Ape Out, it is for a reason and a reason that works for me. You've got to admit, the music is pretty fantastic So it's no wonder that during production, it became a linchpin and focus that Gabe Cuzzillo latched onto. "You've Got to Have Freedom" by saxophonist Pharoah Sanders, THAT is the linchpin that drove it home. "It really spoke to me on a deep level" - Gabe Cuzzillo But we're here to talk about the music in Ape Out, an algorithmic masterpiece of a score by Matt Boch. Double time drums set the pace and the rhythm of your heartbeat, growing louder and more intense as violence escalates. Loud cymbals crash into the track with every man you smash, ratatat of guns and explosions and the wet squishing sound of carpet drenched in blood. This is a symphony of carnage and the urgency to escape, blended into a head-bobbing jazz track that you control. Does it all fit and work? It most certainly does and it gives you the satisfaction that it was your rampage that created this soundtrack. On top of this amazing soundtrack, we've got the sharp colours and shapes that pull you in and compliment the harshness of the saxophone. The inspiration for the art style sits heavily with Saul Bass, who is famous for strong colour, simplicity in shapes and lack of tonality that creates a striking image. This was brilliantly re-created by Bennet Foddy. The tall parallel walls give that vertigo feel and tightness, making you feel like a rat, trapped in a maze as you scurry around looking for the exit and avoiding the dangers. This little detail took me a while to notice, but when I did I loved it. There is no health bar telling you how weak you are, but instead the more damage you take, the bigger the pool of blood that trails behind you. This is the kind of game design I love. When the visuals and music don't just look and sound good but work to make the game better. As mentioned in the Pros and Cons, this is not a very long game and depending on your level of skill, you could complete this game in a very short time. Thankfully there is an arcade mode that scores you for how far you can get without dying and a harder difficulty mode too. For me, those modes don't interest me. For others, it will add maybe an extra hour or two to your fun. Final Thoughts Ape Out is a hugely enjoyable game, it lived up to what I wanted and it gave me plenty of pleasant surprises that kept the repetitive gameplay fresh and interesting. The music is amazing (I'll be buying the soundtrack right after this) and the visuals were pure art for my eyes to drink up. My only con is that the game was too short, but in actual fact, its a double-sided coin for me. Yes, it did not take long to finish the game, but at the same time, if it had lasted any longer, it would have risked becoming stale. The game was exactly as long as it should be, despite the brevity. Still, I can't help but want more. More Albums and more music to smash people to the rhythm of. Highly recommend the game to anyone with anger problems, a love for jazz, or just wants a short game to enjoy. Or anyone really... I mean who doesn't like Apes, Jazz, and Violence?
  9. I. BASIC INFORMATION :: Game Title Reanimation Scheme :: Genre Visual Novel Otome (GxB, GxG) :: Developer Wind Chimes Games Tumblr | Twitter | Facebook | Discord :: Platform PC (Windows/ Mac/ Linux) :: Availability Itch.io Free Demo :: Release Q4 2020 :: Rating Teen mild swearing, death, alcohol, blood, and violence :: Trailer II. DEMO REVIEW In this fantasy otome Visual Novel (VN), you play as Raenelle Talisko (first name changeable), a necromancer in the Kingdom of Nalenshir where magic is an integral part of the country. Raenelle’s job as a Reanimator requires her to reanimate corpses of the recently deceased in order to help them fulfill their final wishes. She is not very enthusiastic about her job and looks forward to getting a promotion to a different job. However, any plans for her career progression is soon disrupted when a regular spirit summoning ritual held one morning went awry. And that marks the start of a curious journey where Raenelle has to join the other mages in discovering the cause behind all death mages’ sudden inability to summon any spirit. :: Visual Aspect TLDR; Overall Impression: GOOD Unless you are particularly averse to anime-style art, you would not be disappointed with the quality presented in the VN. Although there may be some minor things that can be further improved, the visuals are consistently shown to have been handled with the utmost care and thought. Starting from the User Interface (UI) design, Reanimation Scheme already sets out to give us a visual treat. Apart from looking clean and neat, the UI is also highly customized to fit the story setting itself. The “Load”, “Settings”, “Extras” (which holds the “Gallery”, “Music”, and even “Achievements”), and “Help” menu screens are designed as a little ornate spellbook with a little surprise: the eyes of the skull would light up as you hover over other menu options. It is also wonderful that the infinite save slots feature from Ren’Py has been retained. My only complaints with the menus is with the small font size used and the lack of an obvious “Return” button – it took me a while to realize that I could click anywhere outside of the book to return to the game. Thankfully, the font size is larger in the actual dialogue boxes so there is no need for me to squint, though I think it can still afford to be bigger for a more comfortable read. Still, because the protagonist’s side sprite is always visible and most of the screen elements are always visually the same, I sometimes find it difficult to immediately register who is talking. The partial voice acting does help in recognizing the current speaker but alas, because it is only partial, there are still dialogue lines with no voice at all. In contrast, the “History” log, even at a glance, is much easier for discerning speakers with the different character’s names clearly marked with their own colors. I also love the customized Choice screen, where there is a friendly prompt provided at the top and Raenelle stands in the middle surrounded by choices contained in thought bubbles. As someone who sometimes forgets what the last dialogue before the choices was about, I find the concise prompt a real savior. Nevertheless, I wish the hover over effect for the current choice selection could be more visually distinctive. Moving on to character and background (BG) art, I must say I am impressed with their quality. The main characters’ sprites are given plenty of posture, facial expression, and clothing variations. Character sprites are used meticulously and purposefully along with the story; for instance, if you catch someone blatantly looking away during your chat with someone else, then they are indeed not paying attention to the two of you. Characters not only blink but they also appear bigger when they come closer to you. They also take hesitant steps at times and then dash out, albeit rather too quickly, of the room at other times. They can even juggle items across their open palms! The combined use of sprites and animation is amusingly creative and very much on point with the story events. In the demo, minor side characters are represented with black silhouettes. While I do look forward to seeing fully detailed sprites for them as well, the silhouette stand-ins are still a welcomed addition as opposed to having no visual representation at all. I personally would rather speak to