Interstellaria (Review)

Source: Cashmoneys
Price: £6.99
Where To Get It: Steam , Developer Page

Thank the Space Lords for the pause button. Without this godly power, I would probably be quite, quite dead. As it is, there’s several blank spots in my memory, with only the word “Dammit, reload” coming to mind when I think of them. But enough about my life, let’s talk Interstellaria, by Coldrice, with music by Chipzel, and published by Chucklefish.

My brave starter crew, unfazed by the fact they're shooting blindly at things in space.

My brave starter crew, unfazed by the fact they’re shooting blindly at things in space.

Interstellaria is a space trading, adventuring, and universe saving game involving crew and fleet management, exploring new worlds, and, if you follow the main plotline, saving the known universe from blob-like aliens who are mysteriously abducting entire worlds for… Reasons. It’s a game with wit, where your glorious career starts with you being ejected from your home by your room-mate for being a useless sponger, and where Humans are the most beautiful (and nigh useless) species in the universe. But if it weren’t for that pause button, the game would be unplayable. As it is, I recommend something the very moment you start the game, and at every point where something happens… Pause. It’s the space bar to do that. Without that, you will probably not see all the hotkeys. And you will want those hotkeys. Either that, or frequent use of that pause button. Because the game will not forgive you for not learning them.

Now, this may give the impression the game isn’t friendly. In a sense, it actually is: The function of things is either clearly explained as they come up, or quickly accessible via one of the subscreens like Inventory or Fleet Management, and the game isn’t slow to tutorialise. In another sense, parts of that tutorial UI interfere with your crew selection “quick” bar, the hotkeys for crew selection need you to remember what order you picked up your crew in, and… Look, it’s not the friendliest of UIs, even after hotkeys, so use that pause regularly, alright?

Looting a planet once it's safe is... Ennnnhhhh...

Looting a planet once it’s safe is… Ennnnhhhh…

Honestly, Interstellaria is a bit of a mixed bag overall. The tunes by Chipzel are pretty awesome, especially in space battles, but the pumping chiptunes and EDM feel less fitting when, say, you’re on a station selling the junk you’ve looted, or looting a planet. Speaking of looting a planet, it’s got to be my least favourite activity in this game, which is a shame because it’s pretty central to progressing. Basically, you make sure the area’s safe (By killing everything hostile beforehand), hit H(arvest), then F(ast Forward), and… watch them go to it.

In fact… This is, I think, the core of why I’m not enjoying Interstellaria perhaps as much as I could be… Combat, salvaging, space battles… They feel like busywork, and a fair bit of my time is spent in either tasks that don’t take much attention (like salvaging), fights which don’t seem to take much of my attention (ground combat), or fights which mostly don’t take much of my attention, except for when things go wrong, in which case I end up losing track of what the hell’s going on… That would be the space battles, where damage can lead to all your stations damaged, leaving you defenseless, immobile, and blind until you not only repair the damage, but also get your crew back on station. That last bit can be confusing, because it’s not completely clear, until you try to do something, that the station isn’t manned (navigation is the worst for this, while Scanning is the obvious exception). Efforts have been made in recent patches to fix this (Automatic crew assignments, for example), but I think it’s still got a way to go.

"Nawww, this ship isn't unlucky at aaaaallll!"

“Nawww, this ship isn’t unlucky at aaaaallll!”

And I feel slightly guilty for not enjoying this so much, because it’s a genre right up my alley, the only real obtuseness is in the UI and space combat, and there’s some interesting quirks and awesome things, like the variety of races and encounters… For example, Robots (Can’t carry weapons or armour, but don’t need food or sleep), an amusing parody of Captain Kirk from Star Trek (Who seeks out potentially beautiful new civilisations, hopefully with smoochable folks, and diplomatically has big guns), and, of course, the strange energy beings encountered in the first proper plot mission.

