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събота, 7 октомври 2017 г.

Rime - It might include feelings(Spoilers!)


Rime is one of those "personal experience” puzzle games which seem to become more and more popular recently. In it you are a little boy who traverse a mystical island in trying to get to the top of a tower. The game is intended to be played alone and to make whatever you wish from the ending, all while you solve some puzzles and explore the world around you. Have Tequila Works managed it? Read on.


At the beach (Or anywhere in the game, really)

The game starts with you, a boy, awakening at a lone beach after what appears to be a shipwreck. From here starts your adventure in one beautiful and mysterious world which for good or for bad does not really explains itself. And by that I do not mean that the game does not have tutorial or something, no, just that because of its nature of "experience" it leaves a lot to the player in the matter of story and lore explanation. In many places you will find drawings which tell you what have happened in the past or how to solve whole zones of the game by telling you bits of story. 




In each zone you will have to solve one big puzzle, made up of several big pieces each of which also is a puzzle by itself. To solve the puzzles you will have to use mainly your brain, but your character also comes with one special ability - his voice. For some reason which is not explained in the game the main character can activate certain types of triggers by shouting near them. Another helper in the struggle with puzzles will be small fox which will often give you hints where you need to go by standing somewhere and barking at you. 

Puzzles and difficulty

With so many things to give you hints not much is left for you to figure out and this comes from a person who is not good at puzzle games at all. There are few a bit...trickier puzzles, but that comes not so much from not knowing how to solve them, but more from the solution being tricky to do. As a whole the difficulty of the game left me with the feeling that it is made for younger audience. But at another hand the ending and the whole idea of a game which is like "experience" really contradicts that impression, because a child might not really get the idea or be affected by the attempt for a touchy end. May be it can be played by parent and a child and the ending is the "thing for the grown up". You know how they used to put subtle references in animations which only grownups can get, so they also have fun while watching movies with their kids. May this is the idea, I do not know. But these two elements - the difficulty and the ending really contradict each other. 



Uhmm...

Speaking about the ending, let me talk a little about what I did not like about Rime (yes the ending is one thing). The game is beautiful, great OST, decent puzzles which while not really difficult pleasant to solve and quite variable with new mechanics in each zone. And all this is ruined by the camera problems the game has. Rime does not have failure state, you just respawn, but it is more than frustrating to jump of a ledge to your death only because the camera have decided to lock itself under some strange angle and you cannot clearly judge the direction in which you need to jump. The camera have made me also fail few timed puzzles, because it zooms in at random. If there is one thing because of which I will not recommend the game is the camera problems it has. Rime has its decent amount of platforming which in some cases requires timing and precision and it is not hard to do those when the camera does not cooperate, it is frustrating to even try.



Aham...about the ending. SPOILERS!!! During most of the game you try to catch up with a mysterious figure which is not explained who is, but in the end it turns out to be your father and that the story while about the son is actually in the head of the father (or I did not get it...) and the son has perished in the shipwreck. And while this is indeed tragic on its own, the father appears in the last 15min of the game and you do not have time to feel any emotional attachment to that man. For me it was a lot sadder when the robot which you revive in the 4th part and which helps you through the whole level, sacrifice itself to open the last door on the next level than learning that this whole story is reminiscence for the lost son. END OF SPOILERS!!!

 It was really out of nowhere. And not only that the whole idea of touching story and "experience" which to be different depending on how the player interpret what happens around him is not realized well which makes the game half done. 


Conclusion

Rime is a puzzle adventure game, by Tequila Works. It has some really great sides - it looks beautiful and I still listen to the soundtrack. Also the game is really easy which combined with its short length makes it a good starter game for someone who wants to try and get into the genre. In the game you will need to go through the five stages of grief and it tries to be like an "experience"- different for each player, based on his/her interpretation of the events. But it is not... Or I am stone hearted monster. There were exactly two moments where I felt something, but is very far from other games which try to do the same, like Journey or even Abzu. All the things that define a game of the genre are not there or there is not enough of them to work. And do not even get me started on the camera problems of the game. And all this is sad, because the game had potential to be good. 



Where to find:

събота, 26 август 2017 г.

Pyre - Is basketball a ritual?



