Re: Legend (Early Access Review)

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

As soon as I saw the farm, messy and strewn with rocks and trees, I knew. Or thought I did. “Ohhh boy”, I thought “I’m going to get halfway through this, and my energy will be pretty low.” Nope. I thought “Fishing is going to be my main source of income, because it’s easy.” Not… Quite true.

“aaaaaaaaa…” [later] “Oh, wait, that was easy. Nice!”

Essentially, I went in with expectations of a farm-life/adventurer sim in the style of Rune Factory, or Stardew Valley, and, while it is that… It’s also got its own flavour. Some good, some not so good, but averaging out, I feel, to “A’ight.” Which, considering it’s in Early Access (and parts of the review may be out of date by tomorrow, since the devs are updating at a steady clip), still gives it a fair bit of wiggle room.

So, let’s begin with the general idea, for those new to the genre: You, an amnesiac hero(ine), are welcomed into a small, rural community (In this case, on an island, so beaches and palm trees are common), given a farm, and, very quickly, you realise there’s adventure to be had in them thar hills. Or, y’know, you could do a lot of avoiding enemies (running doesn’t take stamina? Don’t you dare change that, devs, it’s wonderful!) to mine stuff you can’t get at home, farming, doing quests for folks, festivals, minigames… And, of course, romancing folks.

I haven’t gotten to that part yet, so I can’t tell if there’s some Good Gay options in there, but it’s all there, it’s mostly enjoyable, and those who’ve played this genre before not only know what to expect, they have some pleasant surprises. Like underwater plants (Trust me, if you’re new to this genre: Folks love more things to farm) and a pet system (And pets can have utility both inside and outside of combat, such as the Draconewt you start with, whose watery breath isn’t just useful in combat… It’s a nice, easy way of watering your crops, too!)

Immediately after character creation, you’re shoved off a cliff by some asshole. I hate it when that happens!

Aesthetically, it’s pleasing, with good, lowish poly character designs, a bright and cheery world, and a mostly clear UX (It took a friend pointing it out during multiplayer that I could add to my pet’s stats, for example.) I didn’t really find the tunes memorable, but that’s more because they fit just fine, and things that fit just fine… Well, you only tend to notice what doesn’t fit so well, generally speaking. Speaking of not fitting so well… Complaints and niggles.

Starting with the base stuff, tutorialising for things like fishing is a bit sparse (It took me a few tries to get the hang of fishing, for example, not helped by… ohboy, a bigger fish just ate the smaller one on my hook, and now I’ve got a bigger fight ahead of me), and not all of the minigames are enjoyable. Smithing immediately comes to mind, a “Hit the coloured bits on the bar” game where said coloured bits are… Rather small. Melee is, honestly, not as useful as the ranged options, especially when it comes to, for example, the first boss, who electrifies himself. And it can be fiddly to pick things up, water, or plant things, since you aren’t fixed to the tiles it uses (Also, if a pet is nearby, you can easily end up leaping on to ride them rather than pick up the thing your pet is standing over, necessitating leading said pet away. Every time.)

Yessssssss!

Finally on the crit, there’s multiplayer. It’s a relatively recent addition, so I certainly don’t mind the bugs, knowing that the community is pretty good at reporting them, and the devs, as I’ve noted, update pretty rapidly at the present time. I don’t even mind the lack of any sort of pausing, because synced pausing is unfun for the other player, and any other method would be a bloody nightmare. But the method of starting a co-op session is poorly explained, requiring you to copy the host’s Steam ID (the numerical one the game gives you, not your profile name or account name), and then pasting that in to connect (3 players can join a host, sharing a farm, and… The sales bin. Which, considering myself and my multiplayer partner have yet to find a means of expanding this, isn’t the best of times.)

But this is still relatively early days, the game is pretty solid overall, and, even now, I would recommend this to fans of this genre wot Harvest Moon, Rune Factory, and Stardew Valley belong to, the… Farmer-Adventurer RPG Lifesim? Not quite sure. Anyway, it’s reasonable right now, and certainly shows promise.

The Mad Welshman actually quite likes the humble farmer-adventurer. Sure, they can be massive jerks, but they’re massive jerks who put food on his table.

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Goblin Shop (Review)

Source: Cashmoneys
Price: £7.59
Where To Get It: Steam

Running a shop is, barring the social aspects, mind numbingly dull. Customers come in, they look at things, maybe they try and steal things, and sometimes they buy things. Then they leave.

Times my “helpful” employee has fallen asleep today: 15.

