Source: Cashmoneys Price: £4.79 Where To Get It: Steam
Ah, the ancient board game Hnefatafl. Originally a Scandinavian game of unknown rules (although variants existed in different portions of Europe, especially the Irish and Scottish versions), there was, nonetheless, a version that we now know as Hnefatafl: Tablut, from Lapland. And the general idea is that there is a king, who sits at his table with his men, and… Whoops, turns out this was a pretext by another king to murder him, and he is surrounded on all four sides. Can the king escape, guarded by his men? Or is he fucked?
Well… That’s a common narrative interpretation, anyway. Nonetheless, it’s a competitive board game that is hard. Get hemmed in as the king? Lose. Get captured as the king, lose. (Depending on which rules you use, that requires a simple two capture, or completely surrounding the king) Don’t have enough pieces to capture the king? Lose. King gets to the corner, or edge in some rulesets, and is surrounded by men, so you can’t take him? Lose.
I love Hnefatafl, despite being atrocious at it.
So it’s a bit of a shame that, aesthetically, this isn’t all that strong. The main store image for the game is somewhat misrepresentative, as it isn’t 3D at all. It’s your standard top down deal, ala some chess games, and its UX is clear, but… Eh, it isn’t the greatest, really. There is online multiplayer for the game, so you could very conceivably play a friend (or play them with Steam’s Remote Play function.) It does, however, have most, if not all of the rule variations that exist of the game, so that’s definitely a plus, as is a chess like scoring system for online play, so… Plus?
And that, honestly, is the real choice here, when it comes to Hnefatafl games. If you want the most complete game with most, if not all of the rulesets, this is your choice, £5. If you want something older, with a little more flair, King’s Table, £4. If you want a 3D hnefatafl game with some visual polish, Hnefatafl: Viking Chess, £4. None of them will really go into the deep strategy of it, that’s for you to research… But they all offer different things, and this Hnefatafl game? It offers the variations.
Thud is, by the way, a hnefatafl variant. In case you didn’t know.
Source: Cashmoneys Price: £12.99 Where To Get It: Steam
At first, Endcycle Vs didn’t interest me, despite loving Megaman Battle Network’s combat system of a 3×6 grid, split in two, in which the player and their opponents use abilities (Chips, in the case of the player) to attack the enemy, a new hand coming when the old one is used. After all, it was multiplayer only, and not even mod support was going to bring me to that party.
But now, it has singleplayer and… Well, I’m somewhat bouncing off
it, to be quite honest.
Mainly, it’s for a very simple reason: Everything is fast. And can
seemingly move diagonally, although that may be just that they’re…
Going really fast. In its inspiration, MegaMan Battle Network, things
generally don’t move quickly. And the few enemies that do are
considered the biggest pains in the ass in the series. Similarly,
some moves where instant hits (known as hitscan), so you at least
knew that, the moment you hit the fire button, something would get
And neither of these appear to be true, with the exception of swords,
in Endcycle Vs. Spreadshots? Slowish projectiles. Cannons? Slowish
projectiles. The “Rush” Sword is, in fact, a leisurely dodge. And
grenade and trap type weapons both have a specific range, and are,
generally speaking, slow. Meanwhile, enemies fast. Can you perhaps
see the problem here?
Now, less a problem and more “Something different, to maybe get
used to” is the fact that, instead of getting a new “hand” of
chips once you’ve used the last, you have three sets of four chips,
each with cooldowns, and you can switch between chips with the space
key, and use one of those four chips with the arrow keys. Okay, cool.
But what this, generally speaking, means is that you’re either
waiting on a cooldown, or rapidly switching between ability sets.
Now, you can set everything to attack chips, if you really
want, but it’s good to have some sort of healing, some sort of
defence, and some sort of area or panel grab chip, which makes
neutral panels yours, or enemy patterns neutral. Because you can only
move on neutral or your panels, so without those, you can get
Aesthetically, it’s alright. The music is good, light, but pumping
beats for combat, a synth theme, various other tunes, all inspired
by… Well, its inspiration. The spritework’s alright, the menus have
a consistent font, and my main gripe is that it’s hard to parse
cooldowns when you’re concentrating more on the enemy’s position
rather than, y’know, you. Where the icons and their cooldown
Overall, it’s very obviously designed for the Pro E-Sports crowd,
balanced around people who are twitchier, more timing aware, and fine
with longish matches because they’re darting around so damn much. But
that definitely isn’t for me, and I don’t particularly see it being
appealing to more than a niche crowd within the niche that is people
who like this sort of battle game overall, and the people who, like
me, loved a game boy advance series from way back when.
