Hot Tin Roof: The Cat That Wore A Fedora (For reasons of length imma just call it Hot Tin Roof) Is a 3D side-scrolling metroidvania meets LA Noire. It’s so far my game of the year as its simply utterly compelling to play, captivating in charm and engaging in story. The graphics are simple: block types of creatures from Cats to Pigeons dominate a city which is colorful enough yet gritty to assist with the investigatory style. The music is one of the strongest points, with that 1920’s jazzy feel, building suspense with double bass plucks and it really makes you feel like putting on your coat, flicking up the collar and lighting a cigarette; but that would break the overall style the game has of itself. This game is very aware that it is a game and in that sense doesn’t take itself seriously and my god I love it even more for that.
So starting the game you’ll be cast into your office with the phone ringing. Answering it will provide you with a case that a nearby fancy lady has had her will stolen. You’ll grab your most useful tool, your revolver and head out. The way you transition between levels is by moving along a 3D plain, so you can go left and right but to go into alleys or into a room you’ll move forward onto another lane, kinda like what Little Big Planet does. But I’m getting ahead of myself, you’ll also speak to your trusty side-kick: Franky the cat. Franky is the best sidekick I’ve had in a game; albeit he’s utterly useless at jump puzzles his wit and addition to the game more than make up for it. He’ll act as your guide: explaining different types of ammo for your revolver (more on that later), giving insight into clues that you might find and having his own dark secret that deepens the connection you have with him. Franky, along with all the characters you meet and interact with form this great world to explore and play with.
So with the case, your revolver and your sidekick at your side, you step out into the overworld. You go onto speak to the lady who is missing the will that her father left. This is where the game starts properly. The main thing you deal with in this game is jump puzzles, hidden obstacles and quest solving. Hidden obstacles, like switches and platforms can be discovered using bubble ammo. This is where the puzzle solving comes into its element: your revolver can hold 4 bullets (Im not sure if that can be upgraded later in the game) but this means for the more elaborate puzzles you’ll have to load standard ammo, bubble ammo and a whole other variety to overcome the challenges. Its a stellar way to do platforming in my opinion. Oh and also Franky jumps and pops the bubbles which I laughed at when I first fired them.
So as you begin to explore the city, you’ll become wrapped into a series of cases along side the one you started with. This keeps you occupied and keeps the original case from getting dried up. There’s also a real sense of community in this game: the posh people inside the Ossified Egg work the Rats like slaves. The rats therefore exert a kind of resentment to the Eggs (as they’re called) whenever you mention them or talk to them about the missing will. Its factioning at its basic but it creates a diverse world that doesn’t get stale. Hopping around the world with the plucks on the double bass to accompany you, you begin to get lost in the world, I did and realized I’d played for almost an hour and a half in my first sitting. The Dump level was a real testament to platformers of the past; Various levels to explore, different techniques needed and a confusing labyrinth of doors and ways to go. I got lost a lot in that level and, whilst getting a little frustrated; managed to vent my frustration by shooting some bubbles for Franky to hop out infront of me and pop. I smiled, adjusted my fedora and pressed on.
I really don’t want to say more about the story for fear of spoiling it, so I’ll wrap up this review. Before I do end it though, I want to say something about the sheer brilliance the writing has on the game. When you first go into the toilet to save (They act as save points), Franky will explain that its how you save. But he’ll do it using puns such as “Had to LOG MY PROGRESS, if you know what I mean” etc. It is simply brilliant and adds to the comedy of the game as he does it with most new things such as new bullets, characters, clues and more. A great feature to pull a gamer into the game is with humor and one that is executed as well as in Hot Tin Roof is a real bonus to an already great game. My only issues are that there doesn’t seem to be a map and dialogue options take you away from the main topic, so you’ll have to talk to the person again to ask them another question. But these are minimal, now, where did I place that fedora?
Hot Tin Roof: The Cat That Wore A Fedore is developed by Glass Bottom Games. You can find it on Steam for £10.99. Article written for Spirit of the Robot by TD. Special mention to the developer for giving me a code for the game!
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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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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!
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.
I’ve been putting off writing this review for about a week because I just don’t know where to begin. It’s not like it’s a large game in any way; in fact, it’s only just gone into alpha, but has already received considerable attention for its quality and potential.
