Swarm The City (Demo Review)

Source: Review Copy (?)
Price: The actual game isn’t out yet.
Where to Wishlist It: Steam

I don’t normally review demos. Early Access, I’m comfortable with, because it’s an ongoing process. It’s fascinating to see how a game evolves (or devolves) as time goes on. But a demo is generally part of a finished product, even if it’s not the whole thing, and even if it’s sometimes different. But I did accept a key, and it’s not a public demo, so…

From relatively small beginnings…

…Take this as a review of the demo, and if any similarities exist between it and the game itself, well, those critiques apply. Otherwise… Well, this is for the demo of a real time strategy game about being an unseen dark overlord released in the modern day, unleashing your undead hordes to once again cover the world in darkness. Solid concept.

That said, it’s a rocky start when you have a slow loading time, and the quit, join the discord, and version number all blurred out by your filter. It loses that fuzziness once you hit that “start the game” (get to the main menu) button, and you get to make the game windowed from that point on, but… First impressions matter.

After that? Well, it was only the first chapter, but I can say it was… Okay. The UI is minimalist, although it could maybe do with some tooltipping, but this works. The (unskippable) text crawl at the beginning was sans-serif, which is a solid accessibility choice, as is the rest of the text, some of the icons are small, and it’s unclear at first that you have to go to the side of the skill button to level something up, but the basic concept is solid, and the visual aesthetic overall is the low poly good shit that I enjoy, animated fairly well. Musically, it was a bit sparse, and I’m genuinely uncertain how much playtime the other two chapters in the main game would offer, but…

To a full blown crisis thanks to a slow response from… Wait, shit, pretend I didn’t say that…

It’s okay. I have as many “hrm…” moments as I had “Ah!” moments, such as how you can play pretty tactically, but also the “move here” command doesn’t scroll along at the edge of the screen, which fixes you to a relatively short range in the larger maps… The demo, at least, seems solid for fans of relatively simple real time strategy that nonetheless has some layers to it, but, as I mentioned, I can’t speak for the rest of the game.

The Mad Welshman would like to pick your brains on this one…

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Derelict Void (Review)

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

Being hurled into the depths of space with very limited resources is a solid fear. A terrible fear. Especially when what you can salvage will either be minimal… Or just broken.

This looks like it’s going okay. But I’m overloaded. I can jettison certain buildings. And you really should do that before you travel, because otherwise, you’re wasting time and fuel. No, it doesn’t account for that during transit.

Kiiinda wish we had leeway on the food and water, though. People can survive a certain time without it, after all.

Ah, what the hell, let’s say it’s an abstraction. Any which way, Derelict Void can best be described as “Bastard hard.” I would say it’s good that a survival game like this is so, but… It also means individual runs end up pretty short unless you luck out, and it’s a little depressing to see lots of buildings you need, but none are in good enough condition, you don’t have enough to repair them, you’re foundering under hull weight… You’re basically having a bad time.

Still, it’s easily understood, on the base level. You travel to places, some of which are resources, some events (quest chains that might help you out, like improving your engines), some hulls, which contain resources and buildings (and can be safely jettisoned if they have sod all in them, reducing weight), and, well, you try to make your ship as self sufficient as possible while keeping your food, water, and oxygen above zero. Since anything can be converted to fuel, well, you’ll sometimes end up using one of those three to get where you’re going. The game’s also friendly in that it has a modular difficulty, so you can make the game much easier or harder. It’s not like it appears to be scoring you.

But I played on default, just to get a feel for it. And it ain’t friendly.

Like I said, it’s not bad.

Anyway, aesthetically, it’s alright. Bit workmanlike, bit grubby, but it’s not an eyesore, it’s pretty clear, no colour problems, because most of the important stuff is shapes, and the music is okay too. The art within the various events isn’t bad, so there’s that going for it. It could also do with some text scaling options, as the UX is sparse enough to allow it.

Overall, with the adjustable difficulty, it’s not a bad game. But it’s… Kind of blah. Perhaps give it a go if you like procgen survival type deals, but it’s not really entry level, and I wouldn’t really say it’s a must-have.

