Magicka

Magicka is an action-adventure game set in the fantasy world of Midgård, where elemental magic rules the land, goblins and trolls are perfectly harmless – well, perhaps not entirely, and all the villagers are wise-cracking smartalecks.
Magicka is an action-adventure game set in the fantasy world of Midgård, where elemental magic rules the land, goblins and trolls are perfectly harmless – well, perhaps not entirely, and all the villagers are wise-cracking smartalecks.

Magicka is a 2-D action-adventure spellcasting game thats utterly silly and pure fun to play. You play as a host of wizards in a quest to save Midgard from an old evil! Along the way, you’ll learn new spells, annoy your friends, and die more times by your own hand than you will by any of the mobs. The graphics are pretty, the soundtrack follows a mystical style, mixed with norse beats of a drum and suits the atmosphere very well. This game shines on its own but when played with friends it becomes a purely amazing, rage filled adventure, worthy of the price tag.

The title screen is a simple show of how silly this game is. Its utterly brilliant.
The title screen is a simple show of how silly this game is. Its utterly brilliant.

Jumping into Magicka you will instantly get the tone of the game: humor, wit and satire. Vlad, who is most certainly not a vampire, will explain that he is; most certainly not a vampire. Its the kind of “roll your eyes obvious kinda comedy” and its rife throughout the game. The game functions like a point and click for movement, you hold the left mouse button to guide your character to that point, the character also rotates with the mouse, so directions of spells is easy to control. The gameplay works by you have control of eight elements: Fire, Water, Ice, Earth, Arcane, Lightning, Life and Shield and you can use these on their own if you’re some kind of boring wizard, or you can do what the game really wants you to do: Combine them.

FWOOOSH.
FWOOOSH.

So after learning about the basics of the elements, like how you can’t combine lightning and water because you’d ultimately just fry yourself, you’re pretty much given free control over what spells you use. Over the course of the game, you’ll encounter new enemies who will have certain weaknesses to different spells and combinations of spells and this allows you keep being creative and makes you want to progress. You’ll find books along your adventure that give you powerful combinations of spells that you can cast to rain down meteors, crash enemies (or yourself and friends) to desktop, cause a blizzard and many more. Its such a fun way to play a game; see a huge horde of Goblins coming towards you? Just cast a meteor shower and hit yourself up with a shield and you’ll be fine. Most of the time.

PANIC PANIC PANIC PANIC.
PANIC PANIC PANIC PANIC.

Like I said earlier, there are plenty of Wizards to choose from. They’re all (Mostly I think) DLC packs, but you can get them all for dirt cheap now, and they really do expand the experience considering each wizard robe you pick has a different staff, robe and passive effects. One of my favorites is the “Heavy Metal Robe” as he gets a sweet 80’s rocker look, a mic-stand staff and an axe guitar melee weapon. The melee weapons feature with every wizard and are mostly used for last resorts, but can become quite powerful if you put your spells onto your weapon, meaning you can make your sword icy for one hit. Or you can have it have a combination of steam, lightning and arcane. Whichever you prefer.

You can also customize the colour of the robes. I chose black, because all black everything.
You can also customize the colour of the robes. I chose black, because all black everything.

This game is utterly fantastic and made even more fantastic by the co=op and multiplayer options. Get four of your chums to get this game and you’ve got yourselves a wizard adventure like no other! I’ve cried with laughter when playing this with Static and others, mostly because Static doesn’t understand why he’s constantly drenched in water and dies when he goes to revive people. The PvP element is a little dodgy; server lag usually means somebody has a meteor spell lined up when you didn’t even see them setup, but its forgivable when one of their own meteors hits them in the face. The DLC quests and additions and tonnes of content. This game is superb.

The loading screens are also amazing. They all feature tips and a sketch of a wizard, usually acting stupidly and holding a sausage on a stick.
The loading screens are also amazing. They all feature tips and a sketch of a wizard, usually acting stupidly and holding a sausage on a stick.

Magicka is developed by Arrowhead Game Studios. You can find it on Steam for £7.99. Article written for Spirit Of The Robot by TD.
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Magicka

The Banner Saga

Live through an epic role-playing Viking saga where your strategic choices directly affect your personal journey. Make allies as you travel with your caravan across this stunning yet harsh landscape. Carefully choose those who will help fight a new threat that jeopardizes an entire civilization.
Live through an epic role-playing Viking saga where your strategic choices directly affect your personal journey. Make allies as you travel with your caravan across this stunning yet harsh landscape. Carefully choose those who will help fight a new threat that jeopardizes an entire civilization.