In the Commonwealth everyone live happily together. Different races, but no hate and no discrimination. Or at least it sounds like that, but if so why people are send to the Downside into an exile? This and many other question appear during the game and some are even answered, others not and the answers of third create even more questions.

The Story, The World, The Characters

You awake in a dessert like area and hear voices around you. Other exiles. Your first companions. But who are you? Why you are the soon to become Reader or the Reader of this band of exiles. Readers are people who, despite of it being forbidden, learn to read. Not clear does they learn to read in general or read only special books, but as a Reader you are the one who will command the team during the Rites. You have no other name than Reader and you have no face. Everything is shown like you are seeing it first person through your own eyes. Which is great touch, because Pyre in many ways is a personal experience. For both you as a Reader and for your companions.



After you have enough strength your companions explain to you who they are (The Nightwings), where are you and ask you to become their Reader. Becoming part of the Nightwings is the first step toward regaining your freedom. Or what you thought is freedom. This is a spoiler to some degree, but may be one of the most precious things about Pyre is its musing about freedom and what it is, and how the player sees it. But that I will leave to you, to discover in more details. Back to your objective in the game. To have the chance to return to the Commonwealth you have to take part in Rites and defeat the opposing teams. Do this enough times and you will return to civilization. Before speaking about the Rites though I like to mention few things about the world and the characters you meet.



In Pyre you will move between nodes in the area you currently are. Usually you will have a choice which way you to go and there are slight differences between what will happen and what you will find there. You might want to choose carefully though as you will not be able to come back soon and visit the places you missed. The way traveling happens is one of my biggest problems I had with the game. Nothing happens while you travel. You just travel from point A to point B and that is. Truly the surrounding world is beautifully drawn with great amount of detail, bright colors and imagination, but the pure uneventfulness of traveling make it tedious and boring. It felt like a missed opportunity. To me the only good thing which came from those travels (other than the beautiful world and amazing, amazing music!!!) are the dialogues with the other characters. These are one of the two sources of lore and information about the world. And as someone who loves delving into game lore those were great.

Speaking about the characters...

Because all the characters you meet are part of the story and I hold pride in my fairly spoilerless ( it is a word now) reviews let me tell you how the creatures you meet fit in the world. The world of Pyre is colorful and a bit quirky, but at the same time serious and a bit gloomy. Its residents are the same. You will meet speaking dogs, sentient trees and demons as well as many others weird creatures, but all of them have their own tragedy, their personal story and reason why they should be the ones who are going back to the Commonwealth. Each character is distinctive and well-built with their own specific temper and drives. But other than lore source and something to talk with, the characters you meet will also be your adversaries or your teammates in the Rites. And this brings us to the most controversial part of the game - The Rites.



It is ceremonial basketball 

The Rites are the action part of Pyre. They are your objective and your sole purpose. They are the way to return to the Commonwealth. But only if you win enough of them.  During a Rite two teams of three characters meet in an arena. Each team has a pyre at certain health. In the middle is dropped a fallen star which you should bring into the pyre of your opponents effectively quenching their pyre until you extinguish it. Your adversaries are trying to do the same. 

All the characters you have managed to convince to come with you will form your rooster and after you have more than three, before each match you will have to pick a team. Each character has a special ability and is useful in a team. Some are small and fast and hard to intercept, others fly, some are big and stompy, but slow, etc. There is something for each style of play and each is viable. Aside from special abilities each character can jump, dash (in some form) and release his aura (in some form again) to damage enemies. Each character, depending on their size, deal different amount of damage to the enemy pyre. 



Now I said this is the most controversial part of the game. What I mean? The Rites are interesting to play especially against some harder opponents and it is satisfying when you win or when you turn around a Rite, but...it did not feel ceremonial to me. It did not feel like a Rite. It felt like a sport match. Fun, but not in the right game...

Conclusion

Pyre bears many of the Supergiant's typical characteristics. Great music, good atmosphere, interesting story (reminded me a bit of “Fahrenheit 451”), looks gorgeous and alive. At the same time it is not on par with Transistor or with Bastion. It felt a bit repetitive and on rails. True, the world opens up a little after certain point, bit it turns into a grind basically which is bearable only because more lore is revealed during this part. On another hand it is a short game with its 12-15 hours length. 
The strangest part? I loved it. I did not like some things, but the more I played Pyre the more I liked it and I do not know why or how it happened. I guess Supergiant is Supergiant after all.