a faceless silhouette than to thin air, after all. Plenty of small visual additions have been put in place to spice up the entire storytelling. From swirling mists to illustrations of smaller objects like potion bottles and magic runes, every visual implementation is a testament to the great amount of work put in to give readers a more enjoyable reading experience. If I really have to nitpick, I would say I would like to see the magic runes shine a little more. Alas, the visual part of the novel will not be complete without the detailed BG art, which includes day and night variants to suit the time of the day in the story. Other than the text overlays for shop signages that do not quite blend in with the illustration, the BG art gives a beautiful representation for the various locations present in the Kingdom of Nalenshir. :: Audio Aspect TLDR; Overall Impression: OKAY Music is considerably the best part of the demo’s audio aspect, though sound effects and partial voice acting have also played their part in bringing the story to life. The demo features six background music (BGM) and one instrumental theme track, all of which are composed by Alcaknight. I find all of them pleasant to listen to – none of them is strikingly memorable but none is awful either – and they fit the various moods of the story well. My current favorite is Raenelle’s Theme; I could stay on the Title screen for some time just to hear the instrumental theme on repeat! As with other VNs, sound effects (SFX) have been added to enhance the storytelling. They are all basic SFX, such as a simple door close and sound for spells, but they do add appropriate flavor to the story. I appreciate the chatter BG noise used to indicate a noisy environment, though I find the looping clip used for the busy teleportation square too short, which results in me having to listen to the chickens cackle constantly for that scene (or at least, I think they were chickens). I am not a fan of partial voice acting but I find it still okay in the demo, mainly because I noticed there are some variations in the same recorded phrase used for some of the characters, such as Raenelle’s friendly “Sebastien” and angry “Sebastien!” as well as Lord Waven’s neutral “Hmm” and questioning “Hmm?”. However, these variations are not numerous and I sometimes find myself hearing a voice clip that does not quite fit the tone of the text (cue Lord Waven’s forever angry “Hmph!”). :: Characters TLDR; Overall Impression: GOOD All characters have distinct individuality and their own personal issues to deal with. Because they have their own strengths and weaknesses, there is healthy room for character development yet. Even though the characters are somewhat molded after common stereotypes, they can still be told apart by their unique personalities. The characters certainly have a mind of their own and they each have their own problems to face. Raenelle, the protagonist, is someone with strong opinions and is not shy to stand up for herself against any unreasonable nonsense that others threw at her. On the whole, I find Raenelle a woman with decent sense, even though I do not quite agree with her frequent whines about her job. Her complaints show that she is only human but I hope Raenelle will actually do something about her job along the way. As for romance, given her personality and background, I am generally expecting a less wishy-washy and more mature approach to relationship from Raenelle. For now, there are two male and one female love interests (LIs). First, we have Raenelle’s friend, Aldrias Varet, an intelligent, good-natured, and soft-spoken person who likes to spend his free time pouring over books. Then, we have Kierdan Waven, a skilled ice mage, who is a serious man of few words but wields a commanding air around him. Finally, there is Lyrissa Yirath, a bubbly life mage who is a sweetheart determined to pave her own path in life. My initial bias is Kierdan as he falls into the same general category as my other favorite otome LIs. But his “you are not allowed to pry into my business but I can pry into yours” attitude is rather off-putting. I find myself having the tendency to make Raenelle react more forcefully when it comes to interacting with Lord Waven. After all, it is really satisfying to see Raenelle giving Lord Waven a piece of her mind. My only worry is that those choices would inevitably land me on a Bad End. Through the demo, I have taken a liking to Lyrissa. Aldrias, on the other hand, despite looking dashing in his formal wear, did not quite leave a special impression on me. As for the other two potential LIs that would be added if the Kickstarter stretch goals are reached, I can only say Jori Halwin really left a deep impression. Jori’s apparently irresponsible attitude irks me a lot and I am at a loss of words for his brand of humor. Sebastien, though having a sharp tongue, is notably less annoying than Jori is. That said, I do not find these characters bad; in fact, I think they are well-crafted if they can evoke emotions in us as much as real people do. :: Writing TLDR; Overall Impression: OKAY In general, the writing is well edited although there are times when overly packed sentences impede the reading flow. World-building is consistent but perhaps further explanations about the world can be supplied. In spite of the occasional presence of confusingly long sentences that require a re-read (or two), the writing is generally polished. There may still be minor typos to smooth out and awkward phrasings to improve here and there, but there is nothing too damaging to the reading experience. As far as the premise goes, I find it decent. I do not recall having came across a protagonist who is a necromancer before. However, it is still too early to say whether this would set the story apart from the others. When it comes to presenting Nalenshir, the three chapters in the demo show quite clearly – with the prevalence of communication mirrors, potions, and teleportation circles – how magic is fundamental in the Kingdom. The main thing I found unclear is whether everyone in Nalenshir has inherent magical abilities or there are folks who cannot wield any magic at all. Overall, I find the world-building pretty consistent; there are certainly parts that I find vague but nothing seems to stand out as contradictory. While the schools of magic present in the story are quite common, I think it would be nice to include an in-game list of key definitions for major things relevant to Reanimation Scheme’s world. Still, I look forward to seeing how the mystery of the failed spirit summoning rituals would be handled in the final full version. How deep is the mystery going to be? Will there be surprising twists awaiting us? Last but not least, how will each character’s route be contributing to unraveling the mystery meaningfully? :: Closing Remarks Despite containing only three chapters, Reanimation Scheme demo really shines with its fantastic visuals, lovely music, promising story premise, and lively characters. Even though the LIs fall into common stereotypes and may thus make the romance routes somewhat predictable, I still think Reanimation Scheme has the potential to tell a memorable tale of its own. Reanimation Scheme is currently on Kickstarter with around one week left to go! It is currently fully funded but there are still exciting Stretch Goals waiting to be reached. Be sure to check it out and help spread the word if you wish to support this otome VN project.
