Before We Leave (Review)

Source: Review Copy
Price: £15.99 (Soundtrack £6.99
Where To Get It: Steam

An interesting title, that. Has a kind of Ray Bradbury feel to it. In any case, the apocalypse has happened, the world has returned to some semblance of normality, and people have decided to rebuild. On sea. On land. In space.

I mean, they’re humans, of course they- OHHHH, YOU MEAN DEHYDRATED! D’OH!

Honestly, it’s somewhat nice to have a chill exploration and resource management game like this, and the aesthetic quite pleases me. After all, sea shanties are definitely my jam, and any music that reminds me of them is OK In My Book.

Of course, it’s not all fun and games. After all, pollution is one of those things that screwed people over in the Before-Time, not that they remember, but they quickly learn that yes, smog from power plants, iron dust, and other “fun” stuff bad. Especially this useful, but awful black stuff, god, we’ve gotta get away from using that pronto!

However, sometimes it slows down a whole bunch. Once you’ve got a ship, for example, and colonised a second island, your previously quick pace up to that point slows down for a while until you get everything ready for fabric making, because wow, who thought the heat of a desert would make people super tired, meaning that unless your home to workplace route is short (ha, good luck with that), they’re going to spend long periods resting, also low on resources until you gun quickly for your new researches that can only be done with desert resources, and clothing, in that order.

You have discovered… Really Big Houses. But yes, those resources aren’t going to be helped by the fecund planet you just left for a while

Oh, and set up a trade route. Trade is pretty important in Before We Leave for new colonies. Once again, once you hit new planets, things slow down again… If you’re okay with these slow periods, in which you don’t really need to do anything with previous islands. In fact, once the research tree on an island is done, there’s nothing that needs doing, although increasing the population generally helps with resource flow… But again, is not, strictly speaking, needed… You can keep that relatively pastoral life for quite a while on your first island, with no detriment to the others. Especially as higher populations create more work, in the form of unhappiness management. Your efforts mostly focus on one island at a time in the early game.

And then, when you get to a new planet… Oh. Whoopsie, you didn’t pass on any of those red research points, and you have to start all over again, research wise. Thus creating another roadblock.

Welcome to Island 3. Relax, we already got weather-proof clothing, they’re just sleeping because it isn’t arriving there fast enough, and we can’t grow cotton here.

Aesthetically, the game works. Low poly hexes, low poly people, characterful, good music, clear UX… But mechanically, I find myself more frustrated by the roadblocks than charmed by the simple, clear play. It may be one of those games that “gets better later”, but… While I’d say give it a go if you like colonisation and resource management games, I can’t personally say it wowed me.

Before I Leave, I’d like to remind you all to hit up the Patreon, or at least gimme a Ko-fi. That way, I’ll have some snacks for the journey through space.

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Legend of Homebody (Early Access Review)

Source: Cashmoneys
Price: £4.79
Where To Get It: Steam

Wow. Legend of Homebody doesn’t fuck around. It’s not even spring, and I’m already nearly half dead from stress, despite eating, sleeping, and entertaining myself somewhat reasonably. I’ve earned about 15k and spent about twice that. My father is telling me I’m a useless waste of space, while my mother understandingly sends me the cake that is my lifeline.

And the winner of the “Too fucking real” award for 2021 is…

The worst part is, this could accurately be named Womenintech.jpg

So yes, Legend of Homebody is a lifesim game about a NEET (Not in Employment, Education, or Training) trying to make their way in the world through creative endeavours, while keeping their health and mood as best they can. And it’s hard. The Education part? False. You won’t get anywhere in the game without the online courses offered to our poor protag, and, while you can do commissions to pay for your bread and butter, that’s time away from the work that might let you make it big.

So, more fool me, I went with what I know: Gamedev. Which led to the aforementioned situation I started with. Who knew that developing and publishing a game on your own was hard?

God, two trashdads in one month…

Well, me. And every solo indie dev. But I digress. The game is pretty clear, UX wise, it’s pretty well translated, it looks good, for something that never leaves a single room (Another Big Mood from the TMW HQ… Sips tea), and it’s easy to work out the basics. Everything else? Is struggle. And it’s meant to be. There’s story mode, several hard modes, a slightly easier mode with less time, and… Robot mode.

And it’s when you play robot mode that it hits home how this is most definitely a game with something to say about how unnecessarily hard it is to live for creative endeavours. Because you find yourself succeeding. Hell, if it hadn’t been for some boneheaded decisions, I could have gotten an indie darling award, which would be a near unreachable dream in story mode. I made a massive profit.

And all because I had no need for food, sleep, or even entertainment or toilet breaks. That’s what it took to turn from a heartbreaking, depressing run to a successful one.

Gee, I wonder if this screenshot has any sort of social message

You just need to be a good little robot with no needs, drone. So I applaud this game for the way it ties its message to its mechanics, while simultaneously giving it the nastiest curse I can fling at it, the Too Fucking Real For 2021 Award.

