Legend of Keepers (Early Access Review)

Source: Cashmoneys
Price: £15.99 (Supporter pack £7.19)
Where To Get It: Steam

Ah, being a dungeon keeper. It’s a good job, all told. Protect yourself, lure adventurers in (those damn assholes), and murder them horribly with a combination of traps and monsterfolk.

I mean, it’s better than letting the little gits run rackets, blow up small villages or forests (accidentally or otherwise), cause diplomatic incidents… The list goes on.

And on…

If your heroes keep getting this far… You might be in trouble. Just… Overall.

And on. In any case, such is the idea of Legend of Keeper. Except you’re basically part of a miserly dungeon keeping corporation. The health plan’s good… When you can find the staff doctor. But everything else is performance based, and staff turnover and morale… God, they’re awful. All to keep adventurers away from the boss.

Okay, maybe it’s not a good job after all.

In any case, Legend of Keeper is one of those rogue like (Sorta. Maybe. Kinda) deals, where you go through two years of defending the dungeon. It’s not like the adventurers come every day… In fact, you often have a fair breather. But with each party you run off or murder (intimidate into running for tears, kill for blood), they get stronger. More assholish.

No, actually, some of them start off assholes. Like the fire mage, whose first action on entering the first battle is to shuffle your carefully curated battle line. The only way of possibly preserving your tactically placed monsters (for the elemental rock/paper/scissors of attack and defence) when you see that particular one is to deliberately place your first team out of order. And pray.

THIS GIT ON THE FAR LEFT. THIS GIT CANNOT DIE ENOUGH. I WILL RESURRECT HIM JUST TO KILL HIM AGAIN!

I hate that guy, and each time I send him to hell, I wish him the iciest time, and extremely pointy sticks. Anyway, yes, dungeon fights, when they happen, are turn based, and consist of several rooms, always with two trap rooms, two monster rooms, a spell room, and your chosen class of boss. There are three bosses, and each has something to recommend them. The Slaver, for example, has a good monster selection, and gets a free big monster, with a room of its own, each year you win (I really hope there’s a third year, because yeah, just having the one big monster feels like a waste.)

But, funnily enough, I have the best time with the glassiest of glass cannons, reliant on shields and a nasty air attack, the Mechanic.

So, how does it feel, is it accessible, does it look good? Well, apart from no subtitles for the three or four barks for each boss (You’re not missing much, especially with the Slaver, who has a bad case of internet poisoning. “Come at me, bro!” … Nyuh huh. I’ll get right on that, really I will), it’s okay. No colourblindness issues that I could see, text is okay, buttons for attacks are very clear, tooltips are easy mouse overs… Visually, it looks quite nice, actually, relatively hi-fi pixel art, with some fun and silly event pictures (like the orc caught reading an anthro magazine. Ohhh, you dirty boy, you!)

Audio wise, it’s okay. Nothing stunning, it works, that’s fine.

Yes, we’re Dungeon Keeping salarymen… And oh boy, the Marketing Department, for what it does, can go to the same place as the fire mage.

Still, this is definitely not a bad roguelike dungeon keeper deal. I’ve been having a nice, tactical time with it, getting comfortably into the swing of murdering the shit out of heroes I definitely don’t sympathise with, and if you like turn based strategy, of the “series of battles” SRPG type deal, yeah, this is a solid choice.

The Mad Welshman floats an idea… How about… We make a dungeon which unceremoniously dumps the hero(ine)s into black company office jobs? That’s MUCH more evil than what we’re doing…

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Disgaea 5 Complete (Going Back)

Source: Cashmoneys
Price: £29.99 (Arbook £3.99)
Where To Get It: Steam

Ever since I heard Disgaea 4+ Complete was coming to the PC, I’d gotten curious about the series. So I gave 1 a go… 2 a go… And, recently, 5. And it’s not hard to see how the series has evolved.

Seraphina’s… A little oblivious. And narcissistic.

So, a refresher, even though we’ve reviewed another Disgaea game this month: Disgaea is an SRPG fantasy series, in which Demon Lords (with one exception in the series) face some sort of tribulation, having to rise through the ranks of their kind by beating the shit out of others, in small battles comprising chapters in the story. And Disgaea 5 is perhaps the darkest one, as the antagonist is a Demon Lord who enslaves and conquers other netherworlds, Void Dark. That doesn’t mean it doesn’t have silly moments, it certainly has those, and in spades… But it also has, for example, a demon world where it’s revealed someone in a royal family was held hostage, the people were sent off to fight as disposable soldiers, and then… The royal family was slain and resurrected as zombies.