There are other games like this in my future. And so, I don’t actually have all that much interest in coming back to this.
The Mad Welshman lives in the cyberworld. He has to admit, it’s a somewhat dull place. You get used to those rushing neon comets quite quickly.
Source: Cashmoneys Price: £34.99 Where To Get It: Steam
Digimon, Digital Monsters, only certain ranks of Digimon are the Champions, as it turns out, doesn’t quite have the same ring to it. But that’s besides the point, we’re reviewing one I missed, because the budget’s never great: Digimon Stories – Cyber Sleuth, Complete Edition. Bit of a mouthful, but I appreciate that it is. Even down to the “Timesaver” bonus content. Whuff.
yes, the general idea: It’s the future of our world, virtual reality
that doesn’t make you motion sick (or need to move physically) is a
thing, people quite literally “go on the internet”, and cyber
crime still exists… Except using Digimon, which humanity, as a
whole, seems to be unaware are actually living beings, albeit in
digital form. And two protagonists, along with their friends and
mentors, discover Great Events in the offing, as they gain the
friendship of Digimon, and the Digital World and the Human World
entwine and bleed into each other all the more.
It’s dramatic stuff, and I appreciate how the main plot’s kept me coming back, what with corrupt corporate businessfolks I love to hate (Well, no, I just hate, to be honest), Digimon of various personalities, such as one that simply wants friends, but goes about it in precisely the wrong way (and other, darker individuals), and, of course, friends, characters, their own stories. Nice. It’s also aesthetically pleasing, mostly, with a mostly clear UX. We’ll get into that mostly in a moment. But how does it play?
beyond the basics, which are a little more involved than Pokemon (You
have two sets of types to consider: Vaccine/Virus/Data/Free,
and element types. And yes, both of them factor into damage,
so if you have precisely the wrong matchup, prepare to have that
Digimon knocked out very quickly indeed), the devil’s in the
details of which story you’re playing in the game: The Hacker’s
Memories, or Cyber Sleuth. The Hacker’s Memories involves different
kinds of battles, and seemingly no use for the Mirror Dungeon part of
the DigiLab (where you do various things starting with Digi- to
Digimon, such as Digivolution, the changing of a Digimon into a
different Digimon, or back to give a little more of a level benefit.
A thing that’s required for certain kinds of digivolutions.)
Meanwhile, Cyber Sleuth has more of a real world map. But both
involve… Look, I would be here for a very long time if I were
talking about mechanical differences, and the Digivolution process,
so let’s talk about how it feels… And the negatives of the game.
Positive wise, we shall leave it so far as “Mostly good aesthetics,
mostly good UX, a fair bit of depth and complexity, without being
overwhelming, and puzzle areas that didn’t make me want to
tear my hair out at the roots.
wise, I’m feeling myself drawn into the story and its characters,
enjoying the boss battles, and finding the world interesting. It
dripfeeds the lore, only as it needs to, and, for the most part,
doesn’t go “Hey, did you know about ‘World thing?’” unless it’s
genuinely something the character wouldn’t know, or is unclear about.
Good! The random battles… Exist. Maybe I’m overlevelled a lot of
the time, maybe it’s just that way once you get any sort of decent
team, but it’s only either when I’m in a new area, or am just
starting out that I don’t seem to be one-shotting Digimon that
I’m not weak against. So… The random battles feel a little like
busywork as a result, especially due to the digicapture system (yes,
a lot of things being with digi- . Deal with it.)
you have to beat up a certain number of Digimon of a species to get
enough data to hatch one yourself. And then more data, up to
200%, to make sure your Digimon is the best of its kind it can be.