So what is this game? Well, it’s a survival game. Another one, you say? Yes, another one. Like all survival games, it has its “catch”. Just as DayZ has zombies, and The Forest has natives, Stranded Deep has… Islands. Yep, just islands. No immediate threat from some savage beast, you’re generally safe, and your biggest threat is the elements.
The goal is the same as any other game of this genre: Survive. From my experience so far in this game, it’s not been too hard. After getting on an island, its a trivial matter of making some crude tools, a fire, killing some crabs, collecting some coconuts (for their juicy, juicy milk) and sitting around until there’s nothing left to eat or drink. Then you paddle over to the next island and repeat until you get bored.
But that’s really playing the game at the basic stage it’s at, and I can only assume that a significantly large amount more content will be added. There is plenty more to do, even now. You can build rafts, simple houses, fire pits (which are permanent features, useful for signifying places you’ve already been), beds, and hunting spears (useful for fishing and hunting sharks).
Oh, did I forget to mention the sharks? Well, this is a game technically about hopping between scarcely resourced islands to survive, so putting something inbetween to make that slightly more difficult makes sense. At this stage of the game, they don’t do much at all (I’m not even certain if they can attack you), but you can hunt them for meat and it’s every so slightly scary to see one when you’re half way to another island circling your little rubber raft.
However, there’s also fish in the sea. And you can hunt them to eat them. To be honest, you’d have to be a fool to die of starvation in this game, since these seas and islands are chock full of tasty creatures to eat. It reduces the challenge, definitely, but this game is very early alpha and we could see a huge change in the future, potentially making the creatures less numerous, or spawn less often.
Crafting in this game is unique, as far as I can tell. Unlike other games, where it generally involves using a recipe and crafting in your inventory, Stranded Deep requires you to drop all the items into a pile on the floor. This will then present a menu which will display all the things you can make with what is currently in the pile.
There are things I like and dislike about this system. On one hand, it makes crafting a lot easier and give you a slightly more realistic inventory. No longer does the game need to give you the ability to carry fifty tonnes of material to craft, so your inventory space is more realistic (note, more, not perfectly realistic). However, it does mean that things you might not have expected to work together might present you the ability to build, much to your surprise. For people who hate discovering crafting recipes, this is slightly helpful (though you have the internet anyway), and it makes crafting a lot faster. However, it’s a wonder that any person could one day throw a pile of items down and suddenly think “You know what? I could make a sword out of this.”
I’m very glad it’s done away with the minecraft way of making things, or simple combination recipes. I just don’t know if it is quite perfect, yet.
There is one other major feature to Stranded Deep I haven’t yet mentioned which, to me, is a defining feature. Exploring ship wrecks.
All around the shores and seas of stranded deep are ship wrecks. One can only assume that this area is effectively the Bermuda Triangle. There tends to be at least one ship wreck per island, with more in places and at sea. Then it’s a matter of getting into the wreck. For ones on shore, this might be as easy as walking over to it and finding a chest to open. For deep ocean ones, you’ll be diving down amongst the sharks, rifling through cupboards, grabbing what you can and returning to the surface to gasp for air.
Ship wrecks contain items you simply cannot craft. Lighters, good quality tools, torches, lanterns, bandages, buckets (for collecting rain), even motor parts so you can craft a powered raft to traverse the seas more quickly. As a result, you’ll spend a good amount of time exploring these wrecks.
My only problem with this at the moment, and I’m sure it’s something that will be fixed, is the game gives you no indication of how direly you need to breath. You can be thinking “just a few more seconds, just a few more seconds” and then find your character blacks out to “You have died”. Disappointing, but again, this is an alpha game.
Now, let’s just touch on one thing that really annoys me.
You spot an island out of the corner of your eye. “Wow, that isn’t too far! Let’s head that way.” As you slowly turn your head, the island gets further, and further, and further away. And suddenly you realise, for whatever reason, you have binoculars on the side of your head.
That left island isn’t too far at all! Set course!
Irritating. Not least since it takes a long time to paddle between these islands. It actually makes exploring kind of boring, because you’re just sat there holding left mouse wishing you could accelerate time.