I can’t wait to murderise the demon lord responsible for that, to be quite honest.

Just run. Just run until you’re at least in New Game Plus.

In any case, as mentioned, the evolution is interesting. Fusions? Gone, replaced by a “Mon-Toss”, aka “Monster can throw you, even if they can’t lift you.” When you hire, it doesn’t cost Mana, but HL, and characters… Can be levelled up to the highest named character level. Mana, meanwhile, goes on Skills, the Senate, and later, the Chara World, which… Well, that one’s not great in retrospect, but it is a fun little game, even if you probably want to focus on skills in your first loop. And then there are quests, which allow you to get neat stuff, from skill scrolls, to new character types (at the time of writing, I’m working toward Sage. And got her before I finished this paragraph.) There are other changes, but those are the biggies.

Aesthetically, it keeps the cel shaded/hi-def spritework of its predecessor, with a great soundtrack (the one you’ll hear the most is the bittersweet base theme, vocals and all), and some solid voice and sound work. Accessibility wise, it’s okay… Turn based stuff generally is, and it certainly tries to have map design that doesn’t obscure shit needlessly, but, sad to say, this remains a problem with the series.

There is no such word as “Overkill” in Disgaea. It’s always “Not Enough Kill”

But, except for the changes, Disgaea 5 remains what the rest of the series is: A solid strategy RPG, where I’ve never felt pressured into worrying about whether my units fall or not (except in terms of “Damn, I need them to do damage”), where I don’t feel bad about the grind (even the grinding of the Item World gives you sweet stuff, especially on or around your level), and where the stories are this interesting mix of silly and dark that I quite enjoy. Although the mileage varies on individual Disgaea games, I do recommend them as a whole for dipping your toes into SRPGs, and for the devoted SRPG fan who wants really big numbers (over time, anyway.)

The Mad Welshman is not normally a fan of pretty numbers. But even he has to admit, SRPG Big Numbers are a good feeling.

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Disgaea 4+ Complete (Review)

Source: Review Copy
Price: £34.99 (Some “Time saving DLC, £2.39 max each, artbook £3.99)
Where To Get It: Steam

Ah, Disgaea. An SRPG series I’ve come to enjoy, in the short time I’ve researched it before taking on this review. Its world is an odd one, it has a mix of the dark and the humorous that intrigues me, and… Well, a game where a sardine loving vampiric demon lord takes on a corrupt government over Prinny rights?

What the hell’s not to like about that story setup?

This guy knows what’s what! (Although I’m more of a cod man, myself)

Before this continues, however, there is one important warning to players new and old: Autosave is on by default. Turn it off. Turn it off for your own sanity.

Okay, okay, the autosave is separate from manual saves, but you do want to get into the habit of saving early, and saving often. Even if you think you’ve bribed senators on votes enough, there’s still the chance you’ll be voted down and lose mana.

So, I’ve already gone over the basic plot, what the heck is this? Well, it’s a turn based strategy RPG, in which you summon units to your team, level them up, use them to kick the snot out of your enemies, and each area is about 5 maps, the last having a boss encounter. As to the details?

Well, yes. Until you inevitably slap someone with a herring, and you ruin your social media presence, warcatte.

Well, you can tell this is a transitional game between 3 and 5, because it has the most complex set of mechanics I’ve seen in the Disgaea series. From earlier games, the summoning that doesn’t have levelling built in, so you can improve stats (somewhat), but you have to level them up through fighting, leading to repeating maps or entering the Item World, a mechanic that exists throughout the series (go through a randomly generated dungeon, with bosses every 10 levels, to level up an item and make it more rare. Oh, and this game has branching paths in the dungeons every 5 levels too.) The senate, also, has a new wrinkle to it, in the form of evil dispatches. I haven’t quite worked that one out yet, to be honest, beyond “You can place buildings that have effects on surrounding tiles, the tickmark of which chooses the leader of the group getting the benefit.”

Haha, I bet you thought you’d see big numbers, didn’t you? Nah, this one only did 890 damage at the end.