  10. Key Info: Developer/Publisher: Robotality/Chucklefish Ltd Genre: RPG, Rogue-Lite, Turn Based Strategy Price: £12.99 (Steam) Overview: Pathway will instantly remind you of certain cult-status franchises (yeah, I’m looking at you Indiana Jones), both through its aesthetics and the story events that you stumble upon while you’re playing, and given some of the events I found while playing, I’m certain there is more than the odd dedicated homage to old Indie. Pathway is a mix of genres, having the fast playability but 'one attempt' gameplay of a rogue-lite, the progression and equipment management of a friendly RPG, and an easy to grasp turn based combat that all combines to create a game that is pretty much perfect if you’re looking to kill a couple of hours while also getting a sense of achievement from your time. Review: Within the game there are currently five ‘adventures’ to play through, providing the overriding narrative to the actions that you take on the world map, and giving the player an end goal to work towards, and these adventures are played out over an expansive ‘world map’ where the pathway to victory is left for the player to decide. Given that there are around 30 individual locations on the first map of the first adventure, which acts as a sort of introduction to the game, and on the second adventure their are multiple maps, each with in excess of 30 individual locations each offering different tactical battles, narrative text book choices or events, and a range of traders, there is plenty of scope here to play through the same adventure more than once and experience a different journey to the final destination. Before each adventure you’ll be asked to build your team from a roster of companions, each filling slightly different roles on a battlefield or unlocking different options through the storybook events, so you do need to choose wisely up front as this team will need to take you through the whole adventure, barring some occasions that the story results in a fourth member offering to squad up with you. There’s a solid roster of 16 playable characters, each of which differ in their role and abilities from each other, which when combined into a trio to take on the bad guys offers a different tactical way to approach the adventures, personally I'm taking a mixture of short and medium range weapons (think shotguns and assault rifles) while also making sure I've got a few bandages and grenades for when need arises. A great deal of these companions are only unlocked after completing certain parts of the game, or meeting other pre-requisites, such as looting a particular item (for example the Disintegrator unlocks Bellamy), and so there's a steady introduction to more varied members and options, but it also ensures that you aren't overwhelmed upfront through choice, as the gradual introduction allows a chance to recognise where certain skills and abilities come in useful. Speaking of skills and abilities, the skill trees for each adventurer aren’t the most in depth that have even been seen in a RPG, but they do give enough choice to tweak each of them to the playstyle and role you’d like to focus on in the tactical battles, and you will want to specialise your adventurers as they level up, because without competent armour repairs, healers or damage dealers you can very quickly find yourself in a tough spot after battling through a few encounters! As you would expect progression is permanent, so the levels and perks (and inventory) gained through one adventure will carry on through to the next, and while you’ll need to spread the love, giving different characters some game time, to get the whole roster levelled up, it’s a solid form of permanency that shows some long term reward for players. Combat is pretty straightforward but also very quick in the main, feeling like short quick skirmishes rather than protracted or overly complicated affairs, especially as some of the 'random' encounters can be over and done with in the space of a few short minutes. The basics will instantly be picked up by any Turn Based Strategy player; try and stick to cover, get your lines of sight to increase the chances of hitting an enemy, flank where possible, use abilities in conjunction for greater effect and bring enemies down with a focussed effort rather than spreading fire amongst a wider number of foes, as it really helps getting the amount of incoming damage reduced as quickly as possible! There are some times when combat can feel a little repetitive, especially where you end up triggering the ‘random’ event skirmishes, because these can often feel like a slightly different version of the battle you had only a few minutes before, however, given that the battles only last a matter of minutes I don’t have any major gripes, and the attrition they place upon your band of adventurers makes choosing the right time to heal and repair feel like a strategic choice. The bigger battles though, those that act as story progression and main events, they do offer a real challenge on some well designed maps. You'll come across ever increasing bad odds, where there are more enemies to face, usually of more varying specialities, higher levels, and they hit far harder and take more of a beating to get down than in the random encounters. The main map will highlight these with markers above the location before you reach them, and I'd suggest making sure you don't turn up with your armour half destroyed and bullet holes riddled throughout your adventurers body! I haven’t mentioned the replayability of the game yet, but it’s clear that the options are available for multiple playthroughs of varying challenge, as you can tweak adventures to have more enemies during the battles, you can begin with reduced supplies for healing and repairing, and less fuel that's needed to move through the map, as well as a generic ‘difficulty’ slider to just crank the toughness of enemies up even without increasing the number of them. I found that on the standard settings it’s easily doable to complete a pathway through one of the maps in under two hours, acting as a nice time to hang up the keyboard and mouse for the evening, but if you're in for a longer playthrough you can start cranking up the difficulty. Summary: I had great fun tumbling through an open desert, watching Nazi’s get disintegrated when they opened up ancient sarcophagi (there’s old Indiana Jones again!), and for a tactical game actually found the experience more relaxing and entertaining than some of those that really emphasise the nuances and depth that can be found within the genre. Overall, Pathway is an entertaining game, perfectly suited for starting, and finishing, something in one sitting, but where you can return at any point and not have to truly start over again because of the progression mechanics, so grab your Stetson & whip and jump in! HappyFeet
  11. Key Info: Developer: Raymond Doerr (SixtyGig Games) Genre: God-Like, City Management, Tower Defense Price: £11.39 (Steam Link) Overview: Rise to Ruins is a brilliant mix of the city building & tower defense genres, with a hint of god-like features, where you aim to establish well rounded towns in a world blighted by the ‘corruption’, essentially all manner of walking dead and monsters aiming to take control of the map that you also want to keep for yourself. Worked upon by Raymond Doerr since it’s initial early access release in 2014 Rise to Ruins finally received its 1.0 update and full release on the 14th October. In Depth: The game offers it’s players the opportunity to choose from 45 Locations on the World Map to begin setting up their initial base, all of which have different layouts and their own challenges for players to overcome, whether it’s a lack of certain resources or terrain that offer no obvious ‘nice’ places to start from, where you could reasonably grab a stretch of land that is easily defensible. Though the World Map also serves to function as a longer term campaign for players to work their way through, as once you’ve got an initial base established and producing resources you can look at having your villagers emigrate to begin populating another village on a different map, in fact as the corruption begins to push too hard in one map the aim appears to be to pick up sticks and move on to somewhere a little less tainted to carry on. More locally the aim on any specific map is to carve out a stretch of untainted land to establish your village in safely, or if you’re feeling particularly adventurous you can aim to begin pushing the corruption back, although completely cleansing a map doesn't seem to be a game design, and this is where one of the biggest balancing acts comes into your decision making. The corruption will continue to spread across a map if left unchecked, and as it continues to spread the land available to you lessens, while also increasing the number of enemies that will crash upon your defenses night after night in an attempt to destroy your village, however, if the corruption isn’t able to