West of Dead (Review)

Source: Cashmoneys
Price: £15.48 (£19.02 for DLC and OST, £4.79 Soundtrack, £2.09 DLC)
Where To Get It: Steam

West of Dead definitely nails its atmosphere down. Heavy black shading, deep shadows, washed out colours, tombs everywhere… It’s a Western styled afterlife, alright. And one cowboy is stuck in purgatory, hunting down the ghost of a preacher… Who might actually have made the land of the dead mighty ornery. Good thing the cowboy in question is tired and ornery too.

Sure ain’t…

Said ghostly cowboy is voiced by… Ron Perlmann. A man who knows his matter of face, practical characters who are Very Tired Of Your Shit. And William Mason is, indeed, a man who takes the situation in his stride. He knows he won’t like the answers to certain questions he could ask, so he doesn’t ask them. He knows something’s wrong, so he just gets down to it. And he can certainly wax poetic, at times. I like him. And the general idea is a twin-stick roguelike shooty type deal, with you shooting various undead folks and beasts in a claustrophobic land of the dead, levelling up and finding hopefully new, hopefully better gear as you go. I like that style of game, too.

I like… The combat a little bit less, however. Not the general idea, it’s quite cool, and encourages the Western shootout feel by having to reload, and that reloading being faster in cover, and slower still while on the move. And cover does break, and there are folks who don’t give a hoot about your cover, such as bombers or the big boys, so you’re shooting all the folks you can from one piece of cover, then rolling to the next, hopefully dodging shots along the way. It’s good stuff, on its most basic level.

Them boys ain’t right…

However… That difficulty ramps up quickly indeed, so this is one of those… Where it doesn’t feel like it wants me to see it. It wants me to die early, over and over again, ’til I’ve either got the muscle memory or the tools to deal with, say, the Butchers, who are only melee in the sense that most of their attacks are melee based. Don’t matter none, they can destroy cover, and if you get close, best be dodging, and dodging the right way, because they got an area attack, friend, and that hurts.

So… This is one where I love the atmosphere. I love the basic idea of the combat, I love the aesthetic, it’s all pretty clear… But I’m honestly finding the difficulty unforgiving, because while I can consistently get to the second level, I also consistently die there. Also in the negative category is that sometimes, the camera really isn’t your best friend. And finally, in niggles, the game goes full screen for a brief time on loading, even if you’ve set it to windowed mode. Which is annoying.

Every character has something going for them, design wise.

I don’t really think it’s a bad game… But it is a tough game, so if you’re frustrated by that sort of thing, I would say stay away, and if not… It’s definitely got a unique atmosphere, and a nice little twist on things, so if difficulty doesn’t turn you off, I’d say give this one a go.

Life ain’t what it used to be. But nor’s death either. Leastways, not in games, where it’s sure as hell painful… And just as surely temporary…

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SUPERHOT: MIND, CONTROL, DELETE (Review)

Source: Cashmoneys
Price: £19.99 (Soundtrack free!)
Where to Get It: Steam

SUPERHOT was an interesting, paranoia inducing game about shooting and killing and beating people in a game that… Haha, well, let’s just say “Time only moves when you do”, and leave spoilers out of it. It’s an interesting premise, the story took some cool and dark turns, and I quite enjoyed it.

Oh, you poor fool. When it comes to pistol v pistol, friend… I automatically win.

SUPERHOT is more of the same… Except now in a sort of roguelike form. There are areas, and within those areas you have a pattern of random levels taken from a pool, and random upgrades (the number of each is fixed), and defeating everything in an area is completion, which then lets you access other nodes in this network, nodes that have memories, snippets of dialogue, and hacked in upgrades such as the ability to charge people, or bullet deflections that deflect every bullet back toward the enemies, regardless of whether you deflected those. But in its basic level goals, it remains mostly the same: Use your time stopping/slowing powers to murder red people in a level using whatever you can, be it thrown items, melee weapons, or one of a variety of guns.