The Banner Saga is a 2-D strategy RPG with decision making elements enrolled into the story. Its a narrative driven game, which is backed by some fantastic writing and story elements, making each character you play with a unique asset to your game. The art-style is gorgeous, adapting a hand-drawn style that compliments the soundtrack and the overall feel of the game beautifully. The gameplay is tactical and engaging, forcing you to make clever use of different characters and their abilities on the battlefield whilst attempting to keep moral high and your caravan fed as you trek through the harsh world.

In this sense, it borrows from TellTale games, actions have consequences that can be good, or bloody dire.
In this sense, it borrows from TellTale games, actions have consequences that can be good, or bloody dire.

Starting up Banner Saga you’ll be presented with the gorgeous splash screen that I showed in the first picture, this represents the art style throughout the game and is constantly refreshing to see how the artists have designed each part of the world as you move through it. The main aim of Banner Saga is there is an oncoming horde of colossal invaders; The Dredge. You have to seek safety as best you can. The story follows two narratives through Hakon and Rook. Hakon is a Varl warmaster: A giant horned race, and Rook is a human hunter. Both the stories are separate and face different challenges. When you’re not on the battleground, you’ll be travelling on your quest; this is where the game shows itself off, the landscapes are simply gorgeous, from rolling mountains to religious sites, fields to the sea; all drawn by hand and my god are they pretty. The effect of the banner that is trailing your caravan as you travel is also very neatly done. In short, this game is stunning.

So you’re probably wondering what the actual fights look like right? They operate on a grid like basis, similar to that of X-Com or Might and Magic, with each character and enemy taking up a grid slot, or four if you’re fighting/playing with Varl characters. Each character has a unique ability making them original and it makes choosing them from your roster equally important. An ability to “Mark Pray” where they’ll give them a slice and all in range allies will also attack, is as valuable as “Sundering Impact” which will decimate nearby enemies. Characters also have a passive ability that will boost defense, attack and other things. The enemy AI is clever and tactical, focusing on either weaker archers that you’ve left exposed or surrounding your main tank and giving him a few good smacks before you twirl your axe around and knock all of them down to 1 health. Its a gripping battle style and as I said, makes planning the layout of your characters a must if you don’t want them all to die.

Typical battlefield. I place archers in the back because the game told me it was best and it was my third attempt at this battle...
Typical battlefield. I place archers in the back because the game told me it was best and it was my third attempt at this battle…

Characters also have “Willpower” in battles. This acts as a kind of stamina for your special abilities and can be used to move further by a tile, attack with more force or use your special ability. The attacks in this game have two kinds, armor or health. Obviously a big tanking Dredge is going to need to be worn down with attacks to armor first; unless your characters boast a high strength in which you can bet you’ll be able to chink away their health over time. Battles work on a turn based system, with you being able to pick the order of your heroes. You do your turn, the AI does its turn and you repeat. It can seem a little tedious but its a tried and true formula to do strategy games: It lets you plan attacks that may or may not work depending on how the AI thinks. At the end of a successful fight, you’ll have gained xp with your characters and some may even become promoted, allowing boosted stats and traits. You’ll also gain Renown which acts as a currency that you can use to buy equipment that will boost a characters stats or more importantly, supplies.

WE EARNED OUR STRIPES- Wrong game...
WE EARNED OUR STRIPES- Wrong game…

I mentioned that there are decision making parts to this game and I did so for the reason that they create tension in the story. Faced with an approaching Dredge attack but limited on supplies, do you run the risk of gathering more supplies and be prepared to fight or do you flee and hope for some salvation down the road? The outcomes to these choices will either boost your caravan or cause you to be stuck in a fight you didn’t want to be in. There are also social decisions to make: brothers murder their former town leader, do you allow them to join your caravan as solid fighters or do you refuse them and send them on their own way? It keeps the game fresh and presents you with new dilemmas to solve without taking away from the narrative, which is vital to a game so good at telling the story.

Cut scenes involve reading what is being said, paying attention to detail will be useful to you later.
Cut scenes involve reading what is being said, paying attention to detail will be useful to you later.

Overall, this game is a must play for RPG strategy lovers. Its a shame I’m not overly in love with this kind of game series, as I love both RPG games and Strategy games. I can however, admire it for its style and story of which are going to be the lasting memories I have of this game.

Time to leave the safety of the town for the road...
Time to leave the safety of the town for the road…

The Banner Saga is developed by Stoic Studios. You can find it on Steam for £14.99. Article written for Spirit of the Robot by TD.
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The Banner Saga

An Interview With Team Reptile, Creators of Lethal League, PLUS, A CHANCE TO WIN YOURSELF A COPY!

Vivid colours and a distinctive art style are immediate hallmarks of Lethal League
Back to make your day just that bit more insane!

