The Banner Saga

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stranded Deep – Survival games now fall under the law of Darwinian evolution

Eerie.
Eerie.

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.

This is your spawn, after the tutorial. In a life raft with a paddle, and your watch.
This is your spawn, after the tutorial. In a life raft with a paddle, and your watch.

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).

Cutting down trees is an enjoyable experience. You cut the base and you can watch them tumble over. You can then cut them up into logs and sticks to build with.
Cutting down trees is an enjoyable experience. You cut the base and watch them tumble over. You can then cut them up into logs and sticks to build with.

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.

Your watch, aside from displaying the time, temperature, and days survived, can also show your health, hunger, and thirst.
Your watch, aside from displaying the time, temperature, and days survived, can also show your health, hunger, and thirst. The state of your arm also indicate any status effects. For instance, a bleeding wound will require a bandage.

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 truly have a love-hate relationship with this crafting system, but it's slightly more love.
I truly have a love-hate relationship with this crafting system, but it’s slightly more love.

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.

I found a bottle of water. I really hope that seal is tight...
I found a bottle of water. I really hope that seal is tight…

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.

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.

My camp is small and simple, but it sure is cosy.
My camp is small and simple, but it sure is cosy.

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.

Stranded Deep – Survival games now fall under the law of Darwinian evolution

Besiege

Besiege is a physics based building game in which you construct medieval siege engines and lay waste to immense fortresses and peaceful hamlets. Build a machine which can crush windmills, wipe out battalions of brave soldiers and transport valuable resources, defending your creation against cannons, archers and whatever else the desperate enemies have at their disposal. Create a trundling behemoth, or take clumsily to the skies, and cause carnage in fully destructible environments. Ultimately, you must conquer every Kingdom by crippling their castles and killing their men and livestock, in as creative or clinical a manner as possible.
Besiege is a physics based building game in which you construct medieval siege engines and lay waste to immense fortresses and peaceful hamlets. Build a machine which can crush windmills, wipe out battalions of brave soldiers and transport valuable resources, defending your creation against cannons, archers and whatever else the desperate enemies have at their disposal. Create a trundling behemoth, or take clumsily to the skies, and cause carnage in fully destructible environments. Ultimately, you must conquer every Kingdom by crippling their castles and killing their men and livestock, in as creative or clinical a manner as possible.

Besiege is a 3-D Medieval construction game developed by Spiderling Studios, and my god is it simply amazing. The aim of the game is that you are presented with a castle to destroy, men to kill or resources to grab. The best part? You can design your very own war machine to do it. So whatever you think might be able to blow up a castle and murder knights in a glorious jam explosion, you can build. The graphics are simply stunning in a minimalist way, the textures for all the construction pieces are beautiful and detailed. Its so hard to believe this is VERSION 0.01 of an Alpha.

This is the only world at the time of writing. I should point out, the menus are gorgeous.
This is the only world at the time of writing, but the levels are entertaining and there is a sandbox mode to mess around with. I should point out, the menus are gorgeous.

When you first load up Besiege, you’ll be greeted with a simple menu screen, as presented in the first screenshot, and you’ll jump into Ipsilon, the only world at the time of writing. You’ll then be thrown into the game with very little instruction on how to build, the game quickly adopts the “Here are the tools, do it your way” of playing. And within height restrictions, you can! The building mechanic is simple and effective to use, parts snap on to each other and can be deleted and flipped to your hearts content. There is only wood as the base of your projects at this time of writing, but it serves as a general starting point. Then, you’ll look at the tabs in the bottom right and notice, that along with your “Basic” blocks, you get other ones. Powered block are mechanical gizmos, such as spinning blocks and decouplers, Weapons are (Unsurprisingly) an arsenal of medieval weapons to destroy both castle and knight alike. The weapons go from spike balls to cannons and combining them onto your machine with the use of the Powered Blocks offers endless amounts of fun. There are also Flight Blocks, such as propellers and wings, which CAN make your abomination of a ballista fly if you’re some kind of engineering god, which Static is not; given his first ballista was an abomination of wood and string.

The builder is simple to access and get around, easily laid out and suited to building a massive war machine.
The builder is simple to access and get around, easily laid out and suited to building a massive war machine.

