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  1. I. BASIC INFORMATION :: Game Title Yes, Your Grace :: Genre Strategy, RPG :: Developer Brave At Night Website | Twitter :: Publisher No More Robots Website | Twitter | Instagram | Facebook | YouTube :: Platform PC :: Availability Steam Beta (15 – 22 Nov) :: Release Early 2020 :: Content Cartoon Violence, Mild references to sex and drug use :: Trailer II. BETA REVIEW After having come a long way since its Kickstarter campaign in 2014, Yes, Your Grace — a medieval kingdom management game that puts you on the throne overseeing all things big and small happening in your realm — entered a week-long public beta phase on 15 November. The Steam beta, available to all who have signed up for it through the game’s Discord server, provides an hour-long peek into this upcoming title that couples simple management gameplay with charming storytelling. The concept of the game is straightforward: be the King and tackle the kingdom matters as you like. However, you are not just any random king but the King of Davern, a man named Eryk who is happily married and has three daughters. That is to say, this beta showcases not a generic management game but one that is woven into a set lore and a particular character’s point of view. There are no customization options for the main playable character but you are still free to choose how you would want to use the kingdom’s available resources, such as gold, food supplies, and hired helpers. Time goes by weeks in-game. Every week, various people, ranging from family members to peasants to lords, will queue up for an audience in your throne room. Each one of them comes to you with their issue and in most cases, it is up to you how you would want to aid them (or not). With regard to the management portion, I find it rather easy — at least for up to the first eight weeks available in the beta. In fact, it takes me really deliberate squandering of resources in order to lead the kingdom to ruins. Such a low difficulty implemented can be said to be a double-edged sword. On one hand, it allows even new players to progress onward easily for the story, which is the other big part of the game; however, it probably would not satisfy those who are looking for a more strategic planning experience. The system seen in the beta is really lenient and does not really require players to pay very careful attention to what they are choosing. Still, this is only based on what is shown in the beta, where consequences of several choices have yet to make themselves known for now. Perhaps, in the final game, long-term repercussions would eventually even out the seemingly trivial short-term effects. As the game goes by a weekly schedule, the pacing can feel a little fast. Story-wise, it makes sense for events to progress in terms of weeks. But in terms of listening to the petitioners, it does feel like there is a lack of opportunity for more resource-dependent problems to be tackled. There can only ever be that many petitioners showing up per week, after all. When it comes to guiding players, I think the tutorial prompts are pretty clear and do a good job at explaining various elements of the game. One of the things that I find lacked explanation is the upgrades listed under the weekly summary; for quite a while, I did not realize I had to manually click on the upgrade for it to apply. Another part that lacked explanation is the icons, though a simple tooltip label should suffice as most icons (like gold and grains) are pretty self-explanatory. Also, it may help if players are told at the beginning that they can ask Audry the Advisor for more information on running the kingdom. Given that the chat with Audry is optional, I would not be surprised that some people missed it entirely at first. Because Yes, Your Grace essentially hinges on resource management, I also appreciate that important choices involving consumption of certain resources are properly labelled. Overall, I find the texts written for the choice system easily understandable. There is hardly any ambiguous moment that would make one wonder what a certain choice actually means or what immediate outcome a given choice would cause. What is equally clear-cut is the User Interface (UI) design. Currently only with mouse control support, the game sports a UI that is generally easy to navigate around and click on. Not to mention the layout is neat and pleasant to look at as well. While there appears to be some issues where some lines of dialogue texts appear blurry, the font size and colour contrast used are reasonable to make reading comfortable. The decision to use different colours for different characters’ dialogues is a nice touch too, although some colours can look a little too dark for the dialogue bubble. Small notification banners that slide out from the right side of the screen upon important changes, such as gold added or deducted, are great visual cues. However, similar helpful visual cues are not used within the Archives (a journal detailing quests and character information) at all and this made checking the Archives for unread or updated entries a really unintuitive task. Apart from some minor animation issues, the pixel art in the game is beautiful. I especially love the detailed background art that brings every venue in the Davern castle to life. Characters are appropriately represented via their designs; the wealthy don more fancy garbs while the poor wear simpler and even tattered clothes. Music is another component that adds flavour to the various venues and scenes in the game. Despite the limited number of tracks available in the beta, I feel every track has played its part well in heightening the emotions of particular scenes. Last but not least, the story itself is something to look forward to in Yes, Your Grace. Even though the plot events progress rather quickly, they still flow smoothly. The game’s storytelling is pretty engaging with hardly any boring moments, and the interactions with the family members, while sparse and short, are impactful. It did not take me long to fall in love with the youngest daughter and it certainly pained me to see that a heartwarming moment ended in the blink of an eye. Nevertheless, people who have played through the beta multiple times would realize that a large part of the story is linear and unaffected by varying choices. Different dialogue options would lead to different lines that follow but ultimately, what you chose had no real bearing on how the plot events would unfold. Even clearing optional conversations do not reward you with any significant changes to other related dialogues or unique follow-up dialogues afterward. As far as the beta is concerned, the only way to acquire different endings is to fail the kingdom management part in different ways. In spite of the short content length provided in the beta, it still gives an idea of what we can expect from the full version — a fun little management game with an overarching story about King Eryk and his family to tell. If you have played the beta and still cannot get enough of it (what a cliffhanger it ended on!), feel free to hop into Yes, Your Grace Discord and join the on-going meta game. In any case, do wishlist the game on Steam if you want to get notified once it is released early next year!