A little while back I wrote an article regarding Lethal League, an awesome fighting game that went on a date with pong. Well, we loved the game so much we got in touch with Team Reptile to see if they’d give us some answers to a few questions we ended up asking.

Kindly, Dion Koster, the Game Director behind this crazy experience, got back to us to provide some insight!

First off: Where did the idea for Lethal League come from?
We had the idea from our last game, Megabyte Punch, which in turn was inspired by Super Smash Bros. In Megabyte Punch we kept shooting missiles at each other and then reflecting them back and forth. We thought this was fun enough for a separate game. I then made a prototype with some new a ideas added and it turned out pretty well.

A pong-gone-street-fighter game might not seem like a great idea on paper. What was the thought process to figuring out how the mechanics would work?
It’s an evolution really. You get an idea, you make it, if it’s fun it sticks. A game changing mechanic, like the increasing speed and hit-pause usually comes with multiple new issues to solve. So it’s also problem solving. Sometimes a problem is something that’s missing, instead of something glaring in your face. Solving those is more akin to creation than fixing. The ‘bunt’ solution was one such things, where there was contrast missing to all the high speed action. You could use it to slow the ball down and set it up for a better strike and it stuck because it turned out to be fun.

Bunt!
When you play, you’ll understand what awesome contrast the bunt gives the rest of the game

We absolutely love the colourful art style you guys went for, it complements the hectic fun and really makes Lethal League stand out. Did you consider any alternate art styles? What was your inspiration?
Thank you very much. We didn’t really consider other art styles for Lethal League to be honest. It was a very natural process. My inspirations are from street culture, hiphop and games like Jet Set Radio.

And what’s behind the character design? Mechanically enhanced crocodile? A skateboarding ex-working class robot?
I wanted to have fresh and individual characters, but from the same world and all within the street-theme. The Lethal League world is set in the near future where applied robotics is only just emerging. Every character’s concept can be traced back to many inspirations. For example, Candyman takes from Pacman, Deadmau5, tap-dancers and the puppets from Black Dynamite. Aside from making the characters look dope, I pay special attention to stay away from ‘cheap’ elements. Things like fad accessories or in-your-face pop culture references can bring a game’s value down in my eyes, especially long term.

We really can’t ignore the music, some of the best music we’ve ever encountered in a fighting game. How did you go about finding the artists behind the tracks? Have you ever thought about releasing a standalone Lethal League soundtrack?
Pretty early on in development we decided that we wanted to feature multiple artists in the game to have some fresh variations. 50% of the tracks are from artists we already knew from earlier projects or we knew from elsewhere. FlatAttack and RE by ZeroScar are from the guy who also composed the Megabyte Punch OST. We know Klaus Veen (Ordinary Days) for years already as a close friend. We found artists like Grillo, Bignic & Ishanna by listening to a lot of different playlists. If we heard something that would fit Lethal League we contacted the artists to see if we could work together. We definitely thought about releasing a standalone LL soundtrack but we thought it’s better to support the individual artist through their own pages/bandcamps/soundsclouds.(Note from Static: Honestly, check out the artists featured in this game. They are some truly creative minds worth supporting.).

Dice's special arcs the ball, rather than sending it in a straight line, which can totally throw off an opponent.
You can see the artist being played on the boombox. Convenient and a cool feature!

Have you got any tips for the players in general? Any tactics they might not have utilised?
Well, you probably noticed that timing is key in the game. However you can ‘cheat’ by checking out the boombox. The little volume sliders fills up during the hitlag of a player. The moment that meter is full is the same moment the ball releases from the player. A pro-tip which is not explained in the game itself is the parry. The parry is very useful when other players are trying to hijack your ball directly after you hit it. While you’re in the hitlag you can press B (the bunt button) to use your meter to parry and slightly stun incoming opponents.

The most recent addition to the League is Dice, but do you have any plans to release more characters? Or even any more arenas, or game modes?
We don’t have more content planned right now, but there is stuff in the works. That’s all I can say really.

And finally: My personal favourite is Switch, I can’t help but constantly ride the ceiling to drop for a down smash, but who is your go-to character?
I can’t choose a favorite, but lately I’ve been picking Raptor a lot. Mostly because I like his movement and jump speeds.

I'll stick with my amazing skateboarding robot.
I’ll stick with my amazing skateboarding robot.

Additionally, Team Reptile were kind enough to provide us with one more gift to you: A free copy of Lethal League to give away! So now is your chance to win yourself a totally free copy, courtesy of a fantastic game developer!

All you have to do is comment on this article with a link to your Steam profile, and join the Spirit of the Robot Steam group, which will let us keep you up to date when all our new articles are released! The point of this system is to stop people gaming the giveaway, keeping it fair for everyone.