Enjoy it.

Hooo boy. Time to sip a cup of tea. In my room. Writing reviews. Staring at the screen in thought.

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Soul Smith of the Kingdom (Going Back)

Source: Cashmoneys
Price: £5.19 (Soundtrack £1.69)
Where To Get It: Steam

Inu To Neko games… They’re often about starting a business, and equally as often, it’s a case of tough (and sometimes misguided) love. In the case of Soul Smith of the Kingdom, Nine is the greatest smith in the nation of Aldenoar. But her uncle, perceiving a vital weakness, forbids her from smithing until she raises another great blacksmith. After all, she needs some business sense, and knowledge of how to train employees, so the legacy of the Soul Smiths can continue.

You’re right, lads. Never work at a black company. That shit can only lead to poor health and shitty Isekai.

And so, enter perhaps the most idle game like entry in the series. Although, as always, it’s not that simple, but not as intimidating as it looks. You start with two low level blacksmiths, and, as is often in the series, you get your friends (the cast of the series) to enter dungeons to get materials, you set the weapons the blacksmiths are making, gain skills, gain new blueprints by either buying them, finding them in the dungeon, or, as is most often the case, soul-smithing a weapon the blacksmith is proficicient in.

Oh, and you get skills and, once you get a single smith to level 30, you can get other smiths to inherit their skills, gain souls, and buy more skills. And the minigame, once every month.

It looks complicated. But it’s not as complex as all that.

Funnily enough, most of the game is pleasant. Yes, the translation of the character stories is Engrishy, but honestly, I don’t have that much of a problem with it, as the characters are cool, and the stories are warm and light hearted generally.

But the minigames, or, specifically, the difficulty of some of them, is my biggest issue with the game. Jesus H Christ, if I see Drop Ball or Fill In The Blanks (and, to a lesser extent, Face Checker and Speed Aim), I just leave them alone, because math puzzles involving four numbers from 1 to 9 is not something I like to do on a regular basis, and Drop Ball rapidly becomes bullshit, since both a miss and a ball falling out loses you a heart, and so it’s very easy to lose it all in three rapid clicks of panic. I dislike the minigames, except for Big Search (which grid has the bigger total?)

Face Checker gets evil on three stars and above… Little things start becoming important. ARGH.

But, overall, it’s a game I can relax with. I’m at the mid-late game now, and I’ve made my smiths too good, as, if they’re all left to make more expensive things, they’ll rapidly run out of materials. So I make the smaller stuff with two of them, to level up my friends for deeper dungeon delving, and try to ensoulise weapons with one at a time.

I’d definitely recommend this one out of the Inu To Neko games, as its mix of idle and management gameplay is pretty nice, and it’s got a pretty clear UX.

The Mad Welshman supports improving your craft. But not at the expense of your health, okay?

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Disgaea 4+ Complete (Review)

Source: Review Copy
Price: £34.99 (Some “Time saving DLC, £2.39 max each, artbook £3.99)
Where To Get It: Steam

Ah, Disgaea. An SRPG series I’ve come to enjoy, in the short time I’ve researched it before taking on this review. Its world is an odd one, it has a mix of the dark and the humorous that intrigues me, and… Well, a game where a sardine loving vampiric demon lord takes on a corrupt government over Prinny rights?

What the hell’s not to like about that story setup?

This guy knows what’s what! (Although I’m more of a cod man, myself)

Before this continues, however, there is one important warning to players new and old: Autosave is on by default. Turn it off. Turn it off for your own sanity.

Okay, okay, the autosave is separate from manual saves, but you do want to get into the habit of saving early, and saving often. Even if you think you’ve bribed senators on votes enough, there’s still the chance you’ll be voted down and lose mana.

So, I’ve already gone over the basic plot, what the heck is this? Well, it’s a turn based strategy RPG, in which you summon units to your team, level them up, use them to kick the snot out of your enemies, and each area is about 5 maps, the last having a boss encounter. As to the details?

Well, yes. Until you inevitably slap someone with a herring, and you ruin your social media presence, warcatte.

Well, you can tell this is a transitional game between 3 and 5, because it has the most complex set of mechanics I’ve seen in the Disgaea series. From earlier games, the summoning that doesn’t have levelling built in, so you can improve stats (somewhat), but you have to level them up through fighting, leading to repeating maps or entering the Item World, a mechanic that exists throughout the series (go through a randomly generated dungeon, with bosses every 10 levels, to level up an item and make it more rare. Oh, and this game has branching paths in the dungeons every 5 levels too.) The senate, also, has a new wrinkle to it, in the form of evil dispatches. I haven’t quite worked that one out yet, to be honest, beyond “You can place buildings that have effects on surrounding tiles, the tickmark of which chooses the leader of the group getting the benefit.”

Haha, I bet you thought you’d see big numbers, didn’t you? Nah, this one only did 890 damage at the end.