  2. 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
  3. 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
  4. 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!
  5. 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
  6. This weeks #TuneTuesday comes from one of my favourite JRPGs. It is 'The Way of The Embodied Dragon' from Tales of Berseria, composed by Motoi Sakuraba Tales of Berseria is the most recent entry of the Tales and acts as a prequel to Tales of Zestiria, some 1000 years prior. The Tales games take the usual anime adventure, happy-clappy setting of a group of varied and talented friends off to vanquish some great evil. Berseria is not so jolly. Velvet Crowe and her younger brother Laphicet are saved by her brother-in-law Artorius when a Scarlet Night occured, causing daemons to attack their village. Seven years later, Velvet takes care of her sickly brother with Artorius. The Scarlet Night returns, with the entire village succumbing to the Daemonblight: when Velvet finds Artorius, sacrificing her brother as part of a ritual, known as the "Advent". Artorius attempts to use her for the Advent as well, but she fights back and the Daemonblight possesses her arm, mutating it and turning her into a Daemon called a "Therion", with the ability to absorb Daemons. In a rage, she slaughters the nearby Daemons before passing out. She awakes in a prison for Daemons on the island Titania, swearing to kill Artorius and avenge her brother's murder. Velvet does encounter others who wish to stop Artorious and his newly founded Church, but for different reasons. Every character in the party is incredibly selfish, acting in their own accord, using the others for their own benefit.It is not until the very end of the game's narrative that they acquaintances. It is where this cue sneaks in. This cue plays during the final area, where Velvet and co. are off for that final showdown with Artorious, ending his tyrannical rule. I can't reveal why the cue is named as such without spoilers, but as the dragon and the dungeon itself, it is quite the epic cue. The cue begins in G minor, but doesn't really stay there for very long as it leaps and stabs its way into other keys totally detached from the starting key. The constantly shifting harmony creates a lot of tension, which is added to the excitement the player climbing higher and higher through this last dungeon to fight the final boss after a good 60hrs of compelling narrative and frantic fights. I don't usually make comments about samples, but I feel that it's required here to note that whilst I would have loved have heard more live instruments in this cue (and the rest of the soundtrack), there is a certain 'punch' that has been achieved that I don't think one could have replicated with a live string section and drums. I could be wrong in that assumption, but if there are any live performances of it out there, chuck it my way and prove me wrong!
  7. Game: Heartbound Publisher: Pirate Software Release Date: Available now in early access Price: £6.99 Purchase on Steam or download the demo Genre: Non-traditional RPG If there was ever a good time to get nostalgic and play some 16 bit gold on the SNES it’s right now after the recent release of the SNES software on the Nintendo Switch. Having said that, I have never needed an excuse to boot up the old machine before because in my opinion, the SNES is still my favorite console of all time due to the plethora of high quality content that was released for it. Why is this relevant? Because the game we are going to have a look at reminds me of certain cult classics that were released on the SNES that I pray get a release on the Switch’s SNES emulator. Nostalgia aside, It is fair to say that Heartbound grabbed me where it hurts and left a pain within me that will not go away until I get closure from its rich narrative and heavily focused character development tropes within the full game. At it’s core, Heartbound is a non-traditional RPG set in a dark world of lush pixel art visuals and an atmospheric sound track. The hook of the game appears to be its angle of being non-traditional, what that basically means is that there are no stats to level up and character progression is not built upon like it is in other traditional RPG’s. Instead, character progression builds the further you explore the game by learning about who the characters are, what secrets they are hiding, their bonds with other characters and generally getting a feel for how each character feels. Heartbound is definitely a game who want to be gripped by a deep story line and people like me who is a sucker for a heart-melter. The demo was my chance to lose myself in such an experience