Goblin’s Shop tries to add things to this basic formula, in much the same vein as games like Recettear, Nono’s Magic Item Shop, or Moonlighter, but… A lot of what it seems to be adding is annoyance. Okay, yes, Employees potentially make things easier… But just as often, they’re going to fall asleep on the job, requiring you to punch them awake. The music is sparse chiptunes, and as such, they pall quickly. And adventuring… Well, have good enough folks, you can easily win through. Don’t, and you’re just leaving to come back later. There’s no real stakes to it, and…

…Well, it all ties into a core problem. Much like actual retail, a lot of this feels more like busywork. I don’t need every single material on the adventure map. I need newer ones. But it’s there, why not pick it up? Money? Money hasn’t been a problem the entire time. After a certain point, it just… Stops becoming important. Selling kit to adventurers to equip them seems like a good idea, until you realise that you have to solicit them, multiple times, to get the silly beggars into the shop to buy something basic like a potion. And the “multiple times” is there, not just due to failure chance, but because they may not actually buy a potion, despite you knowing that they’re going to need one, and soon.

This is about as exciting as adventuring gets.

There are some minor nice touches to Goblin’s Shop… Finding monsters is the way you both diversify your party and get more customers, and sometimes, when you sell a nice item to a customer, they’ll give you extra enchantments to work into your items (randomly.) When you defeat bosses, you actually have the chance to be merciful, which nets you kit, and can improve the humans’ opinions of you. But finding new recipes is slow and annoying, getting to new adventuring areas is a matter of going through adventuring again and again until you beat it… This is without getting into odd control decisions and hiccups, like WASD having menu functions in the shop, but not in adventuring, or the character stopping moving (Considering that your character’s only option when he doesn’t have backup is to run away… Not so good.)

In short, there’s a whole lotta grind here, not a lot of stakes, the music helps it feel grindy, and while there’s a lot in the game, there’s not a lot of cohesion to it. And that’s a big old shame.

The Mad Welshman takes no pleasure in being a downer on goblincraft. But sometimes, it just makes him too green.

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Uagi-Saba (Review)

Source: Review Copy
Price: £11.39
Where To Get It: Steam

Uagi-Saba is one of those games I really want to like. An interesting, if bleak world, technically doomed. Music and aesthetics that match its dim dankness quite well. A relatively simple upgrade tree.

“You are 20 degrees short of the necessary heat to safely raise a Mystic and falling…”

One of its biggest problems, however, is that “doomed” part. See, a procgen world, made of discrete blocks with resources where you have to carefully balance whether you want the resources within, or a room with important functions, is, on paper, a great idea. But it’s something where you have to have some reassurance that the player will spawn vital things at appropriate times, or its a long, slow death that doesn’t entertain.

The visual style is simple, but arresting. Well, of the world, and its Inhabitants.

For me, this problem comes in the form of heat. More specifically, the fuel I need to get that heart up to levels where I can actually progress. It’s not the only time I’ve come across resource scarcity leading to a Dead Man Walking scenario, but it’s certainly the most egregious, as opening rooms lowers the temperature… But to find fuel sources (Smog vents), you have to… Open rooms. And heat is vital for both the third stage of the game (Raising a Mystic, one of the leaders of the community), and for staying in that second stage (Keeping Inhabitants, who require a lower, but still higher than ambient temperature to stay comfortable.)

This, to be honest, is a basic flaw. Add in that, while the visual style and workmanlike HUD are fairly good accessibility wise, the HUD’s size makes things busy, the tooltips do not stay around long enough to remain useful, and windowed mode is a fixed size… Make for added flaws. It’s a game that goes at a relaxed pace, but, unfortunately, that also makes a death spiral such as this that much more tortuous.

Typo aside, I actually quite like this introduction.

As such, as much as I want to like Uagi-Saba, I really can’t recommend it. Great on paper… But sadly, the implementation just doesn’t stick.

The Mad Welshman sighed, and shivered a little. It’s cold, out there…

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Vilmonic (Review)

Source: Supporter Gift
Price: £11.39
Where To Get It: Steam

Vilmonic is, at heart, a sandbox. If you had, perhaps, let your sandbox get wet, in a marsh, and then let millennia pass it by, with the ruins of civilisation just barely holding onto coherency, and strange, fungal creatures giving way to strange, fungal animatroids.

Welcome to Vilmonic, I hope you like fungus!

Looking at an animatroid gives you hints as to what it’s going to do… If you know how to parse them.