And naturally, what SUPERHOT: MCD brings to the table, apart from MORE story, is just… MORE… MORE gun. MORE wrinkles, such as enemies who can only be hurt in certain locations, and are otherwise as white and sterile as your non interactible bits of scenery. MORE levels in which to play. Hell, even the achievements are “MORE [thing]”

And indeed there is! There’s so much MORE…

And aesthetically and narratively, it’s also similar, in that paranoid, dystopian tone, which I compared to a mix of David Cronenberg and David Lynch (two film directors well known for surreal and dark films), and the way the aesthetics both subtly put you off balance and highlight everything you need to know.

For anyone with a little first person, low poly roguelike-ish need, this one’s a pretty solid pick. And for the people who played Superhot, but somehow haven’t already got MCD… It’s MORE.

The Mad Welshman apologises that he wasn’t able to screencap mid shuriken throw. Those things go at one hell of a clip…

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Meteorfall: Krumit’s Tale (Review)

Source: Review Copy
Price: £11.39 (£13.48 for game and soundtrack, £2.09 for soundtrack)
Where To Get It: Steam

Other Reviews: Early Access 2, Early Access 1

Glowmancers… Terrible to be in a relationship with, because they’re self destructive, toxic, and quite happy to take you down with them.

Oh, and they’re the same as enemies too.

WELP.

Yes, Meteorfall: Krumit’s Tale has left Early Access, and do you know what? Still humorous, still a good cartoony aesthetic, still a solid level of simplicity leading to all sorts of strategic fun. For those not caught up, it’s a sort of deckbuilding roguelike, in that you attain tiles, which can be weapons, abilities, etcetera, they fall onto the board in a random manner, and… Well, there, the similarities mostly end, because you still have to pay to put said tiles in your hand (most of the time), and, if you want good money, you want to be thrifty about which ones you use to defeat all the enemies that have also been shuffled into the deck, for lo, that is the goal: Kill ’em all before they kill you.

Rose actually looks less scary as the Evil Queen.

But what really makes it, for me, isn’t the strategy arising from dealing with the hand you’re dealt, it’s the characters. Not just the main characters, who are a right old band of murderous misfits (from Bruno the Warrior, to Rose, who is simultaneously a pure priestess (ha) and an evil queen, with part of her abilities being able to switch between the two. I talked about an enemy example right at the top, the Glowmancer, a boss of the game, and oh boy, she’s nasty. Heavy damage, but damages herself in the process, so you want to go in with things that stop her from damaging you (Damaging herself is less of an issue, that helps.)

The aesthetic and snarky humour basically supports this weird and wonderful world, where barbarian bikers brawl in belligerent bars, golems made of nuclear waste slop their way about, and killing buckethead goblinoids makes you feel less intelligent, thinking everything costs more than it does… What toll does the war on goblinoids take, mmm, mmm?

Look, it’s a good map, alright?

So yes… It’s a solid game. It has amusing humour, it has a good aesthetic, and characterful depictions. It has an oddball world. And it has an interesting take on the ol’ deckbuilding roguelike type experience, even if, like many of them, earlier areas become sort of rote after a while. Worth a go!

The Mad Welshman idly wonders what’s next for the procgen tile/card/dice based genre. Perhaps roguelike Shogi?

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Spellsword Cards: Dungeontop (Early Access Review 2)

Source: Review Copy
Price: £12.39
Where To Get It: Steam

Other Reviews: Early Access 1 Release Review

Rogues. We love them. Or hate them. It really depends on which party got backstabbed. And this is the latest addition to Spellsword Cards: Dungeon Top (Stop snickering!), a card based strategy game where the cards summoned are units, your hero is a unit too, and if your hero dies, you lose, good job, start over… And if their hero in a fight dies… Congrats, you won a fight.

Redirect Yo Momma Joke is a powerful and deadly spell.

And our old friend incremental unlocks, where winning gets you resources to get more stuff, which may help you win… So on. Aesthetically, it’s pretty nice, some dramatic, tense music, some cool painted faces for the assorted minions and hero(in)es, and…

Sigh. A menu UI that’s still small, with no scaling option. It’s been what, [insert time here], folks? Come on, I know your dungeon door is pretty, but you can make the menu options bigger than that.

In any case, play still revolves around a deck themed around the Hero/Faction dichotomy, where some cards are unique, others are general, and the themes are obvious. The Karim remain the faction which eats itself for power, sacrificing minions to make the few glorious murderbastards. Helm, meanwhile, has the philosophy of “Build ’em up slow, take the enemy down.” And the Warrior, Mage, and Rogue? Well, they stab hard, throw spells, and sneakily take down the enemy, respectively.