The Mad Welshman, on the one hand, wouldn’t mind going into space adventures. Mostly yeeting the 1% into the sun though.

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R-Type Final 2 (Review)

Source: Review Copy
Price: £34.99 (£58.90 All the stuff, £3.99 OST, £2.49 Artbook)
Where To Get It: Steam

Yissssss… Suffice to say, I’ve been waiting on this one since it was trailered. And it feels good to suck at R-Type again. Especially now that I get to suck with a whole bunch of ships. On PC. I’ve already found ships that I dislike (Hi R-9E family!) and ones that I love (R-9C Warhead, you and me, we’re going to burninate a lot of people), and more… I get to see just how boned everyone is in the R-Type Final timeline.

Because oh yes, bad things happened.

Pictured: Oh dear, we’re now even more boned than we were before.

Anyway, R-Type is a scrolling shoot ’em up, in which you pilot your R-Type ships, each with three potential special weapons (Coming from a nice orb you get that happens to be Bydo technology, Bydo being… Well, we’ll get to that), shoot things, go fast, go slow (each having their benefits and downsides), and preferably don’t get shot at all. I mean, you have 3 lives, and anything up to infinite continues on Practice Mode (I don’t believe you get points to unlock ships and customisations there, though), with Easy (Kids? Nah, just folks who had enough coins to put in) being 10, Bydo being 1, and R-Typer being that bastard hard mode that will murder people a whole bunch, with no continues. 3 lives and that’s it, chummer.

It looks good. The ships look good, the enemies are cool, the music is excellent… Aesthetically, it’s clear, it’s on point, and most of the things are telegraphed well. Not everything, but what wasn’t telegraphed, I learned pretty quickly.

This gun wrecks ships. God I love the Andromalius. Although if anyone knows how to unlock the R11B, otherwise known as The ACAB-Type, let me know.

As to how it plays? It’s definitely a coin muncher where you learn by repetition, but you also get some reward for your repetition. Here, have customisation points to buy emotes and stuff (500 for clearing the first level on “Kids” difficulty.) Earn materials to add more ships to your library (and sometimes hilarity, when the R9-C gets upgraded to… A budget model. Which actually has a really good weapon… But is also, y’know… The Low Cost Option, ehehehe) Earn more info about enemies by shooting the hell out of them. And earn gallery entries by… ???

No, really, I have no idea. As to the shooting, it’s very pleasant indeed. Even with stages you’ve memorised, the different special weapon types, collecting or not collecting powerups, changes the state of play, and… Well, I’m sure somebody is making the R9-E’s godawful force weapon work… Somewhere…

Some bosses are variations on old ones, like the frozen Dobkeratops, or the return of BATTLESHIP STAGE (Stage 3, also known as “Your exam in whether you understand a) The bally thing can stop normal shots, and b) You can put it on the back or front, or shoot it out so it murders people from a distance”) And there are, at points, secret enemies.

So, basically, the game is enjoyable as hell… But what are the Bydo anyway?

That helmet’s meant to be white with light blue, but alas, the lighting doesn’t really get this across…

Well, as a friend puts it, they’re an assimilative cognitohazard bioweapon (they take things other, both mechanical and biological) from the future, which we’re fighting with, uhhh… Basically Bydo tissue. Which, well… That’s potentially a bad idea, and, as we see in the first stage (if you look closely enough), this has finally gotten to the point where the only ships useful against the Bydo… Are finally being co-opted by them.

R-Type Final 2 is a fun addition to the series, and yes, shmup fans and R-Type fans alike will have a great time. I’d even say, despite the difficulty, that the “Kids” and “Practice” difficulty means that it’s a pretty good start for players wanting to dabble their toes in the genre. Very nice.

It has just sunk in for The Mad Welshman how many fucking ships he has to develop. Which involves beating the game, among many other things.

