Loop Hero (Review)

Source: Cashmoneys
Price: £12.49 (Soundtrack £5.99)
Where To Get It: Steam

I love the premise of this game: In a fate similar to The Neverending Story, the world has been unhappened. Reality has been forgotten. Except for one person, who is, on an endless loop, trying to remember how it all used to be, fighting through monster after monster, returning feature after feature.

Here’s an early run, and, by the end of the review, you’ll see a late run. Vast difference.

It all melts away when you return to camp, but… You’ve still made a difference, even if it feels pointless. And it hits home, time and time again, that the world contains good and evil, and things in between. Narratively, this game works pretty damn well, with its mechanics tightly fitting to this idea that the more the world is remembered in some fashion, the brighter the possibility of bringing it all back becomes.

Gamewise? It’s honestly okay, a nice touch on the strategic roguelike, where the path is set, but what you put on that path is where the calculation comes in. You want room, for example, for villages, or features that heal. You can’t overuse them, because you need items and experience to face the boss of each area. But you can’t overuse those, because if the pressure gets too much, you might as well retreat and lose some of the resources you gained.

You’ve got time. Seemingly endless time. And the more time you spend, the more loops you go through, the more resources you can get, to improve the camp back home, giving you more memories of the outside world, more cards to slip into your limited deck that allows you to recreate a microcosm of the dark world you lived in, to become stronger… And the other two classes.

Bones versus Bones, who will win?!?

I like the three classes of this game, each has their own playstyle, their own focus, and I love it. The warrior, the first, is the most straightforward: Hit things, get equipment from them, get stronger, use crits, fuck shit up, rinse, repeat. There’s still variation in how you do it, builds you can play with, but it’s the simplest in terms of gameplay.

The thief and the necromancer, by contrast, ah, they’re not quite so simple. The thief only gets their items (except for village quest items) at the end/start of each loop, the camp. But their power, their levels, are determined by how many trophies you caught (IE – Monsters you killed.) It’s high risk, high reward, and the one I often push too far with. The necromancer, by contrast, well, they don’t fight themselves. You’re buffing your skelly boys with each equipment drop, with each skill you learn. And yes, each class has their own skillsets they can pick from on levelup, although it’s semirandom.

Once it’s boss time, though… Well, the bosses are no pushovers, so you have to feel like you’re properly prepared to face them. And you’re probably still going to get wrecked your first time or couple of times. Considering there’s three bosses, though? It’s all good, and you will be beating them multiple times.

Aesthetically? Omigod I love it so much. C64 style graphics, even down to the palette, dark, brooding tunes, it oozes aesthetic, is clear, and I fucking love it.

It’s a damn shame this is all going to vanish into the void that’s consumed everything. Even if it’s extremely likely to kill us.

Yes, I definitely like this one, as it has many of the positive points I find in good indie games: Tight design, mechanics married to narrative, an interesting story, and it’s a game that can be played in smaller sessions, respecting your time. Yes, I like this indeed.

The Mad Welshman returns to his own loop, forgetting the past briefly so as to concentrate on the present, the future.

Nah, he’s having so much fun with the present and the past.

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Abyss of the Sacrifice (Going Back)

Source: Cashmoneys
Price: £30.99 (Soundtrack £3.99)
Where To Get It: Steam

The game has the following CWs: Mentions of suicide, sexual abuse, drug and alcohol abuse, parental abuse, and human experimentation.

Hrm. Hrm, and other thoughtful noises.

The characters have, at times, a seriously rocky relationship. And there’s good reasons, plural.

Abyss of the Escape is a visual novel/escape room game, in which five girls are trapped, seemingly alone, in the ruins of FOUNDATION, an underground home for humanity after the surface basically got fucked. And shit’s not going well for them, not helped by certain things along the way, and the secrets and traumas each person has. It’s interesting, dark stuff.

It’s such a shame then, that it’s timeline implementation is awkward, and many of its puzzles are obtuse, some downright frustrating in their lack of information. I had to rely on hints for a fair few puzzles, and a few, in particular, I would not have found the solutions to without either pixel hunting, or looking the solution up. All I will say about that, if you play it, is that two numbers you haven’t lit up are hidden inside another, single digit number. It must also be said that some of the puzzles feel out of place for the situation.

Huh, big barrier in the garbage room? What purpose did that serve, except to arbitrarily separate the two characters involved for a dual viewpoint puzzle? Making tea? Good Doctor, I understand that you don’t want to let your daughter near your best tea, but an entire puzzle about tea making is only going to interest the tea fanatics. Who will then get turned off by the puzzle lock on the crucial ingredient. Although the last puzzle of that scene did fit the character of the Doctor.

I kicked myself after realising the solution. And this is an early puzzle.

