Deathtrap Dungeon: The Interactive Video Adventure (Review)

Source: Cashmoneys
Price: £9.99
Where To Get It: Steam

Oh god, here we are again. Ian Livingstone’s Deathtrap Dungeon is one of Ye Olde Choose Your Own Adventure Roleplaying experiences, and, if you read my review of Fighting Fantasy Legends Portal (which contains the trilogy), you will know that they can best be described as “Bastard hard with some Dead Man Walking scenarios.”

So, why am I back? Well, apart from video game masochism (Almost a job requirement), this is fully narrated by Eddie Marsan, seated in a comfortable leather armchair… As your Dungeon Master stand in.

…Luck. Yes, well, Eddie, I hope I have good luck too. I bloody need it with this one…

Alas, as soon as we begin, I have a critique: Subtitles are off by default, and the game doesn’t have a windowed mode. Come on, folks, we can do better than that! That, and… No windowed mode. Welp. Adding to this, folks might be uncomfortable with the narration videos themselves, for a couple of reasons. Firstly, direct eye contact is the name of the game here (which I know makes some uncomfortable), and secondly, some sections (some of which are necessary for a successful completion of the adventure) have video effects that are also uncomfortable, such as an eye straining “heat haze” effect.

Still, once you’ve properly started the adventure, rolling or choosing your stats, picking your potion, and getting past the first choice of the game, the game has a save system that fits the gamebook well… Checkpoint saves. You can start over from an early checkpoint, to take another route entirely (the major routes are quite long, and there’s some side encounters on each… Some of which are necessary), or reload a set of encounters, to maybe come out of it with more health. Also welcome is the cut-down fight system, where three rounds decide the fight, rather than slogs which… Well, they can definitely kill you pretty easily.

Orcs orcs orcs orcs…

Eddie Marsan’s narration is, nonetheless, solid, the aesthetic is mostly alright, the soundscape is good, I enjoyed the cut-ins of the original illustrations… But whether you like this game really depends on a few things: Whether any of the above turned you off… Whether you have some nostalgia for the era of Choose Your Own Adventure gamebooks… And whether you’re going to be okay with this one, one of the more infamous of the Fighting Fantasy books, with its single actual path to victory, paths which are, effectively, dead man walking, and a fair few “Your adventure ends here” moments. If the answer for the two positive ones is yes, turn to 104. If it’s no, turn to 136. If you’re still undecided, you may choose to use one of your items, before taking one of the two paths in front of you.

Choose wisely, traveller…

104 – As you travel down the corridor, you find time regressing, images of your past life, tinged with a rosy light, flashing down the mirrored sides of the golden path you find yourself on. You wish to stay here, forever.

Nostalgia has taken you, and your adventure ends here.

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Posthuman: Sanctuary (Early Access Review)

Source: Cashmoneys
Price: £12.39
Where To Get It: Steam
Other Reviews: Early Access 1

It’s been a while since I last looked at Posthuman: Sanctuary, not least because of a moderately long radio silence, but a recent update induced me to look, and I have had the most successful run to date.

…And my god, I wish I hadn’t done that before the update. I killed over 400 clones of Karl Marx (the Doomsayer faction), presumably because, being one of the few nonmutated humans in the post apocalypse, I am the new bourgouisie. Sucks to be me, I guess.

Sorry Karl, meet my means of production… Of blood.

But, close to the end of the run as I am (It’s taken several hours), I’ve realised I have become the bourgoisie. I have more backpacks than I know what to do with. Do I drop any of them, considering I can use just one? NOPE. I’ve thrown away Camo Tents. Already got one, don’t like the colour of this one. I’m passing out mutation vaccine and food as if I’m some great philanthropist, while hoarding the majority to myself. I have good guns, plenty of bullets, and a steel baseball bat that has become a sight of terror among mutant and human alike. And I’ve been a meddlesome fucker too.

But I’m tired. So tired. The goal is actually in sight. Except the last three milestones have been a long way apart, I’ve killed so many… And I just want to give up. I’ve stopped bothering to learn new things, or improve myself. I did that long ago.

Ohgod, I’m a one percenter now…

What I’m getting at here, is that once you’ve gotten a truly successful run up and running… The challenge sort of fades away, even with levelups stopping at level 25 or 30. And, as noted, the further you get, the farther away the milestones get.

The game is best when you’re not successful, is what I’m trying to say. When you meet the dread bankers of the soul, the dealmakers. When a big brained mutant is cause for alarm, rather than “Yup, target practice.”

The devs have, to be fair, added new creatures. New events. A fair amount of them. And maybe this will improve things in the future. Because god-damn, the game is pretty, with a cool visual aesthetic, a nice combat tune, a contemplative event track, and relaxing music in the overworld. The events are pretty well written, and they vary from enjoying while predicting the outcome, to… Wait, what? Some of them are, fair warning, pretty grim. Like the man who burns his wife. There is no good option in that event. It’s pain and misery. The option to turn off R Rated events is there, by the way, and this is a good option to have.

Not pictured: My final landmark… Which is… 20 to 40 tiles away… Kill me.

