Banners of Ruin (Review)

Source: Review Copy
Price: £15.49 (£21.28 for bundle with Supporter stuff, Supporter Bundle on its own £5.79)
Where to Get It: Steam

I do love me some anthro dark fantasy. A tale of revenge, the last members of a clan of animals making their way through the enemy’s city to claim their head… Yes, this is very much my jam.

And, despite some qualifications, Banners of Ruin is also my jam.

Who are the bad guys? Well, they’re the ones on the side of ri- on the right hand side. This is dark fantasy, there is no right side…

So, in case you hadn’t guessed, this is one of those games where you pick cards for events (out of three each time, although you won’t always get a choice), level up your characters, build up a deck of combat cards with which to beat down the enemy, and weapons and armour to help screw them up, recruit more characters (potentially), fight a variety of enemies, and… Well, most likely die on your run until you really get to know the game.

Just roguelike things, y’know?

Honestly, though, while this isn’t anything new, per se, it’s solidly built. Choices are relatively simple, and everything is clear… Well… See, this is where one of the qualifications comes in.

See those tiny squares on the bottom? That’s where you drop your stuff.

Accessibility wise, it’s fuckawful. Serif fonts, often tiny. Colourblindness unfriendly symbols which are also tiny… Would a white outline, or, y’know, a high contrast colour kill you, folks? I can tell it’s bleeding from the drops, I can tell it’s a wound from… I know what the symbols mean because of your tooltips… It does have some of the basic stuff, like windowed mode, removing motion blur or screen shake, so on so forth, but… Something this ubiquitous is something that really needs looking at.

So there’s that. I did, however, like the fact that fights that seemed extremely deadly at first were actually manageable… Well, until the first boss, who utterly ruined me… But that’s generally the case with this sort of roguelike. I liked the fact that moving a party member from their position flummoxes the direct attack enemies, but doesn’t work at all on archers, and has only limited use with pikemen. However, be warned, keeping weapons in your stash also means they’re cards in your deck. Cards you can’t use, or, more accurately, I couldn’t quite use. Similarly, switching equipment from the looting screen is… Awkward. Tiny icons again, folks… Tiny icons.

I couldn’t exactly turn down a ferret with a polearm, could I?

And visually, I love it. I’m a sucker for painted art, and the art is good. Soundwise, I don’t feel particularly strongly either way.

If the accessibility issues were fixed, I’d whole-heartedly recommend this one to folks more experienced with card-based roguelikes, but as it is, it comes with that heavy accessibility qualification.

The Mad Welshman wants all dark animal fantasy to be as accessible as possible. The only thing I’d say we need more than dark fantasy anthro games is lesbian otome villainess isekai games.

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The Sealed Ampoule (Going Back)

Source: Cashmoneys
Price: £15.49 (Soundtrack £3.99)
Where to Get It: Steam

See, sometimes, you see an idea, you think “Hey, this is cool!” and then… Oh. Hrm. Ah. Not quite as cool in execution.

So it is with The Sealed Ampoule. It’s a very minimalist procgen dungeon crawler. So minimalist, in fact, that it doesn’t gel well with its length. The procedure is very simple. Go into dungeon. Hit things until you feel you aren’t going to survive the next level, go back to room. Use stuff you got in the dungeon to get skills, level up the dungeon’s drop rate and magic circle rate for each level. When you get the ability and have the resources, turn dungeon levels into farms, just dropping the drops. Find story every now and again, or resources to turn more dungeon levels into farms. Rinse, repeat.

Remember these polygons well, for they are the ENEMY. Defeat them, and gain their resources!

I will say this for this set of mechanics, it does cut down on the bumf you’re overlevelled for. I mean, I’m still somewhat overlevelled at any given point beyond the early game, although I suspect that changes the further in you go, but yes, turning the earliest levels into, eventually, a single level you just run through and collect resources from? This is a piece of legitimately good design.

But the rest? Well, as I mention, it’s basically a rinse and repeat. Skills drop once every five levels or so, although those, like the progress toward dungeon farms, require specific materials, dying loses you some resources, and… Well, it boils down to a blur of grind, occasionally interspersed with “Oh, new enem- FUCK, RUN!”, story, or a boss.

The story, similarly, is simple, although it has its compelling mysteries. You play as Irene, who has been depressed since her mother died, but found an advert for a cheap dungeon, and decided to turn it into an alchemy farm, so as to open a shop, make lots of money… And then she finds out that it’s more populated than it first appears, including two small and mysterious children, and… A man who has been bludgeoned to death by nothing less than The Philosopher’s Stone. It’s just that said story progresses in short cutscenes that are… Well, an increasing number of dungeon levels from where you were, even accounting for farms.

The Uncanny Valley Twins.

And finally, there are the aesthetics. Again, it’s minimalist. A few music tracks, that mostly fit the mood, but still feel off, and a few sound effects, generally around two per enemy, sometimes shared between groups. A low poly look that normally, I’d be down for, but feels like a waste of enemy design, and hits the uncanny valley in the case of Irene, whose mouth never seems to work right, and whose movement is… Well, speaking frankly, Irene’s animations are godawful. All five or so.

Otherwise, the accessibility is just fine. The menus are clear, albeit with calligraphic and serif text, you have a helpful toolbar about the status effects you know, and, with the exception of floating numbers for regeneration, nothing’s too small to distinguish. Starts in windowed mode, keys are simple, but options to change things are sparse, and there doesn’t appear to be any gamepad support.

It’s honestly disappointing, because you can see hints of what the developers were going for, but a lot of it just falls flat. If you want a time waster, then yes, this is alright, but otherwise, I can’t really recommend it.