The winner will be drawn on the 22nd of March and will receive a copy of Lethal League.

Make sure to tell your friends and we hope you enjoy reading all our articles! Article written for Spirit of the Robot by Static.

An Interview With Team Reptile, Creators of Lethal League, PLUS, A CHANCE TO WIN YOURSELF A COPY!

King Arthur’s Gold – An example of a massively overlooked title

I only wish this had more players
I only wish this had more players

When I come to reviewing a game, one of the most fiddly part is getting screenshots. Often, I’ll be having a lot of fun and have to really bring myself to press F12 during the heat of the moment, to capture something amazing, when really I’ll want to be stuck in. King Arthur’s Gold took this a step further, and as a result, my collection of screenshots for this is slim.

But unfortunately, when I went on to get more today, I couldn’t. Why? Well, it’s pretty much midday and everyone’s doing working life stuff, but ignoring that, this game is unfortunately rarely populated. At any one time, I estimate there are a maximum of 80 people online worldwide. This is disappointing, as it’s a primarily multiplayer game and fun as hell.

Blue yonder
Defend the sea wall!

This might sound hard to believe, but I actually came up with the idea of King Arthur’s Gold when I was sat in a GCSE English class about seven years ago. I said to my friend, “You know what would be cool? A game where you could build castles and fight over them. A 2D sidescroller, with soldiers and builders, so you could build up big castles or tunnel under them, and have huge battles at the gates.” Only, at the time, I thought it would be a two player game played as a turn based strategy. I never thought about it again for years until I saw this game, and I had to have it. They’d perfected the idea I had privately come up with years ago, only they made it a real time game, and everybody controlled one of the men on the field… Okay so, I had the base concept and nothing else, sue me.

This is a simple, arcade game in every way. The general controls are movement, attacking, picking items up, and blocking (if you’re a knight, anyway). The only slightly more complex parts are building and item construction.

The reds suspect nothing!
The reds suspect nothing!

The game is primarily multiplayer and focuses around three key gamemodes: Capture the Flag, Take The Halls, and Team Deathmatch. I won’t discuss team deathmatch, as it’s nothing more than knights and archers trying to kill each other, but the other two gamemodes have something fantastic: Construction!

At the start of the game, you will start with a basic spawnpoint and either a hall or a flag, gamemode dependent, obviously. In Take The Halls, your objective is to control all the Halls on the map. Think strategic points in other games. In Capture The Flag, you, well, need to capture the flag. Get across the map, grab the other team’s flag and get it back to yours, twice.

However, the initial map really is nothing but what is said above, then open land, water, and maybe some wild animals. You get, at the start of the game, five minutes to build up defences. This means your entire team (should) switch to the builder class, cut down trees, dig up stone, and build a huge fortification, ready for the enemy onslaught.

Defences can be great or, in this case, pretty heavily damaged.
Defences can be great or, in this case, pretty heavily damaged from all the war.

It makes for a really great game. I love the mining and building at the start of the round, preparing new and awesome defences for when the enemy arrive. Special blocks you can place, like trap blocks that only the enemy can pass through, or doors that only your team can pass through, make for interesting designs. Platforms allow one way movement, so they’re often used to make archer platforms where they can fire out but nobody can fire in.

After the construction time is over, gameplay changes slightly. Whilst builders need to maintain the defences, they could also move to the frontline to make an outpost, helping your team hold the ground they’ve advanced to. Or they could start tunneling under the enemy fortifications, so your knights can pop up from behind and slaughter everything.

Meanwhile, knights and archers will be pushing the frontline, trying to break through enemy fortifications, and generally keeping the pressure on. Knights get access to bombs and gunpowder kegs, which can help blasting through enemy defences, using their shield to block arrows, swords, and explosions alike. Meanwhile, archers have access to bomb arrows and fire arrows, which can punch holes in key areas or set entire wooden forts on fire. Additionally, archers get a grapple hook to pull themselves up to high areas, or move quickly. They also get the ability to play dead, and to hide in trees.

Survey the field, my friends. Keep watch for the enemy!
Survey the field, my friends. Keep watch for the enemy!

But quite often, it is the humble builder that sways the tide of battle. Their forward defences can keep the enemy locked in their castle, and they themselves can simply dig through the front doors to enemy castles, or even underneath them!

But when builders don’t work, KAG has one more solution up it’s sleeve. Siege weapons.

Catapults, ballistae, war ships, long boats, all of which have huge destructive ability. Ballistae and war ships act as mobile spawn points, with the ballista able to use huge bolts to shoot down enemy defences, and the war ship with the ability to ram through enemy sea defences alongside a top-mounted heavy bow to shoot enemies. The catapult can fire stone to knock down enemy walls bit by bit, or loaded with boulders or kegs to really do some damage. Heck, you can even load yourself to be flung over the enemy walls completely! Finally, the long boat can move quickly and very quickly bring down large enemy fortifications, simply by ramming into them… Of course, that requires a good few members on your team to all row the boat in the same direction.

