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Frostpunk Developer: 11 bit studios Genre: survival, city builder, Current Price (as of 24th January): £9.99 (otherwise £24.99 when not in a Steam sale) PC - Steam PS4 Xbox One In my opinion, there are two types of gamers in this world. Those that give up after several deaths / in-game failures and those that are determined to beat the bloody thing. If you are the former type of gamer then this game is definitely not for you. Frostpunk is a city builder survival game that brings together the Victorian Era with modern climate change issues. In-game, the entire world is covered in snow and temperatures can go beyond negative 50 degrees. The only way to survive this cold, is with a generator. The generator provides heat on various levels for the civilians of your city/town. Whilst trying to keep this plate spinning, you civilians will try to throw some curved snowballs at you, ranging from catching the common cold, to demanding better quality homes that keep them warm. Failure to comply with these demands will result in your banishment. On top of this (and to quote from a famous TV show) Winter is coming! Literally! All these plates have to be kept spinning, whilst preparing your town for the big freeze. Throughout the game, you - as the leader - are asked to make some decisions that you may or may not like. You complete this through the 'Book of Laws' where you have to make a choice. Each law you instate will take you down a different path in your leadership. You are torn between moral choices and needs for your town. Do you sign a law stating that children should be apart of the workforce or do you provide them with an education? Do you sign a law stating that everyone gets a day off work when someone dies or do you just throw the body into a snow pit and be done with it? Some of these laws makes you question yourself as a leader and test your ability to continue. I do feel that this game should come with a warning! Keep track of your real life time - before you know it, five hours would have passed and you will be wondering what exactly have you achieved in that time? The game comprises of five or six scenarios and a sandbox equivalent mode. However, with the possibilities being 'endless', I feel that I have only just scratched the surface of this giant iceberg and I currently have over 40 hours on playing time. The research tree allows for your civilisation to grow whilst the Book of Laws allow you to decide which paths you are going to allow your civilisation to take. The path of Faith or the path of Law and Order. Artistic Flare Whether you are completing a mission or whether you are failing one, the cut scenes are nothing spectacular and are what I like to call, moving pictures (an item or two in a still picture that has animation) but, they are very well put together. I do feel I need to talk about the artistic work that is involved in the game. The scenery and pictures within the game are absolutely brilliant. They give you the information that you need whilst keeping the game simple. The in-game animations themselves are amazing! Watching people trying to work their way through the snow, leaving their footprints and trails in the snow is very clever. The soundtrack for the game is dramatic and keeps you alert and to me, makes you feel as though you are listening to a movie. The composer Piotr Musial has created a fantastic set to accompany a fantastic game! You can listen to the music by clicking on this link. Once the completion of a scenario is successful, you then find out a little secret about the game. Don't worry, I am not going to spoil it here but all I am going to say is - DON'T HIT THAT ESCAPE BUTTON! Let it play out! Future January 21st, saw the release of the second DLC pack from 11 bit Studios for this game. The DLC is called 'The Last Autumn' where you are transported further back in time before the cold and the climate issues to a time where the civilisations within the game realised that the climate issue was going to happen. You learn to build the generators and have several new buildings and laws to sign within the Book of Laws. Already, this DLC has been a monster to try and beat and I am personally loving the challenge. 11 bit Studios have announced that there will be another DLC pack this year (2020) called 'Project TVADGYCGJR' (Not got a Scooby Doo how to pronounce that one so I will leave that to the professionals. ) However, if The Last Autumn is the standard that is being produced as a DLC from this company, then I am super excited and cannot wait for the date to be released. Summary Fantastic art work within the game. Several scenarios to get your teeth sunk into. DLCs are planned for to expand this game. You will lose hours in this game if you are determined to beat it! I could see this game being made into a TV series and it being a huge success. The soundtrack to the game is movie-like and is very dramatic. A fantastic game that allows you to question the type of leader you want to be. Five hours will pass just like that! Your humanity is questioned! You will fail - many times - but make sure you get back up and don't let the game win! Trailer - Link
Game: Shadow Developer: Grit Release Date: Early 2020 Play the demo for free on itch.io! Current Version: D1.15 Genre: Spooky open-world survival I've never been a huge fan of indie horror games, they usually rely very heavily on jump scares and are usually really boring and generic. Relatively simple games like Five Nights at Freddy's and Slender: The Eight Pages have inspired a lot of games copying only the most surface-level parts of these games, making games that have little to no effective atmosphere, or suspense. They decide to use an overabundance of gore, jump scares and a lot of pointless walking around, ignoring world-building, exploration and building that sense of dread and suspense only the best games can truly conjure in most players. And although Shadow is just a demo, in that simple 10-minute experience, this game never used jump scares or gore, which have become, in my opinion, very overused in games today, instead intentionally leaning more towards creating a sense of paranoia and an atmospheric unease in the player as they explore the island. With the developer, Grit promising to only expand on these ideas in the final build, with a bigger world, more things to interact with, and a smarter monster. The art style of the game is very simplistic and low poly, the style is executed well and looks professional. This simplistic style serves the game well, it was obvious to me what is what, making navigation and recognition very easy. This simplicity also made exploration, the main game mechanic, a lot more satisfying, as special attention has been paid to make sure each area of