Skills are learned through the use of mana rather than levelling, weapon levelling is gone for this installment, replaced by “You can only learn skills in your character’s weapon specialties.” Even in combat, there’s something new: Fusion. Effectively, two monsters of the same type can become one giant monster, for better stats, the ability to punt people, friend and foe alike, to one side, and, if you’re in the late game, you can magichange a fused monster (magichange being “Monster turns into a weapon, with a special ability unique to them.”) or dual wield magichanged monsters.

I could go on, and on, and on, but let’s wrap this one up. Aesthetically, it’s damn fine. My only gripe visually is the one I’ve had throughout the series, where you need to rotate the map to see certain tiles, and the things on them, and even that… Is not guaranteed if it’s a trough of some sort. You can also zoom out, but… That doesn’t really help much. The voice acting is good, from the Prinnies (we rock, dood!) to Valvatorez (SARDINES!) to the villains (some of whom become your allies.) The game is grindier than, say, 5, but not as grindy as the earlier installments.

The one casting this, by the way, is behind the wall. They’re a friendly, so…

I wouldn’t recommend this to people who don’t have a lot of free time on their hands, or people who get irritated by grind, but for SRPG players, or people with a fair amount of free time and wanting to get into SRPGs? Honestly, Disgaea isn’t a bad start, and this is certainly the best story in the series (although they’re all fun.) So yes, I recommend this one with those caveats: It’s got a lot of grind, it’s mechanically the most complex in the series, but… Well, the Disgaea series in general has fun, often silly stories (that sometimes turn dark and serious later, but there’s always a hint of the ridiculous), cool characters, and each installment has something to recommend it.

The Mad Welshman is totally not a Prinny, dood!

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Library of Ruina (Early Access Review)

Source: Cashmoneys
Price: £19.49
Where To Get It: Steam

Okay, let’s get an important warning out the way right now: Library of Ruina somewhat spoils the ending of Project Moon’s previous game I’ve reviewed, Lobotomy Corporation. It is, after all, a direct sequel.

And damn, does it have a great intro. The game, also, is solid, if a little grindy at times, and annoying at others. But we’ll be getting into that.

Instant bonus points for the use of my favourite word, Angela. And Project Moon.

So, our protagonist (?) is a Fixer, essentially, a high-grade mercenary in a city where urban legends are both real and deadly, and, having been seemingly killed, he is resurrected, and given a very special job: To kill others in increasing power, who are invited to the library, to create pages from their souls… To hopefully create… The Perfect Book.

And how do you do that? Essentially, by deckbuilding, and using those cards (balancing powerful attacks with lower cost cards) in turn-based battles. Using the powers of the pages to increase your own, as “burned” books create pages, which your increasing cast of Librarians and Assistants can equip to take on their likeness (to an extent) and abilities… And the pages, when burned, can Realise other pages (level them up), and give you cards from said page’s deck, to use in your own combat decks. You don’t need to engage with that last part for the early game at least, but it’s highly recommended to take a look, and see where a Page’s base deck can be improved or changed to fill a good role.

Yes, the ones who came before you have all died here. Repeatedly. I’ve been… Grinding them… Ohohoho…

Earlier fights can be replayed for their pages, which is useful if you want to get said pages to their level cap (although fights also give XP to that page), but generally, you engage in an upward journey, eerily similar to the Sephirah of the previous game (and, indeed, said Sephirah are represented by familiar characters from Lobotomy Corporation, still under the control of Angela from the previous game), occasionally fighting equally familiar Anomalies from the previous game, such as the Forsaken Murderer to progress.

Each Anomaly is, essentially, a sort of puzzle boss, with some pretty specific strategies, although the Anomalies give hints sometimes, and you learn their patterns. Dying doesn’t do anything bad, at least as far as I know, so you’re welcome to try, try again. And, funnily enough, it’s the anomalies where I find the most grind and irritation. Forsaken Murderer, in particular, was, as the technical term goes, “A right bastard”, and it, along with some later fights in the current content, required some good strategy and a fair amount of grind to get things to the level I wanted.

This one, thankfully, wasn’t too bad. Later ones will not be as forgiving.

Aesthetically, the game is split between a well painted manga style, and a more stylised chibi set for the turn based fights themselves, with a sort of Art-Deco look to some elements, contrasting with the blood-red lettering of some elements, the scratchy backgrounds of character thoughts at the bottom, but every element that needs to be clear is clear, from health, to the emotion system, and the UX. Yes, there are lots of fonts, but each has its purpose. The sound, similarly is good, and the music solid.

Basically, if you want to see where Lobotomy Corporation’s world went after the first game, or if you like deckbuilding turn based combat with RPG elements, Library of Ruina is a solid pick, and its eerie world, with some light elements, but mostly surreal and a little dark, appeals.

The Mad Welshman loves libraries. He also loves tastefully done flesh-walls. Perhaps there’s some way to mix the two?

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