expand as it wants to the waves of enemies that besiege your village will increase in difficulty, and so you are left with the tough ask of finding that sweet spot in between that doesn’t allow the corruption and its minions to overwhelm your defenses. City building and management is deep and meaningful, with actual choices to be made as you are limited in how quickly you can expand through a building support limit, as well as through the actual villagers available to you to fill these workers slots. Building also serves a secondary purpose, and that is expanding the area in which you’re able to build in, initially you’ll be given an ‘area of control’ around the camp that you place and all other buildings must be built within that area, but each additional building will extend the area of control around them allowing your controllable space to increase, with some buildings designed purely to give you more room to play with. This is where the perfectionist within me clashed with what I knew was the right thing to do, every other city builder I’ve ever played I’ve aimed for the ‘pretty’ town, the well thought out layouts, the aesthetically pleasing, but in Rise to Ruin you need to put that to one side and focus on extending your area of control. If you aren’t ambitious early on in grabbing land, you’re going to find it very hard to build everything you want, and just as hard to expand beyond your walls due to the time and resources needed to make an area safe – be bold, be ambitious, maximise the area of control! This brings us to the Tower Defense side of things, every night (and occasionally during the day) monsters are going to come for you, in a slow trickle to begin with before increasing night after night until hordes of enemies are descending upon your village! The AI is designed so that the monsters follow the shortest accessible path to your village, think Rimworld, and so you’re going to want to wall off three sides of your village and begin creating the ultimate path of doom. Defense is provided in multiple ways; constructed towers, golems, your own villagers and finally some god powers that you have available to you, but the nightly attacks can easily catch you out if you’re not prepared for it, and after the first night or two, you really cannot get by relying on purely the powers available to you (think fireballs, magic missiles etc). The difficulty ramps up pretty quickly, and more than once I’ve been sat there on night 3 or 4 and known that it’s game over already because I hadn’t planned properly and gotten the towers and supporting buildings needed for ammo built in time. Overall it’s a game I’ve been more than happy to follow through Early Access to its full release, and it offers a really solid challenge in it’s gameplay while also looking lovely as well! I can easily recommend the game to anyone who enjoys these genre’s, and if you’ve already played it let me know your own thoughts below! HappyFeet
  12. Developer: Steel Mantis Platforms: Nintendo Switch (reviewed), Steam, Xbox, PS4 Price: $24.99 Genre: 2D, Action, Platformer Metal. Gore. Destruction. Insanity. After playing several hours of Valfaris, you'll understand more about these words than you ever have in your lifetime. From the team that brought you Slain: Back from Hell, Valfaris sets to deliver a new type of experience, with similar mechanics and gameplay. It has all the attributes of a heavy metal concert and 90's sci-fi movies all mixed into one. Grab your pick of destiny and get ready to ROCK! Whether you've played Slain: Back from Hell or not, Valfaris is a great game to get your feet soaked in blood. You play as Therion, son of Vroll, and he is on a mission to reclaim Valfaris for his own. Vroll has taken control of Valfaris and tainted it with evil spread across every inch of the grandiose citadel. A bit full of himself and riddled with puns, Therion seeks to strip his father of his powers and will rip through anything to find him. After a short introduction scene opening the game, you finally get thrown into a 2D post-apocalyptic world with a hint of cyberpunk like colors. I was pleasantly surprised by the tight mechanics of the game but wasn't completely satisfied with the button layout. Lucky for me, I was able to swap out certain functions with others—happy with the new button layout, I was on my way. Right out of the gate, you are overwhelmed by hordes of bloodthirsty foes. Equipped with trusty weaponry, Therion is ready for anything the darkness has to throw at him. There are three types of weapon classes: Sidearm, Melee, and Heavy weapons. Sidearms are quick and easy to use without having to consume combat energy. Melee is close range, risky, but useful in gaining additional combat energy from enemies. Finally, Heavy weapons are meant to output massive damage but consume the most combat energy. As far as defensive actions are concerned, you also wield a shield that acts as a form of parrying if timed just right. Another neat feature with this shield is that you can hold projectiles and redirect them at your foes! Over time you'll collect new weapons that add a new way to play, and I found it's a good thing to swap these out from time to time based on sections where enemies would prove to be more difficult than others. Weapons add some sort of strategic value to the game, and you'll want to balance what weapons work best for your play style, but also weapons that are the most effective. Valfaris has a system of making upgrades to your weapons. Be on the lookout for piles of skulls that may contain an upgrade material known as 'Blood Metal.' Certain enemies may drop this material as well, and eventually, enough upgrades will warrant a new material you'll need to collect to make this final upgrade. Resurrection Idols are placed throughout the game and play a vital role in how checkpoints function. If you've got a big set of balls on you, hold onto those resurrection idols and increase your health bar and combat energy. However, if you're like me, I prefer to use them at each checkpoint, so I can avoid having to backtrack as often. You do eventually collect enough to build up your health bar and combat energy slightly. There comes a point when you reach, what I like to call, a 'vending machine.' This vending machine gives you blood metal, in return for resurrection idols—choose wisely if you're low on idols but desire to upgrade a weapon. One of the biggest challenges of the game is the fact that you encounter so many varying enemies and bosses with unique traits. Keep your eyes peeled for traps and other inanimate objects that seem to crush, suffocate, and impale you, too. You'll get familiar with dying, so prepare for the worst—I say this because everything WILL kill you. Fortunately, you won't encounter a "You died" or "Slain" phrase each time you kick the bucket. The best way to stay alive is to be vigilant and hope enemies drop additional health or a blue skull to replenish your combat energy. If not used, the hearts and blue skulls will disappear after a short time, so make use of these promptly. Anyone a fan of mechs? That's right, you reach a point when manpower is only so much and you'll need aid from a big, beefy bit of machinery. Causing complete chaos, you feel like nothing can stand in your way. Similar to how you play with Therion, there are three types of attacks and a booster jump that will crush enemies below. It's a little clunky, but ultimately I think it's a solid addition to keep things fresh within the game. Everything from gameplay to enemy and level design meshed very well, though, my only real gripe of the game is how you aim. There were times when I would attempt to shoot down, and Therion would only crouch. Movement is key to staying alive, and despite being able to freeze your character to aim, I thought crouching was a bit redundant. I fully understand why it's there it just didn't work all that well for me. One more thing to plug here is Steel Mantis has been hard at work to bring you a New Game + mode called "Full Metal Mode" that will challenge the player even more than Valfaris already does! The update will feature: All weapons, upgrades, and upgrade items will be carried over Enemies and bosses will be more aggressive The player will take more damage Players will have access to one additional Destroyer class weapon At the time of writing this, there is no set date on when the update will be released and it will be free across all platforms. Finally putting this review to rest, Valfaris has an enticing story and wicked cool visuals that will keep your lust for blood quenched. I found the soundtrack and SFX to be quite gritty, grungy, METAL and I loved every second of it! The game is brutal but it's doable—challenging in just the right way. Valfaris is an indie title you should be eager to drop some cash on. Grow that hair out and get ready to ROCK! Game code was generously provided by Big Sugar for review purposes only on the Nintendo Switch. We appreciate your willingness to spare us a code!