But for all this bad side, there are some incredible cool features. As I’ve said, cutting down trees feels fantastic and immersive. But another feature, which took me a long time to figure out, was dynamic water levels.
I picked up a bucket in a ship wreck. Obviously, it was full of sea water. I couldn’t figure out how to empty the sea water without drinking it. So eventually, I just put it on the ground. After dropping it, there was a splashing animation surrounding the bucket, and I just thought it was an effect to symbolise how it was full of water. However, in picking up the bucket and trying to rotate it, I noticed that if the bucket stood up, it didn’t make the animation. And I then noticed, there was actually a liquid in the bucket model. Holy shit, that wasn’t a buggy animation, the water was actually pouring out of the bucket! I played around with this, and realised I could actually watch the water level in the bucket go down. Sure, the water itself isn’t dynamic, but the fact you can see a water level in the bucket itself that rises and falls blew me away! I can’t express how amazing it is that they actually created a dynamic model that displays how much liquid is in the bucket, that reacts to it’s position. It’s something I’ve never seen in a game before.
All in all, Stranded Deep is looking to be a survival game that stands out. Nowadays, with the huge host of survival games about, they all need something to stand out, and Stranded Deep manages it by presenting that necessity to explore in a beautiful, procedurally generated environment. I have high hopes for this game in the future and can only sit here eagerly anticipating future updates. It isn’t too expensive to buy right now, but I’d personally wait until a little more content is added before splashing cash on this.
Stranded Deep is developed by Beam Team Games and is in Early Access. You can find it on Steam for £10.99. Article written for Spirit of the Robot by Static.
There is a small group of modern games, often made by indie developers, which are created on a specific idea and are particularly innovative. They tend to allow you to easily get into a game with basic mechanics, allowing anyone to play on a whim. RUNNING WITH RIFLES is a good example of this. Omegalodon is another.
The premise is simple. A giant, mutant being has been roused due to the environmental damage caused by a city. A guiding force, in response, wants him to destroy the city by blowing up the nuclear power plant right in the centre. Meanwhile, the citizens aren’t too happy and will be doing everything they can to stop the beast.
Immediately, knowledge of other games will make you think “OK, so you play as a soldier or something and have to stop a big ol’ creature from destroying your city? Fun enough.” You would be mostly correct. In fact, you can also play as Godzill- Uhh, Omegalodon.
Let me give you a better insight to the game. Someone gets to play as the monster, rampaging through the city to find and destroy the nuclear plant, whilst other players either try to help or hinder its progress. The aggressive groups are police and soldiers, both armed to combat Omegalodon, whilst the friendly group is the Enviros, a group of healing-gun wielding hippies who do their beast to help the creature.
Playing as a soldier or policeman is identical for the most part, as you’ll spend most of your time as either of these classes jumping into vehicles, which perform the same regardless of class, trying to kill the gigantic invader. The vehicles range from simple, unarmed civilian cars, through tanks and humvees with lasers, to military jets and helicopters armed with bombs and missiles. So, playing as one of these two classes boils down to jumping in a vehicle and using it to try to kill the Omegalodon. However, there are two differences between the classes. Firstly, the spawn location, which is no big deal besides what vehicles you have immediate access to, and secondly, the weapon the actual person you play wields. Yes, if you choose not to use a vehicle, you can still attack that oversized newt. For the soldier, it’s a simple matter of firing a rocket launcher from the shoulder, whilst the policeman places toxic mines which explode when Omegalodon gets too close.
Meanwhile, playing as the Omegalodon is equally straightforward. You follow a path highlighted for you to weave through the city’s defences, avoiding the attackers and doing your best to survive and reach the central nuclear power plant which, when destroyed, will blow up the entire city and signal victory! You can destroy buildings to replenish health, which you will have to do frequently since you will take obscene amounts of damage from the attackers. This actually becomes quite a tactical game, since any building destroyed will heal Omegalodon, even if the military destroys it; hiding in a clump of buildings and letting the military arbitrarily bomb an entire suburb is a feasible tactic to replenishing health. Equally, there are regions on your path where there are no buildings, so you need to stack up health before you try crossing them.
Fighting as King Kong’s amphibian cousin is incredibly straightforward. Left click to light punch, right click to heavy punch, middle click to unleash a devastating area of effect burst attack. From my experience, the only attack worth using is the special burst, however, as the hit registration and range of the attacks is absolutely pathetic. You will never hit that guy in a helicopter with your punch, but your burst attack might just manage it.
