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

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!

Nosgoth – Vampires versus humans? That could be pretty awesome.

Competitive gaming style title screen. Says a lot immediately.
Competitive gaming style title screen. Says a lot immediately.

I should really give credit to TD for this one. He found it, we played it, and I decided to review it. This was probably a wise idea on his half, since it’s taken me a long time to get round to a point where I feel I can take the plunge and actually give an opinion on this game.

So, Nosgoth pits vampires against humans in sets of two, five man teams going head to head in shooter style combat. Only, both sides seem to be taking part in an alternative Victorian steampunk style world. Humans are armed with crossbows, guns, are various types of launchers, whilst vampires are armed with the gifts the bad lord gave them, including climbing walls, spewing goo, and mauling you to death.

Despite being bow-based, the action is still very fast paced.
Despite being bow-based, the action is still very fast paced, with your typical life being very short.

Vampires might be a strong word to use here. Recently, we’ve had so many different types. The traditional Dracula style, blood sucking, cape wearing, castle residing person is not present in this game. Nor is Twilight’s poncy self-hating angsty teenager vampire. Not even Underworld’s alternate Gothic, leather spangled vampires make an appearance. In fact, what we end up with is positively not what I would consider a vampire to be in any light.

Rather, Square Enix went down the path of creating a few beasts, not seeming to find a better name for them and using “vampire”, since they can regenerate health by feasting upon corpses. But honestly, there is nothing here I’d consider a “classic” vampire. You have guys that leap for miles, engaging hit and run tactics. You have big muscle men that can charge through and act as your tank. You even get deadly, lightning fast winged beasts which can swoop down and pick up a lone human to drop him from a great height. These are not what I consider vampires, but alas, Nosgoth does.

Some pointy teeth and a lovely flowing cape would suit you nicely, sir.
Some pointy teeth and a lovely flowing cape would suit you nicely, sir.

But let’s take a step back and assess the gameplay. Rounds consist of one team of five humans going head to head against one team of five vampires in a straightforward team deathmatch; that is to say, their only goal is to kill each other. At the end of the round, they swap sides and the humans become vampires and vice versa. At the end, the kill count is tallied up and the side with the higher overall score wins. Good system, easy enough.

I have to admit immediately that gamemodes are a bit thin on the ground at the moment. It does feel like it lacks variety, and I sure wouldn’t mind seeing a Capture the Flag, or King of the Hill. But this is probably all round due to one incredible factor about this game. It is balanced.

Trust me, a balanced game with asymmetric sides is rare.
Trust me, a balanced game with asymmetric sides is rare.

Nosgoth has to compete with itself to maintain a balance. Humans are stuck on the ground, with frequently defensive abilities. They heal by using designated healing points, which can only be used once in a while, forcing them to rotate round the map to stay alive. Meanwhile, vampires regain health by eating corpses, forcing them to be aggressive. Their abilities lie in devastation and disorientation, and have access to almost everywhere on the map. Can you imagine the difficulty in balancing a team that could choose to entirely consist of people who swoop from above to drop you from the heavens against a load of guys armed with crossbows and gunpowder pistols?

That said, Nosgoth does a fantastic job. Whilst playing, TD and I couldn’t really decide who had the upper hand overall, though we did think it was vampires by a very, very fine line. However, this was less for the individual units than the fact that it’s easier for an individual vampire to do more damage than for an individual human. Meanwhile, humans do require a lot more teamwork. With that in mind, we often found that we lost when playing with a team that refused to stick together, and won with a team that stayed focused as humans, and attacked all at once as vampires.

This old brute prepares to feast on a corpse. Nice.
This old brute prepares to feast on a corpse. Nice.

The balance is definitely a huge help, but the main draw to this game will be how active it is. These are not slow games, and I’m tempted to liken them to Smite in terms of activity. Whilst you have a powerful base attack, the true gameplay is revealed in each unit’s customizable abilities: Placing lines of fire, spewing poison, spawning minions, disabling and snaring units. Given that each individual person has a set of skills to help their team, it’s as much about having the right units to respond to the current enemy team as it is about using them at the right time. My favourite vampire unit had a great ability to reduce incoming damage by 80%, but the flipside is he couldn’t attack during that time and it had a half minute cooldown. So, I purely used it to run away without dying. This worked for my team as, before that, I’d charge in and begin the assault, taking most of the damage in that time.

So I expect we’ll see Nosgoth becoming a competitive game in the future. The opportunities for teams to develop tactics and train up, learning the intricacies of why that 0.4 second increase on that particular ability makes it no longer worthwhile, is too damn high. That said, for now, the random public matchmaking works well for finding a game, and there is a party system so you can play with your friends. Which, honestly, you’re going to want to do because matchmaking can put you with anybody of any skill (though, they do counter this by allowing low levels to purely match make within low levels).

The human healing and resupply point.
The human healing and resupply point.

There is one more gameplay fact to mention. This is a freemium game and it’s going for a League of Legends model. That means, there is an entire meta-game to help boost your ingame play (or improve your character appearance). You can buy new abilities, classes, skins, and boosters to help you progress. As a result, you can expect some people to be better than you, because they’ll be able to get the best of these items. In some respects, it’s a shame, since it unbalances a very balanced game. Of course nobody is going to take the 5% speed increase when there’s a 10% damage buff on offer, but if that 5% speed increase is free an 10% damage buff costs you $4.99, you might decide to stay free. But that’s always a risk with this marketing model. That said, and in Nosgoth’s defence, they do give out a daily taster on a random ability item each day, and I just made up those two items above. So, maybe they are more balanced. But my point still stands, there will always be some items more tasty than others.