Accessiblity wise, well, it’s turn based, everything is with the mouse, and everything is pretty clear. The rules, also, are relatively clear: Move, Forage, Scout, and Camp each have their function (Moving blindly, trying to get new stuff at the cost of not moving, seeing ahead two tiles from where you are, and recovering health and stamina), and each turn, you have the option of paying 1 food per character, or taking the hit that results.

It’s an interesting wasteland, and I recommend checking it out… But it could do with more of a late game.

The Mad Welshman is not proud of his wealth of backpacks, but he states for the record that it was earned.

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Dicey Dungeons (Review)

Source: Supporter copy
Price: £11.39 (Soundtrack £5.19)
Where To Get It: Steam, Itch.IO

When you can build an entire, multifaceted procgen RPG out of dice, you pretty much know you’ve got it in the bag. And Dicey Dungeons is… Exactly that. It’s a game where yes, there are only D6s involved, but those dice? They go a long way, and are used in cool ways. Let’s get into this.

Ohno, I’m soooooo dead!

So, the story is pretty simple: Several adventurers are participating in a game show run by Lady Luck herself. A deadly game show, in which the winners take home a prize of their choosing (Disclaimer: Prize may in fact be an asshole genie wish), and the losers? Well, they get either death, or a lifetime of servitude in Lady Luck’s dungeon game show. Aesthetically, it’s got a great cartoony style, some synth beats that, to put it bluntly, fucking slap (Yes, technical term), and everything is very clear and understandable. Nice.

Mechanically? Well, let’s pick a few examples, both among equipment and characters. The game starts with the Warrior, who gets three rerolls a turn. This, honestly, isn’t bad. But I’ve had a lot more fun with the Robot, whose gimmick is that they don’t actually have a set number of dice, only a total they can’t roll above, their CPU count. Roll above it, and all abilities you have left become useless, Roll exactly on your CPU, and you get one of three special abilities in addition. It’s a tense game of chicken with the dice, and I love it. Especially since there are items, unique to the robot, that can play with both CPU count and the jackpot range, and one item in particular, the Ultima Sword, does double damage on a jackpot.

Music has quite the bite to it, and I have little doubt my poor thief is going to be on the receiving end of a shattering high note…

Meanwhile, there are abilities that seem useless unless upgraded (and even then, some aren’t great.) But, with certain other items, they become more useful, and, with the Inventor, whose gimmick is they have to destroy at least one item (more on that in a sec) for their special ability each combat, they’re a damn good way of keeping what you want to keep.

Anyway, each character’s arc is divided into 6 “episodes”, and only the first is the default experience. After that, Lady Luck starts introducing gimmicks. Nasty gimmicks that fit her charmingly mean spirited demeanour, like the Inventor having to destroy more items (but getting more in return), or doubles being destroyed (making certain items completely useless, and possibly doing you out of certain results you want.) Thankfully, each character is introduced whether you win or lose a run, and the further episodes are unlocked once you’ve got the hang of the five main characters (there is a sixth, but… Well, spoilers)

This is still the state of things on publishing this review… I am #cursed …

I wouldn’t really say the game is endlessly replayable, but, honestly, it doesn’t have to be. It’s got a lot of content, it’s easy to learn and middling to master, and its colourful cast, writing, and aesthetics are enjoyable as hell. Definitely worth giving a go, and I would say that this is one of those good first introductions to RPGs with some procgen content (Y’know, roguesortakindamaybelikes.)

The Mad Welshman would probably make a great D6. Would be hard to read black numbers on a black dice though. Ehehehe.

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Talisman: Origins (Review)

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

Talisman is one of those games that, honestly, shouldn’t really have been made as much as it has. It’s not at Blood Bowl levels of “Oh, that’s just milking it now”, but… When the main thing I can say about Talisman: Origins is that it’s “Talisman: Digital Edition, but single player, and with story”, or “It’s Talisman: Prologue, but more expensive and with story/quests” , I kind of have to throw my hands up a bit.

This is now something like the third time I have seen this exact board. And, on reflection… I ask myself Why?

So, for those who don’t know Talisman, it’s an old Games Workshop board game, with elements reminiscent of Warhammer Fantasy (Eagle Lords, grim cities, dark magical artefacts), but its own, High fantasy world. You travel around the board, looking to reach the Crown of Power, the tile in the middle of the board, strengthening yourself, weakening others, occasionally running into trouble, and, because it’s not a game that really does progression (normally), every so often running into a string of unwinnable situations, swearing, and mentally flipping a table. It had a number of expansions, each one alone with interesting twists and scenarios, but, all together? A recipe for minutiae, and backstabbing, and many, many dice rolls.

I tried Talisman: Digital once with all the expansions. That was… An experience. See, the digital editions of the game have, with even one AI player, a certain amount of waiting for them to decide what to do. Even without, there’s dice rolling, waiting for animations, noise cues… It wants to be as clear as possible, but no, you do not get any option to skip said animations and cues and things that slow it down. It is, generally speaking, a game you play with friends, understanding friends who won’t get angry at you when its old school, adversarial play gets the better of them, and where conversation definitely helps it go smoother.

