Archive for the ‘Early Access Releases’ Category:

Fareo: Shadowlands (Early Access Review)

Source: Cashmoneys
Price: £5.19
Where To Get It: Steam

Rifts in time and space. They let you do lots of fun things! Well, until they inevitably go wrong, and heroes from across time and space have to stop whatever’s behind all of it, or shut down the machine, or whatever.

And so it is with Fareo: Shadowlands, a combination of roguelite and strategy RPG that does a fair amount different to my usual experiences. And I appreciate that.

This guy is an asshole. I mean, he’s meant to be, but… Asshole.

Even if I most definitely don’t appreciate Yan, the final boss. So let’s get him out of the way first. Like any boss, he has pieces which are associated with some of his attacks, and he has several of them. Like any boss, he can attack all around him, some of his attacks at range (so nowhere’s really safe), and he can do three a turn… Most of which are area attacks. And any two of them in combination destroys one of my heroes.

I don’t like Yan, final boss of the dungeon or no.

Otherwise, however, I’m quite enjoying Fareo: Shadowlands, partly because it’s aesthetically solid. I wouldn’t really use superlatives, or go “gosh!”, but it’s solid stuff, a consistent aesthetic, and, apart from parts being a little hard to hover over or parse (tooltips and icons in battle, mainly), it’s okay in terms of accessibility.

Friends would skewer me if I didn’t mention Fadrake. Which is good, because I actually want to mention that oh hey, there’s a beefy shark with an anchor called Fadrake, and he kicks ass…

But mostly because of its interesting systems. The basic idea is that you take one of three paths offered to you, which can be a number of things. For example, Rifts are a normal fight, Huge Rifts are a more difficult fight, Priest can (for a price in one of the currencies of the game, the coins) resurrect dead party members, so on. But some of these are necessary for levelling up heroes you find, items you find, enchanting items you find… And there are good reasons for doing so.

Before Level 5 (the maximum, which all four of your base party members start with), you only have one special ability. Levels 1 to 4 are for rune slots, modifiers you can make to your hero, costing 1, 1, 3, and 5 runes out of the 10 allotted to you in the prep phase for a fight. For example, Fandrake, a beefy shark boy with a massive boomeranchor, can, with 5 runes, make the party immune to damage reflection. But with his first two rune slots, he can make half his damage be unblockable Chaos type (rather than wearing away the enemy’s armour), and every time he kills someone with his special Sweep ability, all the party gets their potion effect.

The other important thing is the card/movement system. Each turn, you’re dealt a number of cards (2 x the number of currently alive heroes, an important fact to remember for later) in one of four types: Attack, Defence, Mana, and Potion. They serve a quadruple purpose: They’re spent on movement, 1 a tile. They buff the hero (In the case of Attack and Defense, better attack and a shield respectively. The last two give mana or use your equipped potion.) They trigger special abilities when used in the correct order (like Sword and Shield for Hasaki, which unleashes a devastating attack.)

Awww crap, it’s a robot… That looks a bit like a buff cat! I don’t know whether to fight or scratch it behind the ears, HELP!

The thing is, you have to use the cards while moving to get their effect. Just standing still does nothing. So it emphasises mobility and synergy for the best effect. But not moving, not spending those cards, unleashes the other, fourth use: Using the terrain. Sometimes this is necessary, to move a map obstacle out of the way. But each single tile terrain item has an effect, and putting it on top of someone, for good or ill, does things. Rocks stun. Snowy trees freeze. Scrolls power up. That sort of thing.

It still heavily incentivises moving around, which is a shift in thinking that’s important to playing, but it’s an interesting one. Flaws wise, well, apart from the bosses being fucking hard, and the aforementioned tiny icons, there’s some tiny amount of untranslated text, or poorly translated text, but that last one’s a minor niggle, and overall?

Overall, this is an interesting game, trying something different, and it seems to be working. I look forward to seeing what happens next with it, and recommend taking a look.

I feel like rifts between time and space throwing disparate groups together to clash in a fun way isn’t done enough. Just throwing that out there…

Monster Sanctuary (Early Access Review)

Source: Cashmoneys
Price: £13.99
Where To Get It: Steam

For me, Monster Sanctuary is a bit of an odd experience. It is, by no means, a bad game, a metroidvania combined with the monster raising and fighting type games many of us love so much. Its skill trees, balance, and difficulty curve appear pretty solid, and I like its pixel art designs.

So it’s bugging the hell out of me that I’m not terribly enthused with it, and can’t work out why.

Monsters, some tame, some not, protag, got it, I know where I stand!

It’s certainly not the thinnish story, or the obvious gamey unlocks of features based on progression. I’m used to those, and honestly, it’s not that big a deal. You want to be the very best Monster Tamer, bad things are happening, and you work in an organisation, so it’s all good there.

