Golf Peaks (Going Back)

Source: Bundle
Price: £3.99
Where To Get It: Steam Itch.IO

I must admit, I don’t really get Golf. Mini-golf? Sure. But there, the obstacles are clear, hilarity results from missing, as opposed to a grumbling hike to wherever the hell the ball went (If you even know where), carrying a big trolley of iron tools around.

Each map is small. But that doesn’t mean you’re not going to be scratching your head.

No, I just don’t get it. But I do get a puzzle game around the hazards of golf, and I understand logic problems involving set moves that you have to do in the right order. Those, I understand. And so… I understand Golf Peaks. Because that’s exactly what you’re working with. A set number of cards, in which you can putt the ball a certain distance, drive the ball a certain distance (that’s “make it jump up/over things”), or do both, the driving part generally being first. From this set of actions you’re given, you have to get to the hole. Run out of actions, whoops, start over.

See? That’s pretty understandable. And equally understandable, because the levels demonstrate what the new terrain feature does, are the obstacles. Sand traps. Water. Mud, which acts a lot like water. Springboards.

Just one lone springboard, huh? And yet, I get the feeling somehow it’s central to the puzzle…

Wait, springboards? Well, uhhh… Yes. Springboards. It’s pretty devious, because, for each level, there is generally one correct solution. And, like any good puzzle game, you’ll figuratively tear your hair out a bit, before that wonderful “Aaaaaah!” moment of realisation. Okay, I messed up here, but I got most of it right. I just needed to use that card last!

So it’s a good puzzle game, tight, single solution puzzles. Is it fun? Yes. Does it have a good, clear aesthetic? Yes. Every tile is clearly noted for what it is, the cards leave no doubt as to their function, even without some gentle tutorialising, and the music is calm and relaxing. Which is exactly what you want for this sort of thing.

So yes, overall, this comes recommended for puzzle fans.

Does… Anybody really get Golf?

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Deck of Ashes (Review)

Source: Cashmoneys
Price: £15.49 (£5.19 each for OST and Print-Ready Posters, £7.19 each for expanded art book and unique character skins)
Where To Get It: Steam

Other Reviews: Early Access

Deck of Ashes is, to me, an odd one. It’s not often we deal with Grimdark (where the darkness almost seems so dark as to be comical, except… When it’s not.) A world where Death’s Curse has been unleashed by 3 fools and an evil jester who misled them. And now… A mysterious man leads all four back, to meet their fates.

Except it’s never that easy, is it?

Bah, you shall have the food in your mouth turn to ash, asshole.

Deck of Ashes is one of those card combat, turn based roguelike dealios, in which our four protagonists, each with their own unique gimmick, fight their way to Lady Death, unlocking cards for their deck along the way, along with useful items.

The deck part is important, because your deck… Has a direct effect on your health. No, no free reshuffles for you, boyo, every time you run out of cards, you have to spend 10 health points, to get 5 random cards back in. You can upgrade this to either 8 random cards or five selected cards, but the cost remains pretty much the same: Health, for cards back.

Buck’s friend Charon, when unable to lend their strength to Buck, gets mean.

And this, funnily enough, is both a help and a hindrance to all characters. Lucia’s fire magic, for example, is damaging to herself, so ending fights quickly is a must. Buck doesn’t want some of his cards back, because while they’re in the Ash deck, as the discard pile is known, some of them give him special abilities. So if one or more goes out… Whoops, there they go, and you only get one chance of putting all ash cards… In your hand… Back into the Ash pile to do their thing.

Similarly, everyone has a story, and the grimdark is strong with this one, as every single one of the characters has some kind of dark past, although the most relatable is Buck, who is highly empathetic, and wants to save his friend. Least relatable is Magnus the Jester, who is a manipulative, hateful asshole through and through, using his powers of manipulation not to solve his problem (people dismiss him and despise him for his deformity), but to ruin things, and even at the time we join him, after he unleashed the Ash Curse, nope, he wants to become a new god. Asshole. Suffice to say, nobody’s end seems happy, because grimdark.

That’s right. Go back to the hateful, small little fool you are, Magnus.

Despite the whole “Your mileage may vary on grimdark” thing, aesthetically, it’s pretty pleasing overall. Good art style (even if the loading screens are in a different style, they still show the characters well), solid music, with threatening bass lines and violins quavering at the violence (not actually, but this is the mood they were going for), and… Ah, yeah, we do have one problem: Although most of the tooltips, menus, etcetera are clear and readable, there is one very odd exception: The resource trade menu… Which is tiny. Not only is it hard to read, it’s hard to select, and I don’t know why this is.

Still, overall, there’s some interesting tactics here, an interesting take on the roguelike card battling type genre, and even though I’m not particularly a fan of grimdark, I do appreciate that the story is pretty well presented for what it is. So, overall, a recommendation.

Er, fix the menu though, folks, eh?

The Mad Welshman appreciates a good experiment. He’s less fond of all the screaming and gore during one, though…

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Spellsword Cards: Dungeontop (Review)

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

Other Reviews: Early Access 1 Early Access 2

I’ve spoken a few times before about how enjoyable I find the many tactics you can find in the simple decks of Dungeontop, the aesthetic, the battles.

