Subnautica: Below Zero (Review)

Source: Cashmoneys
Price: £15.49
Where To Get It: Steam

Earlier Reviews: Early Access 1, Early Access 2.

At first, it was hard to put into words why I was less satisfied with the finished Below Zero, despite the cool things it added, the new creatures, the weirder world, and our visitor to the world getting into Big Trouble. It’s not unsatisfying, and I would err on the side of “It’s pretty damn good”, but something bugged me.

And then I remembered the earlier draft of the story. The one I gushed about way back when.

Ah. That’s part of it.

Yes, you’re right. I definitely count two pairs of appendages that could beat the hell out of me, old lady.

See, way back when, Robin was cheery, enthusiastic. She loved the world from the get go, and Sam was the serious one, the one who covered your ass, somewhat, as things started moving. But now… Well, it’s a different Robin. A Robin who was previously Sam, come to find, uhhh… The Sam who was previously Robin.

Woman of colour as the protag, and the game doesn’t make a fuss about it? This is good, and I’d honestly like to live in a world where drawing attention to this as good wasn’t a thing I felt the need to do. But right from the get go, their zest for the world, that pep, something that I definitely resonated with… Well, it was gone. Replaced by a no-nonsense protag who, honestly, I’d have preferred way up in the sky, watching over you, adding practicality to your wonder.

Still, the rest of the game is good. I won’t say excellent, because it has less landmarks, and is therefore harder to navigate around, and a lot of the early game relies on the oxygen plants dotted around the deeper areas (I personally assume Robin just sticks her face in there and huffs it up like a bong with her rebreather) to both create tension and segments where you need them to go to certain important places. The land remains mostly a sidenote, and the sea remains, as it should be, a big focus.

It gets prettier the further down you go. And then you forget about your oxygen gauge because it’s pretty, and you sigh with your last breath.

And, lack of landmarks aside, what a sea it is. Green tinted vine caves, where thieving sea-monkeys, bombfish, their nests, and an ancient alien signal reside. The “smokestacks”, where thermal vents, giant mantis-shrimp (complete with punching action), and the first of the Big Boys resides. The forests of creepvine remain entrancing (and confusing), the coral chasm is a place of beauty, and the frozen underside of a glacier is a dangerous place where the smallest things can and will hurt you reside.

Guess where an important early game plotpoint resides? Nah, I’m kidding. It’s actually in a cave in the coral chasm.

Anyway, aesthetically, the game remains as on point as its predecessor. Underwater is beautiful, the UX remains pretty much unchanged, the neofuturist look of everything gives our intrusion a sterile feel, just as it did in the last game, and yes, the dystopian messaging of how Alterra is colonialist and crapitalist as fuck remains, although nowhere near as obvious at the beginning as it was in the earlier story version.

Yes. Alan the Alien. I fail to see why this is strange, Robin the Human-But-Not-Bird.

Overall, I’d still say that if you love the idea of survival and crafting in an alien ocean world appeals, or you enjoyed the original Subnautica, that Below Zero is worth it.

But when, like me, you remember the bright eyed and bushy tailed Robin who was thrust into WTF and somehow still remained optimistic? Well, you don’t enjoy it as much.

Still not leaving the world. Don’t wanna, can’t make me.

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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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R-Type Final 2 (Review)

Source: Review Copy
Price: £34.99 (£58.90 All the stuff, £3.99 OST, £2.49 Artbook)
Where To Get It: Steam

Yissssss… Suffice to say, I’ve been waiting on this one since it was trailered. And it feels good to suck at R-Type again. Especially now that I get to suck with a whole bunch of ships. On PC. I’ve already found ships that I dislike (Hi R-9E family!) and ones that I love (R-9C Warhead, you and me, we’re going to burninate a lot of people), and more… I get to see just how boned everyone is in the R-Type Final timeline.

Because oh yes, bad things happened.

Pictured: Oh dear, we’re now even more boned than we were before.

Anyway, R-Type is a scrolling shoot ’em up, in which you pilot your R-Type ships, each with three potential special weapons (Coming from a nice orb you get that happens to be Bydo technology, Bydo being… Well, we’ll get to that), shoot things, go fast, go slow (each having their benefits and downsides), and preferably don’t get shot at all. I mean, you have 3 lives, and anything up to infinite continues on Practice Mode (I don’t believe you get points to unlock ships and customisations there, though), with Easy (Kids? Nah, just folks who had enough coins to put in) being 10, Bydo being 1, and R-Typer being that bastard hard mode that will murder people a whole bunch, with no continues. 3 lives and that’s it, chummer.