Where to find:




четвъртък, 3 август 2017 г.

Kingsway - Is this the dream operating system?




Kingsway is a roguelike game, coming from Adult Swim and Andrew Morrish. The game did not look like that much to me, but it made some noise so I decided to try it and see what all the ruckus is about.



This Good old Roguelike is...


The game starts pretty standard - you choose a face for your character, class(warrior, rogue, wizard, beastman(the exact name escapes me) ), name and you are ready to go. Kingsway take place on the map of the world and you will move between nodes on it. Even if you enter a dungeon the movement system remains the same. While moving between nodes you will have the chance to have an encounter. Either with another wanderer which will give you some options to interact with him or you will encounter a monster. When the encounter is finished and you are not dead(which might happen with both types of encounters) you continue to your destination. Your goal lies to the East and while nothing stops you to rush to there, you will probably die if you try to. And while on the topic if you die you are death for good(for bad I guess, but...), but you can leave something for your next character who is brave enough to venture into Kingsway. 

Kingsway is so rouguelike-ish that even its graphics are in retro pixel style.





 ...not like the others?


If you want your game to be seen and people to talk about it(which Kingsway managed) you need to do something if not unique at least different enough. The different about Kingsway is that it is like an OS. Yes, you read that right. Everything is happening in windows on the desktop of a retro OS. Your Inventory is a folder, Start menu is the Main Menu of the game, your quests come as e-mails, progress while traveling and attacking is shown with loading bars, etc. And you can open all these helpful windows all at the same time and just put them around the map or order them in any way you want on your desktop effectively ordering the UI of the game in the most comfortable for you way. 




But the most interesting part is the battles. When you encounter an enemy he will pop up on your desktop into a separate window with a picture of the monster and your skills as buttons at the bottom. Here comes the tricky part - the monster window unlike any other windows will not stay stationary letting you choose skills and hit the monster. Oooh, no..it will move and bounce around making it really hard for you to click that skill button and because that is not enough some enemies and traps will throw projectiles at you which in their turn will pop up in little moving windows with "avoid" button on them and you will have to click it if you do not want to get hit. It is really, really chaotic and tough. It takes more than little to get good at this game.






Conclusion


While the fighting mechanic is unique indeed and there are huge amounts of nostalgia with its pixel graphic style and retro OS-like environment, Kingsway has nothing much else to offer.You make a character, make a run find cool items, reach fairly far, you die. Rinse and repeat. Now do not get me wrong all roguelikes are like that and I like the genre as I have said many times. It is just that the game did not seemed that different or original to me. It felt like any other(good) roguelike out there. That may be good thing or not, depending on what you are looking for. 

Where to find:

Official site
Steam Store
GoG
Humble Store

вторник, 18 юли 2017 г.

ABZU - A dive into a beautiful world



I have always been afraid of deep waters. When someone mentions how deep is the Maraiana Trench the hair on my neck stands up. The lone thought of such depth terrifies me. And ABZU did not help me with this problem. It might even made it worse. But you have no idea what is ABZU, sorry. Come, let me show you.





ABZU is "experience" a lot like Journey (after all it's from the same director), but underwater. Because of this here and now I will say THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS!!!!!! Knowing that let us continue.




In the game you are scuba diver who awakes in the middle of the sea. There is only water around you. Water filled with life. If you are sea life enthusiast this is probably a game for you. You will see all kind of known, unknown and supposedly extinct sea life while you explore the vast seas of the world (which is probably Earth, bearing in mind that the animals you meet have earthly names).




But I derailed. What is ABZU about? That is for sure left for debate, but you will find two lost civilizations under the waters, both of which not in their prime, but with a lot of mystery surrounding them. Following a mysterious shark you will learn more and more about both, their clash and their differences and in the end you will stand against one of them. For good or for bad there are no choices in the game and while there are some puzzles they are more than trivial and will give you no problems. It is purely an experience in a world which you will have hard time to see otherwise.

Here I really want to tell you a lot about ABZU, share with you my thoughts about the story and what you will find under the sea, but all this will ruin your experience, so I will not do it. Here I can tell you how colorful and alive the world is, but I already said that. I can mention each specie you will meet, but that will tell you nothing about the game. Or go and talk how gracious you are, like a fish, but...I was not like that, mainly because the reversed controls. 
So I will stop here and leave you to find out more about the world on your own. But before that...few downsides.