For completions sake, I’ll mention the Enviros too. Armed with healing guns, they can keep Omegalodon’s health topped up without the need to destroy buildings, though that is a significantly faster way to regain it. They can also man vehicles, which may be used to attack soldiers and police to keep them from damaging Omegalodon.
This all comes together in a dynamic way. Again, it’s worth emphasising that Omegalodon is a very indie title, and although it creates a game scenario you can pretty much do as you please. You can play the game as it’s meant to be played, or just drive around shooting down buildings and trying out every vehicle on the map. Sure, your team might not appreciate what you’re doing, but there’s nothing else stopping you. Heck, you could go soldier and try defending the Omegalodon, team damage is most certainly on. This game allows you to play it as you wish.
Unfortunately, I reckon the most boring part of the game is actually playing as the Omegalodon. He’s incredibly slow, his attacks are mostly useless, he has to follow a set path and it takes a long time to reach the nuclear plant. If you ever even reach the power plant, good on your for being so diligent and not quitting out of boredom! I’ve only ever managed it once in all my years owning this game, because it’s just not that fun.
Other problems involve the tiny online community for this game. To make it clear, this is online only, and yet going online at any time you’ll only find between six to fifteen people online, over three or four servers. As a result, games are very small, disappointing when you know that the servers can handle sixteen people each.
It’s worth noting though that, I love the graphics. Very simple (yet surprisingly detailed) models give a really rich environment to the game. It’s not quite cell shaded, I’m not certain how you’d describe it, but it’s very pretty and isn’t a graphical style I’ve ever seen used elsewhere.
The sound, meanwhile, is relatively boring. There is some small amount of background music that plays at key points, such as the beginning of the match or reaching certain checkpoints, but it’s nothing to shout about. The effects sounds are equally dull, though are rich and high quality in themselves, more than I can say about some games.
All in all, Omegalodon is a good attempt at a very different style of game, one that is bespokely made to an idea by a small team. I’m not sure I’d recommend it at its full price of £6.99, but perhaps £4 or less would be a fair price for a game which you might play for a short while before getting bored. It might be made better with friends due to the freedom of doing things, but I honestly doubt it. It lacks those group activities which make gaming with friends fun, spare attacking the Omegalodon. I guess if the main idea of the game engages you, you could have hours and hours of fun on it. But personally, I found that the gameplay quickly got tiresome, especially given the nature of the Omegalodon. Honestly, they might as well have designed a very simple AI for the great blue bugger so that another player could have fun attacking him, rather than just walking forwards tapping middle mouse and hoping to hit someone every now and then.
I wouldn’t recommend this game. It’s not bad, per se, it just doesn’t have anywhere near enough content to hold someone’s attention for more than a small jaunt, and I would struggle to justify it’s asking price.
Omegalodon is developed by North of Earth. You can find it on Steam for £6.99. Article written for Spirit of the Robot by Static.
Unturned is a 3-D, free-to-play (Kinda), early access zombie survival game by Nelson Sexton, who I should add that when he developed this game was only 17. It’s easily one of my favorite games in my library, with simple, minecraft blocky graphics, music thats utterly beautiful and sticks to the very core of zombie survival: Loot, kill, survive. That, and playing with friends is an incredibly fun experience. Whilst it is still in early access, it has plenty of potential and massive room for expansion.
You start Unturned dumped into a map of your choice, as of this article there are only two: Arena – which is a more pvp scenario map, and PEI (Prince Edward Island) which is where you’ll probably spend most of your time playing. As you spawn, you’ll be as fresh and naked as a newborn baby and assuming you spawn within a town or building, you’ll make a beeline for the building and start searching for gear. Whilst the maps may not be randomly generated, the loot inside buildings is, so one spawn you might be lucky and find a pair of sailor pants, a lumberjack shirt and a baseball bat. Other spawns you might be lucky to find a stick. This presents an interesting panic start to the game, one that you SHOULD feel in a zombie survival scenario. So, all booted up and equipped with Nes’s baseball bat, you’ll probably start to hear groans and grunts and turn around to see a zombie waving at you through the window. This is where the fun starts.