So with your attempt at a trebuchet built, you’ll start the mission and probably break it as soon as you move forward. At least, thats what I did, but I was so smitten by getting a working siege engine working that I worked for a whole 2 HOURS to get my ballista up to scratch and workable, and my god the feeling of accomplishment I got made my little face smile as I launched a bomb towards an enemy castle. Its the old “Easy to learn, hard to master” situation. Sure I could have simply made a wrecking ball, destroy my engine but still win the level, but I wanted that sense that this machine that just crushed 3 archers with a swinging spiked ball was all mine. The enemies, of which there are Knights, Archers, Cannons and a weird Monolith thing that fires lazers at you, all present their own problems; Archers will pelt your exposed wooden areas with arrows, eventually breaking them off, Cannons will pelt them with cannonballs that will tear right through the wood and the Knights will… Well they’ll just charge at you and die really, they’re the only useless thing about in this game. If by some chance you manage to set yourself on fire, the particle effects of your machine crumbling are bitter sweet; A joy to look at, a pain to have to tweak the design. I’ve stated before that I can’t believe this is an Early Alpha, and I really can’t. The gameplay is very solid at this stage, albeit sometimes programmed keys to extend pistons might forget themselves, your machine might collapse inwards when spinning too much but this is the level of complaints I have; they’re too minimal to even pick up on.

"Men... I think this might  be the end..."
“Men… I think this might be the end…”

I can’t recommend this game enough. For the price its in and the quality of the Alpha its in, Spiderling Studios have a seriously good future ahead of themselves. The things missing, such as more construction components, more levels a scenario editor and possibly even community levels (Kinda like what Little Big Planet does) will all come in time. So, whilst I wait, I’m going to build a 50ft siege tower with cannons on every row.

It was a massacre. A jam filled, sword swinging, bomb launching massacre.
It was a massacre. A jam filled, sword swinging, bomb launching massacre.

Besiege is developed by Spiderling Studios. You can find it on Steam for £4.99. Seriously: £4.99 for a medieval Kerbal Space Program. Article written for Spirit of the Robot by TD.

Besiege

Omegalodon – Giant Monster Destroying A City? SOLD!

Wake up, sleepy head!
Wake up, sleepy head!

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.

CRUSH ALL THE THINGS!
CRUSH ALL THE THINGS!

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.

Honestly, the variety of vehicles you can control is astounding, even if the unarmed ones have no real use.
Honestly, the variety of vehicles you can control is astounding, even if the unarmed ones have no real use.

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.

Assault the beast!
Assault the beast!

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.

The Omegalodon follows a set out path, which spirals to the city centre.
The Omegalodon follows a set out path, which spirals to the city centre.

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.

Throw bombs on it, throw bombs on it...
Throw bombs on it, throw bombs on it…

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.

Omegalodon – Giant Monster Destroying A City? SOLD!

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

Unturned – Free to Play, Zombie Survival Done Right.

You become a survivor in the zombie infested ruins of society, and team up with your friends to remain among the living.
You become a survivor in the zombie infested ruins of society, and team up with your friends to remain among the living.

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.

Character options aren't expansive, but they do allow for customization. (Ninja Gear not included.)
Character options aren’t expansive, but they do allow for customization. (Ninja Gear not included.)

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.

Zombie meet Katana. Katana meet Zombie.
Zombie meet Katana. Katana meet Zombie.

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.

It was a massacre. A jam like massacre.
It was a massacre. A jam like massacre.

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.

Im ready to rock.
Im ready to rock.

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.

Well, I guess whoever is in that mess of a zombie train is already dead. Better flee.
Well, I guess whoever is in that mess of a zombie train is already dead. Better flee.

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.

To adventure!
To adventure!

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.

Its a shame the boats aren't allowed to be driven, they would be an awesome feature.
Its a shame the boats aren’t allowed to be driven, they would be an awesome feature.

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.

I think we may have more than enough supplies.
I think we may have more than enough supplies.

Unturned is developed by Nelson Sexton. You can find it on Steam for free! Article written for Spirit of the Robot by TD.

Unturned – Free to Play, Zombie Survival Done Right.