And these two faults kind of taint the whole experience, which is a shame, because there’s some legitimately good writing in there, including the main twist. The rather heavily foreshadowed main twist.

Aesthetically, it works. Clear UX, some good illustrations, solid music, some good VA, and overall, as noted, good writing, because a good twist is foreshadowed, but even heavy foreshadowing works if it doesn’t quite make sense until the twist.

But yes, the awkward implementation of the timeline, some obtuse and sometimes arbitrary puzzles, they bring the game from legitimately good and interesting, to a cautious recommendation with heavy qualifications.

See this? THESE HELP PEOPLE GET INTO YOUR GAME IF IT’S A TADGE BIG.

Timelines, VN devs. I’ll stress this and stress this until it sinks in. Timelines. They make our lives easier.

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Saviours of Sapphire Wings (Review)

Source: Review Copy
Price: £44.99 (Both this and Stranger of Sword City, £9.99 for each of the two soundtracks)
Where To Get It: Steam

On the one hand, this is a twofer with another step based RPG, Stranger of Sword City Revisited, but… Both games are big enough that it would just not be fair to review them together.

I’m not exactly happy that this is the closest we get to nonbinary, but… I took it.

Saviors of Sapphire Wings is a step based, first person JRPG, which is to say, y’all walk one step at a time through areas, dungeons, whatnot, have random encounters with monsters, some not-so-random encounters, and, of course, bosses. Levelling’s pretty slow, so if you want a game that can be consumed in bite sized chunks while still giving a feeling of progress, this… Isn’t it. You will grind, and you won’t be fighting bosses until you’re good and ready. That potential turnoff for folks out of the way, let’s get on with the meat and potatoes.

After all, there’s another reason that it wouldn’t be fair to review this with its companion: The two have major differences between them. In Saviors of Sapphire Wings, you are the reincarnation of the greatest knight of the round table (of this world), who fell in the final battle with the demon lord. Whoops.

He’s a big, slow, and BLOODY CREEPY boy…

But you’re reincarnated now, and, over the course of the early game, recruit two new members. A priestess and a warrior. More will join your ranks, but bonds of trust must be built up, by talking to them and counselling wisely, feeding them, and winning battles with them, a bond of blood. The more powerful that bond, the more powerful they will become. And, naturally, y’know… Demon Lord, gotta be pretty damn powerful to get up to that level from nothing.

So there’s less character creation in Sapphire Wings, although this is definitely not to say none. But there are no character switching shenanigans, the people you join with are set in stone. But honestly, they provide such a nice balance this early on, it’s not a hassle. Stat increases are still relatively minimal, skills largely fixed… But it simplifies things, allowing you to concentrate on enemies.

Some enemies will feel very familiar because, uhhh… They are. Does this make it worse? Nah, it means if you’re playing both games, you know relatively what to expect. The big ol’ scythebugs are weak to fire, these enemies are weak to wind, most mob type characters can summon other mob type characters, which is something to consider when you’re low on HP or trying to grind… It works.

We have the classiest of rides…

Aesthetically… Yup, artwork’s pretty good, music’s good, sound is okay, everything’s clear, we’re all good, great character artwork… It works, and this is good.

Like with Sword City, there’s a lot I could mention. A lot. But I will say that the story is good, you’re getting Sword City along with this (also reviewed this month), and if you know and are cool with the time demands a JRPG like this wants, then yes, this is a solid choice.

I am not the heroic type. But I do admit, slaughtering the real monsters is a satisfying experience.

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Stranger of Sword City Revisited (Review)

Source: Review Copy
Price: £44.99 (Both this and Saviours of Sapphire Wings, £9.99 for each of the two soundtracks)
Where To Get It: Steam

Oh, I’ve been waiting for this one for a while. Bated breath and everything. Actually, it’s nice that my breath isn’t bated anymore, it was a real hassle. But yes, Stranger of Sword City is being Revisited, and I am very much down for trying it.

After all, when I last saw it, that one samurai guy kicked my ass, and I want to return the favour this time around with more quality of life, y’know?

Why yes, that is a Japanese schoolgirl with a big honkin’ sword, demon armour, who’s just sliced up a giant monster but good, why do you ask?

So yes, as mentioned in the Saviors of Sapphire Wings review, this is bundled with said game, and both are step based, grindyish RPGs in the vein of Etrian Odyssey or Wizardry, where you have to take the time to get powerful enough to beat that next asshole that’s blocking progress. You explore maps, you get random encounters and not-so-random encounters and bosses (I wouldn’t dare call any of them, except the beginning goblin, a miniboss), and you try and level up to get more special bosses murdered, to eventually…

Ahhh, but here we get to story, and honestly, I like this: You’ve been transported to a different world, a world where the detritus of multiple worlds ends up, including ours. And you are a chosen soul. Think that’s cool?