First is the Menu of the game. It's not only the fact that it lacks some general settings like details levels, controls or even volume options, but every change in it requires a restart. Imagine you have a weaker machine and you are tweaking the game so it can run smoothly on your computer. This will be like ten restarts. The other thing which annoyed me is the fact ABZU is not patched since release and it does need some tweaks here and there. Not to mention while it is a beautiful game it has a peculiar graphic style which did not made me think the game will feell so heavy on my machine.



Conclusion

ABZU is exploration "experience"-like game in which you will dive in a vibrant, full of life world accompanied by beautifully written music. There you will discover the mysteries of two ancient civilizations. I cannot say for sure is it at the level of Journey as I have never played it, but people say while it is good, it is not as good as Journey. 
ABZU is a treasure if you are into scuba diving. You will swim along giant turtles, orca whales and even dinosaurs believed to be extinct for millions of years. The game has provocative story and ending, leaving a lot of space for pondering and discussion. 
It is a beautiful game, but I am not sure you will be impressed by it if you have played Journey, so play this first. 

Where to find: 

четвъртък, 13 юли 2017 г.

Dead Cells - Pixel jewel of hardship





Disclaimer: Dead Cells is still in Early Access.


Dead Cells is a rougelite game by Motion Twin. In it you are a headless prisoner who is trying to escape the prison? Or should I say you are a head using a body? Why are you escaping? How you got there? Those are question not explained by the game - the mysteries of Early Access. 






Despite being in early access Dead Cells offers quite the finished product gameplay-wise and lacks only more levels, story and real end. What it offers? Read on.


As in every roguelike/lite you have only one life. When you die, you start from the beginning and you lose money, stat upgrades and any items you have found or bought during the run. But Dead Cells also has a progression system to make the grind easier. When you kill monsters, you will get souls and between every two levels you will meet The Collector and be able to permanently upgrade items. After that you will be able to fully heal and fill your life flask (in case you have unlocked it) and then next level. As you can see almost classical roguelite formula. 





Unlike many games of the genre Dead Cells is not turn based. Instead it is metroidvania action-platformer combined with souls-like combat. So be ready to do some dodging! Honestly while I am huge turn-based fan the action platforming is done really well in the game and makes the grind not so tedious as you zap through the first levels and get to the interesting part quicker. Not to mention that the platformer gives freedom for a lot more interesting boss fights. 

Conclusions




It is impossible for Dead Cells to not remind you of the Souls series as it shares a lot of similarities to the evillest game ever (which is not a roguelike). In each fight, you should be careful. Boss or not everything can kill you easily because of this there is a lot of dodging. The boss fights are hard, but epic. And probably the best, bearing in mind you will see the same zones again and again, you can skip big chunks of the levels just by running, ignoring the enemies and mini bosses. In the spirit of the recently ended GDC I predict that we will see Dead Cells there as soon as it is out. 




Dead Cells has only one downside and that is its Early Access state, because of which you do not get enough for the price (Right now you can beat it for hour or two, the end is obviously work in progress and if you are not a completionist you will have nothing to do once you reach the end.). My advice is to wait until it is released and then enjoy the great game it will be. 

Where to find:

Official site

Steam

събота, 24 юни 2017 г.

Quick Opinion: Has-been Heroes, Old Man's Journey, Outland

After short content break we are back with a quick opinion about few interesting games. Some of which are older some of which are new. Here we go!



Old Man's Journey



I had really hard time with telling what this game is, so I decided to call it...a journey. And the more I think about it, the more I like this definition. You play an old man who receives a letter contents of which you don't know, bit this letter pushes you to go on a journey not only through the country, but also through your memories. Because of this I feel like this game is a personal experience something which you want to experience alone and see for yourself. The Old Man journeys alone and one's memories are something also personal and something you want to sometimes review alone.
First I want to say something here just so I do not forget it. Old Man's Journey is fabulously looking game. So colorful with rich pallets fitting to every mood and moment of the game. The game is visual feast. That said let me tell you how the game works as there are also some interesting mechanics in this small two hours game.
Old Man's Journey is separated in chapters and in each chapter you need to "find" a memory. To achieve this you need to traverse the area by solving puzzles. All puzzles are connected to the main mechanic of the game - you have the ability to change the landscape of the area by moving hills around and making them lower or higher. There is even slight color coding indicating that you can move the different parts of the hill to different altitudes. For example you can move one part of a hill (color x) higher and another lower (color z) which is impossible to do with single color hills. Using this and by aligning hill's altitude you will need to find ways around fences, herds of sheep, waterfalls and even scale cliffs or make way for a train.