This can be eight fights with a digimon of a type (25%-30% each.) It
can be ten. And it can be 14 fights. I haven’t found anything below
15% Data from each fight yet, but… Yeah, getting Digimon can be a
grind. And some, you have to either feed in the Digifarm a lot, or
have along with you in fights, to raise their CAMaraderie to the
level you need. Rare Digimon can take a silly number of levels, plus
special items to make, but… That’s rare ones, I’m okay with that.
I’m less fine with is the type-match colouring when you select an
enemy to hit, which is Red (Good damage, but not necessarilygreat damage, because, as you recall, there are two
sets of type matchup.) which is fine… White for normal, which is
fine… And blue for bad, or, more accurately speaking… Cyan
for bad. These last two colours are very close together, to
the point where even a fair few folks who aren’t colourblind
can’t tell them apart, so… Bit shit, that. And no, there is no
colourblindness option. At all.
there are two minor niggles. The dungeon animations, or animations
where your group is both running and bigger than 2, get weird,
because the monsters can easily get caught up on you (stilling their
animations, although it doesn’t restrict their movement), and are
always pointed toward you when they’re running, which looks
janky as hell. It’s not a dealbreaker, and nor is the fact that audio
options don’t seem to take effect (or can even be set) until you
start a game or continue it (the first time you play, you set them,
and can change them in game.)
Overall, I’ve had a fairly good time with Digimon Stories, and it’s probably one of the games I’ll actually new game+ , in my large backlog. As a monster collecting game, it’s solidly designed overall, its story is drawing me in, and, apart from these problems, I’m having fun, and would recommend it to other fans of RPGs, especially those who are into the monster collecting gig.
I’ve appreciated having two months in a row where I’ve had nice monster collecting games. Now if only I had the free time to play them…
Source: Cashmoneys Price: £30.99 (Definitive Edition £38.18 , Soundtrack £5.19, Nightstorm Isle DLC £7.19) Where To Get It: Steam
And so the dark age passed into an age of light, a… Wait a minute, I was promised Dark Souls, not… Okay, fun aside, it’s actually nice to see some legitimate hope in a game with the “Go out, bash things with an input system that encourages only hitting the buttons you need to, not mashing them, die, spend money on improvement, hopefully get further this time” formula that has been called “Soulslike.”
Ashen, you are, obviously, a voiceless Chosen One, who, along with
two friends (and the others you meet along the way), must protect the
Ashen, a bloody great bird made of light and life that sat on the
World Tree, died (its three breaths creating three ages, which
passed, and elements of the three civilisations still lived through
the dark age), and is due to be reborn. Gosh, my throat’s a little
bit norse from that short bit of exposition, lemme back up a bit.
this is a third person action RPG, in which your low poly protagonist
wanders through a map, directed by both the needs of currency/items
gained from enemies, and the quests, side or main, from the people of
your small, new township. This actually deserves a mention right now,
because it’s a fulfilling aspect of the game: The further along the
game you get, the more sidequests you do, the more your town hub
(Well, more of a “start point on the journey”, really, as you
travel along a narrowing spiral toward the end, unlocking Ritual
Stones, your travel points, along the way) builds up and grows,
starting as this near barren, ramshackle set of ruins, and, by the
end of the game? It’s a thriving village, with each of your fellow
characters having their own cohabitation with various people
attracted to this glowing beacon of hope.
if the game weren’t good, this would have to be mentioned, precisely
because it’s almost unheard of in this genre (or indeed, quite a
few.) But the game is good. It doesn’t give you fast travel
until a few main quests in, but the progression feels natural, and I
only died once or twice in the early game, mostly due to either
overconfidence or stupidity. Especially as you have a friend, always
(whether a co-op partner, or one of the companions you meet, each
with certain styles of weaponry), and so long as one of you is
alive long enough to resurrect the other, you’re okay.