Okay, that’s simplifying things a heckuva lot, but the basic premise, while simple, hides a lot of complexity, and a lot of fellow nerds nerding out over that (mostly unseen) backstage fun. You are a being that is trying to kickstart new life. You’re the only one who seems to want to do this, as the rest of your compatriots are corrupted, shambling versions of themselves, that want to spread their infection as far and wide as possible.

However, your fungal friends are not nearly so united, and so what plays out is, essentially, a Game of Life. Some fungaloids are aggressive, attacking all comers (including you.)

The Drone is never a good sign. It means your “Friends” are looking for you. Luckily for me, everything nearby is aggressive. And I have the power of WALLS.

And it all plays out with a minimalist, pixel art UI, both a blessing, and a curse. On the one hand, there’s not much to distract you, except the passage of time, and lots of things are clear. On the other, that minimalism hides complexity. I had, in my own world, a relatively easy time by leaving things mostly alone, and get to enjoy wandering around, looking at the various species that have cropped up on my world, but, behind this, there are sensory priorities, urges, genetics, and all sorts of odd stuff going on that, if you didn’t have an easy time of things at the beginning, or you have a goal you want to work towards (Say, carnivorous desert dwelling animatroids), it’s going to take wiki-play to understand how to get there, because even the information needs information the game doesn’t straight up give you to understand.

Vilmonic is interesting. It’s a game that does cool things. And if you like a game where your goals are mostly self imposed, where you can wander through the herds of beings you’ve created (or, just as likely, observe from a safe distance), maybe try and play God and find it’s not as easy as all that, then Vilmonic is worth a look.

Genes, urges, diet… It’s pretty comprehensive!

Cymrus Villainous is a carnivorous animatroid. It is highly aggressive.

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Tiny Bird Garden Deluxe (Review)

Source: Cashmoneys
Price: £4.99
Where To Get It: Steam

Some games, you play for hours and hours, wondering why there’s that strange light outside that keeps coming and going. Some, you play in brief stints. Others… Well, others are like Tiny Bird Garden, in that you’re periodically checking in on your home for cute borbs, playing the odd game, filling out your garden, setting out seed, checking in on a wee chick…

…Oddly enough, that makes it a little hard to review, because it’s a game that you play in short segments (About three or four times a day, if you’re trying to raise a chick), but completion will take months. And some of those times are nice and relaxing (Getting nice letters from the sentient, oh-so-cute borbfolk, complimenting you and your garden), and some… Some feel a bit frustrating. At first, anyway.

A cute green bird called Curly (for their curly pattern and single curly hair) sleeps comfortably, surrounded by birdpoo.
You are, on the one hand, my cute son. On the other, goshdarn, parenting, eh?

For example, raising chicks. While it’s a side endeavour, its Tamagotchi like nature (MUST EAT. MUST SLEEP. CLEAN MY BIRDYPOOS!) could lead the genre weary to feel this is an obstacle to completion. Thankfully, it is not, to my knowledge, possible to screw this up, because, let’s face it, you would probably feel as bad as I would if my cute tiny birb died on me.

The other side content is minigames (Two of which, Stacking Birds and Bird Jump) appear to only give cosmetic items, and a story mode, about… Well, the staff of the Tiny Bird Garden, and the possibility that they might end up selling it off. It was nice that the Borbjewelled game led, after a little while, to enough bird toys in the shape of bird shaped trophies to get me seriously started.

Jam and the Virtubirbs is, perhaps, my favourite SatAm Bird Content.

In the end, though, while I find some aspects more fun than others, I only have two complaints and a bug to report. The complaints are both to do with the visuals, specifically, wanting a somewhat better windowed mode, and that the hearts on the Birb status screen (Where you get to see how much they love you, what toys/treats/hats they love the most, etcetera) is hard to distinguish due to a lack of colour/value disparity. The bug, meanwhile, isn’t game breaking, but it is slightly annoying: My flower in Tiny Bird Jump is now on the right side of the playing field rather than the centre, and, while this doesn’t significantly impact it, it is obviously unintended.

One of the minigames, a catch and deliver game where, as you'd expect, Durians are BAD.
When Birbs Want To Help, A TBG Special

Beyond that, the birds are cute as heck (With some good descriptions), the game is tight, easy to understand, and you’re under much less pressure than at first appears to be the case. Enjoy the garden. Enjoy the light, kindly story. And take your time getting to know those Tiny Birds.

The Mad Welshman loves his borbular friends.

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