The armory is where the meta-game mostly goes down.
The armory is where the meta-game mostly goes down.

All in all, for a freemium game, Nosgoth is damn fun. It’s been produced to a very high quality, which was surprising at first but explained by the fact that the team behind it are Square Enix. The graphics and sounds are excellent, especially given the freemium status, and the gameplay feels balanced and enjoyable. That said, at it’s current stage, I do feel like it has work to be done in getting more variety into the game. However, we are looking at Early Access and, so, there are many things that may yet change. It’s definitely worth a try but, unless you’re a fan of the growing area of ability-based gaming, you probably won’t stick on it.

And I still think “vampires” is a big stretch of that word.

Nosgoth is developed by Square Enix. You can find it on Steam for freemium. Article written for Spirit of the Robot by Static.

Nosgoth – Vampires versus humans? That could be pretty awesome.

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

Verdun – More like ver-not-very-well-dun AM I RIGHT HAHA oh forget it

I do love interesting title screens.
I do love interesting title screens.

Happy New Year everyone! I hope this one’s treating you better than it is me, as I’ve gone from having a bad cold to full blown tonsilitis over the course of a week. But, I can’t sit around and do nothing forever, so I decided I might as well get trench foot as well by stepping back into World War One.

That is the first amazing thing about Verdun. It’s set in World War One. I can think of a single other WWI title, and it’s an arcade game from the developer of Dwarf Fortress. Before we begin to look at what Verdun really is, we should look at why there are so few titles based around this grisly era.

Trenches, bad weapons, and no mans land. Yep, WWI.
Trenches, bad weapons, and no mans land. Yep, WWI.

The First World War was fought by sending hordes and hordes of men into big holes in the ground, then getting them to run out of those holes and jump into holes that other people were in. To make this more difficult, artillery fire hoped to manage to get into one of the holes, and since most didn’t, the land between the holes was particularly messy and difficult to traverse. Additionally, the people in each hole were particularly hostile themselves, and would shoot anything they could see from their hole on sight. Couple this with the fact that people spending many months in holes where water tends to pool, disease became rife and many were too ill to leave their hole. As a result, the overall war was very stagnant and not much happened for a long time.

With this in mind, you might not think the First World War is a very good setting for a game. Afterall, games are meant to be fun and action packed, not a situational drama of your life in a trench, just happening to own a gun but probably never firing it. This is exactly why there are so few games set in this era.

What a fine moustache!
What a fine moustache!

Alas, Verdun looked past that and came through into Early Alpha, revealing to the world its intimate beauty and design. A game where you did indeed fight over trenches, run over no man’s land, take the enemy trench, and attempt to repeat indefinitely.

And let me tell you, at this point, I am inherently impressed by Verdun. They came up with an excellent system of gameplay. You spawn in your trench as part of a small squad, lead by your commanding officer, and either have to defend your trench or run across and try to take the opponent’s trench, based on what stage of play the game is at. Defending is significantly easier than attacking, and the attackers charging over what is effectively a giant, empty field will die plenty of times. Fortunately, the act of spawning waves is balanced out by the fact each team will have a maximum of sixteen players, and attackers can try and use the horribly mangled terrain to sneak up closer to the enemy trench.

Germans can even drop gas, so get ready to plop on that mask!
Germans can even drop gas, so get ready to plop on that mask!

Unfortunately, the overall great idea of the game is the end of it’s excellence. Remembering it is in Early Alpha, there is plenty of room for improvement. The dynamics of your character are, altogether, clunky and difficult. It feels like a significantly older game, as aiming is jarred and movement feels… Interesting. The best description I had was “Like walking through custard”. And it’s true, your character feels too slow all the time. Sprinting feels closer to what the normal jogging speed should be. Jumping, however, is featherlight. As a result, you get a horrible feel for how your character actually moves. This tied in with the jarred aiming makes a moving kill painfully difficult.

This is further unaided by the catastrophically designed ironsights. All guns on this game can be fired inaccurately from the hip using the cross hair, but can be fired with a gigantic improvement on accuracy by using ironsights. Whilst for most guns this is fine, it is a notable challenge for pistols, as soldiers in WWI apparently had terrible peripheral vision, meaning that a gun held at arm’s length obscured a huge amount of what you were looking at. This is only made worse by the fact that the designers decided on a ridiculous idea for gun sway, where the actual point of aiming doesn’t change but the rear sights of the gun slowly rotate around to obstruct your view.

MGs are useful for defending
MGs are useful for defending

It’s hard to explain how badly Verdun handles. I guess if you took the steering wheel out of a car and tried to simply turn the rod, it’s kind of like that. Or like trying to get TD to write a new article. It’s very difficult and doesn’t respond well to even the most gentle input.

As a result, and as it stands, I’m disappointed in Verdun. It’s a fun game which could be made so much more fun if it controlled better. A different engine, or more work on the camera and player controls, would be an overwhelming benefit to a game that isn’t inherently bad, just badly created. However, this isn’t from a big name studio and nor is it finished, so hopefully we’ll see some decent progression in these areas soon. Otherwise, I have remarkably little bad to say about this little, daring indie game.

Verdun is developed by M2H and Blackmill Games. You can find it on Steam for £16.99. Article written for Spirit of the Robot by Static.

EDIT: I’ve revisited this title to patch up a couple of glaring typos, but to mention one other feature I suddenly remembered. The gun sounds. It has been a long, long time since I have encountered gun sounds in an FPS as bad as in Verdun. The worst part, for me at least, is it left me disconnected from the battle, making the overall experience significantly worse personally.

Verdun – More like ver-not-very-well-dun AM I RIGHT HAHA oh forget it