and as soon as I started, I was instantly reminded of two classic SNES games: Earthbound and Secret of Evermore. Not only does the name sound similar to Earthbound but Heartbound contains similar dark tones within its story telling in a similar vein to Earthbound. While Secret of Evermore shares a similarity to Heartbound in that you control a boy who has a tight bond with his dog. The demo starts you off in bed on a dark, gloomy and stormy early morning where you see the first slice of character interaction between the character you control called Lore and his dog Baron after you wake him up. What struck me as odd is that the dog talks to you, whether the reality is that the dog can actually talk or it’s all in Lore’s head or if Lore can understand dog language is up in the air at this point but I’m sure more could be revealed on that front in the full game. Whatever the case, it’s clear from early on that the bond between Lore and Baron is a strong one and that Lore would go to hell and back for him. I won’t spoil too much of what happens in the game but I will say that after you take out the trash (literally) you both go back to sleep only to find that when you wake up again the house has been trashed and Baron is missing! The mission at this point is clearly to find out what on earth is going on but most importantly to find your dog and return him home safely. But what becomes apparent is this is more than just a typical dog-napping, the demo showcases some of Heartbounds dark turns and eerie dialogue. Despite the dark tone of the setting of Heartbound with its dingy unloved house you start in with its dead plants and garbage everywhere, the game actually does look very good. The pixel art stands out and really brings the dark setting to life, a highlight for me being the reflection of the rain and lightening against the floor boards. Accompanying these visuals is an atmospheric soundtrack that fits the games purpose extremely well. There is a moment in the demo where the music stops completely and all you can hear is the sound of your footsteps in an almost pitch black environment which I thought was a nice touch. Controlling the game is straight forward, I used my Xbox One controller but you can use mouse and keyboard if you desire. While you are free roaming, there is not a lot you have to remember in terms of how the controls work in the demo at least. Walking around and interacting with characters and objects is what you will spend a lot of your time doing while reading a lot of text. You will also be tasked with some puzzle solving to break up all the reading you have to do such as moving objects around, solving riddles and hitting switches. While not a necessity to read absolutely everything in the game, sometimes you get the odd joke thrown in which is a nice way to lighten the otherwise intense and dark atmosphere. What we have not yet addressed is how Heartbound handles combat, again being a non-traditional RPG you will not be upgrading weapons and armor or leveling up stats of any kind. Instead, you will be defeating enemies via a series of mini games which means each encounter will require you to be skillful and have quick reactions instead of you relying on critical hit chance stats etc. Although I only got to do battle twice in each of my playthroughs in the demo, I enjoyed what I was doing. For example, one of the mini games against the enemy required me to hit a fireball back at it with my axe back and forth like a game of tennis until it hit home (Ganondorf battle in Ocarina of Time?). Another mini game would be to simply remember which order of buttons to press in order to do damage, get it wrong and the enemy does damage to you! So a very unique take on combat but one that left me wondering what other kind of mini games the full game contains. Also they are a nice way to break up the pace of the game. Another thing worth mentioning is that the games story changes depending on how you interact with the world creating replay value. You are able to finish the demo in three different ways depending on which portal you take and I wonder if collecting all the socks hidden around the world makes any kind of impact? Heartbound is available to purchase on Steam in early access and has already got some DLC love to boot. If you are on the fence I would at least give the demo a try, the combat is fun and unique but it is the story alone that has made me want to take a stab at the full game. Pirate Software have done a good job with Heartbound so far and it would be nice to see the game make it to consoles.If you have tried the game or are thinking of trying it I would love to hear all of your thoughts down below. Thanks for reading!