And everything I’ve said makes for a hugely active, frantic battlefield. Games can go on for minutes, or over an hour, depending on how well the defenses are maintained and the tactics used. Games sometimes even end in stalemates, quite frequently due to the ground between enemy bases having been turned into nothing more than a gigantic crater due to the amount of explosions and damage. I mean, there’s nothing stopping you trying to make a bridge but there’s nothing necessarily stopping the enemy from using it, or setting it on fire…

And finally, as one last note, KAG has dynamic physics. That means, if a structure isn’t supported, it will fall, and kill anything immediately below it. So if that huge frontline wall is not only stopping your advance, but also protecting the entire enemy army behind it… Well, perhaps you could solve two birds with one stone and plant a gunpowder keg at the bottom, bring the wall crashing down on top of them… And probably you. But the rest of your team can then charge!

All in all, I absolutely love this game. Whilst it can get tiresome quite quickly, especially when a battle reaches a stalemate, the creative aspect and the simple but frantic combat makes for an awesome experience. My only real gripe comes from the fact that not enough people play it. Whilst you can happily hop on any evening and find a game, most people only play Capture The Flag, potentially only filling two servers to 75% of their 24 player capacity. Finding a game of Take The Halls, my personal favourite gamemode, is even harder. If there were more people playing this game, it would be constant, amazing fun. However, the game really has fallen on hard times and you can really only play what is available. The flip side of this is, there’s a very tight knit community, and even a few clans floating around that take part in matches. If you have a few pounds to spare, this is a great game to get and mess around on, even more so if you have a group of people you can play with. Highly recommended.

King Arthur’s Gold is developed by Transhuman. You can find it on Steam for £6.99, or you can get a four-pack for £22.99. Article written for Spirit of the Robot by Static.

King Arthur’s Gold – An example of a massively overlooked title

Starbound

In Starbound, you take on the role of a character who’s just fled from their home planet, only to crash-land on another. From there you’ll embark on a quest to survive, discover, explore and fight your way across an infinite universe!
In Starbound, you take on the role of a character who’s just fled from their home planet, only to crash-land on another. From there you’ll embark on a quest to survive, discover, explore and fight your way across an infinite universe!

Starbound is an Early Access 2-D exploration/crafting game developed by ChuckleFish and it’s a lot of fun. It’s essentially Terraria in space, with 2-D graphics and sprites, crafting and scavenging and a whole plethora of weapons and mobs to fight. The reason this review is coming up now is because it received a massive update a couple of days ago that sucked me right back into the game. The gameplay is simple yet challenging at times, the sounds are cheery and follow suit of the Terraria heritage by changing when you get deeper into the planets core or find a new biome. This update has given a breath of fresh air to an already fantastic idea.

Its not much, but it can do the kessel run in 12 parsecs.
Its not much, but it can do the kessel run in 12 parsecs.

When you start the game you’ll be presented with the option to create a character and choose from several races, which are largely the same at the time of writing except they get their own unique lore and items which you get when you start the game. After fiddling around with the hair and color then naming your Novakid you’ll be plonked onto your ship and be given a series of tutorial quests; such as fix your onship UI so you can access your onboard inventory, go down to the planet and chop some wood etc. Its a nice way to guide the player into the world and mechanics of Starbound and it works very well. The controls are solid and not too complicated, quick binds to your inventory and crafting screens can be edited for your approval and joy. After throwing you the tutorials, the missions they set start to get a bit more complicated. After chopping down enough trees and hunting the wildlife for food, you’ll be quested to go and mine (Surprise) some copper. Which usually means exploring the planet to find a suitable cavern. This is both utterly exciting and a joy to do. The art style is captivating and unique to most planets, the biomes are varied, the mobs/lifeforms roam around; whether its by flying or walking. I have to mention here the first mining tool you get, your “Matter Manipulator” which is essentially an all in one DIY tool. You’ll use this until you get pickaxes and such, which seems strange to me. A pickaxe seems so barbaric compared to the Matter Manipulator, but you can upgrade it later so maybe it becomes more useful later.

Candy-floss trees! Delicious!
Candy-floss trees! Delicious!