So overall, visually, the aesthetic is tight and interesting. Musically, it misses the mood mark, but is awesome on its own (And, indeed, can be purchased separately), and gameplay wise… Well, if you think you won’t mind the slight tedium of salvaging, I’d say give it a go. But it’s definitely not for the impatient, or skippers of tutorials.

The Mad Welshman felt slightly hollow as he opened another crate full of in-demand scrap. He knew there was something more out there… Perhaps a beautiful alien with a bee-hive hairdo asking “Show me some more of this Earth thing called Kissing.”

…Nah, that’d be silly.

Become a Patron!

Vector Thrust (Review)

Source: Review Copy
Price: £18.99
Where To Get ItSteam

Sometimes, a game needs more polish. Sometimes, it needs a clearer direction. Sometimes, you get games like Vector Thrust. Vector Thrust is, I’m sorry to say, neither fish nor fowl. It has the simpler control scheme of the arcade flight games like Ace Combat, but mastering it requires memorisation of planes similar to a more tactical simulation. It also doesn’t have any tutorial that I could see. This, in a sense, is one of its two core problems: It doesn’t really appeal to either core audience.

The craft are, it must be said, undeniably pretty. The explosions are alright too.

The craft are, it must be said, undeniably pretty. The explosions are alright too.

Picture it, if you will. On the one hand, we have Arcade Pete. Arcade Pete loved games like Afterburner or G-Loc, but never landed his plane in F-119, and scratched his head at Janes Combat Simulator. He only has a passing familiarity with planes, just enough to recognise that maaaaybe attacking a B-52 Flying Fortress with close range weaponry is a bad idea. Pete will wonder why he isn’t able to control the skies, why planes will pass him for more important targets, and why he keeps losing this bloody escort mission. In the campaign, he’ll itch at the chatter beginning the missions every time he loses, and even in multiplayer, he will be outmaneuvered and outgunned. In frustration, he’ll turn to something different.

Then there’s Simulator Jane. Simulator Jane is used to a flight stick, using the majority of her keyboard at one point or another, and has played all the classics. She’ll know her planes, know how to deal with them, and furthermore, won’t be fooled by the relatively basic AI. She’ll dominate the campaign, dominate multiplayer, and… Won’t feel satisfied. There’s not really a whole lot to keep an eye on. G-Force is only a minimal consideration. The damage for each craft is a straight health bar. There’s no wing shake, and missiles seem to be somewhat arbitrary compared to what she’s used to. Shrugging, she’ll go straight back to something worth her time.

A better example of what I mean, although this is perhaps not the best craft for the mission I'm on.

A better example of what I mean, although this is perhaps not the best craft for the mission I’m on.

Both will admit the planes are pretty with the cel-shading being a nice stylistic touch. Both may or may not get annoyed at voice actors who occasionally slip out of accent (Assuming they don’t skip the static cutscenes and mission briefings.) Both will find the “variety of planes” to be… passable, as many are variants on the same families of craft (starting with the MIG, Joint Strike Fighter, X-35, , expanding to 45 families of craft for 260 craft overall), and generally, the later variants will be the more useful in each family. While both will most likely agree that separating the campaign and multiplayer unlocks to be a fair design choice, they’ll find the campaign somewhat dull, and the maps to be fairly ugly and featureless. Both will agree that not including some form of easily accessible information on enemy craft and the lack of any sort of tutorial a mistake. They might find some fun in the challenges though, which include bombing runs, balloon shoots, and acts of aerial acrobatics. But both will also agree that target switching is painful.

In short, this game asks £19 for… Not being friendly to new players, not currently fulfilling the hopes of either sim fans or arcade flight players, and being inconsistent in quality to boot. It’s a game that’s come out of Early Access too early, and it really needs to work out the kinks before I can solidly say if it’s any good or not. Alas, a reviewer’s job is not to say when a game is done, but what the state is at the present time, and, although it’s definitely better than release… It currently feels, as I’ve said, like it’s neither fish nor fowl. And that makes me sad, because it definitely has potential.

Attacking a B-52 from behind is not necessarily the best of ideas. In fact, it's more toward the "worst" end.