Old Man's Journey is amazing, charming, filled with bittersweet feelings small game which might make you think about life in different light. Give it a chance it is barely a two hours journey each minute of which is worth it.






Has-been Heroes


By the creators (Frozenbyte) of one of my favorite platformers - Trine comes Has-been Heroes.  Has-been heroes is a party based real time RPG with tactical pause and roguelike elements. But this is not accurate description so do not quote me on it. "What is it then?" you ask well... Here comes the hard part, but let me try. You are three heroes which are trying to escort two princesses to school (mhm, exactly...). You do that by moving between points on the map and on each point you can find different things - shops, treasure, special items like keys or candles or rest camps etc. You cannot backtrack! You cannot visit a place where you have been already so you will have to plan from where you want to go. On the maps you will also find fights. Which are what the game shines with. 
When you engage into battle you will have to either survive for certain time or defeat all enemies. Here comes the interesting part of the game. Your opponents have stamina and if you want to damage them you need to drain their stamina by hitting them. The thing is when you manage to damage the health of an opponent he is knocked back and his stamina RESETS. It does not matter how damage you deal when you hit stamina. One hit will remove one stamina. The interesting part and the one thing you will need to learn and get used to it is the tactical lane based aspect of the game. Each hero has a lane and enemies coming at him/her. When one hero attacks and strikes he is not on his position and while it is empty you can swap him with another character which now can attack the same opponent combo-ing the two. Basically you want to drain the enemy stamina and then hit them as hard as you can to deal as much damage as you can. 
At the end of each map there is a nasty, nasty boss. You lose the game when ONE of your heroes die. How they die? Heroes also has stamina and when something reaches them it hits them reducing their stamina. Heroes’ stamina is not recovered between battles. 
There is a lot to get used to and learn in the game as it has quite unique approach. But there is also possible to not like the battle system and therefore hate the game. Another downside is how hard the boss is and if you do not manage to beat him in few runs you will feel like the game is not progressing at all. But if you manage to beat him and get his 80+ unlocks well that is a different story.

Has-been heroes has intriguing battle system, but sadly I did not saw anything else in the game which to keep me playing it. Also go and watch a video of it, it is impossible to explain how the game works with words alone.



Outland


Now I know that Outland is a bit older than the other two, but I always wanted to cover or remind you of old but good games so here it is - Outland. In Outland you are a simple boy which escapes from the hut of his teacher and goes on an adventure led by mystical light. On this adventure he will need to rediscover the powers of hero of old, because a horror is upon this world. The game sports very interesting art style, but what is really interesting about the game is its core mechanic which is color switching. Outland is puzzle platformer with bullethell moments, but all this is mixed up with your ability to change your affinity between blue and red. Everything in the game is related to those two colors. For example red projectiles can be absorbed if you are red, but blue enemies can be damaged only by red. Also there are color coded platforms - you will be able to stand on blue while you are blue and you will fall through them if you are red. Now this does not sound that cool but the game will force you to dynamically change colors while jumping, fighting or dodging obstacles which creates amazing dynamic gameplay keeping you on the edge all the time.


While not impressive with its story or visuals Outland is great action platformer and while might be a bit too hard for people not experienced in the genre it can offer some really good fun to fans of platformers. 

Oh...and it has co-op.



четвъртък, 18 май 2017 г.

Battle Brothers - No mounts, but plenty of blades



Men sweating, blades singing, blood, screams and flying limbs...your band is broken you just have seen the captain fall. You are in charge now.

This is how Battle Brothers starts. You barely manage to get away from the last battle with nothing more than three men, some money and few provisions. But you are not desperate, being the experienced mercenaries you are you know the company can be rebuild. And you will have to...or die.