By this time you’ll have encountered the aliens (or are YOU the real alien? Mid-game crisis) that inhabit the world and you’ll have had to fight a few. Not all the aliens are hostile though, some will happily frolic the planet eating and making strange noises like I imagine Static makes when he rolls out of bed everyday. Others however will use a wide variety of attacks to murder you for simply looking at them funny. Some will simply run at you with a charge, others will throw toxic spit at you so you’ll have to keep your distance. It makes combat engaging as you cant use the same tactic for all the monsters you encounter. When you do have to fight you will have the chance to use a VAST variety of weapons; ranging from battered hammers to laser guns: all craftable or findable in chests deep under the planets surface adding to the thrill of jumping down a dark hole in hopes of finding that uberhaxor sword you’ve seen on a video.

Have at thee!
Have at thee! Oh he’s neutral…

When you finish the “tutorial” quests you’ll get to visit other planets and warp gates. These warp gates allow you to visit The Outpost, a gathering of NPC’s who offer trade and missions. Its a brilliant addition and adds more to the game after you might be “thinking whats the point?”. Also everybody likes the idea of piloting their own ship to unknown planets to discover what could be hidden there, right?!. Also a quick mention to the ships: They can now be upgraded to have more space! This was a thing I wanted way back when the game first released and now you can! Its so fun to customize and change the way your ship looks and when you hop online with friends its fun to see how they will make their ships look, obviously not as good as yours but still at least they tried!

Warp Gate or Black Hole? Only one way to find out!
Warp Gate or Black Hole? Only one way to find out!

When you die, which you will in several circumstances; misjudged a jump, went against an alien that looked adorable but spat fire at you etc., a few things might happen. The effects of dying are based on the difficulty you select at the start: Easy will mean you’ll only lose “Pixels” (In-game currency), Medium will result in a loss of Pixels and valuable items, such as diamonds and ore, and hard will result in permadeath so be careful! When you respawn back in your ship, you can decide to go back down to the planet or you can say “Sod it” and jump to another one. This allows for you to explore whole solar systems and eventually galaxies, adding depth to the game as you strive to upgrade your engines so you can blast to the furthest reaches of known space.

When you die, you get a "re-birthing" kind of animation that's unique to your race
When you die, you get a “re-birthing” kind of animation that’s unique to your race

Overall this game is a fantastic addition to any exploration loving gamer. Its a really engaging, pretty, fun and down-right addictive game. If you liked the fighting in Terraria and the crafting of Minecraft, then Starbound is a definite to your collection. If you like killing aliens and acting like the conqueror of the universe as you go to planets and build giant tributes to yourself: You’ll probably like this game too!

I may be in a little bit of trouble here.
I may be in a little bit of trouble here.

Starbound is developed by ChuckleFish and is in Early Access. You can find it on Steam for £11.99. Article written for Spirit of the Robot by TD.

Starbound

Lethal League – The love child of Pong and Street Fighter

With a host of characters like that, you know this is going to be some crazy fun.

When I come to write a review, I generally hope to have logged a few hours on the game. This allows me to get an understanding of the story, a better feel for the gameplay, and generally write a more informed article than I would be able to on a “first impressions” basis. Having played the game, I then tend to sleep on it and write the article the next day, letting my overall feelings for the game sink in.

I have not done this for Lethal League. I purchased this game perhaps three hours ago, and have logged over an hour of play on it already, well and truly thrashing TD in some head-to-head matches. Whilst, yes, he did win a few, one thing rang true through every match: It was seriously fun.

Vivid colours and a distinctive art style are immediate hallmarks of Lethal League
Vivid colours and a distinctive art style are immediate hallmarks of Lethal League

Lethal League is unique, as far as I’m aware. It is, at heart, a fighting game that got confused somewhere along the line and wondered what it would be like if it was Pong. There are a set of characters, each with a unique move set, and their sole method of attack is manipulating a ball so that it hits their opponent. Every hit of the ball makes it faster and, thus, harder to avoid or hit back. Each player has a set of lives, one of which is lost each time they are knocked out by the ball. Once your life counter hits zero, you’re out, until only one player (or team) remains.

I can’t express how much fun this game is, and a blog doesn’t do it justice. The absolutely frantic gameplay will have you shouting at the screen. I don’t say that lightly, in my matches with my fellow blogger, we were literally shouting down our microphones at each other. It’s just one of those games that gets you really riled up, but in a good way.

You don't understand how difficult it was to get these screenshots. This game moves quickly!
You don’t understand how difficult it was to get these screenshots. This game moves quickly!

Like other simplistic fighting games (the one springing to mind is Street Fighter), a basic move set is all you get, but it’s your movement, timing, and use of that small ability roster that really makes the gameplay interesting. As such, all the characters have unique movement mechanics to enhance how they play. For instance, Sonata can double jump, allowing her to make sudden changes in direction even mid-air. Switch can ride his skateboard up walls and along the ceiling, completely changing the predictability of where he will strike. Latch can climb walls and strike the ball whilst holding onto them. All these things, though minor by themselves, can be used to great effect when a player gets to grips with the dynamics of the game.