Attacking a B-52 from behind is not necessarily the best of ideas. In fact, it’s more toward the “worst” end. This is about five seconds before the tail cannons rip me to shreds.

The Mad Welshman growled as the missile sped past. He wasn’t as well aligned as the gods demanded. He threw another goat on the sacrificial pyre, and tried again. BETTER.

Become a Patron!

On Games Journalism: The Complications (Edited Reprint)

This piece was originally printed on my personal blog, while planning the move back to freelance Game Journalism. Certain sections have been extended.

So, Joe Martin, a short while back, wrote a deservedly scathing piece on Games Journalism and Money , specifically the phenomenon (Which I myself have fallen victim to at least once in the past, for reasons I’m going to go into) of unpaid reviewing, often badly justified. I’d recommend you read that piece first, because it’s an actual concern, and it’s pretty widespread. Furthermore, I’m going to go into a bit of detail as to why this hurts the industry in general.

So, the problem of pay is one that has struck journalism all over, but has affected Games Journalism on pretty much an endemic basis, pretty much since the internet hit. There are also several factors that complicate things, and it’s those I want to go into a little.

There Is No “Ideal” Pay Scale

I thought I understood this game at about five hours. Then I hit the biiiig difficulty spike for completionists at around fifteen. I still play an hour or two every now and again, but it will be a long time before I finish it.

That you should be paid for your writing, and that the review copies are tools for your job, not the pay itself, is indisputable. It is a product you are meant to review, for your job. But there are only two types of payscale out there: Flat rate, and per [X Period]. Neither of them are ideal for games reviewing. Let’s start with per hour, to illustrate the point.

Let us say I am paid £6.75 an hour (Pretty close to the minimum wage for my country) for reviewing one of two games. One of them takes four hours to complete (Allowing a complete picture of the game), another can be completed in thirty hours, but a complete picture of how the game works may take up to fifty. Bam, instant lack of incentive to choose the smaller (But possibly better) game. It doesn’t help that, unless it’s on Steam, your editor can’t actually check how many hours you’ve played unless all work is done in the office. As any freelancer can tell you, this mostly isn’t where you’re doing things from.

The same applies to a flat rate, but the other way around… I am encouraged to pick the smaller game to review, because it will give me a better return on my writing. It must also be noted that how buggy a game is can further skew this, one way or the other. Sword of the Stars 2, for example, brought my computer to a BSOD four times when I reviewed it, and if that had screwed my computer? Well, then either the editor has to fork out for replacements (Providing the company has such policies, and really, since they’re also tools of work, they technically should), or you’re out of pocket for not only the review (Which won’t be able to be technically finished), but also the replacement parts.

“What about a sliding scale?” Ah, well that disincentivises the editors and owners from larger games. They have to pay you more, for a larger product.

Personally, I’m okay with a good flat rate, and so are most folks I know. But it’s not ideal, and I doubt it ever will be. But so long as I feel compensated for the hours of work, I’m good. Of course, this segment applies mainly to places with multiple writers, and for freelancers wishing to work for said places. For writers who wish to go it alone… It’s somewhat different.

Many Editors Won’t Take Ex-Unpaid Writers

You may like my writing, you may not. I hope you do, because I enjoy writing, and I enjoy talking about games. But the very fact that I have, in the past, gambled on a startup which has pulled this unpaid (Oh, but we’ll pay you if the site starts paying out!) bullshit has, and will bar me from writing for many paid sites.

In my defence, I will say that unemployment makes you do desperate things at times, reaching for any olive branch that will even have a chance of getting you out of the dole queue. But it also needs to be said that punishing the potential writer for taking such a gamble, out of desire for entering a field that, quite frankly, isn’t amazingly friendly to newbies (Due to limited paid positions, and a relatively low turnover in writers) is Not Cricket.

Judge a writer by their writing, by their passion, their style, and their eye. Please don’t judge a writer for falling for promises, because as it stands, it’s not easy to get in to the treehouse.