  13. Developer: Owlcat Games Genre: RPG, City Management Price: £34.99 Humble (regularly on sale up to 50% off) Jimmy knelt as the arrow sped mere inches above his head trailing faint blue light in its wake, his back was tucked against the rough rock outcropping that obstructed the middle of this tunnel, there wasn’t long left before their foe descended upon them and he would need all of his focus lest he pay dearly for what was to be attempted. Harrim stood to his left, stout and well armored, Warhammer poised to strike in one hand, shield presented in the other and though he barely stood 5ft tall the Dwarf was as immovable as he was stubborn. Valerie flanked Jimmy on the right side, she was an imposing figure that towered over Harrim, eyes piercing the darkness ahead as they searched for movement to accompany the faint scuttling ahead. Another arrow flew through the air, the trail of blue light stronger this time, beginning to illuminate the passage ahead. Octavia stood proud, almost regal in the way that she carried herself, and though she would never be intimidating physically there was an aura about her, unseen but most definitely there, and that was a dangerous thing indeed. The scuttling had grown louder, closer, and although he was now focusing on Octavia, the unseen aura drawing his attention, he could tell it was almost time and began to unsheathe his twin Rapiers. Holding them loosely, tips to the floor, Jimmy gently began to loosen his limbs to avoid his body failing him when he needed it most. A faint hum began to build up in the darkness, it’s melody almost familiar yet not quite feeling right, as Linzi stepped up from behind Octavia to play her part in all of this. Bright eyed and bushy tailed, Linzi was by far the shortest and smallest of their group, even Harrim would look down upon her when stood in conversation together, yet Linzi brought more to the table than martial prowess or sheer raw strength, and as she continued to hum her tune, the sound grew in power until every note washed over the group, a sense of clarity and confidence steadying the nerves. The scuttling had grown into a deafening crescendo, as their foe burst from the darkness of the passage, giant bulbous bodies carried forward, eyes glistening, fangs bared, the cluster of giant arachnids closing in. Harrim & Valerie braced themselves, the rock between acting to help funnel their foe, Octavia was quite literally glowing by this point, and as the first Arachnid began to lunge darts of pure electrical energy arced from her hands to strike home. This was the moment, battle was joined and now was Jimmy’s time, one weapon in hand, the other held in his teeth, Jimmy stood turned and vaulted over the rock in one swift motion, flanking the first of the Arachnids to fall upon his companions. His rapiers flickered out, striking weak spots with a deathly precision before coming back up in a guarded stance as the next foe came at him, Harrim & Valerie both charged from their positions shield first and the bloody work began. Pathfinder Kingmaker is an ambitious adaptation of the Pathfinder RPG that many people around the world will know and love, though if you haven’t heard of either then just imagine Dungeons & Dragons, as the rule set was based on a revised (older) edition of that legendary game. Looking at the PC game itself, you can see that it really aims to capture a true reflection of the table top game, and the actual campaign setting it gains its name from, while drawing a lot of inspiration in style from the like of Baldur’s Gate, and as such offers a huge variety in play style and replayability, even if that does create a huge learning curve for anyone who hasn’t dabbled in the RPG previously. The core of the game revolves around exploration, dungeoneering and no small amount of deadly combat, during which you take your bright eyed and bushy tailed character on a perilous journey through the Stolen Lands, and the wider River Kingdoms south of Brevoy. True to any RPG you level up along the way, picking up new abilities and specializations, tailoring your character to the play style you enjoy, though leveling up in Pathfinder isn’t a quick thing, and by the time you reach the first major boss (The Stag Lord) your party will only sit at level 3 or 4. The devs have very kindly put together some archetype characters, and the ability to have them progress along pre-defined paths, if you don’t want to invest too much time into figuring out how different choices truly affect the play style of your characters, and when you can have 6 characters in your party, as well as numerous others sitting on the sideline, this might be an option you want to take on the first play through if you aren’t coming from a Pathfinder/D&D playing background. Pathfinder doesn’t solely rely on combat and exploration to take up your time though, as the game includes a lot of “story” based encounters, where the choices you make, push the story further towards an outcome. These are full of flavour and provide an interesting narrative way of playing out an encounter, and I still remember clearly the first one that I got ‘wrong’, hacking down an ancient tree and bestowing a curse upon my party! Having played through the opening portion of the game a few times, trying different things along the way, there are real choices to make in these interactions, with end results differing depending on how you play things out! Somewhat unexpectedly to a Pathfinder virgin, the game also develops over time to include a City/State management system, which is a real plus in my eyes, as you take hold of the Stolen Lands and given the ability to grow and rule it as you see fit. This is only the beginning of the game, everything that came before is nothing but a prelude, and introduction, and you are suddenly faced with keeping a population happy, managing the external diplomacy, and reacting to all of the problems and opportunities that your Barony will experience. In my eyes though, dungeons are where things really stand out; multiple levels, NPC’s to interact with, puzzles to solve and a multitude of differing enemies to test your party of adventurers with. This is the meat on the bone, the cherry on top of the cake. There is a real need to prepare your party carefully for these, bring enough rations, potions, scrolls and begin a journey into hostile territory, my only real advice here would be to save (F5 by default) and save often as having your party wiped will send you hurtling back and seeing progress wiped out. The game does have some pitfalls, the tutorials are helpful for explaining game mechanics, but if you aren’t a tabletop player, the game will likely overwhelm you to begin with, as there are so many stats, skills and abilities that trying to figure out how things affect each other is a trial and error game, so I would strongly suggest having Google to hand! There are also several encounters within the game that just feel impossible if you encounter them too early, at which point you’re again left with loading up from your last save. Overall though, Pathfinder is an extremely deep and entertaining game if you can stick with it long enough to understand what’s going on, because once you’ve got that knowledge the whole scope and replayability of the game truly becomes apparent to you. There are 15 distinct classes to create your characters from, each of which contain sub-classes that work slightly differently, and as you level up you can dabble in more than one class at a time (imagine sneaky Rogues with some Wizarding powers) and that gives you so many possibilities to test! I'm currently addicted to Pathfinder, so if you’ve given the game a whirl, let me know what classes have you tried! HappyFeet #CraftFightSurvive
  14. Game: Swords and Souls: Neverseen Publisher: Armor Games Studio Price: $14.99/£11.39 Release Date: 22nd July 2019 Genre: Adventure, Turn-Based RPG Multiple warnings were provided to me about the addictive nature of this game, but it wasn't until I found myself at 4 in the morning, birds chirping, and my alarm to get up for work just a few hours away... that I realised maybe I have a problem here. The story is a simple one that brings familiar tones and notes that are common with every fantasy story. You play a voiceless hero who has stumbled onto the island of Neverseen, only to be immediately approached with trouble and tales of a powerful witch in a tower. There is a mighty quest for magical items and weapons to defeat this witch and meat fodder sidekicks along for the adventure. What makes the narrative stand out particularly in this game is the characters and tongue in cheek humour. The sarcastic Sir Pupset who reluctantly trains you and Hop the Innkeeper with his monstrous pet Pupsy. It all may seem rather a cliche and that is part of the charm as it works more akin to a parody then a sweeping epic... plus the twist at the end will surely make you double-take and think back to clues that were placed along the journey. There is a 'kookiness' that I love and even when I was nearing the end of the game and was met with a few surprises, it kept that light-heartedness while still delivering a worthy antagonist and plot. At first glance, the gameplay may seem rather simple, but with every victorious battle I emerged from, a new mechanic was introduced, a new fun toy to play with. Whether it was mercenaries, taming wild beasts to raise as your own or simply investing into the town -maybe building yourself a new little house- there was always a sense of achievement. Furthermore, every time I played around with the new mechanics, I discovered that it isn't just aesthetic, it has a purpose. My investment has made me filthy rich, my house gives me XP bonuses, and fixing up the training camp helps you level up the ranks quicker to reach that coveted Soulmaster tier. This is a meaty game, for even after completing the story there are still more hidden secrets to uncover, fish and monsters to catch and pets to train up to be powerful allies. All this and I haven't yet mentioned the Endless Mode that you unlock once the main story is over and done with. Truly you will be occupied for a while, making this a good hearty purchase. There is always something to do in this game. I am never bored and every time I load up the game it sucks me deeper into a black hole filled with fun, and the thirst to train till I am the strongest hero of the land. This game really should come with warning labels.