“An Epic tale, as told by dice rolls that can just as easily harm the narrative as help it!”

As such, you can maybe imagine my confusion. And this is as someone who likes hotseat 4X games and board game adaptations where yes, you can play by yourself. Talisman’s lore is… Not particularly deep (It is, essentially, a “chase’n’race” board-game with fantasy trappings and a lot of randomness), and adding lore doesn’t really make any of its shenanigans make more sense. And this, essentially, is where I find myself: Trying to work out where the audience lies here.

Does it really appeal to the folks who already have Talisman: Digital Edition? There’s nothing new animation wise, I’m pretty sure there’s not much new card-wise, and, as I’ve alluded to, Talisman’s expansions are… A lot. Does it, then, appeal to somebody new to Talisman? I’d argue no, because the lore is mostly unreferenced outside of this game (Apart, obviously, from the Crown of Power), and its first tutorial alone took me about half an hour (And not, it must be said, a terribly exciting half an hour.) It does, somewhat, prepare players for the PvP core of the game with AI characters, but… The same experience could be had hotseat. What it adds are lore, quests, and challenges, and… Honestly, that’s not the biggest of niches.

As it turns out, this Great Wizard has Weakness to Ghost types.

So, overall, Talisman: Origins just… Leaves me confused. With other games, I can clearly point and go “Ah, here’s this interesting core” or “Ah, I can see where this is appealing to X”, and, with this… If there were no DLC for the thing planned, I’d say “This is a cheaper alternative to the main Talisman, as the DLC for that comes to around ninety quid”, but I’m not certain about that, considering how even Talisman: The Horus Heresy (It’s 40K themed, less visually readable cousin) has about 9 DLC. The biggest draw of Talisman has always been the social aspect to it, and so… All the “for” arguments I can think of are rather weak.

The Mad Welshman doesn’t enjoy being confused. It is his least favourite status effect outside of “Hangry-Thirsty.”

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Posthuman: Sanctuary (Early Access Review)

Source: Cashmoneys
Price: £12.39
Where To Get It: Steam
Version Reviewed: Second Update (2/8/18)
Other Reviews: Early Access 2

The post mutation landscape is one hell of a place, alright. A wide open world, filled with all sorts of folk. Death is pretty much certain, and if it isn’t from violence, it’s from losing all hope in a world where old Homo Sap has been replaced by Homo Instert-Here-As-Many-Times-As-Necessary.

The contour lines are a nice touch, visually speaking, and I like the clarity.

Welcome to Posthuman: Sanctuary, a not-quite adaptation of the survival board game of the same name. Although, at the present stage, the major shift from the board game, a story mode, is not available. Still, there’s survival mode, and, right now? That’s a fairly replayable doozy, with a few quibbles.

The overall idea is that you’re trying to get to three specific waypoints on the map, eventually reaching the fabled Sanctuary. However, to get there, not only do you have to unlock those waypoints by visiting certain tile types (Forests, Mountains, Rural Areas, and Cities) in a specific order before you get to them, you have to deal with hunger, morale, the loyalty of any fellow survivors you meet along the way, mutants… And the possibility you’ll mutate yourself (At which point you’ll no longer be welcome in this strictly human sanctuary.) Not having had the foresight to scan the surroundings yourself (and with Google Maps long gone), you don’t actually know much of what’s beyond your safezone, beyond the existence of the waypoints, and certain survivors.

Add in weather, the fact you take one action a day (out of Scouting, Moving, Foraging, and Camping), and it costs food per day, combat, and events, and… Well, good luck!

A fine example: Karl Marx murdered me just a turn or two after this picture. Turns out the Kommune are badasses.

Aesthetically, the game is currently fairly good visually, with a clear, comic like style, and musically alright, with tracks that aren’t intrusive, but fit their mood quite well. The UI’s pretty clear, although it must be said that it would be nice, certainly, to know how many survival points I have to my next character unlock.

It would also be a good time to point out that hitting the options at the start, minimalist as they currently are, would be a good idea due to the simple virtue of noticing that there are R Rated events, and turning them off if you don’t like that idea. They may well be on the level of “I slept with this person, and it felt good” , but I can understand that’s not for everyone, and the game has enough to deal with as it is. Funnily enough, post apocalyptic settings are not nice places to be, so I’ve dealt with lynch mobs, cannibals, mutant haters and human haters alike, and a bundle of other not nice folks.

Apart from that, and my other niggle that once you select an event, you can’t seem to unselect it (which has been rather trying when I misclicked) , the game, honestly, feels alright at the present stage. Combat is easy to understand, the board portion is easy to understand, and I haven’t felt dicked over any more than I would expect in a board game, in a post apocalyptic setting, where life is kinda rough. It’s nice to see a clear UI, and explanations of events easily accessible, the events are interesting, the world seems interesting, and I look forward to seeing more.

On the one hand, shades of grey, fairly nice. On the other, it’s basically Mutants/Humans right now, which… Well, that’s an approach that has its issues.

The Mad Welshman would probably be a bad survivor. An okay tyrant, sure… But a bad survivor.

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