But let’s talk about the characters for a movement, since I feel I’ve been far too nonchalant about them. There’s Raptor, a rookie to the league who brings his trusty metal baseball bat. Fair enough. There’s also Dice, a skilled ping pong player, bringing his deadly hand bat. Okay, I can go with that. There’s also Candyman, a mutant human with a gigantic candy head. Uhmm, okay. What about Switch, a working-class skateboarding robot? No, seriously, that’s his description. Then there’s Sonata, the boombox-hammer wielding girl, and Latch, a mechanically enhanced crocodile.

There's more to the characters than just a crazy biography, though.
There’s more to the characters than just a crazy biography, though.

That’s fun in itself, and I love the additional bit of entertainment it brings to the game; it allows you to bond with each character. But, like any old school fighting game, it also gives each character a special move which it can perform if they simply hit the ball four times. These moves are where the truly tactical side of Lethal League shines through.

In my matches with TD, by far the dirtiest tactic I would use to win was with Candyman. You see, Candyman’s special ability is that he changes the ball so that, rather than bouncing off a wall, it teleports through to the opposite wall of the stage. And so, all I would do is sit in a corner, repeatedly hitting the ball against the wall before all of a sudden popping my special and teleporting it across the other side of the map, behind TD’s back, causing a bucketload of fury over the microphone at me. And it was fun.

Dice's special arcs the ball, rather than sending it in a straight line, which can totally throw off an opponent.
Dice’s special arcs the ball, rather than sending it in a straight line, which can totally throw off an opponent… Not here, though, since he hit it in the wrong direction.

Further, like any old school fighting game, there are little quirks to the game which overcome certain gameplay issues. For instance, a character never instantly hits the ball. Instead, there is “hit lag”, which basically means that upon hitting the ball there is a short span of time where the character is suspended before the ball is actually propelled away. During this time, an enterprising opponent can interrupt the attack by “bunting” it, which will lob it in the air to be hit again.

Additionally, this ball can move really quite fast. As a result, it would be unfortunate if your own strike came back to knock you out. So, when you hit the ball, it will changes to your colour and become harmless to you, remaining that way until it is either hit by another player, or “bunted”, which will temporarily slow it down and neutralise it so that it’s harmless to any player. Whilst this setting can be turned off, leaving it on makes for it’s own challenge by increasing the difficulty of timing.

By far my favourite character, riding on the ceiling is an excellent way to confuse your opponent.
By far my favourite character, riding on the ceiling is an excellent way to confuse your opponent.

Each game is short, lasing perhaps five minutes for the longest of games. Individual rounds in each game rarely last more than twenty seconds, though serious intense matches can last a few seconds more than that. As a result, it’s the ideal game for just picking up and playing on a whim with some friends.

Speaking of which, and once again, Lethal League shines. It is perhaps one of the few PC games to be released in the past few years that you can play with your friends in the same room on a single PC, all at once. How many games can say that now? You can hook up console controllers to have lots of people playing hot seat. Now, if you were to hook up your PC to a big TV and have a four player free-for-all, I’m not saying it would be fun, but… Oh, heck, it would be amazing!

Smash inbound!
Smash inbound!

One more thing to mention: The music in this game is great. Truly iconic. Each stage has its own sound track, and they are all tunes that really reflect the insane nature of the game. If you heard any of the tracks outside of the game, you would instantly know it’s from Lethal League.

All in all, Lethal League is by far one of the best gaming experiences I’ve had in a while. It definitely excels when you play with friends, but you can play against the CPU. The unique gameplay mechanics really make it shine, especially given how easy it is for anyone to pick up. This is definitely a Street Fighter, rather than a Tekken, when it comes to move sets, so there’s no learning intricate button combos. The only issue I really had was that my fingers were getting a bit confused in the heat of the moment, and I often found myself tapping jump rather than strike. Whilst I’m certain a console controller would help here, you are able to rebind the keys and, like any game, there is an aspect of simply getting used to the controls.

If you’re looking for a game to mess about on with a few friends, look no further. This is definitely a little known gem that really deserves more attention.

Lethal League is developed by Team Reptile. You can find it on Steam for £9.99. Article written for Spirit of the Robot by Static.

Lethal League – The love child of Pong and Street Fighter

RUNNING WITH RIFLES – Not new, not finished, but one of the best indie games available today

Comes with interactive title screen!
Comes with interactive title screen!