  15. A few weeks ago, Blizzard released the long-awaited World of Warcraft: Classic - a throwback to the early days of WoW, warts and all. Until that point, I had never played World of Warcraft. Roughly 2 weeks in, my Orc Hunter, Orcthisway, is sitting at level 31 and I am thoroughly addicted. So, what took me so long? I'd never been a fan of subscription-based MMOs. I hated the idea of paying to keep playing a game. However, after a lot of persuasion from friends, I gave it a shot. I paid for a month's subscription to try Classic out. I've not touched the modern version, referred to as "retail" WoW, but will likely do so in the not-too-distant future. The following will be a series of rambling thoughts on Classic and it's design. I had a little bit of help from a friend in grasping the basics, navigating the UI, and so on. "Intuitive" is not a word I'd use to describe Classic. It's of an era where RPGs required the player to read quest information and figure things out for themselves, rather than the modern standard of "follow the quest marker". Now, there's nothing wrong with quest markers, but I personally find the over-reliance most modern RPGs have on them to be a little too much. Hand-holding throughout the opening of a game is fine, but when you're max level and a master of the combat system, having the game point you in the right direction feels very patronizing. I often turn quest markers off when I play RPGs I'm familiar with, so I found Classic to be oddly refreshing in the sense that the only directional markers you get are to the nearest settlements (and your allies, if you're in a group). Markers for finishing quests only appear on the mini-map when you're nearby, and the only other markers are from abilities you have to track certain enemies or harvestable materials. You want to know where monster X that you need item Y from is? Read the quest log and figure it out. Can't figure it out? I guess Google is your friend, right? I love this kind of design. Yes, it can get frustrating, but it makes it all the more rewarding when you finally get it done. And the reading leads to actually learning more about the world than you would if you were simply told a few things and led around. The writing is pretty good, and I'm enjoying learning about the war between the Alliance and Horde. There's some nice humour in there, to boot. Leveling is SLOW. It's been around two weeks and I'm level 31. The level cap is 60, so I might hit that by the end of the month - if I'm lucky. Unlike a lot of other MMOs, you have to mob-grind: kill as many enemies as you can on the way to your next quest, and you'll have an easier time leveling up. The majority of enemies that are around your level are capable of killing you fairly easily if you're not careful. I enjoy this challenge. It makes the enemies feel tough, and you not feel all-powerful. Grouping up to take down tougher "elite" enemies and bosses is essential, but if you're trying to get a particular item to drop, you're going to have a hard time. Loot is shared rather than individual, and unless the rest of your group has already got the items you need, you've got to rely on often low drop rates to get them. The only exceptions are bosses and certain items, where the whole group will get them from the same enemy. XP is only given from enemies that you or your group hit first - if a random passerby hits (or "tags") the enemy you're after before you do, you're gonna have to wait for it to respawn, or find another. Speaking of respawning, the timers for some bosses are painful. Some enemies take 10-15 minutes to respawn, which slows your progress right down. If you're after a boss and someone's just killed it, go make a coffee or something. You'll still be waiting by the time you're back. I get why Blizzard did this - to slow players down so they don't burn through all the content too quickly - but holy shit, it can be tedious sometimes. Getting around is also very slow. Be prepared to walk a LOT. Flying from one area to another (once you've unlocked the flight paths) can take quite some time, as well. It's another of those "go make a coffee or something" moments. I suppose it's a good thing, as it gives you an opportunity to take a break, but if you're just trying to meet up with your friends, it can be pretty boring - especially if you're trying to fly somewhere to get to the ships or zeppelins that take you to different regions, then flying even farther once you get there. Thankfully, mages can teleport and every character gets a Hearthstone, which teleports you to whichever inn you've set as your home. Mounts are available at level 40 for a hefty fee, which cut down on some travel time, and some classes get abilities that speed you up - the hunter, for example, gets a 30% speed increasing ability. This reduces some of the travel time, but it's still very slow to get around. It's amazing what you take for granted in modern games. Classic just says, "Fast travel? What's that?". You might think I'm complaining, but honestly I absolutely love this game. Yes, the game is slow and can be very dull at times, but roaming around an unforgiving world, slowly killing one enemy at a time in the hopes that you get the items you've been searching hours for, is a challenging and rewarding experience, and an absolute breath of fresh air in an age where everything is practically given to you on a silver platter. You have to earn those levels, your mounts, etc. and it feels so damn rewarding when you level up... only to have to go back to your class trainer to spend the majority of your money on new abilities. WoW Classic is a rough place, but somehow I still absolutely love it. I've not been gripped by an MMO this much in a very long time. I look forward to when I'm done and move on to retail WoW, where I'll no doubt have my hand held and level much faster, but the world and it's lore has sucked me in. It only took fifteen years for it to finally do so.
