Langrisser 1 & 2 (Review)

Source: Review Copy
Price: £49.99 (Assorted DLC comes to £41.96)
Where To Get It: Steam

The bandits were raiding the village, and my two heroes had things well in hand. Well, except when the next wave of bandits appeared, and… One was really close to a set of villagers, villagers I was meant to be protecting. So, some of this peaceful village died, died because I was too slow. And then some more died… Because they ran headlong into the two barbarian heroes I was trying to kill. I still won the day, but I wondered… Could I have done things differently? Could I have saved everyone?

We didn’t manage to save everyone. But we progressed. And our friend managed to rejoin us.

Well, theoretically, yes. In practice… Welcome to the Langrisser games, turn based strategy RPGs where you can muddle through, but perfection requires pinpoint precision.

And do you know, I quite like it. At least partly because it’s of the more black and white SRPG type, where you fail, because your heroes were killed… Or you win. This, I appreciate.

In any case, Langrisser is one of those fantasy worlds where the story will seem quite familiar to players of this sort of game: King gets murdered, or other horrible thing happens, the protagonist and their friend(s) escape, they defeat evils on their way to returning home to retake it, but wait, a greater evil arises in the second or third act, and…

Ledin is the one on the left. Just to clarify.

It still works surprisingly well. In fact, this pair of remakes of a now almost 30 year old franchise is a pretty solid one, with simple core mechanics (Infantry beats spears, Spears beat Cavalry, Cavalry beats Infantry, your mercs work better inside your commander’s command radius, they heal when they end their turn directly adjacent to you, and killing commanders removes their mercs from the field too, bish, bash, bosh, there’s your basic primer on everything Langrisser), solid combat, an interesting system where your character’s class can change the way they play a fair bit, and, of course, some nice aesthetics, with good music, clear tiles, workable and slightly charming battle animations, and plot divergences.

Basically, it ain’t bad, and with twelve hours average on a run of Langrisser I (for lo, there is a New Game+ on both games), there’s a lot of playtime to be had…

Battles follow a format that would later be popularly associated with the Advance Wars series.

At least some of which is due to unskippable combat animations, and individual movement animations even if you automate. Personally, I don’t mind it, mainly because I prefer manual movement myself. But I can see how that would be a turnoff.

Still, I’ve enjoyed my time with Langrisser, and I expect to enjoy more time with it. It doesn’t overcomplicate things, its characters charm, its aesthetics please, and… It’s something where I know where I stand. Because it lets me know clearly. And I appreciate something that does that.

The Mad Welshman is off to… Ahaha, not save the kingdom! Conquer it! Big difference!

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World of Horror (Early Access Review)

Source: Cashmoneys
Price: £11.39
Where To Get It: Steam, Itch.IO

Content Warning: This game has body horror and mutilation imagery, mentions of suicide, self harm, and murder.

(more…)

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Endcycle VS (Early Access Review)

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.

This one’s a nasty one if it hits.

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 damaged.

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?

Chips, chips, chips. Enough to open a chip shop. Which they have.

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 hemmed in.

One of the two endless modes replaces one of your chips after each victory, your choice. But you cannot choose “None.” And, as you can see, sometimes this means getting a “No options you like” moment. Like this one.

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 shaders are.

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.

Stuff gotten! waves the tiniest flag.

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.

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Dungeon Origins (Review)

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

I admit it: Normally, I am not a fan of Tower Defence. It’s just a personal preference, and I’ve only enjoyed a few games in the genre. So for me to say Dungeon Origins is okay? It might be more than that for you. Who knows. Let’s get into it.

See this? This is a very bad idea. This is your actual bad management skills at work here.

The story idea is actually a pretty fun one: A hero has cleansed the land of the great evils, and the kingdom is at peace. Well, right up until the moment where the King makes the extremely unwise decision of trying to kill said hero, who has defeated great evils, because he’s too dangerous to let live.

Kind of a self-fulfilling prophecy, as said hero then resolves to create a great and evil dungeon, with which to punish the kingdom. And what results can basically be summed up as “Dungeon management tower defense.” With a tutorial that… Isn’t great. Basically, plonk down paths, making sure you have a nice twisty path with the space available to you (because, at the beginning, it ain’t much), traps, monsters (mostly monsters, as traps are less reliable), and, when you’re ready, go for the next wave! Every 10 or so waves, a boss spawns… And, of course, the more waves you get through, the tougher the obstacles on the way.

Whoops, I am dead, and so are all my minions. Gee willickers, I wish I could have been able to buy some corridors to distract them!

And here is where it’s alright instead of good. See, while it has some cool ideas, its implementation, even as a score attack type deal where you see how many days you last is… Not great. Monsters, for the most part, are fine. Learning how to mix monsters, like a tough melee type in front of weaker, ranged monsters, is a must, and, if worst comes to worst, the dungeon core itself can attack intruders who’ve reached it, with monsters respawning after each wave… That’s fine. But paths and tile placement is… Awkward. Mainly because you are encouraged to get certain dungeon features, which, in addition to costing… A lot, will also cost a tile worth of gold, an increasing cost, and those features will completely block that tile. Traps not being able to be placed with monsters? That’s more reasonable. But special rooms take up more of the economy than they claim to, and what they claim to is an arm and a leg for wherever they’re recommended.