The fun starts when you swing madly at the zombie who will keep chasing you till you die, mixing light and heavy attacks with the left and right mouse button until its just a corpse on the ground, surrounded by pixelated blood and you’re exhausted. You’ll be exhausted because there is a stamina bar, which like most things can be upgraded with the XP you get from senselessly beating up zombies. The pure joy from this melee combat is that every time you connect, blood erupts from the zombie (Or other player) and covers the area. Whilst it might sound gruesome, its slightly satisfying and gives real indication on the damage you’re inflicting, albeit that all attacks make the same amount of blood come out, so there is not real indicator that you’re seriously damaging whatever you’re hitting. The zombies themselves are programmed just right, being stupid enough on their own, much like Static, but in groups they’ll swarm you and eventually overwhelm you.
Speaking of weapons, this game has a plethora available. Melee weapons range from baseball bats to Katanas, which is the most OP at this time, ranged weapons from a simple bow to a crossbow, and guns from a simple 9mm pistol to an Outfield (Most of the named weapons are simple play on original names e.g Outfield = Enfield, Desert Falcon = Desert Eagle). Most of the ranged weapons also have customization options, the system functions very much like Crisis, in that you hold your gun infront of you and you can apply certain additions to certain places. In a game designed as simply as this, its a really nice detailed feature, and makes for an attachment (No pun intended) to the weapons. Also, the weapons use different ammo and clips, adding to the complexity and adding rareness to the best guns. Got a weapon that uses a NATO Clip? Good luck finding them! But thats what keeps me playing this game, hoping to find a NATO clip whilst murdering countless zombies is utterly amusing.
The game also features that old zombie game cliche almost of “Sound attracts zombies”, whilst its not original, it does make firing a rifle in the middle of a town dangerous as you’ll see zombies pour out of every building in site, waving their blocky arms at you like you were Justin Bieber surrounded by adolescent fans. The map PEI is large for an early access game, with three towns, a golf course, military base and three islands with surprises on them. Having an island to explore this big straight away was brilliant, especially when I got friends involved and we fortified a Barn on a farm and began to horde all available supplies. Friends make this game even more special, adding to the charm and quirk that the game already has when you watch one of your friends get mauled by several zombies never gets old.
Unturned also has vehicles. Ranging from simple 2 seater cars to fire trucks, which can carry six of your chums around the place. It makes traversing the island easy, but in this stage of the game, they seem to guzzle down fuel, regardless of what car it is, but I’ll forgive it because smashing into one of your friends- I mean a zombie with your car on the last choke of fuel is hilarious.
I know some of you may be thinking “TD, it’s just dayZ but minecraft! It has crafting and looting, but dayZ is far better!” And I’d 100% disagree with you. I understand that dayZ is built on an old engine, but Unturned was made by a single 17 year old. The gameplay is 100x more enjoyable, and from when I’ve managed to hop onto a random server, the community isn’t infested with shoot on site bandits. But thats just my opinion, guess I’ve already signed my death warrant by putting it on the internet, but meh.
Overall, this game is one you should defiantly check out. Its free-to-play but it has an interesting twist, you can play it in all its glory for free, or pay (At the time of writing) £3.99 for a gold upgrade, which basically gives you more character customization choices and a gamemode with more loot avaliable, I played a significant time before I paid the money and can honestly say its the best way to encourage people to donate to the game.
Unturned is developed by Nelson Sexton. You can find it on Steam for free! Article written for Spirit of the Robot by TD.
Viking: Battle for Asgard isn’t a new game by any means. Originally released in 2008, a PC port was released in 2012, developed by an additional studio. However, given its recent appearance on the Humble Bundle and the fact I have nothing better to play, I decided to give it a shot.
Viking: Battle for Asgard (which I will now just call Viking) is a free roaming hack-and-slash where you play as Skarin, a viking who apparently will not die and cannot enter Valhalla. You are guided by Freya, a Norse goddess, who sets you on a journey to lead your fellow vikings against the evil Legion which has appeared and taken over Midgard. You need to find and save your viking chums from the evil clutches of the Legion and build an army to push them out once and for all.