  16. RaginRamen

    Quench - Papercraft Pilgrimage

    Game: Quench Publisher: Axon Interactive Price: $19.99/£15.49 Release Date: 7th August 2019 Genre: Puzzle, Adventure, Story Rich When it's been a long day at work and I just want to relax, I just want to do one thing, listen to some good music and drift away into another world. This can be done with a good book, movie or occasionally an FPS if I'm in a bad mood. There are, however, times when a puzzle game is just the ticket. Quench was that game for me this month, its beautiful soundtrack and art took me away and the puzzles kept my attention and challenged me as I journeyed through on this virtual pilgrimage. I've yet to witness the ending at the time of writing this review, but the narrative is very poetically written. A story of a variety of animal herds migrating from polluted and drylands to reach greener fields. The word pilgrimage is used very often and it has that spiritual essence to the dialogue and the narration. To help them on this pilgrimage is you. The fruit of the elder tree brought forth you as a spiritual bird to guide the 6 herds of the kingdom. It really makes you feel involved, you end up caring for these animals and grow an attachment to the leaders. Their safety is your main concern. We all know that in real life animals migrate year-round and that often pollution and blocked rivers are dangers to them. This story pushes the envelope in getting you to empathise more, getting the animals from news headlines to a bird's eye view of the struggles you will save them from. This game was made with a message, but that didn't stop the developers from forgetting that it's still a game and needs to be fun. I am truly delighted with this. Too many games have focused too hard on story and art, only to forget they are making a game. Being a puzzle game, I will focus on that aspect. There are 4 different powers you can use in different situations. To clear paths, block enemies and support your herds. Each power is surprisingly versatile in what it can do and they are introduced one by one to learn them all effectively. Quench doesn't hold your hand with the tutorials or ever give hints as to what to do to solve puzzles, but they don't leave you guessing either. I'd say that is a well-designed game, wouldn't you? As mentioned when I was talking about the story, the game is very good at building empathy. When clearing the path for your herd, it switches to a lemmings style mechanic where they will blindly trust you and keep moving (so you better have done a good job removing obstacles). Unlike lemmings, these are your children, your babies, you care for them and if even just one dies?... well I've restarted many times to rectify that. Not many games are good at generating empathy... sympathy maybe, but not empathy. Matching the sweeping poetry of the writing and story is a lovely soundtrack and a beautiful art style I've not seen often. It's almost like pixels, but it's not. Opting for shaded triangles instead of squares gives it a unique look. Most of the game takes place overhead, seeing as you are a spiritual bird, that makes sense. When it is time to dive into the narrative, it takes a cinematic approach with very little animation. To me it resembles a tapestry, a story told from one painted scene to another with colours to match the tones of earth and nature. Although no voice-overs were recorded for this game, they had done a wonderful job of creating motifs to accompany each different character, bringing personality and voice to them without actors. Papercraft! That's the word I was looking for to describe the art, gorgeous is another word. After experiencing the story and thoroughly enjoying the puzzles, I have to wholeheartedly recommend this game. The story is truly as beautiful as the music and art. Not just beautiful but subtle and I love that about it. If you enjoy relaxing with a puzzle that isn't easy, but it's just hard enough to satisfyingly complete, then throw away that Sudoku and get started on this pilgrimage.
  17. Developer: Moi Rai Games Release Date: 28th August Genre: Metroidvania RPG, Turn Based Combat Price: £13.99 Early Access from Humble Tomas stirred from his thoughts, the long descent through the cave system had taken much out of him and once he’d reached the wide open cavern it was the easiest decision to stop and rest for a while. His eyes scanned slowly in all directions, searching for the source of the noise that had stolen him from his reverie, though the faint light from above combined with his torch was nowhere near powerful enough to pierce the thick blackness that owned the edges of this space. Again, the faint scurrying seemed almost deafening amongst the silence that had existed only moments before. Tomas was not alone, though he hadn’t been alone in the first place, as Amra raised her head, ears pricked, now also searching for the watcher in the dark. Tomas calmed himself, fear was anathema to his kind, and accompanied by a Spectral Lion as fierce as Amra there really was no rational reason to be afraid of much in this world. Suddenly a trio of creatures burst from the dark, seemingly born of the shadows that only moments before had harboured nothing but the promise of exploration. Amra rose, slowly, deliberately, haunched over and coiled like a tight spring, she did not move but stared intently on the intruders, teeth bared in challenge. Tomas rose, the monsters charging across the cavern floor, closing the space between them in quick fashion. One short breath, Tomas smiled, glanced down at Amra and clicked his finger. Flame burst across her back, illuminating the cavern and overpowering the darkness that had held dominion, and as she leapt towards her foe the sound of a deep guttural roar shook the walls themselves. Monster Sanctuary is the Early Access release that has us all reminiscing about Pokemon & Terraria, and make no mistake, it is a monster battling, training, spelunking bundle of gaming goodness! Though while it may take some inspiration from such games, you’d be gravely mistaken if you assumed it didn’t bring anything fresh to the table, and even with my relatively limited time in the game I’m already watching development of the game with an excited anticipation. While the battles themselves will have a familiar feel for any gamer, all the way down to the strong/weak elemental system, you can see the depth that lies underneath the basic battle sequences of picking abilities and targeting your enemy monsters. Battles take place between two sides of up to three monsters; and this is where the fun begins, the buffs, debuffs, passive abilities and offensive attacks available even in the early stages allow for some creative sequences of moves as well as a variety of ways to tackle the foes before you. These choices become more important when you begin to take advantage of the ‘combo’ system, as your team uses its abilities they stack up to provide a team buff for the rest of the turn. Choosing the right order for your monsters to make their move builds this combo bonus up, so that you can hit far harder with the right ability to finish your turn, sometimes to devastating effect! Outside of battle you can see the beginnings of a true RPG style progression and customisation system, as your monsters begin to level up you are introduced to the unique skill trees they have access to. Not simply limited to new offensive abilities, you can choose to level up specific stats as well as interesting passive passive abilities to begin creating a well balanced team of monsters fully designed to compliment each other and tackle whatever foe’s may come your way. These skill tree choices can be further enhanced through the equipment and foods you choose to give to your monsters, yes that’s right, they have equipment slots to help boost certain stats, and can be fed meals to give them an extra boost! The game already holds some real challenge in the “champion” monsters that inhabit the world, rarer than normal encounters these bosses take more of a beating, hit harder, and can use more than one ability in a turn. They prove a real challenge if you are unprepared for the fight, and rightly act as a measure of progression within the game. The game does currently have some design choices which can be jarring, as there is no functionality for mouse usage which continually proved a frustration, coupled with D-Pad movement as a default keybinding rather than a standard WASD format it leads to instinctive keystrokes causing all manner of menus and actions to occur when you simply want to make a basic move, not game breaking by any stretch it does make you sigh as you have to correct yourself. Overall, Monster Sanctuary may initially look and feel like the lovechild of other very well known, if not legendary, games but it already feels like it has something new and refreshing to bring to the table, and is definitely a game to watch very closely as it continues its journey through the Early Access development phase! Let me know below if you've taken the game for a spin, and how you're feeling about it! HappyFeet #CraftFightSurvive