Why It’s Hard To Get Into The Paid End

A selection from … Most of these adverts can and will use the language in Joe’s article. Oh, it’s always so fun to scroll through the- [shoots self]

Go google game writing jobs. I’m a member of a LinkedIn group for video game writers. I search every now and again. And 90% of what you find will effectively be these unpaid internships. Even many of the “paid” positions will either have some restrictive conditions, or will have catches. I’m looking at one right now that isn’t paid in the work sense, but offers $30 for the “best contributor of the month”. Of the month. I’m looking at another, and I don’t actually see a mention of pay beyond its existence. I may ask them what, exactly, they’re paying… But I don’t expect a very useful answer.

I can remember the last time PC Gamer made a call for new freelancers. because I sent a piece in. I can’t recall getting a reply back, though. And you can guarantee a lot of writers applied. We’ve already mentioned low turnover on paid sites, but another problem is knowing which sites pay. Because you can guarantee jobsites like Indeed or LinkedIn aren’t too helpful. You can definitely guarantee many places and groups specifically for game journalism are going to be a fucking slog, because all of them, to some extent or another (With an average of “Two hours before potentially finding an actual paid job on a given day) suffer from the problem I’ve already mentioned.

As to going it alone, it’s decidedly difficult. No matter what people will tell you, you have to advertise. You have to push yourself out there to get noticed, and, if you’re going the crowdfunded route, to get paid. In a very real sense, people will resist this, not only because there’s this (false) perception it’s not a real job (More on that below), but because even the majority of folks who have a stable income will, on some level, resent the idea of paying for what manifestly appears free. They resent adverts, but, paradoxically, won’t support a writer to ensure said adverts don’t happen, and that the articles keep coming. And there is this perception that any nonstandard job that requires a Patreon or the like to stay alive is “Not real work, just begging.” Let’s discuss that for a moment.

It’s Not A “Real” Job (AKA “Fuck You, Got Mine”)

I’m writing this one from a mainly UK perspective, but it’s true nearly everywhere that, to many folks (Including our “lovely” Department of Work and Pensions), writing reviews, much less games journalism, isn’t a “real” job. Never mind that breach of contract is a real thing. Never mind that reviewing and games journalism has a code of ethics. Never mind that, if you’re doing the job, you should get paid for it. Getting advocacy for rights to the pay that you deserve is an uphill struggle, because the majority of folks who could advocate for you, who could punish potential employers for an unlawful (and unethical) internship contract, aren’t going to, because people still think of games as this limited, almost whimsical field.

“Oh, you play games for money? How quaint.”

Yeah, tell that to the QA Team who are tearing their hair out (sometimes literally), right this very minute, when they’re told “Oh, we’ll wait for the Console QA team to report this bug before we take it seriously” (An actual thing I have heard from at least one QA lead, although I will protect the sources). Tell that to the copywriters, panicking because there’s no way anyone’s going to buy this thing the company rushed, no matter how they dress it up, all over a fucking release date. And tell that to me, who lost at least one computer in the line of reviewing, who has had companies stop talking to him because he wasn’t afraid to say that their product was deeply flawed , and who has been told at times that 33 hours is nowhere near enough to have an idea of how to review Skyrim… Despite the fact that the game can be completed in less than 20 if you don’t faff about, and a number of other factors that conspire to say “Why yes, actually, you can get enough of a picture in 30 hours to review quite a lot of games.”

It All Ties Together

Image Source: An article by The Drum on “The Ad Tech Minefield”. Only somewhat fitting, but still…

Of course, this leads to a gigantic interrelated clusterfuck. We’re saturated in potential viewpoints, and that’s good, variety in viewpoints is useful for reviews! Problem is, for the newcomer to the field (Or even someone like me, who did 3 years of reviewing and games writing), it’s not easy to get paid. You’re going to get a lot of heartbreak, a lot of applications with no reply, and you’re going to be told that it isn’t a real job. It’s tempting to write somewhere for free, but the very act of doing so, no matter how much it builds your skills from practice (And hopefully mentoring) is going to close doors on you.