It’s at this point I should say, I believe what I just said is right. Upon first entering the game, the dialogue moved so slowly I simply could not be bothered to listen to it all, so I never quite figured out what was going on.
In fact, the game throws you in without too much direction. You start in a viking village to people being astonished you’re alive, having seen you die in a battle. You’re quickly given some tasks and sent on your way. I assume at this point, you get given background, but I cannot stand slow speaking in video games and skipped it. Just tell me what I need to know, don’t take loooonnnggg draaaaawwwn out speeeeeeeeeeeecccchhhheeeeeessssss for dramatic effect, it doesn’t work. It especially doesn’t work when all these vikings apparently speak English with an American accent.
Using the map, I quickly figured out that I had to go to various locations around the world and, in short, free my viking friends. So, off I trot, out of the gates and into the wilderness.
The first thing that happened was the game got very dark. I didn’t appreciate why then, but later realised that enemy controlled areas appear dark and foggy. Once liberated, by freeing vikings in the area, they become bright and colourful.
Not enemy controlled
I quickly stumbled across some enemies looting the dead corpses of vikings and got to work chopping them down. Fighting turned out to be as simple as hitting your left mouse button to swing, and holding right mouse to block. If you miss an attack, due to not being in range, your character will stumble slightly and be vulnerable to attack.
After slicing one enemy a few times, a big E appeared over his head. Well, OK then, I guess I’ll tap E.
And suddenly, the game got a lot more fun. My character rushed forwards, his axe out one way, his sword the other, and then slashed right through the Legion soldier with both at once, cutting his torso from his legs and a glorious fountain of blood. I think his head also fell off somewhere along the way.
That was me hooked. On my way to freeing the vikings, I took great pleasure in using my finishing moves on enemies. Chopping both arms off and watching him collapse, swiftly decapitating an enemy missing an arm, running my sword through an enemy’s chest and kicking them off with my foot. It was glorious.
I also made a collosal mistake. In all my glory of killing, I didn’t appreciate I’d run right into the enemy camp, into some 10 to 15 Legion soldiers. One by one, I was chopping them down, but it was gruelling. Every attack, I’d have to block some three incoming attacks. It took ages to cut them down. It was slow, boring, and the finishing moves didn’t bring that fun back.
As it would turn out, I was actually meant to sneak round these men, freeing the vikings who could then help me fight them. Apparently I’d taken a far more direct route. Silly me.
As it turned out, the majority of the game would consist of this pattern. Find an enemy camp, either sneak in or fight my way in, free the vikings, move on and repeat. Sometimes these trapped vikings would have additional quests, which involved more fighting or simple courier quests, which I personally found took away from the pace of the game slightly. In fact, the running around in general took away from the game majorly. Going from one camp to the next in a free roam mode is great, when you can get there quickly or with entertainment. For instance, Skyrim does this well: You travel respectable distances and may encounter foes on the way. But Viking has very short distances between camps (it’s a very small world) and you might encounter nothing at all. It’s just running around.
However, having freed a few camps, it was time to assault the enemy stronghold, blocking passage to the main enemy fortress. As a bonus, you didn’t even have to walk there, it was an event you started on your map.
I didn’t appreciate how amazing this would be.
Dozens of your men spew forth into the enemy gate alongside yourself, chopping down equally dozens of Legion grunts. And the main thing to strike me was, “Holy heck, this game can render and support this many characters?!” There are games today that struggle to get even close to this number, there had to be around one hundred on screen in total at some points. Finding enemies among the sprawling mass of bodies is incredibly fun, and you get really into the atmosphere. And it makes you really want to keep playing, to get another of these gigantic battles. It truly was a redeeming factor for the long walks (though, I would still have appreciated them now being there).
This victory allowed me to cross the river and move on to freeing more vikings. I also, around this time, realised I was meant to be recruiting a dragon for the final attack. A DRAGON! OK, I’m sold, let’s get this battle underway.
So having freed more of my friends, found the dragon amulet, snuck into the enemy fortress and charged it using their evil portal and wandered to the lair of the dragon, it was time to release our flying friend.
Fantastic! Only, it turned out, I couldn’t actually use him that much. Given I completed certain objectives, I’d be able to order the dragon to attack specific targets. This was slightly disappointing, as it meant that, during the final battle, the dragon wouldn’t be of much use. He’d burn down a few enemies, but only once or twice on my orders once certain conditions had been filled.