The grind, similarly, isn’t bad. After all, monsters in the line share XP, so if you’re in need of seriously levelling someone up, you can put them as a reserve, beat up some lower level monsters, and don’t put them in the frontlines until they’re needed. And, of course, monsters are the level you catch them at.

It’s some solid visrep of combat, and a clear UX too.

Even the combat is engaging, because it’s this balancing act of factors. Do you put a monster in the very front, where it won’t do as much damage, but it’ll rack up combos for the monsters after it? Do you use a powerful ability, or tone it down and do less damage, because the powerful version outstrips the mana regeneration that monster currently has? Adding to this, you can see the types of monsters in a group (and they are, apart from uniques, always in a group), and plan accordingly, looking at your monster journal for weaknesses, coming up with a plan for the following encounter.

So, the systems fit pretty well together, with multiple elements to play with, multiple different roles, and the fact that even healing will add to a combo helps you keep the flow going with a healer role in the party. Moving around isn’t bad, especially since different monsters have different abilities you can use in the world, from breaking open inaccessible areas, to mobility improvements…

An example of this would be the bird. Poor bird, he has to carry the protag. Can’t do it for too long, but it’s enough.

It’s a solid game. And yet… I had trouble keeping my enthusiasm going, and I don’t particularly know why. There’s still time to work it out. There’s still time to change my mind, or have my mind changed by some update or another. And it’s a solid mix of platformer and turn-based monster taming RPG. It just… Doesn’t really grab me right now.

The Mad Welshman hates not knowing why he doesn’t get on with a thing. Normally he’s much better than that.

Spellsword Cards: Dungeontop (Early Access Review 2)

Source: Review Copy
Price: £12.39
Where To Get It: Steam

Other Reviews: Early Access 1 Release Review

Rogues. We love them. Or hate them. It really depends on which party got backstabbed. And this is the latest addition to Spellsword Cards: Dungeon Top (Stop snickering!), a card based strategy game where the cards summoned are units, your hero is a unit too, and if your hero dies, you lose, good job, start over… And if their hero in a fight dies… Congrats, you won a fight.

Redirect Yo Momma Joke is a powerful and deadly spell.

And our old friend incremental unlocks, where winning gets you resources to get more stuff, which may help you win… So on. Aesthetically, it’s pretty nice, some dramatic, tense music, some cool painted faces for the assorted minions and hero(in)es, and…

Sigh. A menu UI that’s still small, with no scaling option. It’s been what, [insert time here], folks? Come on, I know your dungeon door is pretty, but you can make the menu options bigger than that.

In any case, play still revolves around a deck themed around the Hero/Faction dichotomy, where some cards are unique, others are general, and the themes are obvious. The Karim remain the faction which eats itself for power, sacrificing minions to make the few glorious murderbastards. Helm, meanwhile, has the philosophy of “Build ’em up slow, take the enemy down.” And the Warrior, Mage, and Rogue? Well, they stab hard, throw spells, and sneakily take down the enemy, respectively.

Have a big wall of “The enemy is very boned.”

Okay, the rogue, being a new addition, needs a little more detail: His weapons come in melee and ranged flavours, but if you can get throwing knives (giving you multistrike at higher levels), go for them, and build around them. Because knockback is a thing, and knockback damage is a thing, the rogue can do well as a ranged murderer supreme, mainly needing his minions as meatshields. Or they can go all out on certain spells, and get through a fair few fights making the minions or the boss hit each other (and get free attacks from your own units.) They fight quick, and they fight decisively, one way or the other.

You will fail at first. It’s one of those games. But from each battle, you learn an enemy’s (pretty fixed) patterns. You learn how to beat them. In a way, it’s more of a puzzle game than a strategy one, although the random element does make it more “Hrm, of these five cards, which three of these do I apply to most effectively murder this giant golem that runs pretty quickly, attacks all units around it once every two turns, and will murder even my strongest warriors without too much hassle (and me with only slightly less)?”

Because yes, you have limited amounts of cards you can play in a turn, although some level up choices can make that more reasonable, as can some treasures.

Each character now has their own dialogue for the invidual chapters. It’s a little touch. But a nice touch.

How does it feel? Well, it feels much the same as when I last reviewed it: It’s an interesting game, it’s got a good aesthetic, it still needs to make those menu options bigger, and with a new area of the game added to boot, it’s got its rough difficulty curve laid out. It also has a draft option, allowing you to build a specific deck, seeds, and adding threat, so… Overall, it’s looking pretty promising!

Hi devs. Decent size on them main menu buttons, ta. Right now, it’s my only crit.