Skills are learned through the use of mana rather than levelling, weapon levelling is gone for this installment, replaced by “You can only learn skills in your character’s weapon specialties.” Even in combat, there’s something new: Fusion. Effectively, two monsters of the same type can become one giant monster, for better stats, the ability to punt people, friend and foe alike, to one side, and, if you’re in the late game, you can magichange a fused monster (magichange being “Monster turns into a weapon, with a special ability unique to them.”) or dual wield magichanged monsters.

I could go on, and on, and on, but let’s wrap this one up. Aesthetically, it’s damn fine. My only gripe visually is the one I’ve had throughout the series, where you need to rotate the map to see certain tiles, and the things on them, and even that… Is not guaranteed if it’s a trough of some sort. You can also zoom out, but… That doesn’t really help much. The voice acting is good, from the Prinnies (we rock, dood!) to Valvatorez (SARDINES!) to the villains (some of whom become your allies.) The game is grindier than, say, 5, but not as grindy as the earlier installments.

The one casting this, by the way, is behind the wall. They’re a friendly, so…

I wouldn’t recommend this to people who don’t have a lot of free time on their hands, or people who get irritated by grind, but for SRPG players, or people with a fair amount of free time and wanting to get into SRPGs? Honestly, Disgaea isn’t a bad start, and this is certainly the best story in the series (although they’re all fun.) So yes, I recommend this one with those caveats: It’s got a lot of grind, it’s mechanically the most complex in the series, but… Well, the Disgaea series in general has fun, often silly stories (that sometimes turn dark and serious later, but there’s always a hint of the ridiculous), cool characters, and each installment has something to recommend it.

The Mad Welshman is totally not a Prinny, dood!

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Library of Ruina (Early Access Review)

Source: Cashmoneys
Price: £19.49
Where To Get It: Steam

Okay, let’s get an important warning out the way right now: Library of Ruina somewhat spoils the ending of Project Moon’s previous game I’ve reviewed, Lobotomy Corporation. It is, after all, a direct sequel.

And damn, does it have a great intro. The game, also, is solid, if a little grindy at times, and annoying at others. But we’ll be getting into that.

Instant bonus points for the use of my favourite word, Angela. And Project Moon.

So, our protagonist (?) is a Fixer, essentially, a high-grade mercenary in a city where urban legends are both real and deadly, and, having been seemingly killed, he is resurrected, and given a very special job: To kill others in increasing power, who are invited to the library, to create pages from their souls… To hopefully create… The Perfect Book.

And how do you do that? Essentially, by deckbuilding, and using those cards (balancing powerful attacks with lower cost cards) in turn-based battles. Using the powers of the pages to increase your own, as “burned” books create pages, which your increasing cast of Librarians and Assistants can equip to take on their likeness (to an extent) and abilities… And the pages, when burned, can Realise other pages (level them up), and give you cards from said page’s deck, to use in your own combat decks. You don’t need to engage with that last part for the early game at least, but it’s highly recommended to take a look, and see where a Page’s base deck can be improved or changed to fill a good role.

Yes, the ones who came before you have all died here. Repeatedly. I’ve been… Grinding them… Ohohoho…

Earlier fights can be replayed for their pages, which is useful if you want to get said pages to their level cap (although fights also give XP to that page), but generally, you engage in an upward journey, eerily similar to the Sephirah of the previous game (and, indeed, said Sephirah are represented by familiar characters from Lobotomy Corporation, still under the control of Angela from the previous game), occasionally fighting equally familiar Anomalies from the previous game, such as the Forsaken Murderer to progress.

Each Anomaly is, essentially, a sort of puzzle boss, with some pretty specific strategies, although the Anomalies give hints sometimes, and you learn their patterns. Dying doesn’t do anything bad, at least as far as I know, so you’re welcome to try, try again. And, funnily enough, it’s the anomalies where I find the most grind and irritation. Forsaken Murderer, in particular, was, as the technical term goes, “A right bastard”, and it, along with some later fights in the current content, required some good strategy and a fair amount of grind to get things to the level I wanted.

This one, thankfully, wasn’t too bad. Later ones will not be as forgiving.

Aesthetically, the game is split between a well painted manga style, and a more stylised chibi set for the turn based fights themselves, with a sort of Art-Deco look to some elements, contrasting with the blood-red lettering of some elements, the scratchy backgrounds of character thoughts at the bottom, but every element that needs to be clear is clear, from health, to the emotion system, and the UX. Yes, there are lots of fonts, but each has its purpose. The sound, similarly is good, and the music solid.