Well, it actually means everyone’s after either your allegiance or your head. And there are three major factions, each with their own goals to work with. It’s relatively minimal, with the focus more being on the world and its encounters, but it is interesting stuff, and the world is an asshole.

I do not wish to discuss the implications of your starting equipment at this time, thank you…

Aesthetically, it works a’ight. There’s a custom uploader for character portraits, but beyond this, and the great character/monster art already in the game, the UX is mostly workmanlike, pretty clear, everything important identified… It’s solid. I can’t really say the sound effects wow me, and the music’s alright, but overall, it’s solid, and that’s cool.

Mechanically… Okay, let’s get one thing out the way right now: If you want a game that respects your time, gives you an experience that doesn’t involve a whole lot of repetition, neither this or Sapphire Wings is it. This is an old school JRPG, and you either grind or die. Now that we have the turnoff out of the way, the game’s systems are relatively simple.

Creating multiple characters is a must for the game, as party members have a limited amount of resurrects, and if you’re not using those, they’re out for quite a while, several dungeon expeditions, in fact. Levelling and classes, well, they have fixed roles, fixed trees, and stat improvement is relatively slow, but consistent. What’s important here is that the game’s length is somewhat increased by keeping characters consistent in levels, and making sure you have backup roles, in order to ensure progression is relatively smooth.

At this time in the game, these are chumps to me. Their boss, on the other hand…

You will get caught off guard by bosses. You will run away from fights. And you will be making use of all your tools, including the new feature, Freemen. Technically, the other “new” classes are not, in fact new (the Puppeteer and the Clocker, who do enemy control and time fuckery respectively), but the Freeman most definitely is, and, at first? Doesn’t seem that useful.

However, even if they can’t take to the field like any of your other heroes, they level up in base like any other party member (At a reduced rate), and their levelling benefits… Make your life easier at home. Better experience gain for folks at the base. Better rates from the smith. Other fine benefits like that.

I could say a lot more, but, apart from the big caveat of “It’s an oldschool JRPG”? It’s a really solid game, and I’d already been looking forward to this Revisited version precisely because I already knew it was a cool member of its subgenre. It comes with Sapphire City, also reviewed this month, so it’s a solid purchase overall. Give it a go, JRPG fans.

I am no stranger to Sword City. We just never got past the hatesmooches phase in our relationship.

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Doctor Who: The Lonely Assassin (Review)

Source: Review Copy
Price: £5.99
Where To Get It: Steam

Found thingumajigger type games can be interesting. When, that is, they properly open up. Or don’t tell a random person who found a random phone that they’re looking for a doctor who isn’t actually a doctor but travels through time and space.

Y’know, just normal found mobile game stuff, which wouldn’t result in the protagonist dropping the thing in the trash or handing it into a police station or… Look, there’s immersion breaking, and then there’s “everything about this feels wrong from very early on.”

Petronella…? Petronella, honey? UNIT is sort of meant to not talk about the Doctor so much, even if the Doctor talks about the Doctor the whole time…

None of the choices I’m given seem like something I would say in the situation. Some of the clues I’d like to pass on I can’t. I’ve been handheld for approximately 17 minutes (I’ll update as I go on.) For the first twenty minutes… I don’t feel like I’m solving anything.

It does, after this point, begin to open up. But… I still feel like I’m an observer of an observer, someone who’s more watching someone else click through a phone, listening to phone calls, talking to, as mentioned, someone who just casually mentions the Doctor like it ain’t no thing… A person I’m watching who doesn’t make sense to me. In fact, every time the Doctor comes up in conversation, I wince. Because, from the outside looking in, it feels so forced.

And, at times, I feel a frustration I haven’t felt in a long time. The frustration of having to go through all dialogue options to end the conversation in question, get back to the uploading of clues. And that’s forced in, most of all, when talking about the Doctor.

If they’ve bought the game, they know who the Doctor is. They know. They don’t need Petronella Osgood to forcefeed them.

Spooky! Scary! Neither of these adjectives actually held true for me!

It’s at this point that I feel I should point out that the history of Doctor Who games (and their quality) has been… Variable, but tending toward the lower end. Which is a massive shame, because it’s an interesting franchise, with some really memorable plots (and yes, some notable stinkers.) And yet…

It tries to jumpscare me, and I merely sigh. I see the staticky bits, and I tut, noting that this is not an epileptic friendly game.

And the mystery… After an hour or so, I stopped caring. I’m surprised I lasted that long, because apart from trips to jumpscare territory (and one unskippable video of a secondary antagonist, Mr. Flint), it… Didn’t feel like it was going anywhere. It was holding my hand for a fair few portions, and, honestly, it didn’t sell the concept it was trying to pull off at any point in that hour and a half. I come away disappointed, and the history seems on course.

I have more faith in Petronella Osgood than this, game, chatty though she may be…

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