The Mad Welshman loves games of alchemy. He just finds so few of them FUN.

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Ultimate ADOM (Early Access Review)

Source: Review Copy
Price: £17.49
Where To Get It: Steam

As soon as I get down the stairs, I know I’m fucked. The rat, I’m not worried about. The hobgoblin, I’m sort of worried about. But the Chaos Barbarian, the one with the star over their head? Oh yeah, definitely worried about them. And no matter where I go, I’m going to be trapped by at least two of them.

Well, dash it all

Welp. Yep, Ultimate ADOM is still the tough roguelike I know and love, although “love” may not apply evenly to folks. After all, even with easy class/race combos like a Dwarven Fighter, you’re not necessarily going to last. Something is going to screw you if you’re not careful. And patient. And even that may not save you.

So, a little context. ADOM, originally created in 1994 by Thomas Biskup, is a true blue roguelike. Permadeath, turn based movement and combat, dungeons, procedural generation, etcetera, etcetera, everything in the Berlin Interpretation, basically. You’ll die, you’ll die a lot, you’ll learn about the game over time, its systems, managing its resources (both the “high good” and “high bad” variety), and you will become intimately familiar with the wait button, because this is a game where healing options are few.

So, even among roguelikes, it’s a slowish game. But how is this version “Ultimate”?

So, yes, my Ratling’s gender is always tentacled.

Well, basically, a GUI, more races (Well, sort of, the rest of the races have yet to be finished at this point), more genders (although your mileage may vary in ye olde dealybobber of having stat bonuses for your gender… Props for having Tentacled as a gender, and giving nonbinary people charm bonuses, though, it warms my nonbinary heart a little… Ehehe), more classes, and, of course, more features. All the classic ones are in there, like the equivalent of both the game’s mutation stat and its timer (Corruption), and gaining experience, health, or magic from destroying items (an elegant solution to both trash drops and the somewhat slow progression, although only XP is unlocked at first) Although what it doesn’t have, at the present time at least, is a massive game world. It’s one, big dungeon. And that’s fine, honestly.

Aesthetically, it’s okay. No colourblindness issues I could find, text is sans serif and not small, although a little thin, items on the floor are shown as a popup over your quickslots when they’re under you, mollifying the “items can be tiny” deal you sometimes see, tooltips… And, of course, it’s turn based, and its design encourages you to take your time.

You’d think this room would be a problem. And it is for a Ratling. But it’s not impossible. It just requires a bit of running away and holding down the wait button a fair way away, eating what food you have when you get hungry.

So, generally, this is a solid roguelike, albeit definitely not entry level, somewhere on the harder side, although permadeath can be disabled if you want, and I would recommend this to roguelike fans either looking for something with a little (a fair bit) more bite, or fans of ADOM looking for a glow-up to their favourite.

There’s really not a lot else to say, excet that hobgoblins go splat so pleasantly.

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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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Legend of Keepers (Review)

Source: Cashmoneys
Price: £15.99 (Supporter pack £7.19)
Where To Get It: Steam
Previous Reviews: Early Access

Let’s see here… Welcome back, Legend of… Kepers? Oh, Keepers, sorry, that was hard to pronounce. So, as you know, you’re here for your review meeting, in which we go over what you’ve learned, how you’ve improved, your general suitability as a procgen , your ability to show what dungeon keeping is like, the hassle, the danger, the awful marketing department, so on, so forth…

Place your monsters carefully, for maximum effect. Go for consistent builds. Murder the hell out of those self righteous twits.

A little improvement, not much change? Ah, well, that’s to be expected, you were pretty polished the first time around, didn’t really have many complaints. You’re still nice and presentable, that’s quite the accessible look you have there, presenting yourself clearly, very understandable… We’re always fond of pixel art here at WelshCorp, especially hi-def pixel art, very nice look! You’re not all that musical, but not everyone has talent in that area, and you’re certainly suitable.

Now, let’s see, you still have three classes, each with their own skill tree, each with their own gimmick… The brute, the trapper (actually very good at ruining morale, that’s nice!), and the damage-over-time specialist (poor dear, she gets in so many fights, I’d consider her the hard mode, honestly…) The brute is, alas, still a little bro-ish, but we can’t help our little quirks sometimes.

Marketing: They’re still jerks. But

Oh dear, that awful random party shuffle man is still in your department? Well, he adds a little tactical spice, but customer reports state that he’s really not popular with people. Well, at least he generally dies quickly.

Oooh, a little storytelling too as you progress through the seven two year stints of the game (week by week, with events?) Well, it’s only a small addition, but it’s a nice one, so you definitely score points there with us.

Well! I can see you’ve only improved slightly, Kepers… Keepers? Terribly sorry. Also, why is your first name not Legends, plural? It’s just your name? I’m nitpicking now, terrible habit of mine. Yes, you definitely pass muster among those players who’d like to explore the world of strategic and tactical rogue-sort-of-maybe-kind-of deals, and, of course, veterans of the field looking for a challenge!

So, since this is your final review session with us… Oh, you didn’t know? Well, our budget has been slashed, so we’re having to cut the fat, as it were. You’re lean, mean… Ahaha, well, we’ve replaced you with a cheaper employee. But you get a very nice severance package, why, it’s all of 120 gold!

AAaAAaAAAAAARGGGGH DAMN YOUUUUUU!

WAIT, NOT THE TABLE! NOT THE FACE!

The Mad Welshman is accepting further produc- er, employees. He’s talking about games to review, not writers. Pay him lots if you want more writers.

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