Have a big wall of “The enemy is very boned.”

Okay, the rogue, being a new addition, needs a little more detail: His weapons come in melee and ranged flavours, but if you can get throwing knives (giving you multistrike at higher levels), go for them, and build around them. Because knockback is a thing, and knockback damage is a thing, the rogue can do well as a ranged murderer supreme, mainly needing his minions as meatshields. Or they can go all out on certain spells, and get through a fair few fights making the minions or the boss hit each other (and get free attacks from your own units.) They fight quick, and they fight decisively, one way or the other.

You will fail at first. It’s one of those games. But from each battle, you learn an enemy’s (pretty fixed) patterns. You learn how to beat them. In a way, it’s more of a puzzle game than a strategy one, although the random element does make it more “Hrm, of these five cards, which three of these do I apply to most effectively murder this giant golem that runs pretty quickly, attacks all units around it once every two turns, and will murder even my strongest warriors without too much hassle (and me with only slightly less)?”

Because yes, you have limited amounts of cards you can play in a turn, although some level up choices can make that more reasonable, as can some treasures.

Each character now has their own dialogue for the invidual chapters. It’s a little touch. But a nice touch.

How does it feel? Well, it feels much the same as when I last reviewed it: It’s an interesting game, it’s got a good aesthetic, it still needs to make those menu options bigger, and with a new area of the game added to boot, it’s got its rough difficulty curve laid out. It also has a draft option, allowing you to build a specific deck, seeds, and adding threat, so… Overall, it’s looking pretty promising!

Hi devs. Decent size on them main menu buttons, ta. Right now, it’s my only crit.

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Meteorfall: Krumit’s Tale (Early Access Review 2)

Source: Review Copy
Price: £10.29 (£11.14 for game and soundtrack, £2.09 for Soundtrack)
Where To Get It: Steam

Other Reviews: Early Access 1 , Release Review

Note: This review was written using the optional beta, allowing early early access to features not yet complete. Like the fourth character.

They’re available now, but look, I’m impatient.

Last time I looked at Meteorfall, I appreciated a lot about it. The subtle depth of the deckbuilding, the encouragement to do more with less, and its fun, cartoony aesthetic and character. Oh, and adventurers being represented as characterful assholes too. Oh, Bruno, you growling brute of a man, I still love how your approach to life is to SMASH it…

That is the face of someone extremely smug they did this.

But now… Well, there’s two more characters, two more playstyles… And I’m enjoying them both. Mischief (the one that, at the time of writing, is available on the main branch of the game) is a rogue. Dextrous, stealthy until she attacks… And so, so smug. Thing is, she’s even more of a glass cannon than Greybeard, and, out of stealth… Well, she’s a bit crap without buffing. She relies upon it. Think of her as a hard mode, where you’re milking your resources to their limit.

Muldorf, meanwhile, is a jolly necromancer, and, while his skeletons take health to summon (mostly), and are not, in and of themselves, all that strong (mostly), they can still kill a couple of low level enemies without dying, and can be buffed by various means. This also means that, if you play your cards right, you’re rarely without four cards in your inventory, and his base weapons lifestealing or summoning enemies on killing others means that, if you get a chain going, you’re going to be a tough old coot. Even if you can’t heal normally.

Spooky Scary Skeletons, They Block Me From My Death…

What else has changed? Well, not a whole lot, if we’re talking about core elements. More items, abilities and perks have been added, and not just because there are two new characters with their own level rewards, but the core loop of “Beat all enemies and win, the more tiles still in play, the more bonus points you get to buy cool shit so you can discard some of your own shit, manage your resources well, and get abilities” is unchanged, the emphasis and encouragement of managing your limited resources effectively hasn’t changed, and the sarcastic, sometimes grim humour hasn’t changed either.

So, it’s still recommended as a card-based roguelike, it’s still promising… It’s just there’s more of it. Without drastic changes, I expect I’ll see you all at the release review, which will most likely read “Yup, it’s still good!”

I wouldn’t really call myself a Vaudedude, but hey, Muldorf the Necrodude does Muldorf, and I respect that.

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