Basically, if you want to see where Lobotomy Corporation’s world went after the first game, or if you like deckbuilding turn based combat with RPG elements, Library of Ruina is a solid pick, and its eerie world, with some light elements, but mostly surreal and a little dark, appeals.

The Mad Welshman loves libraries. He also loves tastefully done flesh-walls. Perhaps there’s some way to mix the two?

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Fareo: Shadowlands (Early Access Review)

Source: Cashmoneys
Price: £5.19
Where To Get It: Steam

Rifts in time and space. They let you do lots of fun things! Well, until they inevitably go wrong, and heroes from across time and space have to stop whatever’s behind all of it, or shut down the machine, or whatever.

And so it is with Fareo: Shadowlands, a combination of roguelite and strategy RPG that does a fair amount different to my usual experiences. And I appreciate that.

This guy is an asshole. I mean, he’s meant to be, but… Asshole.

Even if I most definitely don’t appreciate Yan, the final boss. So let’s get him out of the way first. Like any boss, he has pieces which are associated with some of his attacks, and he has several of them. Like any boss, he can attack all around him, some of his attacks at range (so nowhere’s really safe), and he can do three a turn… Most of which are area attacks. And any two of them in combination destroys one of my heroes.

I don’t like Yan, final boss of the dungeon or no.

Otherwise, however, I’m quite enjoying Fareo: Shadowlands, partly because it’s aesthetically solid. I wouldn’t really use superlatives, or go “gosh!”, but it’s solid stuff, a consistent aesthetic, and, apart from parts being a little hard to hover over or parse (tooltips and icons in battle, mainly), it’s okay in terms of accessibility.

Friends would skewer me if I didn’t mention Fadrake. Which is good, because I actually want to mention that oh hey, there’s a beefy shark with an anchor called Fadrake, and he kicks ass…

But mostly because of its interesting systems. The basic idea is that you take one of three paths offered to you, which can be a number of things. For example, Rifts are a normal fight, Huge Rifts are a more difficult fight, Priest can (for a price in one of the currencies of the game, the coins) resurrect dead party members, so on. But some of these are necessary for levelling up heroes you find, items you find, enchanting items you find… And there are good reasons for doing so.

Before Level 5 (the maximum, which all four of your base party members start with), you only have one special ability. Levels 1 to 4 are for rune slots, modifiers you can make to your hero, costing 1, 1, 3, and 5 runes out of the 10 allotted to you in the prep phase for a fight. For example, Fandrake, a beefy shark boy with a massive boomeranchor, can, with 5 runes, make the party immune to damage reflection. But with his first two rune slots, he can make half his damage be unblockable Chaos type (rather than wearing away the enemy’s armour), and every time he kills someone with his special Sweep ability, all the party gets their potion effect.

The other important thing is the card/movement system. Each turn, you’re dealt a number of cards (2 x the number of currently alive heroes, an important fact to remember for later) in one of four types: Attack, Defence, Mana, and Potion. They serve a quadruple purpose: They’re spent on movement, 1 a tile. They buff the hero (In the case of Attack and Defense, better attack and a shield respectively. The last two give mana or use your equipped potion.) They trigger special abilities when used in the correct order (like Sword and Shield for Hasaki, which unleashes a devastating attack.)

Awww crap, it’s a robot… That looks a bit like a buff cat! I don’t know whether to fight or scratch it behind the ears, HELP!

The thing is, you have to use the cards while moving to get their effect. Just standing still does nothing. So it emphasises mobility and synergy for the best effect. But not moving, not spending those cards, unleashes the other, fourth use: Using the terrain. Sometimes this is necessary, to move a map obstacle out of the way. But each single tile terrain item has an effect, and putting it on top of someone, for good or ill, does things. Rocks stun. Snowy trees freeze. Scrolls power up. That sort of thing.

It still heavily incentivises moving around, which is a shift in thinking that’s important to playing, but it’s an interesting one. Flaws wise, well, apart from the bosses being fucking hard, and the aforementioned tiny icons, there’s some tiny amount of untranslated text, or poorly translated text, but that last one’s a minor niggle, and overall?

Overall, this is an interesting game, trying something different, and it seems to be working. I look forward to seeing what happens next with it, and recommend taking a look.

I feel like rifts between time and space throwing disparate groups together to clash in a fun way isn’t done enough. Just throwing that out there…

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