You’re a big feller, ain’tcha?

And now, I’m faced with a door. A door to the final level. Between me and the final level is… A lock. And, not having encountered a key anywhere else but the first level, I think to myself.

Ah. So I have to survive four bosses without a heal after each one, to get to this, the final level. Sod.

So, yes, Dungeontop now has a challenge mode level. And it both amuses and frustrates, tipping toward the former. After all, you can exit the dungeon, earning your due gold for a run, at this point. Still… Mean.

A recap for folks, then. Spellsword Cards: Dungeontop is a strategy deckbuilding roguelike, which is to say, you start with a deck taken from your class (Warrior, Mage, Rogue) and your allegiance (Hand of Karim, Guardians of Helm, Tribes of the North.) From there, you go through a dungeon, moving from fight to fight, and the fights…

Looks grim, doesn’t it? But no. The asshole next to me is the boss.

The fights are a grid, on which you play units, and have a hero. You have 3 mana, cards cost between 1 and 3 mana, can only be placed adjacent to each other (or your hero), and they get to move, attack, or both (Some folks have abilities like multistrike or leap, which changes this.) Kill the enemy hero, you win the fight. Your hero dies, you lose. Them’s the basics.

Now, we’ve talked about the various decks in previous reviews, but what we haven’t covered is the final faction, the Tribes of the North. They’re a pretty interesting one, because many of their units rely… On fungus spores. It makes them grow in power, so setting up a good spore economy means your units have the potential to be absolute shitkickers… Provided they live long enough, because many of them are individually weak. Also in the deck are Evolve cards. These ones are also interesting, because every time they kill a minion, everything with evolve gets an ability. Where Helm relies on bruisers, and Karim relies on sacrificing your own, the Tribes of the North rely on teamwork and growth. So… I’m liking the cut of their jib!

Alas, in some situations, even teamwork can’t stop things from getting hairy.

Nonetheless, as mentioned earlier, the aesthetics are good, with some solid card art, some good atmosphere in the music, and sounds that do the job. The menu is still, somehow, a little small, not unreadably so, but… There’s a lot of screen real estate they aren’t using, and it somewhat annoys me.

Beyond this, though, Spellsword Cards: Dungeontop is a strong roguelike of its ilk, and comes recommended. It’s got a lot to play with, a lot to unlock, and the tactical end of things, even by the time you become familiar with the enemies you come across, is interesting. Worth a try!

Teamwork shall destroy our enemies far better than throwing others to the wolves.

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Last Regiment (Review)

Source: Review Copy
Price: £15.49
Where To Get It: Steam

“Are you sure you want to leave this awesome game?” Well… Yes, because I have reviews to write, food to cook, life to live, etcetera, and… You’re sounding a little confident there, game!

Satyrs, goblins, yeti… Probably elves too… (there are elves)

Nonetheless, although The Last Regiment is in Early Access, although there are things I dislike about it, it definitely shows promise. Some stuff, however, it needs to work on, before I could give something approaching a thumbs up. So let’s summarise what it is, and get the stuff it needs to work on out the way fast.

So, The Last Regiment is a fantasy turn based strategy game, in which… Ehehe, the units are represented by cards you draw from a deck, with the addition of some building only cards you can draw from occupied buildings, but it’s… Only sort of a deckbuilder. More accurately, the cards, be they units or abilities you get in a campaign mission are pretty set, but in Skirmish and Multiplayer modes, you can pick and choose to make a deck consisting of twelve types of cards, 1 set rare (1 each in the deck), 1 set uncommon (2 of each in the deck), and 1 set common (3 of each), limited still by the faction you pick. It’s not a bad idea, honestly, and it seems to work just fine.

An example of a prebuilt faction character for skirmish mode.

However, that UX is definitely something that needs fixing. The menus are fine. But when you get into battle, and you can juuuust about see those tiny action buttons in the bottom left corner, that’s… No, that needs fixing, or at least be scalable for people who aren’t perfectly comfortable with the concept of eyestrain. Otherwise on the accessibility front, colours seem okay, elements, apart from the size relatively clear, tooltips are alright, and it starts with subtitles on, which should be a god-damn standard.

Play wise, well… The idea that cards are randomly drawn, on top of the usual resource management inherent to a turn based strategy game like this, isn’t nearly as bad as you’d think, because there are things that make units last longer, even if they’re still limited in what they can do. They can assault, rather than just attack, minimising damage (but not stopping, say, other attackers from engaging in a normal battle with the unit), fortify, buff, upgrade no matter where they are… It’s a game where I can see myself exploring it and not feeling cheated by worse than average odds, because I can even them out some, buy more time to build up defenses, or sneak around to capture things.

Tiny buttons, aka “A sin against god and man.”

I’m less fond of the campaign being fully linear, however. There’s multiple factions, and while I appreciate that the story’s meant to be shifting from one to the other as things go forward, it just feels needlessly limiting, and I have to go to skirmish mode to explore a faction before I play their campaign, and experience their story. This is, however, a personal taste thing, as is finding some of the Live2D animations a little off.

Overall, though? This shows promise as a strategy game, and worth a poke.

Props on having goblins be the first faction, though. Goblins need more love.

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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.

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