  8. 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
  9. For those of us who regularly take up the mantle of GM, there’s a pattern to be observed in mature players who are new to RPGs. They generally go through three phases. Phase 1 - Childhood Some budding dice-rollers skip this phase, but most people taking their first tentative steps into the hobby start off apprehensive and shy. There is, of course, nothing wrong with this. After all, it can be scary to lose your inhibitions. It leaves us open to ridicule and ultimately makes us feel vulnerable. Phase 1 is a bunch of beginner musicians, picking up their instruments for the first time, still a little too inexperienced to share their new songs with one another Phase 2 - Adolescence Much like human adolescence, RPG adolescence is a time of emotional attachment and unbridled experimentation. You’ll test the limits of the rules, building broken characters just for the hell of it and doing stupid, anti-social things that annoy your DM and your party. You’re no longer afraid to engage with the story, because it’s there purely to provide a playground for you to go wild in. As in real life, some of us never grow out of this. That's a shame because while adolescence is often looked back on with fondness, it's an inherently shallow period of our lives. Phase 2 is the beginning of the band’s competence, stringing together basic chords and belting out sincere, but simplistic, lyrics. Phase 3 - Adulthood RPG adulthood is when those truly memorable campaigns are played. You know the ones, because they’re plastered all over YouTube. Your DM is on the level of Matt Colville or Matt Mercer or some other very knowledgeable Matt. Your fellow adventurers are puritanistic priests of the God of light, rugged rangers from the forlorn wilderness, or sardonic sorcerers on a mission from the arcane university. Campaigns last for months, perhaps years, and you cycle through different systems, experiencing both an entertaining and academically satisfying hobby. Phase 3 is a group of seasoned musicians, effortlessly jamming out complex melodies, rarely missing a beat. --- This progression is just a natural part of acclimatization for anyone forced to live in the adult world of paying bills and being a super-serious grown-up. Fortunately, there’s already a bunch of players out there, eager for you to run games for them, who exist outside of this culture. They’re innately imaginative, spend most of their free time playing games already, and don’t have much responsibility. I am, of course, talking about children. Kids are awesome. I know this because I used to be one and, according to most of the people close to me, still am one. I used to run a weekly D&D game for under-12s and it was some of the best D&D I’ve ever played. Sure, I couldn’t fill my sessions with grim-dark slaughter and subjugation, and the plots had to remain as simple and ‘PG’ as possible, but really that just meant less prep was required. Children aren’t burdened by a sense of shame or social anxiety. Anyone who has taken a toddler to the supermarket and suffered through them yelling “Daddy, why is that man so fat?” will attest to this. When it comes to pretending to be an elf or a wizard, kids will rarely feel any trepidation about throwing themselves, heart and soul, into the role. In all the time I ran games for young’uns, they never acted like RPG adolescents. Every single one of them took the story and the world with seriousness and, unlike any adult campaign I’ve ever run, none of them played douchebag characters. They always wanted to do the right thing. Always stood up for the little guy. Always helped out the villagers. Always tried to avoid bloodshed by negotiating rather than drawing blades. Running D&D for kids was a humbling experience for me. Not just because I was being trusted to be a good mentor and ambassador for the hobby, but because it made me into a better DM. Most of us won’t admit it, but the reason we play RPGs is to feel like kids again. We want to unburden ourselves and experience a little bit of that pure, immature joy that we were once able to so easily attain by pretending to be a Ninja Turtle on the playground. While we’re now able to understand more nuanced concepts, such as lust or political intrigue, ultimately we all just want to be a badass for an evening. I meet a lot of parents who, between raising a family and earning some dough, struggle to find time to get their gaming in. I always tell them the same thing. Play D&D with your kids. Join them in creating a world, crafting stories, and be a little munchkin with them. They're only awesome for a short time until the become salty teenagers, so make the most of it.
  10. I love D&D and have played it pretty much non-stop since 3rd edition. It’ll always be my go-to RPG whenever I’m tasked with introducing someone to the hobby, and I’ll never get bored of creating homebrew worlds and campaigns for the system. However, I do think there are far too many people out there for whom D&D is the only RPG they’re interested in playing and that makes me sad. I’ve been in a lot of RPG groups over the years, almost always as the GM, and there’s something that all of the most successful ones had in common — we cycled between systems. There’s a number of reasons why this was key to our success, and I’ll outline them here. It staves off burnout Any GM will tell you that constantly planning new material for their campaign is tiring and leaves them susceptible to burnout, but what isn’t discussed very often is the fact that players can get burnt out too. I’ve seen a number of enthusiastic dice-rollers get tired of their character, bored of the system, or lose interest in the setting. This almost never has anything to do with any inherent faults on the part of the GM or the story, or the system itself, it’s simply a part of human nature. We crave progression, it’s at the very heart of the RPGs we love. Just like how you’d get frustrated if your character never levelled up and learned new spells, it’s easy to find the very vanilla-flavoured mechanics of D&D tiresome after a while. Taking a little holiday in Call of Cthulhu or Shadowrun is often just what you need to remind you of how much fun you’re having in your regular campaign. You’ll have a better game One of my groups is currently