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Hero Among Us (Review)

Source: Cashmoneys
Price: £7.19
Where To Get It: Steam

You’re just one hero. You can be as fast as you want, as strong as you want, as smart as you want, but, in the end, you’re fighting an uphill battle. And you can’t possibly save them all. But maybe, if you save enough… You’ll save the world.

I started in the West. And there are no other heroes. And I am so, so sorry. 🙁

Such is the premise of Hero Among Us, a race against time strategy game in which you, picking from a set of hero archetypes, must solve enough world problems, improve enough world infrastructure, that the world is nominally “peaceful.” Let the villains do too much, let them create enough problems, and you lose.

It’s pretty hectic stuff, as it’s pretty much about cooldown and crisis management. And it gets harder and harder as the game goes on, with more villains cropping up (either creating problems, or trying to stop you solving them) and more problems appearing as time goes on, each linked to a stat of yours. And you only heal the exhaustion you gain from solving these problems by resting somewhere you’ve made completely safe, especially your home base.

Oh look, your home base is very often under threat, as you’d expect from hero media. You’re not just battling hunger, or pollution, or epidemic crime rates… You’re not just battling colourful villains… No, you’re battling your own weariness in this nigh constant struggle.

Just… Just one last stretch, and I can rest. Just for a little while. Just… For a moment…

UX wise, it’s pretty clear. More blue good, more red bad. Problems are similarly clearly highlighted, and villains (and sidekicks or drones, if you have them) are tokens. Skill trees fit the character in question, as much dealing with infrastructure additions as the improvement of your own stats, which dictate how fast you can solve problems, and how weary you get from fighting them, and…

Well, it’s a pretty good game, with a tight narrative all about fighting a tiring, endless battle against the woes. Damn near alone. The only big hero on the planet.

You’re all alone, hero. Comrades nowhere to be seen… I’ll enjoy this…

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Abyss of the Sacrifice (Going Back)

Source: Cashmoneys
Price: £30.99 (Soundtrack £3.99)
Where To Get It: Steam

The game has the following CWs: Mentions of suicide, sexual abuse, drug and alcohol abuse, parental abuse, and human experimentation.

Hrm. Hrm, and other thoughtful noises.

The characters have, at times, a seriously rocky relationship. And there’s good reasons, plural.

Abyss of the Escape is a visual novel/escape room game, in which five girls are trapped, seemingly alone, in the ruins of FOUNDATION, an underground home for humanity after the surface basically got fucked. And shit’s not going well for them, not helped by certain things along the way, and the secrets and traumas each person has. It’s interesting, dark stuff.

It’s such a shame then, that it’s timeline implementation is awkward, and many of its puzzles are obtuse, some downright frustrating in their lack of information. I had to rely on hints for a fair few puzzles, and a few, in particular, I would not have found the solutions to without either pixel hunting, or looking the solution up. All I will say about that, if you play it, is that two numbers you haven’t lit up are hidden inside another, single digit number. It must also be said that some of the puzzles feel out of place for the situation.

Huh, big barrier in the garbage room? What purpose did that serve, except to arbitrarily separate the two characters involved for a dual viewpoint puzzle? Making tea? Good Doctor, I understand that you don’t want to let your daughter near your best tea, but an entire puzzle about tea making is only going to interest the tea fanatics. Who will then get turned off by the puzzle lock on the crucial ingredient. Although the last puzzle of that scene did fit the character of the Doctor.

I kicked myself after realising the solution. And this is an early puzzle.

And these two faults kind of taint the whole experience, which is a shame, because there’s some legitimately good writing in there, including the main twist. The rather heavily foreshadowed main twist.

Aesthetically, it works. Clear UX, some good illustrations, solid music, some good VA, and overall, as noted, good writing, because a good twist is foreshadowed, but even heavy foreshadowing works if it doesn’t quite make sense until the twist.

But yes, the awkward implementation of the timeline, some obtuse and sometimes arbitrary puzzles, they bring the game from legitimately good and interesting, to a cautious recommendation with heavy qualifications.


Timelines, VN devs. I’ll stress this and stress this until it sinks in. Timelines. They make our lives easier.

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