the island is distinct and can be told apart, with the easily accessible map only adding to this fact. This art style did take away from the suspense and dread I assume I was supposed to feel with the non-threatening textures and shapes around me, but it seems to be the feel the game is going for, and if that's the case, it does its job well there too. The game itself is very simple in what the objective is. You have to find green cubes to power a battery, which powers a boat, which lets you leave the island. Doing this just involves walking around the island and look for the many green cubes around the map. They can be found throughout the unique parts of the island, either behind rocks, in the middle of some trees, in a house, and on bridges. The fact that there are more cubes than you need to collect scattered across the map lead to each playthrough being unique, one person who plays might find the village, while another might never see that area, but find the winter area, or the rocky cliff, or the cabin in the woods, or the forest. Exploration is certainly rewarded here, and even thinking outside the box with one certain area. This also allows for multiple playthroughs, where you can explore the entirety of the island, this concept will surely be expanded on in the full version. My hope is that more varied and interesting locations will be added, where little pieces of lore may be hinted at through the environment and more interesting environments, or even more of a sense of direction when you first start, since when I first started playing and wandering around, I found myself getting bored, and almost had to force myself to continue. Having an engaging beginning is key to any game, and if not done right means that players won't see the majority of the game. One thing that this game has that many other similar indie titles lack is multiplayer! Multiplayer can be a great extension to your experience or alternative play-style, experiencing horror type media with friends transforms into a new comedic experience that only other people can offer. Combining this with a system that requires both people to work together can also amplify your enjoyment of the game altogether, but only when executed properly. And Shadow certainly doesn't do a bad job of integrating multiplayer! In single-player, your left and right hand have different functionalities, it would be quite difficult, or impossible to play without one of your hands. The game uses this concept and gives each player the function of one hand, therefore rewarding cooperation and staying together. This dynamic did a good job at mimicking everything single player does well, but with a friend (or maybe they're not a friend, I dunno who you play with). It also allowed for some fun, playful situations to ensue between me and my friend. It does, unfortunately, require you to have a controller, which not everyone has, limiting who can play multiplayer. There should be some other way to split the keyboard to accommodate a second player like a lot of flash games do. The monster that chases you is a basic generic monster with red eyes, the simplicity of the monster complements the simplicity of the overall game though, and its appearance alone makes it obvious that it is something to be avoided. It also has a weakness you can exploit, where you charge up a beam of light to temporarily stun it. This basic mechanic seemed fine enough at first, but as I played through the game more, I realized that the monster was unfairly hard to see coming at times. When I looked around me to see if it was near me, I sometimes wouldn't see it, even though it was relatively close, but it was facing away from me or behind a tree or rock or house, giving me a false sense of security, then suddenly dying to it without enough time to react. This got especially frustrating with closed quarters in the village, with me dying over and over and over with seemingly no way to stop it. Changes for the monster are planned for the final build though, so I'm definitely looking forward to that. Overall, Shadow is a game that's fun to play and has a lot of promise, with many of the problems in the demo planned to be fixed in the full version. I, personally am looking forward to the future of Shadow and what it'll have in store with these mechanics and the great sense of exploration Grit has already made, a more polished version of this demo with more content sounds awesome. Tell me what you think about the demo in the comments below! I know the developer would love all the feedback he can get! Thanks for reading! You can follow the developer on twitter at @GAMEdevOVER
Game: This War of Mine Publisher: 11 bit studios Price: 3.99EU This War of Mine - Fading Embers (requires original game to play) Release Date: 6th of August 2019 (original 14th of November 2014) “In modern war... You will die like a dog for no good reason.” - Ernest Hemingway This War of Mine is not exactly a new game, released in 2014 by 11 Bit Studios, but it’s been gaining new popularity recently through the efforts of Humble Bundle and Epic as well as by releasing the last DLC - Fading Embers. Aside from Fading Embers, there are also two previously released DLCs and an expansion pack… All released in such a time interval that it would put the game back on the radar, attract new players and put up some fresh content. This strategy alone deserves a remark, because it is truly cleverly done! It’s not very common for an indie game to stay relevant after five years since the initial release. As you boot up the game you are greeted with the famous quote by Ernest Hemingway, which is quite fitting since you will most likely die a number of times while playing! The game has three different modes - survival, custom and stories. Survival and custom mode are basically the same game experience, the difference is that you can increase/decrease difficulty in your customized games while the survival mode follows pretty much the same pattern. You start the game with 1-4 survivors in what is basically a ruined house and with a single mission - to survive until the war is over. This can be quite hard and full of moral choices! Game Core The core of the game is essentially the same in all game modes, including the story modes. You need to survive until the war is over and survival is rough. Surviving the war involves securing your base from raiders, maintaining the heat of your base (else your group might freeze to death or get terminally ill), keep your residents away from crippling depression, feed your residents and avoid getting killed during scavenging. There is a day and night mode, where in the day mode you will have control over your group inside the base and during the night you can put one character out on scavenging while the rest will either be put on guard