And the world is pretty. Even in the bleaker areas of the game, there’s a sense of beauty, fallen or otherwise. From the parts of the world so far reclaimed from the Ash, to the almost tundra like ruins of Sindre’s View, to… Ah, well, that would be spoiling things, but suffice to say, there’s a lot of environments, including, yes, dark areas. And the difficulty does ramp up, with some of the underground segments, in particular, making for a large difficulty spike. Still, it’s also a world where the developers want you to try clambering over it, to see what you can do, and want you to see it, and this, also, is appreciated. Finally, the music is, for the most part, calm, relaxing. This is a world you’re meant to take in.
there complaints? Well, yes. The game very much overloads you with
stuff early on, and it’s somewhat resource hoggy, with slowish
loading times, and, outside of challenge runs, why wouldn’t
you give your companions their quest items? But… There’s a lot
it does right, over its compatriots, a lot it does differently. The
game doesn’t really bar you that much, so you can engage or not as
you like, explore as much or as little as you like, although it is
highly encouraged you do those side quests before tackling a
main one. As such, it’s more guiding than holding back or pushing,
not holding your hand, but showing you the way.
So, in summary, I would say that this is a better introduction to the subgenre known as “Soulslikes” than… Well, Dark Souls, the game which popularised the term! It’s pretty, it’s interesting, its characters are cool… Yup, I like it.
The Mad Welshman appreciates beauty, bleak or otherwise, as much as he appreciates bearded handaxes. Which is to say, a fair bit.
Source: Review Copy Price: £5.79 Where To Get It: Steam
There is a common misconception among folks relatively new to vertical or horizontal shooters (or shmups, as they’re called) : That the Japanese ones are more difficult than the Western ones. While this certainly can be true (Hello Gradius, Hello Touhou!), there are still Western Shmups that are, for want of a better phrase (haha, not really), “Bastard Hard.” Jamestown. Raptor: Call of the Shadows. Xenon 2. They’re slower paced, for the most part, but enemies can be nasty.
so it is with Blink: Rogues, which combines some elements of the
older European Shmup style (Slow paced, health bars, enemies are
bullet spongey to the basic attack) with other ideas known to the
genre, like enemies that can only be murderised with one of the three
special weapons you have, flipping your craft to fire backwards, and
a feature I haven’t seen outside of one other game (Dimension Drive)
: Swapping between two different playfields, both because there are
enemies to kill/avoid in both, and there are obstacles in
both, some of which can only be avoided by blinking between sides.
Which would make the game more interesting, if it wasn’t for a lack of flair to it all. Now, don’t get me wrong, I like me a low poly aesthetic, I love it contrasting with painted characters and nice, clean text. And I love little touches like parts that come off when you shoot them, even if it makes the enemies that little bit more bullet spongey. But the projectiles, the music, the enemy explosions… They can best be described as “workmanlike.”
Add in that there’s no UX scaling for the main, shooty bits, and no reminder as to what the special weapon keys are. Yes, I forgot. Regularly. Colours? No. Keys? Yes. I’m also not certain as to its colourblind friendliness (being Red, Blue, and Green), so maaaybe different shield animations would help there? In any case, it’s not quite as accessible as I would like, and while the story is reminiscent of old arcade games and the DOS shooters that had story (Short conversations and collectible journals), it’s also somewhat workmanlike.
don’t know, maybe I’m jaded. In any case, the difficulty ramps up
reasonably well, although a big part of that is that death doesn’t
lose you the mission, but instead takes you out of the fight for a
whole 3 seconds (and, if you were in the middle of a wave, 3 seconds
is a loooong time), and lose your multiplier. That’s pretty
much it, although it does make reaching the star goals of a level
that much harder if you die (Kill 50%, 75%, and 100% of enemies,
sometimes with an extra modification like “You have to kill
all the red beacon ships!”)
Despite that workmanlike nature, it’s not a bad game, by any means, and a multiplayer mode (local, whether against another player, or an AI with 5 difficulty levels) with several story missions that don’t outstay their welcome (and now, survival levels afterward, presumably on a “One life” basis) helps give it that little touch of replayability once you’re done (Whether that’s “Beaten all the levels” or “All the stars, all of them!”), but… As mentioned, it’s workmanlike and low key, and I can perfectly understand why that would be a turn off to folks.
The Mad Welshman once had a successful 100% run of the Monty Python DOS game. To this day, he doesn’t quite know how.