A few years ago, I discovered Desura. I loved this huge abundance of mixed indie titles, but really didn’t like Desura. As much as I hate to say it, Steam has a (rightfully earned) monopoly on the digital distribution world, and Desura just couldn’t stand up to it. Despite this, I still ended up buying two games on Desura, one of which was this, RUNNING WITH RIFLES (capslock intended).

I didn’t play much back then but when I learnt I could activate my copy again on Steam, I jumped on that like peppercorn on a steak. Now in the last stages of Beta, RWR is painfully close to being released and, honestly, it might be one of the best games around at the moment.

Pew pew!
Pew pew!

RWR is a simple game. It is a top-down shooter, where you play as one individual soldier in a large battle, consisting of hundreds of other soldiers at once, some of which might be players if you’re online. The general objective is to take over the map by killing off enemies and holding areas. Once you’ve won one map, it usually rolls straight over to the next map, where the aim is the do exactly the same. And so, RWR could be seen as a casual game, but it’s your choice to take it casually or seriously.

To add to the fun, most of the time there are three factions on any one map. Green, brown, and grey. Each has their own set of unique equipment and are vying for control of the map. This makes for some interesting gameplay, especially when all three factions meet at one point for some seriously intense warfare. Throw in the availability of APCs, jeeps, tanks, call-in artillery and deployable MGs, mortars and sandbags, you have the makings of a very intense combat game.

Also boats.
Also boats.

Controlling your soldier is easy. It’s WASD to move around on screen and your mouse to point and shoot. The game is 3D, with the ability to climb buildings, hide behind objects and move safely out of sight behind hills, so the game figures you’re aiming where you point the mouse and creates a line of sight. If you can see the area your mouse is at, the icon turns green, but if you can’t, it’s red and a grey line of sight appears showing you where you can’t see. Very intuitive, and very nice.

Throwing grenades, crouching, proning, knifing, calling it airstrikes and commanding your squad all add to tactics in the game. If you’re pinned down behind a car, you could chuck some grenades over to try and force the enemy away, or perhaps even call in for a paradrop of marines nearby. If you’re on a ridge and under heavy MG fire, going prone might just drop you out of sight.

Armouries around the map allow you to change your kit or access to special weapons, like C4.
Armouries around the map allow you to change your kit or access special weapons, like C4 or body armour.

Being at the frontline in this game is an awful lot of fun. Grabbing an assault rifle or LMG whilst gunning down enemies all around you is excellent fun. But this game has an additional side which many players take a while to discover: It has stealth.

You can opt to take a silenced MP5 and stick to knifing and silently killing enemies, potentially sneaking round the frontline to place C4 on the enemy radio tower, disabling their ability to call in airstrikes, or potentially stealing their newly spawned tank. Either way, the sneaky side of gameplay allows for some excellent options, by enabling you to kill enemies without raising alarm. The fact you can do this in a top-down game says a lot, and proves they’ve thought this through.

Different weapons have different abilities. LMGs can spew out bullets, but sniper rifles allow you to pan the camera further than normal.
Different weapons have different abilities. LMGs can spew out bullets, but sniper rifles allow you to pan the camera further than normal.

There’s a lot to this game, but you can just as easily hop in and feel like you’re useful. Killing enemies is as simple as point and click, and it rarely takes more than a few seconds to respawn and run back to the frontline. I often just jump on, spend ten minutes running round getting kills, then log back off. When I’m feeling more serious, I can go on, help really make a difference by targeting enemy radio towers and weapon caches, and lead my squad on missions deep into enemy territory, calling down artillery and paratroopers on enemy positions.

The gameplay, coupled with the lovely cell shaded graphics, make for a light-hearted game with some surprisingly serious moments that you can choose to embrace or completely ignore. The funny thing is, I actually recognise I’m missing out a lot of the gameplay mechanics, because there’s just too much to talk about. It’s all part of learning and enjoying the game.

The tactical map allows for a grand overview of the situation.
The tactical map allows for a grand overview of the situation.

I love this game. In an era of gritty, sepia filtered war games, this stands out by being simple, fun, and yet embracing for tactics. You will be punished with death for charging into 10 enemies, and the tides of war will see the frontline swaying both ways constantly. Given the excellent AI in game, you won’t feel like a lone super-soldier either, as the AI is as accurate as you are and will also run for cover when under fire.

If you want a light-hearted war game, this is definitely for you. It stands uncontested in the top-down war shooter category, the only similar titles I can think of all being zombie survival games with more complex survival and crafting mechanics. All you will be doing in RWR is killing, dying, and repeating. It is a simple, beautiful game.

RUNNING WITH RIFLES is developed by Modulaatio Games. You can find it on Steam Early Access for £10.99. Article written for Spirit of the Robot by Static.

RUNNING WITH RIFLES – Not new, not finished, but one of the best indie games available today