Oh well. But, one last thing before I progress further. I went by the arena, a place I’d only visited once before.
Suddenly, the game took another turn for the better. I’d begun to get a bit bored with combat, it didn’t seem to be developing at all. And then, suddenly, the arena opened new possiblities. You could buy new attacks for gold, gathered from chests, urns, and bags scattered around the world. As it turned out, I had plenty of gold, and bought every ability I could on the current level. On my way back towards the fortress, I found myself devastating enemies that had once troubled me, causing lesser enemies to explode in a glorious bloom of blood from devastating blows. Once again, the game had become fun where it was beginning to get a bit touch and go.
So the final battle began. And if I’d thought my previous attack on the small-yet-still-strong forewards outpost of the Legion was impressive, I was dumbfounded by this. How were there this many men?!
Again, cutting through enemies was glorious. This time was slightly different, as I’d been given high value targets to kill, which would, in turn, allow me to call in dragon attacks of enemies that were harder to reach (for instance, hidden behind a large clump of enemies which would surely kill me). This made the dragon use tactical, as it could only be used a few times. It was disappointing that it wasn’t always there, but it was a fun game mechanic.
And then, as soon as the battle began, it was over. I’m sure it actually lasted a good ten or fifteen minutes, but it was so fun it just flew by. It’s rare a game today has such a good feeling, where you genuinely feel part of a larger army. In fact, the last game I felt like this on was the PS2 game, Shadow of Rome, where you might fight alongside friendly soldiers or gladiators.
The world ended with a disappointing final boss fight and a cutscene of two gods talking, which honestly wasn’t that interesting for me. The game then skipped on to the next world, and I called it quits. I might go back to play another world, but I fear I’ll be doing the same as before. It’s a fun once over, but I don’t know if I’d like to complete however-many-more worlds which simply revolve around freeing vikings and big, final battles, especially given my miniscule interest in the overarching story.
But for a relatively old game, it is a fun play. There are a few things that quite annoyed me, such as the quick time events. Viking was released around the time when they were a big thing, and every boss fight has a few of them. Further, many environment actions involved tapping F quickly to do something, like untie prisoners, or open a chest, which seemed pointless, especially when no enemies were around to give you the sense of urgency to really quickly tap that key.
It was a bit of a joke at some points, such as where he was apparently struggling to open the bolt on a door to open it. But it’s only a minor point, and for the most part you won’t mind it whilst playing.
And the main, glaring flaw with this game, which I’ve really ignored in this review so far, is it’s a terrible PC port. The game was originally made for consoles and was then very poorly brought over to PC. To much hatred, the game is capped at 30FPS, which can make it appear more jittery than other games. This is reflected in the mouse movement, which (due to being a movement port of analogue sticks) makes controlling your character incredibly difficult. There are fixes for this, which I’ve posted on a Steam discussion, but you shouldn’t have to be using third party programs to fix how a game plays. If you can get the fix, get a feel for the slightly clunky controls, and battle against the ridiculous key rebinding system (binding keys to controller buttons which are hard-bound to actions? Really?), you might be able to enjoy what this game has to offer.
Overall, it is an enjoyable experience, but it’s begun to show how old it really is, and the PC port hasn’t helped. It is, now, an effectively 6 year old game. You can have a lot of fun with it – I certainly did – but prepare for the rigors of the age: A poor design of free-roaming, quick-action events, “find the hidden gold”, repetitive quests, and a fantastic if only debateably game-redeeming set of unique features. Getting it on the current Humble Bundle, and using the fix I linked to, would probably making Viking: Battle for Asgard a worthwhile play. But I certainly wouldn’t pay Steam’s full price for it.
Viking: Battle for Asgard was developed by Creative Assembly, and ported by Hardlight Studios. You can find it on Steam for £9.99, or currently on the Humble Bundle. Article written for Spirit of the Robot by Static.