playing Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay and we’re nearing the end of our campaign. I asked the guys what they felt like playing next and one of them said the sweetest words a GM can ever hear — “we’re happy to play anything that you’re enthusiastic about running”. Not only did that make me feel like some sort of badass games guru, but it reminded me of why I love this group so much. There’s an understanding between us that if I’m having fun, they’ll inevitably get a much better game than if I was just going through the motions. A lot has been written about why GMs prefer to run the game, but I think it ultimately comes down to the fact that it’s an academic process for us. We enjoy experimenting, understanding and conquering a system. When you provide your GM with the space to do that, magical things can happen. Quite literally! It’s fair If you’ve got five players and one GM, statistically speaking, at least a couple of you are going to prefer another system to D&D. You might not even know this, perhaps you’ve only ever played D&D, but by trying out new stuff you’ll give those players, who perhaps aren’t engaging a great deal with your jaunt around the Forgotten Realms, the opportunity to flex their muscles in a system that is better suited to them. I have a friend who is an absolute RPG nut, but for the longest time he believed that RPGs weren’t his jam because he’d only ever played D&D and he just couldn’t vibe with it. D&D is, after all, a very combat-oriented system. It might not seem like it, but most rulebooks don’t have half the number of combat mechanics as D&D. Perhaps that guy who gets bored easily and never pays attention during the fights just needs to play a more story-driven game, like Call of Cthulhu or Vampire: the Masquerade. By giving them the opportunity to do that, you’ll inevitably help them figure out how to recreate that vibe in D&D when the time comes to go back to it. That leads me nicely into my next point, which is... Your D&D will improve Nobody ever got better at something by strictly limiting the scope of their knowledge. D&D is the absolute definition of default fantasy and that’s great, because it’s versatile. However, by playing other systems, you’ll find yourself discovering just how to make the most of D&D’s modifiable design. Campaigns for older editions of D&D did a lot of modding that 5th edition seems to have left behind. Spelljammer introduced sci-fi concepts, Dark Sun did away with the Gods, severely altering how magic and religion functioned, and classic Ravenloft introduced sanity mechanics that were effectively lifted from Call of Cthulhu. By experimenting with other systems, even if you find they’re not for you, you’ll see your games of D&D improve through the innovations that you start to make. But you don’t have to Having said all of the above, don’t feel obliged to fix what isn’t broken. Some groups can play D&D, week after week, year after year, and never feel the urge to mix things up, and that’s fine too. Ultimately, we’re all here to have fun. But if the cracks do start to show, if a couple of your players aren’t feeling it, or if you’re beginning to dread the prep work, perhaps it’s time to put the Player’s Handbook away and mix it up a little. There’s some awesome stuff out there and I’d hate for any of you to miss out.
  11. 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
  12. During a bit of research, I recently stumbled across the fact that Ken Rolston, one of the lead designers on both Morrowind and Oblivion, cut his teeth working on the Stormbringer pen & paper RPG. I wouldn’t be surprised if that doesn’t mean anything to you, but that’s exactly why I’m writing these words right now. The more you look into the most celebrated works of fantasy gaming over the years, the more you hear the name of author Michael Moorcock and his criminally underappreciated protagonist, Elric of Melniboné. Elric VIII, 428th Emperor of Melniboné, might sound like the most clichéd paperback name you’ve ever read, but nothing could be further from the truth. Elric was first introduced to the world in June of 1961, via a novella titled The Dreaming City. At that time, most fantasy fiction was either pulpy stuff like Conan the Barbarian or the high, complex fantasy of writers such as Tolkien. These stories told tales of unlikely heroes, slaves, hobbits and downtrodden humans, who sacrificed everything for the good of their people. Elric, on the other hand, was an irredeemable asshole. While Frodo was busy traumatising himself for the good of Middle Earth, Elric was off betraying his own people to a bunch of pirates, accidentally killing his lover, and spending the entire journey home contemplating his own suicide, and that’s just the plot of the first story. However, it wasn’t just in its rejection of Tolkienesque tropes that Moorcock’s work was innovative, many concepts which are really key to modern gaming were forged by the pen of this criminally overlooked writer. He was the first fantasy author to really explore the concept of order vs chaos, especially in relation to a pantheon of Gods. This would later become a staple of fantasy RPGs like D&D and Warhammer, the latter of which pretty much copied everything, right down to the symbol. The concept of a vorpal blade, a term first penned by Lewis Carrol, was really only solidified by Moorcock in the form of Elric’s sword, Stormbringer. A demon which transformed itself into a sword, Stormbringer is capable of devouring the soul of anyone it cuts. Elric both loves and hates the sword, as it is the source of all his power, yet it frequently causes him to slay friends and lovers. This exact archetype would later appear in pretty much every fantasy universe going, from Nethack, to D&D, to the DC comic book universe. I could go on and write a full essay about why the Elric saga is such an important piece of historical geek culture, but I’d prefer you to discover it for yourself. The legacy of Moorcock’s work is far-reaching, from Hawkwind’s 1985 album, Chronicle of the Black Sword, to Vampire: The Masquerade creators, White Wolf, naming their entire company after one of Elric’s titles. Stick some heavy metal on, pick up The Dreaming City, and soak up the doom-drenched atmosphere. I promise you won’t be disappointed.
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