Meteorfall: Krumit’s Tale (Early Access Review 2)

Source: Review Copy
Price: £10.29 (£11.14 for game and soundtrack, £2.09 for Soundtrack)
Where To Get It: Steam

Other Reviews: Early Access 1

Note: This review was written using the optional beta, allowing early early access to features not yet complete. Like the fourth character.

They’re available now, but look, I’m impatient.

Last time I looked at Meteorfall, I appreciated a lot about it. The subtle depth of the deckbuilding, the encouragement to do more with less, and its fun, cartoony aesthetic and character. Oh, and adventurers being represented as characterful assholes too. Oh, Bruno, you growling brute of a man, I still love how your approach to life is to SMASH it…

That is the face of someone extremely smug they did this.

But now… Well, there’s two more characters, two more playstyles… And I’m enjoying them both. Mischief (the one that, at the time of writing, is available on the main branch of the game) is a rogue. Dextrous, stealthy until she attacks… And so, so smug. Thing is, she’s even more of a glass cannon than Greybeard, and, out of stealth… Well, she’s a bit crap without buffing. She relies upon it. Think of her as a hard mode, where you’re milking your resources to their limit.

Muldorf, meanwhile, is a jolly necromancer, and, while his skeletons take health to summon (mostly), and are not, in and of themselves, all that strong (mostly), they can still kill a couple of low level enemies without dying, and can be buffed by various means. This also means that, if you play your cards right, you’re rarely without four cards in your inventory, and his base weapons lifestealing or summoning enemies on killing others means that, if you get a chain going, you’re going to be a tough old coot. Even if you can’t heal normally.

Spooky Scary Skeletons, They Block Me From My Death…

What else has changed? Well, not a whole lot, if we’re talking about core elements. More items, abilities and perks have been added, and not just because there are two new characters with their own level rewards, but the core loop of “Beat all enemies and win, the more tiles still in play, the more bonus points you get to buy cool shit so you can discard some of your own shit, manage your resources well, and get abilities” is unchanged, the emphasis and encouragement of managing your limited resources effectively hasn’t changed, and the sarcastic, sometimes grim humour hasn’t changed either.

So, it’s still recommended as a card-based roguelike, it’s still promising… It’s just there’s more of it. Without drastic changes, I expect I’ll see you all at the release review, which will most likely read “Yup, it’s still good!”

I wouldn’t really call myself a Vaudedude, but hey, Muldorf the Necrodude does Muldorf, and I respect that.

Necronator: Dead Wrong (Early Access Review)

Source: Review Copy
Price: £14.99
Where To Get It: Steam

For all that I am not the biggest fan of tower defense games, I do respect a game that respects my time. And Necronator, being a tower defense roguelike, is a game that respects my time. And has a sense of humour. And, so far, only a few flaws.

Ah, the fresh… The freshly exhumed face of a new Overlord in training!

If you’ve never played one of these, the deal in this one is relatively simple. You summon enemies from your own “tower” (a crystal sphere, in this case), they go toward the enemy settlements or along the path you choose for them (by flipping signs), and the enemy does the same from their castle. Why a crystal ball and a castle?

Well, because you’re an evil overlord. Well, an evil overlord in training. And each time you defeat a settlement, be it an actual battle, a shop, an event, or a rest point, you move onto the next, down a branching map until… The boss. Gaining more servants along the way, that you cast.

Muahahahahaa…

There’s more to it than that, of course, mana, how getting minor settlements from the enemy speeds up your mana production, and makes defending a lane a little easier, how if you’re not quick enough to ruin an opponent, they reinforce, and the fight gets harder the longer it drags on… It’s a deckbuilder too.

Anyway, yes, battles are, overall, short. They get longer, as the sectors drag on, but for the first hour or so of play, you’ll be hard pressed to find one that lasts longer than five minutes. And I respect that. It’s pretty frantic, it looks pretty nice, and a rotatable view means that things can obscure the path you’re looking at, but it’s never more than a keyboard press away, and dragging units onto the field can be done anywhere, so this is a pretty good deal.

Pffft. Giving this guy the cold shoulder. Repeatedly.

Actually, wait. Giving him a cold shoulder’s actually a good thing, for an undead. It’s not like you have a warm shoulder!

Helps that it aesthetically looks pretty good, with some nice music, a good pixelly feel mixing well with cel-shaded art… My main criticism, aesthetically, is that some things don’t seem to get sound cues, so you have to trust, for example, that enrages are proccing, and that the status symbols over a unit are small unless you zoom in… Which you don’t, generally speaking, want to do.

Overall, though, it feels frantic and challenging without actually being twitchy, it’s got an interesting deck mix, a good aesthetic, it respects your time… It’s a promising start for Necronator, and I look forward to seeing where it’s going.

The Mad Welshman salutes his fellow Overlords. Soon, brethren, soon, we shall face… The Finals!