  18. Ronfort struggled through the pouring rain, lightning arching overhead, planting each foot carefully as he hauled his deadly cargo into position. Groups of Tribal raiders had flooded over the horizon,innumerable, unannounced, catching a group of passing traders unawares and descending upon them from among the trees. The other raiders sped towards Mountains Hope, as panicked colonists rushed to connect the auto-turrets power systems to the main generators, this was a race against time. Ronfort began to lower his cargo into the newly forged mortar as another flash of lightning streaked past, striking mere feet outside the walls of the colony. The passing traders had all fallen by now, the raiders attention fully turned to Mountains Hope, it’s colonists arrayed behind sandbags braced to fight if needed. Ronfort steeled himself, adjusting his aim, steadying his hands. Suddenly the staccato boom of the auto turrets erupted, giving Ronfort the confirmation he needed to find his range, without hesitation the mortar fired, straight & true. As sunlight began to break through storm clouds, the devastating effectiveness of the colonies defenses was clear; a huge gouge in the earth, littered with corpses torn asunder from explosion and turret rounds, marked the survival of another day on this Rimworld. Rimworld, now fully released as a complete game, is a sci-fi colony management sim, whose real strength lies with the three AI story tellers that dictate the trials your colony will endure. While it is completely achievable to ‘win’ by creating a stable colony and advancing through Rimworld’s technology tree to finally create a spaceship and escape the savage lands on which you first crash upon, the beauty of the game is that the journey along the way is as, if not more, rewarding to experience. These storytellers (Phoebe Chillax, Cassandra Classic & Randy Random) are responsible for both the pacing and severity of any beneficial or threatening events; ranging from raids to traders or tornadoes to beautiful auroras. Alongside the story creating AI lies a very deep, and realistic, modelling system for a whole range of factors which contribute to the success (or failure) of a colony. Social relationships within your colony can result in rivals, social fights, marriages, affairs and everything else in between. The health,and usefulness, of your colonists is just as important, with Malaria, heart attacks, food poisoning,carcinomas or hypothermia just a small selection of threats waiting in the wings if you fail to prepare your people properly. Thankfully, for every disaster lurking in the shadows is a counter measure at your disposal; fine marble artwork, bionics or even hard drugs if you dare roll that dice. Replayability of the base game is a real selling feature, as even if you choose the exact same colonists to start in the same map area no two games will ever play out in the same way. I personally haven’t delved too deeply into the modding community of the game, but once you delve into that rabbit hole you’ll inevitably find ever increasing ways to keep your interest; whether that be Alien vs Predator, Warhammer 40k, Lord of the Rings or any number of other varied packs to spice up your game. The main potential drawback for Rimworld is that it is a game with an unforgiving learning curve, which has no qualms about devastating your colony, and even your enthusiasm sometimes, but remember this is the beauty of the game, it’s created to tell a story, even if that is one of hilarious self destruction or valiant defeat, and also the reason why it is worth a few hours (or over 350 in my case) of anyone’s time. You can grab Rimworld from Humble right here. Tynan, the game's developer, can be found here on Twitter. If there are any other games you'd like to see me review, let me know in the comments below! HappyFeet #CraftFightSurvive
  19. It’s no secret that I have a very intense love affair with Google. I use all their apps and services, my phone is a Google Pixel 3a (swoon) and I’m onto my second Chromebook now. I could be a Google ambassador. And let’s face it, one day, they will take over the world (even bypassing Apple who seem to getting left behind these days). I always wanted a netbook from the very first time I saw one. They just looked convenient, and (dare I say it) trendy. I felt like I would look really business-like and important (shallow, I know), but they were so expensive for what they were and at the time you could only really surf the net on them. Google Docs etc didn’t exist and I had my smartphone so it seemed a bit of a luxury, but unnecessary purchase, so I held off. Around four years ago I was perusing my online catalogue (the bane of my life, don’t ever get one if you don’t already have one) and I saw a beauty of a Chromebook. I’d heard a little bit about them, how they were bringing them into schools because the security on them was really good and they were easy to learn and use. The Very catalogue had this particular Acer one on sale. It was supposed to be £259 but was on offer for £175. It was far too much of a bargain for me and I wanted something small that I could sit on the sofa and write blog posts on whilst watching documentaries. With my glass of wine. And cheese. Idyllic right? So I bought it. And I’ve never looked back. The first Chromebook I bought had a stunning battery life of fourteen hours. It was super lightweight and small enough to fit in my handbag. The WiFi connection was amazing and I took it everywhere with me. My only gripe was the lack of a backlit keyboard, which meant blogging in bed was a tad on the difficult side. My latest Chromebook, also an Acer was slightly more expensive at £279 but this is primarily because it has a touch screen. It folds all the way back on itself and so can be used as a tablet (the keyboard disables when it’s folded back so far so you can’t accidentally press keys). The battery life is understandably shorter due to the touch screen but it still a handy nine hours on average. It does also weigh slightly more than my old one and still does not have the backlit keyboard I so desired but it’s an awesome piece of kit, with a 720p webcam and whilst there is only two USB slots this isn’t really an issue given the additional cloud storage space you get, for free, just for buying the Chromebook. A great little beauty for those on a budget. It seems a little slower than my previous Chromebook and I’m constantly forgetting to use the touchscreen (which is occasionally a bit laggy) and in all honesty I only use it as a tablet if I’m reading an eBook. It’s still an awful lot sleeker and more aesthetically pleasing than the previous one. As Google has expanded its limitations and brought in its own MSOffice-type suite (the GSuite) I find I can open, edit and create documents that are not even native to the GSuite thanks to its compatibility with Office. I can surf the net with ease and use ninety-nine percent of all the apps and games in the Play store. I chat to my friends in video call on Discord with relative ease and blog to my heart’s content with the handy WordPress app, which works fine. Sadly, as with everything, there are some small issues I have. Aside from the occasional lag, the occasional app crash and that some apps (including Apple Music) flat out refuse to co-operate (I blame Apple entirely), I struggle with the lack of remote desktop access. I am able to work from home via Windows RDS on my desktop computer, however sadly, I find I’m unable to use my Chromebook for this. It just isn’t possible. Maybe in a future update it will be something they will introduce, as it is possible to connect to another desktop, just not in the way I currently need. Overall and especially for the price, the Chromebook in general, not necessarily these ones, is a must have for modern day. Lightweight and small/thin enough to fit nicely in your handbag, great wireless connection and the capability of even working offline if you have no signal. The touchscreen Chromebooks are handy if you don’t want to fork out for a tablet as well as a laptop and if you’re on a budget and just can’t afford that MacBook Pro, these little gems are definitely worth a look into. Both Chromebooks have come down in price since I bought them and you can find them at best value here: Acer R11 Touchscreen – £261.98 – from Amazon Acer Chromebook 11 – £165.44 – from Amazon
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