Battle Brothers is a turn based RPG game where you command and manage a company of mercenaries, trying to recover the band to its former glory. To do that you will need to hire new men, acquire money, items and most of all reputation.  How? By traveling. A lot of traveling. To get all of the other things you will need money. Money come from contracts and contracts are found in towns, but once you complete a contract there is no guarantee there will another in the same town so you will need go to another. At the beginning you are barely known band of ruff-raffs which will chase robbers and escort caravans for little money. The loot will not be good either, but probably will be better than the farmer clothes your new recruits are wearing. Mentioning those guys...


New Recruits


When you arrive into a town you will be able to visit few different locations including smith, market, chapel, tavern, volunteers and few others, but the ones mentioned are the ones you will visit most and find in most towns. I am sure you can imagine what most of those are used for, so I will tell you more about the one where you will find yourself often - volunteers. In each town depending on its size mainly you will find different kind and number of men who have decided that the life of a mercenary is better than whatever they have been doing. Each volunteer has price, upkeep cost and biography. The biography is always the same for all men of a single type(all farmhands will have the same biography.) so it is not really that useful when you are hiring someone. All in all is a wild guess what abilities the man you are hiring will have(they can even have disadvantages like tiring quickly or eating more), but you still can guess some things. 



For example a trader is not very good in the shieldwall as he is weak. A priest will not flee easily, because of his hard resolve, but he is not used to fighting etc. In bigger settlements you will find better man. Some of them will come with good equipment or will even have few levels under their belt, but they will cost a lot more. The more men you have the more money you will need to pay them and more food you will need while on the road. The maximum size of your company is 20 men, but you will find yourself expanding slowly because of the scarce resources you have and the fact that you will lose men from time to time. And while it is easy to just go hire 1-2 new guys and put on them the equipment of their dead comrades you will notice that guys who are 4-5th level are a lot more useful than inexperienced new recruits. Not to mention that the game scales to really high levels of difficulty and you will need to train different men into different things so they can take on different roles on the battlefield. Making characters "specialize" so to say will make losing characters at later stages even harder to compensate for. It is kind of the Darkest Dungeon case where each level of a character make him/her more and more valuable and irreplaceable.


To battle!


And little by little we get to the main attraction -  battles. In battle as in the whole game your characters are represented by cute pawns, but that is pretty much all the cuteness you will see in this game. The battles are turned based and take place on hexagonal battlefields ridden with terrain obstacles which you will have to take in consideration during battle. Those include different terrain height which will affect damage and hit rating; trees which will block line of sight and even tall grass which is able to fully hide enemies and allies alike. But the things to keep in mind continue. 



Against different opponents different tactics work. If your enemies are undead or wild beasts pike wall is great. If they are humans you will have to advance as they will not throw themselves at the spears. Also when you are against armored opponents certain weapons work better etc. Also during battle you need to keep an eye on your brothers's resolve as if it drops they might flee. Many things affet resolve - being surrounded, seeing ally fall, seeing some being incapacitated.  You can even, no you will have to use formations and specialize troops to do different roles during battle. Or in other words the battles are complicated and will need deep strategizing if you want to win. Not to mention there are also crisis which when happen enemies become more numerous and start to raid cities and caravans. Making a well armed and skilled party very important if you want to survive the crisis. 



Conclusion


Battle Borthers is ok looking game. No flashy effects, no high detailed models, nothing visually impressive. But oh my how deep is this game! You will have to manage your company, be careful what brothers you hire, to have enough money, food and supplies. Which brothers you will take to battle, who will you hire, how will you arm them, what formation you will use. There is a ton of things, ridiculous amount of depth. The biggest downside for me was the lack of overarching story, but you can easily make your own. You will meet enough strong enemies, you will have more than enough epic battles to do so if you want to. You will even have the chance to get into a war between the royal families. Plenty of material to make your own story. Another nitpick which might turn people away is the low fantasy profile of the game. You will fight orcs, goblins and undead, but there is very little magic in the world of Battle Brothers.



If I have to compare Battle Brothers to another game it is definitely Mount and Blade with bigger focus on the fights and turn-based, but similar in many ways. Great, sadly niche game which will not get the attention it deserves. It is hard, it is far from casual and takes a lot of time to progress. But great, great game nonetheless.

Where to find:

Official site
Steam