It looks good. The ships look good, the enemies are cool, the music is excellent… Aesthetically, it’s clear, it’s on point, and most of the things are telegraphed well. Not everything, but what wasn’t telegraphed, I learned pretty quickly.

This gun wrecks ships. God I love the Andromalius. Although if anyone knows how to unlock the R11B, otherwise known as The ACAB-Type, let me know.

As to how it plays? It’s definitely a coin muncher where you learn by repetition, but you also get some reward for your repetition. Here, have customisation points to buy emotes and stuff (500 for clearing the first level on “Kids” difficulty.) Earn materials to add more ships to your library (and sometimes hilarity, when the R9-C gets upgraded to… A budget model. Which actually has a really good weapon… But is also, y’know… The Low Cost Option, ehehehe) Earn more info about enemies by shooting the hell out of them. And earn gallery entries by… ???

No, really, I have no idea. As to the shooting, it’s very pleasant indeed. Even with stages you’ve memorised, the different special weapon types, collecting or not collecting powerups, changes the state of play, and… Well, I’m sure somebody is making the R9-E’s godawful force weapon work… Somewhere…

Some bosses are variations on old ones, like the frozen Dobkeratops, or the return of BATTLESHIP STAGE (Stage 3, also known as “Your exam in whether you understand a) The bally thing can stop normal shots, and b) You can put it on the back or front, or shoot it out so it murders people from a distance”) And there are, at points, secret enemies.

So, basically, the game is enjoyable as hell… But what are the Bydo anyway?

That helmet’s meant to be white with light blue, but alas, the lighting doesn’t really get this across…

Well, as a friend puts it, they’re an assimilative cognitohazard bioweapon (they take things other, both mechanical and biological) from the future, which we’re fighting with, uhhh… Basically Bydo tissue. Which, well… That’s potentially a bad idea, and, as we see in the first stage (if you look closely enough), this has finally gotten to the point where the only ships useful against the Bydo… Are finally being co-opted by them.

R-Type Final 2 is a fun addition to the series, and yes, shmup fans and R-Type fans alike will have a great time. I’d even say, despite the difficulty, that the “Kids” and “Practice” difficulty means that it’s a pretty good start for players wanting to dabble their toes in the genre. Very nice.

It has just sunk in for The Mad Welshman how many fucking ships he has to develop. Which involves beating the game, among many other things.

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Pacer (Review)

Source: Early Access Purchase
Price: £34.99
Where To Get It: Steam
Other Reviews: Early Access 1, Early Access 2, Formula Fusion Release

I can’t lie, I’m still a bit confused as to what’s happened with Pacer, formerly Formula Fusion. It was finished (I tend not to write “Review” if it’s still Early Access), then it wasn’t, now it’s finished, but under a new name… It’s been a bit of a weird ride. But, since it is apparently finished now, well, it’s time for a review, isn’t it?

Ah, the middle rear of the pack. My lease favourite place to be. Still, 1st is pretty lonely…

And yes, the feel has changed. The vehicles… Well, actually, it can be tough to tell the difference without looking hard, mechanically speaking, and you aren’t going to be working out whose team someone’s on midrace, even if the craft themselves do have their own character. So… Eh? But a fair bit has changed. Some of it I like, some of it I don’t, and the Gauss Cannon (Actually a machine gun that heavily glitches your screen on hit and does damage like billy-oh if it hits) can go to hell.

As noted, the feel of actual racing has changed, becoming more, as I suppose the fans wanted, Wipeout-ish… Honestly, I was happy with FF having its own flavour, but fans are… Yeah, let’s move on. Airbraking is harder than I expected, slowing you down somewhat drastically, but also turning you more sharply (good), and, while the weapon system hasn’t significantly changed (pick up weapon pickups, so you can use either of your chosen weaponry), the boosting system has a slow buildup on top of the usual method of hitting turbo pads to add boost. So that’s nice. There’s a fair variety of weapons, not all of which are weapons (alas, the shield analogue, the Tank, can only shield one hit.)

In a static image, you can just about see the mines (except the one literally next to me.) When moving? Yeah, it’s hard.

And there’s a few interesting game modes, even if Storm is somewhat poorly explained (Stay inside the bubble, the center of which is a sort of handlebar icon), and Thread The Needle runs into a problem I noted last time I looked at the game: Mines are an utter bastard to see, and, being light blue, they’re even more of an issue to see on the first track they’re introduced in, a Russian tundra track. Colourblindness checking, people, or colourblindness options, they’re fucking useful! Boost pads can also, at times, be a git to spot, again, the problem mostly being on ice tracks and the occasional blue glowy track.