It’s small wonder so many folks are trying to pay their bills through crowdfunding, and though I don’t hide things behind a paywall, make no mistake… I have bills to pay too, and if I can’t pay them, I can’t keep writing. Because we’re not a friendly field… In fact, right now, we’re a minefield. And it’s going to take a lot of work to dig out those mines. I want to work toward that, and so do many others. David Wolinsky, who has tirelessly been interviewing games industry figures to combat misinformation about the field. Lana Polansky, who covers Alt-Games and the oft-forgotten artistic side of the industry. Tanya DePass, who shows us that diverse viewpoints allow games to grow, to reach more people, and to speak to more people. Rock Paper Shotgun, one of the relative success stories, who, just like me, aren’t afraid to talk about The Publisher Silence, celebrate games for what they are, not just how much they cost. And many more. There are people out there who want the games industry to improve, for it to gain respect. There are people out there who, like you, are groaning in metaphorical agony when a game is released in a state best described as “A buggy, poorly written, corner-cutting mess” for £40.

But for the games industry itself to support them is unethical. For governments to support them takes away from education, healthcare, and other things that, were they to degrade, we’d notice. You want change? Support good games. Don’t pre-order. Look for diverse views on a product before buying, to see whether it’s really for you… And help keep those view diverse, by supporting a writer. Doesn’t have to be much, individually. Because, even in my own bailiwick of PC Gaming, there’s 14 odd million folks who play. And the more who help, the less an individual “needs” to pay to support better games writing.

Become a Patron!

Guild Of Dungeoneering (Review)

Source: Cashmoneys
Price: £10.99 normal, £14.99 incl. Soundtrack, £5.59 separate soundtrack.
Where To Get ItSteam

Guild of Dungeoneering is, in essence, a game about how impressionable and petty adventurers are. There’s more to it than that, obviously, but at its core, it’s about how a shiny thing, or an easy kill, is one of the easiest ways to lead an adventurer in a dungeon by the nose. In fact, the game counts on it. Because while there’s some things you can directly control about the illustrious (?) members of the Guild of Dungeoneering, where they go isn’t one of them.

...Shame you're going to have to step up your game, though, Dungeoneer!

When you get going, you really get going, and reveal new dungeons to loot as you go!

Now, it’s not often I comment on the visuals of a game, but Guild of Dungeoneering hits a sweet spot with me, because the look of the game is a better version of how I used to try and draw my dungeon maps, back when I was a younger, harder working Dungeon Master. It’s charming, and a lot of effort has gone into making a seemingly simple looking game… Look good. Not in the “It is shiny, and has lots of pixels” sense, but in the sense that it fits the theme really well. It’s a small thing, but it counts for a lot, hearing the scribbles, and watching the map tile being etched into the graph paper that is the world of GoD. In fact, the feel of the game is amazing, and the music… Has to be listened to to be believed. On that, I will only say two things: The game is filled with Ye Olde Bardic Limericks like in the trailer for the game, and they are all pretty awesome, making the soundtrack (£4 or £5.59, depending on whether you buy the Deluxe edition, or buy the OST separately) well worth the purchase.

As far as gameplay goes, it’s again, fairly simple, but meaningful. Adventurers like, in this order, unguarded loot, a monster that will gain them sweet, sweet XPs, aaaand… That’s about it, actually, but the value of the loot is always a factor. Combat and loot, however, requires a bit more thought, because the adventurer will take the shortest path to what they want (Which can definitely be a bad thing) and the classes you choose have a bearing. Will you enter a dungeon with an Apprentice, who starts with no physical defences, but powerful magic? Or maybe a Bruiser, the thug whose spikey demeanour (or armour, it’s not certain which) is so cutting that blocking all damage means you hurt the enemy? And once you’re there, will you go for magical kit, or physical? More blocking, more damage, more healing? Simple choices, but they add up to make a challenging experience. Even putting down more map tiles may open up pathing options for your poor, dumb adventurers that you really, really didn’t want them to pick right now.