This War of Mine is a dark, 2-D (2-D seems to be the way ahead, go to hell 3-D!) indie survival-adventure game, it functions as a “To go here, click here” game and works very well. Set in an undisclosed Eastern European city which has been torn apart by war, you are in charge of a band of everyday people trying to survive from the elements, starvation, rebels and sickness. The atmosphere is, and its a weird compliment, depressing but with a game like this it suits it so well, the graphics are pretty, taking a “sketched” approach, where it looks like its been drawn rather than rendered. The soundtrack, whilst simply is fitting to a game like this; hopeful plucks on an acoustic guitar string when you’re in the safety of your house, to deep orchestral strings when you’re out scavenging.
The refreshing thing about This War Of Mine (TWOM) comes in two forms:
1) You’re not an elite, super solider who knows how to handle a weapon or has insane spidey-senses about where the enemies are.
2) The city is just torn up by war. No infection, no zombies. Just a war torn city.
The gameplay consists of crafting and micromanaging your survivors when you’re at your safehouse during the day, then scavenging for materials, food, medicine and weapon parts during the night. As simple as this sounds, it’s incredibly immersive and gripping. You start with three survivors, it seems to be a random selection although I always start with the usual same two, who each have their own backstory and bonuses. One used to be a pro-athlete so he’s a fast runner, one used to be a reporter so she can barter better. The variety in characters makes each of them useful during the game at some point, the bonus is that even if their bonus isn’t the most obvious, they can still go and scavenge and be useful, rather than have them sit around and do nothing. The safehouse you start in is decrepit, you’ll have to scavenge for a few supplies in order to make some furniture or tools to use. This is an early introduction into choices. And its brutal. You can make a bed and a radio, this will help your survivors sleep better and be in a better mood but you won’t have any breaches in your walls fixed, inviting more of those pesky looters into your house. These early choices do bring you into the games unforgiving way of dealing with things from the start. And it gets harsher.
After you clean out the rubble from your safehouse, you’ll discover you need, well more supplies. So you click “End this day” and it proceeds to night. This is where the core gameplay comes into effect. You get to choose who goes out and scavenges from a variety of locations, as you progress more locations get unlocked, offering more loot but with better challenges. You then have to choose what the other remaining survivors do, they can guard the safehouse, sleep or sleep in a bed (If you have one). Due to the randomness of the events that happen whilst you’re away, it’s usually good to keep one of your survivors on guard. However, the lucky soul who gets to scavenge the decrepit squat is the one you control. You control them, picking what they loot from the piles and, if they need to, talk or attack the other survivors in the location. Not all the other survivors are hostile, some will ask you for supplies in exchange for other supplies, others might ask you to break open a door with a crowbar, if you have one, and will give you items for helping them. Of course not everbody is going to smile when they see you. Bandits will often either shoot on sight when they see you, so sneaking through the levels is super handy, if you’re close to an enemy, a little red circle appears at their feet when they move, indicating where they are going. When you make a movement, or interact with an object, you produce a similar circle of noise that can, and will, attract people to your position, so bear that in mind if you want to keep the element of surprise. The army (That is, the government forces) are usually more lenient as long as you don’t go near their stuff. The unpredictability keeps you on your toes and adds a factor of fear and excitement to the game that keeps you thinking “I wonder if I could sneak up that ladder to the loot… WELL THAT WENT WRONG”.
If a character dies, its a permadeath, and the effect of having a character dying echoes not only in you as a player, but the other characters in the game. The charm of this game comes from the fact that the characters will talk about their current situation, commenting on “I hope we keep it warm”, “I’m glad we have enough food”, “I can’t believe Pavle died…”. The awareness the characters have with their environment really makes you feel involved and in control of the game. The survivors themselves have needs, broken down into hunger, sleep, whether or not their sick or injured and need to be helped and a level of sadness. Keeping your survivors happy, or out of a depressed state is vital. The amount of times I’ve had survivors just refuse to do anything because they’re depressed is too much and it sometimes gets me killed, so try and keep them happy with food and keeping other survivors alive.
This game is brilliant. Dark, unforgiving but brilliant. The only issues I have are that only one survivor can go and scavenge, I think it would be useful to allow more than one to scavenge different sites. The other issue is that finding a weapon rather than crafting one seems to be virtually impossible, but this can be dealt with by hunting around and finding the parts to craft a knife to protect you from some looters that might want your moonshine…
This War Of Mine is developed by 11 Bit Games. You can find it on Steam for £14.99. Article written for Spirit of the Robot by TD.