Still, aesthetically, the game’s a treat. Pretty craft, somewhat customisable, gorgeous tracks, a slicker and more compact UX (my only bitch there is we can’t see the splash for the races before we click on it, if that’s changed, it saves us a click to see that and just go right into the event menu.) And, speaking of gorgeous and slicker, oh look, the music is a whole panoply of great artists (including, of course, CoLD SToRAGE, whose music has been iconic throughout the future racing genre.) And, best of all, this game, while in UE4 (normally a resource hoggy engine) is well optimised, so loading times are minimal, and I can get stuck in.

Unsurprising to anybody who knows my history with Future Racing, I go with the Russian team every time.

And finally, tracks… Alas, airtime has completely been removed from the game, so it’s sticking to the track like glue. Shame, that sometimes led to hilarity, and sometimes, it led to track skips. Oh well. There’s a fair few tracks, the unlocks doled out over the career mode, and they’re, uhh… Mostly technical tracks, some with blind corners and hills, although even the blind hills generally give you time afterwards to see what’s in front of you. Not always though, so, if technical is a turnoff, then yeah, you’re probably going to be turned off.

So, overall, yes, it is somewhat of an improvement on the previous iteration, but I’ll say what I said last time: If you can look past or cope with the flaws, this remains a solid future racing game, although not necessarily an introduction to the genre.

In conclusion: Haha, Gagarin Gauss Cannon go brbrbrbrbr…

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Noita (Review)

Source: Cashmoneys
Price: £15.49 (£7.99 soundtrack, £21.13 game and soundtrack)
Where To Get It: Steam

Ahhh, Noita… Pixel by pixel simulation of object interaction. Want ice vapour to kill you? Don’t worry, particle by particle, you can do that! Want to put out that particle fire? Just hop in some particle liquid that isn’t particle oil, or sprinkle it on yourself! Want to shoot several particle streams of death, which then become more particle streams of death, and so on until your computer is screaming at you to stop? Yes, you can do these things, all of these things, so long as it’s through shooting things, bombing things, kicking things, throwing things, or spraying things!

Pixels! And many of them are currently very deadly!

You can also die in some extremely messy ways. And you will. Often. So yes, welcome to Noita, a procedurally generated roguelike in which you are descending into the depths of a mountain’s cavern/dungeon network, for… Reasons. I’m sure they made sense at the time, whatever those reasons were. It’s got some lovely pixel art, which, y’know, fits because of all those pixels that can be set on fire, slosh around, obstruct you and so on… And the music and sounds are good too.

It’s difficult, and at times twitchy, so if those are turnoffs, turn ye back now, and, as mentioned, it can get resource hoggy, so make sure your computer can handle it before trying it out!

Otherwise… Hot damn, the feeling of doing incredibly silly shit with your wands and potions, whether it works or not… No, really, it’s amusing to have thirty five arrows from a single cast, only for said arrows to bounce back at you because what did you expect when you fired 35 arrows in so many directions?

For this to be my situation on entering the level is a sign that maybe I should have run away. I did not. I died. I had a blast (and I got blasted.)

Well, you expected something amusing to happen. And you got it, even if you have to restart the game. But that’s okay, there’s probably even sillier things you can get up to! (There most definitely are.)

Any criticisms? Well… Apart from the game turning very resource hoggy when there’s a lot of stuff going on (and believe me, you can easily ensure a lot of stuff is going on, and so can some of the enemies), it’s in this weird space where the basic learning curve is actually quite easy… But the mastery curve is several sharp inclines, which, even with the potential for very amusing deaths, also creates some frustrating ones. Argh, why did I have to die just by getting shot? Boring! Also, some enemies, like the snipers, are… Oh god, they’re utter bastards.

Helpfully, the game now lists things you’ve found, and counts the secrets the game has. Yes, I mentioned secrets, and have found none personally. I know how to get them, I just haven’t tried.

But, overall, I love Noita. I love the destructive creativity. I love the war stories it can create. And, if you don’t mind a tough action roguelike, where you’re going to die in the first few areas a lot before you get further, you’ll like this one.

The Mad Welshman appreciates that wizards have no sense of responsibility. So consider sending wizards into this hellhole a chance for one of them to learn. Maybe.

Look, it’s enjoyable to send the bastards to their doom, alright?

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