or allowed to sleep. You will always start the scenarios in the base, where you will be able to find some basic materials to use for creating necessary things such as a stove or a bed. The focus during day time is to improve your base, create tools needed for scavenging and take care of your residents with meals and medicine. There will be visitors appearing from time to time, such as a trader, and I would strongly recommend checking when they are usually appearing before you jump into night mode! Also, the game only saves during day mode, there is no quick save! Scavenging is essential for surviving, to find materials in order to build essential tools and structures as well as finding food, medicine, bandages and weapons. There are traders, but the most essential items are very expensive and the prices may increase during the scenario. You can only put one character on scavenging per night and apart from finding materials and other loot you might also find hostiles or traders lurking around. What areas are available per run is random and some areas might have randomised features which increases replayability! The characters got a limited inventory and the areas got limited materials, which means that you will have to prioritise what to bring back to the base. While out scavenging you might see scribbles on walls Fuck the war! and various notes, items, and even bodies, signifying what bullshit the people have been through. Moral Decisions What would you do in order to survive? Would you steal? Maybe even kill? Could you refuse giving medicine to save a dying mother and her children to guarantee your own survival? These are very real questions in This War of Mine and perhaps what also lead myself to spend over 55 hours playing it. Because there will be situations, both in the standard modes and stories, where you will have to do something that will most likely leave a bitter aftertaste or even break your heart.The decisions you make will have a much larger impact in the stories (if you play them, prepare for an emotional ride). Characters The characters of This War of Mine all got different back stories, perks and addictions. Keeping an eye on their addictions is a good idea to keep depression at bay and some characters are better suited for certain tasks than others. For example there is one character that is great at cooking and another that is more quiet than others while sneaking (which might be a good perk for scavenging). Some characters might be less affected by morally debatable decisions, such as stealing from an elderly couple, than others. Depending on how you choose to play each scenario, the characters will have different epilogues after the war is finally over. Story mode In each episode you will follow the protagonist’s story during the ongoing war. There are three episodes available - Father’s Promise, The Last Broadcast and Fading Embers. While the first one follows a very linear story, the other two offers more choices, and consequences, and have multiple possible endings. All of the stories are a bit more difficult versus the standard modes, except perhaps if you choose to create a completely mad custom scenario. There are less resources available, less playable characters and more bad stuff happening. My very unbiased opinion is that it’s really during these stories that you feel how much war sucks and where the game truly shines! Fading Embers The very last episode of This War of Mine (I’m not sad, you are!) starts with a man walking through a snow storm… It’s slow, tedious, and after some time he arrives at a house and stumbles through the door… Inside, our protagonist Anja was minding her own business but takes the strange man inside and is determined to ensure the man’s survival. Ensuring the survival of both proves to be quite the task and I had to start all over after some time due to getting all characters terminally ill (gg)! That snow storm makes it really hard to keep the house decently warm and material is extremely scarce, which makes it difficult to maintain enough fuel for heaters. What is more important - saving lives or saving human legacy? This is the main theme of the episode, introducing collecting art as a mechanism. Cultural heritage has always had a big role in defining societies and without them, what will happen to the survivors of a war? As the episode progresses there will be multiple times where you have to make tough decisions, with often severe consequences, and it seems near impossible to not sacrifice something or someone. There are also plenty of cut scenes, which annoyingly enough can’t be skipped even after the first playthrough. It’s by far the most difficult episode to survive, which most likely will frustrate many players. I’ve played this game a fair bit and still needed a retry due to not being able to survive during my first attempt. The protagonist is a reskin of a previously existing character, which might seem lazy to some but I honestly weren’t too bothered by it. The overall game experience was the same as before and considering how the developers promised some new mechanics it does lower the rating of the DLC. Storywise it was a bit uneven, some parts and decisions were really good while others didn’t make much sense. Especially some characters behaviour and decisions seemed a bit off. I did also encounter a few minor bugs, but they were not making the game unplayable so I think that was alright. I really, really, like Anja and most of the moral decisions (with consequences) and I really sympathised with her struggle. Compared to the previous stories I do think the story is better than The Last Broadcast, but not as good as Father’s Promise. However, it offers more replayability due to the multiple possible endings which I can appreciate (if you can suffer through the prologue and cut scenes over and over again). Considering my personal experience with the latest DLC, with the high difficulty and unskippable cutscenes, I can’t recommend it to new players. I’m afraid that new players would just get angry after dying from starvation, illness or getting shot a couple of times! Of course, you might die from all of that in the other modes too… But they are usually faster to play through and without unskippable events, which makes eventual deaths not as bothersome. Nevertheless, I would recommend this DLC to any old player. It is true that I did find some things a bit frustrating and some other things could be improved, but the general experience was fantastic! All in all, I’m a bit sad that there will be no more episodes to play, and I don’t think I’m alone with shedding a little tear as the epilogue starts rolling and it’s time to move on to other adventures. Thank you, 11 Bit Studios, for the experience that all of This War of Mine is. Until next time! - Kyathil