Unless, of course, you get Stupid III. Uhhh... Uhhh...

The more loot you get, the more powerful you are! Simples!

So, for all that I’m talking up the game, is there anything I would complain about? Yes, but it’s niggles. There is always the possibility of a fail from turn 1 (For example, the only dungeon tile card you have bridges you straight to higher level wandering monsters), but death of an adventurer… Has no consequence I can see, so feel free to abandon quest if you see that. Animations play at a set speed, and while I’m fine with it, preferring the tension, the option of speeding it up could be put in for the less patient (A concession toward this has been added to the game with the ability to turn icon animations off). It’s also slightly unclear when a guild expansion is going to close off building directions, so a little extra mention there would be great. But, as I mentioned, these are niggles. The difficulty curve seems just fine, as you get a feel for a dungeon and its challenges after only one or two plays, and the game is mostly pretty intuitive. In short, it’s the best idealisation of Monty Haul dungeons I’ve ever seen.

Want to spend around £11-£16 on something with charm, wit, and simple play that’s easy to learn, but hard to master? Guild of Dungeoneering is a turn based strategy game for you. But if you’re the kind of person who groans whenever you have to wait for a movement, or attack, or animation to finish because you want to play quicker, it might be a better idea to wait, see if animation speed options get patched in. Overall though, I think you can tell that I’m enjoying this a hell of a lot. Now, to send a Mime into a Boss Dungeon… Muahahahahahaaa…

No class is a bad choice. Except maybe the Chump. Yeah, the Chump might not be a good idea.

And, of course, the more you earn, the bigger and more powerful your guild gets!

The Mad Welshman was put in charge of The Guild of Dungeoneering, and within a week, the hero population dropped drastically. There is no correlation between these two events, honest.

Become a Patron!

Going Back – Deadnaut

Screwfly hate you. They love you, but at the same time, they hate you (Well, not really… But it seems that way when you play sometimes. ;D ). They want you a gibbering wreck on the floor, babbling about the dark between the stars, or, in the case of their first game, Zafehouse Diaries, about how the dead won’t stop moaning and scrabbling at the walls outside. Screwfly make Legit Hard Games. And I want to celebrate this, by talking about Deadnaut, and how the game supports the mood it wants to invoke.

Deadnauts do not have a high survival rate.

You can create your own crew, but monitoring and equipping them from then on is up to skill *and* luck.

Deadnaut is not a game I’m good at, and I don’t think I’m meant to be good at it. The game, in a sense, resists it. But this is one of the rare cases where I find myself more immersed in the experience because of obtuseness, not less. Why?

Because in Deadnaut, I’m a Lieutennant Gorman, watching my own maladjusted crew of misfits and criminals attempt to board supposedly long dead alien ships that, you guessed it, aren’t long dead after all. Not for me the experience of directly seeing what’s happening through amazing Commander Vision. Oh no. That would imply we’re valued, and have the technology. No, we, the characters (And, by extension, the player’s unnamed and invisible character) are the dregs, the people Humanity would rather throw in a meat grinder. So we have three screens we can switch between. And, bad commander that I am, I’d rather get fucked than micro manage anything.

Yes, you can turn off weapons. It isn't always recommended.

Pictured: Me suffering because I was weapons-free in a heavily damaged hulk.

The three “screens” are pretty simple in theory: The left shows the team, their equipment, their stats, their quirks and flaws, and their health, mental and physical. Being a Gorman, I don’t really look at that too much in missions, and panic when the suit-breach alarms are going off. The right shows information we’ve gathered, giving me clues as to the threats we’re experiencing, the ship and crew logs we’re salvaging, and the security/power status of the ship we’re entering. I only look at this between missions, even though it could give me early warning that no, our guns won’t work in this situation.