There’s also a skill tree, which, again, is fine… But traps deserve another mention, because the earliest trap (indeed, the only trap I was able to unlock on the first run) has… a 10% chance of going off. Which, not going to lie, feels a little ridiculous. The idea is that, if it goes off, it does a significant chunk of damage… But it also does sod all to thieves, who will steal the hardest resource to get in the game: Gold.

Ah, raiding. The dungeon keeper’s equivalent of taking the kids to the park.

Mana gems are, it’s true, the rarest, but regular raids will provide you with a pretty consistent supply, whereas gold… Gold drops in relatively piddling amounts unless you’re going big with the raids (potentially disastrous, because raids cost your most common… And most used resource, Souls.) Spells… Exist, but have long cooldowns for what is, at first, not a great effect. Perhaps a scaling cooldown might have worked better there, but a single use, and then a several day cooldown is not great. (Hero assaults occur once a turn, which is a day, and raids for magic gems and gold take several days, a minimum of 2.)

Aesthetically, it’s alright. Lo-fi pixelwork, some chunky sounds, a relatively clear UX… But I found myself hemming and hawwing over this one, because while it was entertaining and a little interesting at first, the power creep of the heroes compared to the growth of me and my dungeon felt uncomfortable. So… If you want a Tower Defence game with RPG elements, then… Maybe?

The Mad Welshman has a dungeon. It’s where he reviews from. Quite nice, considering…

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Conglomerate 451 (Review)

Source: Review Copy
Price: £16.99
Where To Get It: Steam
Previous Reviews: Early Access

It is the far future. And you’ve got a job ahead of you, commander. Because you’re the head of a private agency (not a corporation, honestly, really!) who has been tasked with dealing with the criminal influence of four cacklingly evil corporations, on behalf of the government. In sector 451 of the city of Conglomerate, and yes, they did call it that. So… It’s cyber, but not punk. Still.

Two “Good Boys” (Spoiler: Not Good Boys At All) and a very angry man kitted out like a personal tank. Oh, and a bomb.

So yes, this is one of those step based RPGs (first person, move a tile at a time, moving costs time but turning or looking around doesn’t, effectively turn based), with random loot, random enemy placement, a pool of maps, a research tree… It seems like a lot, but what it boils down to is: You do missions, which are usually kill a thing, kill lots of things, or find a thing. And doing these things breaks the influence of one of the four corporations who are openly criminal in the sense of drug dealing, slavery, and the like. Them’s your basics.

So… Last time I reviewed this, I said it was mostly solid, pretty promising, with a few things that needed work. That opinion has, apart from the whole “It’s released” thing, not really changed all that much. Because it still has issues. It’s just that they’re now mostly in terms of writing and accessiblity, rather than one of the two minigames being tedious as hell (the hacking has changed to be something a little more quickfire than “Click on some text when you see it”), and the money part of the game’s economy not being great (unlocking the in-mission benefits like “Can always ambush enemies if they don’t see you” costs money now. Which I’m fine with.) Not changed, however, is the fact that the bigass gun which looks like it can chew a room to shreds has a range of… 9 meters.

Yup. This thing still only has a range of 9m, single shot. Who the heck knows why…

Now… Even if you have white writing, folks, it’s going to be nigh illegible with a moving background, or something of even roughly the same value. That’s an accessibility issue, for which there is no option to fix. Dark red health on a dark brown background? That’s hard to read, so… Colourblindness issue, no option to fix. These are both two examples of how the game could work on its accessibility (a third being UX/Text scaling.) And then… The writing/barks. I’m not expecting Great American Novel, folks. What I do expect, however, is not to be very tired of the AI’s yakking two minutes into a mission. Yes, I get she was built by bad people to help you do bad things to bad people. I got that in the first two voicelines about how gleeful she gets about murder.

What I’m less fond of is references, without a hint of self awareness. Ah yes, my training mission was a “Kobayashi Maru” type. Mmmhm. Why yes, AI, we did come, we did see, we did kick its ass… But both of these references are almost as old as I am. And no, there is no option to turn off these barks, which… Sorry, developers, they’re not well written, and in one case (SPU chips, which add a little to stats), it doesn’t even make sense. Copper and some wires, but maybe it will be useful? I… AI? Have you been trained? At all?

Okay, okay, lemme try one. “You fell for one of the classic blunders! The most famous of which is ‘Never get involved in a land war in Asia’, but only slightly less well known is this: Never make an 80s reference when a critic plays the game! Aha, ahahaha [dies]”

So, in terms of aesthetics, it’s alright. There’s some good enemy designs, the world maps are interesting and aptly get the feel across, the sound isn’t bad, and the visuals for attacks are kinda cool in places. In terms of gameplay, it’s a little grindy, but otherwise, I’m actually down for a limited set of map layouts, partly because you know vaguely what to expect. Improvements have been made in some areas… It’s still got jank, but… I’d still recommend it somewhat for fans of step-based RPGs, because it ain’t bad.

But it could definitely work on its accessibility.

The Mad Welshman would offer their services as a dystopia writing consultant, but… Well, not much point.

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