The middle screen, for me, is where it’s at. The buttons sometimes bewilder me, but I know enough to push NET to see the Watchers, automated, roaming antivirus programs gone wrong, as they go about their not-so-merry business of Keeping Things As They Were (to my detriment); LOC , which lets me see how damaged an area is, and occasionally, when the situation demands it, PWR, which lets me see if a turret I’ve noticed is powered up or not. I know enough, being a greedy corporate scumbag, to turn the signal booster dial to SIGnal, and leave it there, even if it dooms my crew because I can’t see what’s happening (VISual) and can’t give them orders (AUDio). The more signal I have, the more KnowledgeBux we get from looting these rotting hulks, and the better I can equip my poor, doomed squad for the future.

Hell, sometimes, I’m nice enough to resurrect one, if I can afford to do so. So, as you might have guessed from this description, there’s a lot to take in, and not a lot of it is in easy reach, having to switch between screens to see things, having to, god forbid, split the group so we can keep the Watchers from resetting that turret that almost chewed the squad up when they opened the door, or use the special abilities of the Shield and Sensor suits to scan ahead, plan, and protect team-mates from the dangerous conditions created by nigh-destroyed rooms (Because our vacuum suits are cheap, and don’t protect against space worth a damn.) This is a game where, if you’re good, you can micro, switching between screens to gauge threats in a safe moment, pair up team-mates efficiently (This one hates this one, don’t keep them close. This one hates open spaces, try and keep them in small rooms. This one doesn’t like open spaces, use them as a rearguard)

Goldurn ancient space ghosts, GIT OFF MAH SPACE LAWN!

This screen may not make much sense… Until you realise I’m being screwed around with by ancient space-ghosts.

But this game, in a sense, doesn’t want you to do that. Watchers and Signal Dampers can mess up your visuals (Leaving you nothing but static) and audio (Leaving you unable to even warn your team of nearby threats, or tell them to get the fuck out of there right now before it collapses). Your guns are useful, but also damage the ship, so sometimes, you will have to order your squad not to use their weapons… And it won’t always help, either, because sometimes the enemy has guns. And sonic shockwaves. And plasma bursts. Melee weapons exist, but I’ve never seen them used very well. And the game’s controls don’t help either, there are very few hotkeys, so nearly everything is “Click shield person, right click this person we want to shield” or the like.

Despite that, I love the game. Why? Because, with its flaws, it makes me feel like a Gorman, and, on a good day, like a Corporal Hicks. The game, through its flaws and hateful moments, creates exactly the feel it’s aiming for: That moment where everything is going wrong, and you have to act and oh god someone’s dead what the hell do I oh god another beep beep beep BEEEEEEEEEEEEE-

I have precisely one criticism of this game: I’d like to actually read logs, instead of being unable to look at any screens the moment I either win (By completing a set number of missions), or lose (By all my squad dying before extraction.) I know the logs, just like the diaries of Zafehouse Diaries, are also procedurally generated, and so lose their lustre if you look at them too closely, but I still want to see. I want to see what I missed, why I failed. I want to reread the last communications. I want to know.

It *really* isn't a good idea, although keyboard shortcuts exist.

All of the buttons on this right screen provide potentially useful information. It is not a good idea to check it mid-battle.

But if you want a good example of a game that accurately creates the feel of being the inept (or life saving) commander giving orders from afar in a sci-fi action horror, then Deadnaut is pretty bloody close. You can even, if you’re feeling particularly sadistic, make your friends in the game as crew members (Although I’m not sure how many people you know who have the drawback of fucking up radio reception randomly wherever they are, as an example), and forever voyage with those instead of procedurally generated crew.

Me? I like the procession of badly mismatched crew. Makes me feel better on those rare occasions I win. There’s even the promise that some Deadnauts can be given parole from their forever deadly duties. I have yet to see it. One day, I may be a Good Commander, and have that happen.

Hahaha no. They’re all screwed, every time. Because I am Gorman, and I love to panic. I’m an asshole that way.

Deadnaut is available on Steam for £6.99. I have also recorded some LP type footage of it here.

Become a Patron!